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John
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Joined: 28 May 2003
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John
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PostFri Apr 18, 2008 10:54 am 
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An endorsement for the Spot Messenger: it worked for me in Hells Canyon, in rain, fog and sunshine. I sent six manual OK messages and they were all immediately received by my fiance.

There are two modes for the Spot which I think some people may be confusing with each other. There's the "I'm OK" feature, which you manually enable on the Spot by clicking on an OK button to send a predefined email or text message that includes your GPS coordinates. This is what I used while eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. I just placed the unit on its back, as the instructions state, and gave it twenty minutes to do its thing. The OK light stops flashing to indicate your message has been sent. Easy.

The other mode is a tracking mode, which automatically updates your position every ten minutes on the Spot website. I do not recommend this mode, as the Spot does not seem to be very good at receiving a GPS signal or transmitting a satellite message while you are on the go or under any obstruction. The tracking mode is a hack of the gadget, I believe, and should not be advertised or used. In fact, it costs more money to use. If you want to track your movements in GPS coordinates, get a proper GPS device. The Spot will dissappoint if you intend to use it this way.

But again, for sending OK messages to concerned loved ones back home, it worked great. In an emergency, I'm confident the "911" signal will be sent as well, as long as I am under an open sky without any obstructions. Of course, I won't put myself into more risky scenarios because of this, but it's better than having nothing, particularly for a solo hiker.

I hope that helps. I look forward to bringing the Spot with me on all my future hikes.

John

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John Burton Brown
http://www.johnandkristie.com
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GeoHiker
Rocky Walker



Joined: 26 Feb 2005
Posts: 6042 | TRs
Location: Off the Deep End
GeoHiker
Rocky Walker
PostFri Apr 18, 2008 5:04 pm 
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Much of the criticism directed at SPOT is it's lack of good GPS reception.  No different than the earlier models of GPSr's.  They work well if you use them in the most optimum way.  Held out away from your body, flat with the antenna pointing up to the sky.  On your waist, pack strap or anywhere close to your body isn't going to work as well.

You can't expect the consumer to know all this, so it should have been explained on the first page in bold type.  Not on the last page.  There should also be an explanation of the satellite network and how best to use it.  How many actually sit down and read a manual all the way through?  I know I don't, so maybe it's better to go with something simple.

Has anyone found a review where the person ran specific tests on several SPOT units and compared the results?  I've seen a number of geocachers complain about poor reception with their new GPSr and I would bet there are SPOT units that have the same problem.  The new Garmins are having troubles.  It didn't get calibrated right, something wrong with the software, etc etc.   Maybe it's not the operator, but a bad SPOT unit.

Jason, after you lost your first SPOT you received a second right?  Did you notice any difference in tracking or use?  After reading the first reviewers results on BGT (Chuck Carnes) my first question was did it ever work at all?  Nothing in the review says it worked fine at home when he first set it up, so did he return it and get a new one?   He said he used it on only 3 day hikes in 5 months time?  He even admits in the review that he didn't use it correctly.  Operator error or a bum SPOT????

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You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye......Eagles
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Coasty
I like Salmon!



Joined: 02 Apr 2006
Posts: 763 | TRs
Location: Kodiak, AK
Coasty
I like Salmon!
PostFri Apr 18, 2008 8:45 pm 
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Geo,

I didn't find that the newer unit worked any better or worse than the unit that I lost (and with the snow we are getting at my house in Snoqualmie tonight, may never find it... the snow just keeps coming).  The only difference in the two units was the 911 function. The original unit's 911 function was enabled, the second unit they sent me was a demo where the 911 was disabled, probably a demo unit that they had lent out already.

I have sent Chuck an email letting him know you had a question.  He checks these boards occasionally but I don't know if has ever posted.

Unfortunately none of us were able to test our unit's side by side though that is a good idea.

I agree that their marketing was off... they definitely went for sensationalism rather than practical how to best use this product.  I remember opening the box and there being a picture of a grizzly bear snarling.. what am I going to do with the Spot when I am hiking in Kodiak and see a Brown Bear.. throw it at him?

We deal with that alot at BGT - working with companies on product design then watching the marketing department not even come close to marketing the product correctly.

Jason

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http://www.BackpackGearTest.org
The Most Comprehensive Interactive Gear Reviews and Tests on the Planet!
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GeoHiker
Rocky Walker



Joined: 26 Feb 2005
Posts: 6042 | TRs
Location: Off the Deep End
GeoHiker
Rocky Walker
PostFri Apr 18, 2008 11:20 pm 
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If the marketing is wrong then they need to know that.  That has direct relationship on how the product will work.  It should have been pointed out in the reviews.   Maybe using the SPOT was beyond some of the testers or a review on this site?  It's almost like they placed the reviews in order of how well it worked.  Chuck had no clue,it doesn't work and I'm not going to figure it out.  You gave an excellent review, but still had trouble.  It worked, but you didn't really know why.  Then the last worked fine most of the time.

What's a consumer to think?  Do you still have your SPOT?  I'd like to borrow one and see how it works.  I'm willing to buy one and use 2 side by side and make some comparisons.   Run some signal tests and online tests.  The tracking feature is to me the most unique and valuable feature.  Why wasn't the emergency 911 function tested?  If I paid that kind of money I'd want to see some kind of testing of that function.  Why didn't the 3 of you test that?

Many people look at BGT as a valuable resource for testing gear and their buying options, so if it's not done fairly it should be pointed out.

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You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye......Eagles
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Coasty
I like Salmon!



Joined: 02 Apr 2006
Posts: 763 | TRs
Location: Kodiak, AK
Coasty
I like Salmon!
PostSat Apr 19, 2008 4:01 pm 
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GeoHiker,

I don't know that I agree with you when you say we don't know how it works... I am a mechanical engineer and part of what I do for a living revolves around GPS, EPIRBS and so forth.  When I write my gear reports, I write from my perspective as an average joe backpacker not as a mechanical engineer.  Thats how I choose to write, I don't really want to go into all the info about the latest GPS antennas and so forth.  I craft my reports after info that I would want to know if I were to buy a product.  That is why we have three testers per item.

And I know why it didn't work... the antenna couldn't get a signal through the trees or out of the canyons I was in.  I am sure it will work fine in the desert or on Mt Rainier... however that isn't where i hike.  I hike in the trees and in the valleys...

As for marketing, the company gets our reports and has the opportunity to respond. SPOT has not chosen to do so at this time.

I do have mine and you are welcome to borrow it (or buy it.. I will make you a good deal).  Testers at BGT do not pay for the gear that we test.  It is provided by the manufacturer for us to test for free.  We are completely independent with no advertising and no cost to the manufacturer except the product itself. The tester gets to keep the item once the test is over and their reports are posted.

Our orginal units were completely functional, when they replaced my unit at no cost to me, which I appreciate, they gave me a unit where everything worked except for the 911.  I had no problems with this since I didn't want to buy a unit (a tester that loses an item has to replace it out of pocket if the test isn't complete)

We didn't test the 911 function because there is no way to stop the authorities from coming out to look for us once it is activated.  The call center that would receive the signal and start looking for us.  I can just imagine King County's  finest showing up and me having to tell them just kidding I was only testing the 911 function.   dizzy.gif

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The Most Comprehensive Interactive Gear Reviews and Tests on the Planet!
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wamtngal
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Joined: 13 Jun 2004
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Location: Seattle, WA
wamtngal
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 7:29 pm 
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I've only used SPOT in the top hood of the backpack, logo facing up. Today I decided to try clipping SPOT on my sternum strap to see if there was a noticeable difference in it's tracking capabilities --WOW, was there a difference!

I had SPOT tracking all the way up Mt Washington until the point I turned around. If you've been up the Washington trail, you know that it does break out from the trees. I even took two breaks in clearings that were at least 10-15 mins each. I had ONE track when I looked on SPOT's website moments ago. One track that ended up being at the bottom of the trail...probably when we got down and I realized I needed a visit with mother nature and took my pack off, facing up (so SPOT's logo was facing the sky). When I've had SPOT on and tracking in the top hood of my packet I've gotten many more tracks (albeit none in thick trees stands).

To me, this is very telling. Like others have mentioned, SPOT works best in the top hood of a pack, logo facing up. It was really pathetic to see how poorly SPOT preformed hooked to a pack strap...now I can just take off that dang clip, as it's useless, really...

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Opinions expressed here are my own.
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twoclones
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Joined: 08 Jun 2008
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twoclones
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PostSun Jun 08, 2008 8:27 am 
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Most of the complaint's I've read in this thread appear to relate to the tracking feature being interrupted.  Personally, I am not interested in the tracking.  The OK and 911 messages are what hooked me...

In my work, I often spend 3 days at higher elevations [above 8k ft] where there is no cellular signal at all.  It's just me, my dog and the mountain lions.  After 3 days I drive nearly 100 miles to town for a shower, supplies and one night in a motel.  All total, I was in cellular range for about 48 hours during my last 3 week work shift.

One phone call every 3 days is not much comfort for loved ones when doing potentially dangerous work.  I hope to use my Spot to to send OK messages every day.  If this thing works as well as it has my last 2 days of testing, I'll be extremely happy with it.

Gotta love that evacuation insurance too!


Butch

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"There is no thing which everyone knows."
Chainsaw carvings by Wood Hacker
www.WoodHacker.com
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Slide Alder Slayer
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Slide Alder Slayer
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PostSun Jun 08, 2008 10:06 am 
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For members of BPL there is a very detailed review of SPOT that has been online for weeks. BPL makes no recommendation for SPOT. The review is very informative explaining what SPOT does right and what improvements are needed for more consistent reception and reliability.
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Dayhike Mike
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Joined: 02 Mar 2003
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Dayhike Mike
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PostSun Jun 08, 2008 12:54 pm 
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I still don't know why you wouldn't just pick up a sat phone if you want to be able to call home once in a while. It's not much more expensive than the SPOT's cost / service fee and it seems like it would be a lot warmer than a "OK" message sent out every 24 hours.

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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insanelupus
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insanelupus
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PostFri Jun 13, 2008 9:45 pm 
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Quote:
It's not much more expensive than the SPOT's cost / service fee and it seems like it would be a lot warmer than a "OK" message sent out every 24 hours.

I'm wanting the SPOT for the 911 and OK function.  But a sat phone would be great if the price was competitve.  My impression has been that the sat phone is much more expensive.  The SPOT retails for around $150 plus $99 for the 911/OK functions and an additional $49 for the tracking function.  (This includes the evac insurance).  So for just shy of $300 (renewed annually at just under $150) you have these options available.  Is there a sat phone and usage plan available for that kind of money out there?

--------------
"My feeling is this, give him pleanty of time, pleanty of birds, and a little direction, and he'll hunt his heart out for me.  That's all I ask."
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Dayhike Mike
Bad MFKer



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
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Location: Going to Tukwila
Dayhike Mike
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PostFri Jun 13, 2008 11:05 pm 
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Here's the best deal for sat phones I've found:

Globalstar GSP-1600 with the Globalstar Ultimate Plan -- $250 for the phone, $9.95/month for unlimited usage

I wouldn't mind a GSP-1700, but it's hard to justify an additional $750 to cut the weight of the phone from 13oz to 7oz.

The reviews I've been able to find indicate that service can sometimes be spotty, but for the most part seems to work okay. Here's a review from Summitpost Gear and here's one from Backpacking Light.

Definitely interesting and worth considering if you do a lot of travel in the backcountry with no cell coverage. I'm seriously tempted to pick one up.

--------------
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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GoBlueHiker
island hopper



Joined: 16 Apr 2003
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Location: These days... Boulder, CO
GoBlueHiker
island hopper
PostSat Jun 14, 2008 12:27 pm 
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Dayhike Mike wrote:
Here's the best deal for sat phones I've found:

Globalstar GSP-1600 with the Globalstar Ultimate Plan -- $250 for the phone, $9.95/month for unlimited usage

They charge per-minute roaming and long distance fees... on a Satellite phone? huh.gif  The talk-time seems to be unlimited so long as you sit at home and don't use it in the boonies.  It seemed cheap 'till I read the fine print...

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*** http://www.rainforesttreks.com ***
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Dayhike Mike
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Dayhike Mike
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PostSat Jun 14, 2008 2:14 pm 
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You're the second person to tell me this.  shakehead.gif

Either the U.S. isn't turning out literate pupils anymore, or we've all been so screwed over by the cell phone companies that we can't believe there isn't a catch.  hockeygrin.gif

Either way, relax...you're reading too hard. wink.gif

the lawyers concocting the service agreement wrote:
International long distance and roaming rates still apply to the “Ultimate” Service plan. (See Part 5 of this service agreement for long distance and roaming rates)

...

Home Calling Area :
The home calling (Zone 1) is considered any calls that originate in the USA, Caribbean, Canada and Alaska that terminate in the
USA, Puerto Rico, Canada and Alaska. The “Ultimate” free minutes apply only in this Home Calling Area.

Long Distance:
Calls from within the home calling area to non-USA locations are billed at a long distance rate of $1.49/minute. (Data calls are billed
in 15 second increments and voice calls in full minute increments).

Roaming:
Any calls you make while outside of the Home calling area are considered “Roaming” Calls.
The “Ultimate” free minutes do not apply in the roaming zones.

Roaming is charged only if you're outside your Home Zone -- i.e. only if you leave North America / Puerto Rico and there are no long distance charges if you're calling within the U.S.

Also, yeah, there is indeed a $50 activation fee, but that's not terrible from my perspective. I've been meaning to get one of these for a month or two, and I still plan on pulling the trigger soon.

--------------
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Grizzy
Yellow Cedar Hugger



Joined: 16 Jul 2006
Posts: 1934 | TRs
Location: Switchbacks
Grizzy
Yellow Cedar Hugger
PostSat Jun 14, 2008 9:32 pm 
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Dayhike Mike wrote:
Here's the best deal for sat phones I've found:
Globalstar GSP-1600 with the Globalstar Ultimate Plan -- $250 for the phone, $9.95/month for unlimited usage
Definitely interesting and worth considering if you do a lot of travel in the backcountry with no cell coverage. I'm seriously tempted to pick one up.

Wow, that is a very sweet deal, this is a "Spot" killer for sure! Thanks for sharing this...

--------------
All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other -
Only the mountain and I. ~Li Po~
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome



Joined: 26 Jul 2006
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostSat Jun 14, 2008 10:24 pm 
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Dayhike Mike wrote:
You're the second person to tell me this.  shakehead.gif

Either the U.S. isn't turning out literate pupils anymore, or we've all been so screwed over by the cell phone companies that we can't believe there isn't a catch.  hockeygrin.gif

It's the second reason...
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