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SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

The SPOT offers an affordable alternative to personal locator beacons, satellite phones and cell-based GPS trackers. SPOT provides virtually full coverage in North America, Europe, and Australia, portions of South America, northern Africa and northeastern Asia. It achieves this by leveraging both the GPS and SPOT’s own networks.

The basic specifications of SPOT Messenger (Newer Model) are:

Height: 3.7″ (9.4 cm)
Width: 2.6″ (6.6 cm)
Thickness: 1″ (2.5 cm)
Weight: 5.2 oz (147.4g)
Operating Temp: -22F to 140F (-30C to 60C)
Operating Altitude: -328ft to +21,320ft (-100m to +6,500m)
Humidity Rated: MIL-STD-810F,
Method 507.3,
95% to 100% cond.
Vibration Rated: Per SAE J1455
Battery
Type: 3 AAA Energizer Lithium Ultimate 8X
Power ON, unused: Approx. 3 Months*
Tracking mode: Approx. 7 days*
S.O.S./911 mode: 6 consecutive days
Check / OK: 700 messages*
*Utilizing fully charged Energizer Ultimate 8x AAA Lithium batteries under the specified usage environments, the following guidelines apply to the anticipated battery life of the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

What’s included in the SPOT’s Satellite GPS Messenger box:

  • SPOT Satellite Messenger GPS
  • User’s Guide
  • GEOS Emergency Response Services printed guide
  • Armband case
  • 3 A AA Lithium 8X batteries (Energizer)

The basic specifications of the SPOT Personal Tracker (Older Model):

Height: 4.4″ (11.1 cm)
Width: 2.7″ (6.9 cm)
Thickness: 1.7″ (4.4 cm)
Weight: 7.4oz (209g)
Operating Temp: -40F to 185F (-45C to 85C)
Operating Altitude: -300ft to +21,300ft (-91m to +6,492m )
Humidity Rated: MIL-STD-810,
Method 507.3,
95% to 100% cond.
Vibration Rated: Per SAE J1455
Battery
Type: 2 AA Lithium Batteries
Power ON, unused: Approx. I year*
Tracking mode: Approx. 14 days*
S.O.S./911 mode: up to 7 consecutive days
Check / OK: 1900 messages*
*Under normal usage a full battery charge should meet or exceed these amountsWhat’s included in the SPOT’s Satellite Personal Tracker box:

  • SPOT Satellite Messenger GPS
  • User’s Guide
  • GEOS Emergency Response Services printed guide
  • 2 AA Lithium 8X batteries (Energizer)

The SPOT has four basic functions:

  • There is the all important on/off button.
  • Alert 911 function dispatches emergency responders to your exact location.
  • Help feature to request assistance from friends or family.
  • Check In/OK allows you to transmit your location and a custom message that you are okay, which is pre-configured on the web prior to use. Your family and friends can track your progress by sending and saving points along your route to Google Maps, Facebook and Twitter.

One of the functional differences with the new SPOT Messenger is there is a Custom Message function. It functions exactly like the Check-in/OK message. You can use this feature as a secondary OK message or to send the notification that you harvested your bull. Another feature is the replaceable safety covers over S.O.S. and Help buttons. This prevents the accidental powering of the unit on when it’s stored in your pack. And the buttons are illuminated, for sending the OK messages in the dark. The newer SPOT is 30% smaller and much lighter than my older SPOT, 2.2 ounces to be exact.

The SPOT device floats and is waterproof up to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. You can drop it onto rocks from head height and it will not break. I tested this on concrete steps in front of our house and it still works as described.

How does the SPOT measure up against similar technologies:

SPOT vs. Cell Phones: Cell phones do not get coverage in most backcountry areas or even some of my suburban hunting areas. SPOT uses low-orbit satellites, so coverage is greater and more reliable. Check SPOT’s coverage area map for more information on the coverage area.

SPOT vs. GPS: GPS units are 1-way receivers of geographic data, they are not capable of contacting the outside world unless you are using the SPOT Connect You may know exactly where you are but, you cant share it with anyone if assistance is needed.

SPOT vs. Satellite Phones: Satellite phones are more expensive to buy and to use ($3.50/minute or you can pre-pay $165 for 75 minutes whether you use it or not); they are heavier and more battery-intensive. But, you can tell someone exactly what the problem is or say “Hello”! But, this is not worth it too me for most of my trips.

Here is an image depicting how the SPOT solution works:

Initially, I was hesitant on taking the SPOT with me on backcountry excursions as it makes me a bit hypocritical. One of the reasons that I go outdoors to get away from  all of the traffic, people, hustle-bustle,  electronic devices and the like.  I was not really that interested in a product that would allow me to communicate with the others while I am in the backcountry. It may be perceived that the SPOT would interfere with my connecting with nature. But, after some basic testing I didn’t feel it was interfering or a huge burden to lug around. Especially, because it gave my family the warm fuzzy feeling when they could see that l could let them know I was okay and it could be enjoyable for them to follow my progress or my ability to walk in circles!

For me the SPOT unit has been a crucial part in my backcountry safety. It’s lighter, more compact, less expensive than Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) or satellite phones, which can only transmit a distress signal to emergency services. One of the other benefits of the SPOT is that it has a Tracking (breadcrumb) mode, which automatically sends your location every ten minutes. Unlike PLBs the SPOT unit can transmit your exact location, within 21 feet!

I have used the original SPOT Personal tracker for a little over 2 years and have been very happy with the results. I have had it take some time to send the Check-In/OK message. This past winter I did some local testing of the unit in harsh elements. I set the unit on the front porch overnight with temps in the teens, snowing and powered on. I tested the Check-In/OK button, every hour and the Help button, which sends a message every 5 minutes unless canceled. I received all of the messages on my phone via SMS and in my email. I tried a similar test a few weeks later where I left the device powered off while it was on the porch over night in the sub-teen temps, waited for the snow to fall on it for a few hours, then powered the SPOT on and then sent my messages. Once again, I received all of my messages successfully.

I have used the SPOT on previous bonsai trips with temps well below freezing to test all of my gear and myself physically. I recently used it on a trip to a backcountry area near Hells Canyon in Idaho. It performed flawlessly, kept my family and my hunting partners family at ease during our 10 day hunt.

Some tips on the use of the SPOT that I would like to share are:

  • Use the Energizer Lithium 8x (NOT alkaline or rechargeable) batteries for maximum battery life
  • Install fresh batteries before leaving on a long adventure
  • For best signal reception, ensure that the SPOT logo is facing upward and has a clear view of the sky
  • Keep the SPOT at least 12 inches from other GPS or Satellite devices while in use
  • The first time using SPOT or if you just replaced the batteries or if you traveled more than 500 miles from your home, let it acquire a GPS fix. Turn SPOT On > Press the OK button (a quick press) and leave the unit outside with a view of the sky for 20 minutes.
  • To engage Tracking properly, turn the unit on, wait two seconds, then press and HOLD the OK button UNTIL the green LED light goes OUT and starts to blink. Approx. 6-7 seconds. If you take your finger off too soon, it will only send a single OK message.
  • SPOT is water-tight as long as you fasten down the back with a coin or screw driver

You can read SPOT testimonials (not reviews) here, from real world rescues.

To summarize my conclusion, the SPOT could turn out to be priceless in any life threatening situation!

Priced at $169.99 (plus a service fee of $99.99/year or $199.99/2 years and $50/year for the Tracking Progress Service), the Spot could be considered pricey, but if you use all the features regularly I’d say it’s well worth it and still much cheaper than your other options. Don’t forget you can take this with you on long driving trips as well. So, if you are in a remote area with no cell phone service, just power on the SPOT and use the features. Can you really put a price tag on your well being?

Where can you get the SPOT? You can purchase yours right here!

You can follow SPOT on Facebook and Twitter, to get all the latest news and updates on SPOT!

Here is a linkto the video review on the SPOT Messenger!

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