Where I spend most of my time hiking is outside of cell phone service and I wanted a way to allow some communication with my wife and family. I have been debating for some time what type of device to purchase because of the many options and range of prices and services. I decided my best option was the SPOT Gen 3 device. My main reason is because I just wanted them to know I was OK or to call for assistance should there be a situation where it was needed. I got lucky – it was on sale for $75.00 until December 31st, 2017. I purchased it straight from their website (https://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=100). There is a required monthly service and I selected the $19.99 option.
If you are not familiar with this product, it allows the user to send one way predefined messages to sets of contacts as well as tracking abilities. The device is 3.43 inches tall, 2.56 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. It weighs right at 4 ounces with batteries. There are a total of three types of messages you can customize as well as an SOS button.
Each of the three customized messages can be changed and sent to up to 20 different contacts if so desired via email and/or text message. This must be done before you leave as they are not editable in the field (unless you have an Internet connection, a computer with USB drive, and the cord included with the device). The email will include the text as well as a link showing the location when the message was sent. The text is text only but includes GPS Coordinates. Here are my messages and reasons each would be sent. The following was sent to my contacts describing the messages and why they would receive each of them.
1.) The “Check-In” currently reads: “All is well – Following plan. Either leaving camp, eating lunch, or reaching camp. There are no known issues.” The contacts should only receive one “Check-In” message every time I check in for a total of three a day. This requires no action. I send as I leave camp/trailhead, at lunch, and when I reach camp. They may/may not receive all three. A “Check-In” also lets them know all is well as a follow-up if you receive one of the other messages.
2.) The “Custom Message” currently reads: “I have been delayed/plans have changed but do not require assistance. Suggest checking track from my device.” The contacts should only receive one message every time I check in. This requires very little action. I will send when my plans have changed due to condition and I may be delayed, or a minor injury such as a lightly twisted ankle. If/when the situation is resolved/no longer an issue, a “Check-In” will be sent. If the situation does not change, I will continue to send a custom message when either leaving camp, eating lunch, or reaching camp.
3.) The “Help Message” currently reads: “I need nonemergency assistance and staying in place or making my way to an exit point. Look at my tracks!” This message will continue to send every 5 minutes for an hour unless cancelled by me. This does require action. I am either unable to safely move or making my way to the closest pickup point, but DOES NOT REQUIRE EMERGENCY police, ambulance, rescue squad, etc. If I’m on the move (by looking at the tracking) I need picked up at the closest road crossing. If I am stationary, I do need assistance to exit my location. If the situation is resolved, I will cancel the Help Message and the contacts receive a Help Cancelled Message. If cancelled, I will also send a “Check-In” message to signify all is well when either leaving camp, eating lunch, or reaching camp.
4.) The “SOS Message.” This goes straight to GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) along with my GPS Location. This is a last resort – as in a critical life-threatening situation. This message is not customizable and will send every 5 minutes until the batteries are drained. GEOS notifies the appropriate emergency responders of my S.O.S. based on GPS location and personal information. Your account has emergency contacts and may be contacted for information.
I think another interesting feature is the ability for others outside your contact list to “follow” you. This can be done by downloading the SPOT LLC app and giving them your user name and password or giving them the link to your Spot Adventures page (I think that’s what it is called). For example, here is mine: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0V2XG14fKrY4UWEl2bNbWVV4crnvFmuhe
Last week I decided to test to see just how it performed. I went to my usual area (Sipsey Wilderness in the Bankhead Forest) and went on a 15 mile solo hike. I’ll do a separate hike report in the next few days. According to plan, I sent a “Check-in” message as I left the trailhead. Due to my excitement, I neglected to activate the tracking feature for the first few miles. When I realized this was not active, I turned it on. I have it set to save a tracking waypoint every 10 minutes. Once it was activated, it worked flawlessly. Both my beginning and ending check in messages were received and I had no issues with the device.
I did learn one lesson. The only way the user knows the device is working are when the lights are on/blinking. Since this was my first time using the device I checked it often. In the beginning of my hike, it was attached to the very top of my daypack. Once I realized it wasn’t tracking, I moved it to the shoulder strap where I could simply look down and see the lights blinking. The only change I made was instead of using the Velcro strap and large biner included in the box, I simply used a small biner through the slot in the top of the device and attached it directly to the shoulder strap. It kept it from swinging around and saved a gram or two.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the SPOT Gen 3. It gave my family a piece of mind as I’m out wandering in the woods. It performed as designed and was only a 4 oz weight penalty. I don’t need two way communication at this point – but there are devices that do allow that. For the price, weight, and performance I would highly recommend the SPOT Gen 3 to give loved ones a piece of mind while outside of cell phone coverage.