SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

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Do you travel to areas where there is poor cell phone coverage? Have you thought how you in an emergency get help to those places, without any reception? Well, here is one option for you: SPOT.

You can get a SPOT for under 200€, but you also need a trace service to get your SPOT to work optimally, which costs around 100 € per year. You can get the older SPOT model less expensive, eg sells the older model for 99 €.

SPOT is a GPS tracking device that provides GPS tracking and text messaging. The device is simplex (one-way communication device), which means that you can send data, but don’t receive. It also means that there is no confirmation on that the data have successfully been received to the other end. In simple words: You can’t be 100% sure that your message gets to the receiver. The SPOT has five main functions: SOS, Help, Check-in/OK, Custom Message and Track Progress. The messages can be received by email, text message or on a webpage. Here’s a short explanation of the functions:

  • SOS: You can send an emergency message to GEOS International Emergency Response Center, which alerts for example 112 responders in Europe.
  • Help: If the emergency isn’t life threatening, you can use this function to notify your personal contact that you need help.
  • Check-in/OK: You can pre-program a message, for example: ”Everything is ok”, and send the message to your family and friends telling them that you are okay.
  • Custom Message: You can pre-program a custom message, for example: “We have reached the summit”, and send the message to your family and friend.
  • Track progress: The SPOT tracks your path with 10 min intervals. Your family and friends can follow your hike progress on a web map.

Despite which of the above messages you send, your GPS location will also be included in the message.

I got my SPOT last summer from The model is SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger. (The model has since been replaced with a newer model, SPOT Gen3.) The longest trip I have done using the SPOT so far, was a hike in Urho Kekkonen National Park. In the beginning the SPOT worked perfectly, and I think all of the possible track marks and messages was successfully sent and delivered. About halfway of our hike we went through a narrow canyon in rainy weather, and at that place the SPOT sent successfully about a third of the possible track marks. At the end of our hike the SPOT stopped sending any track marks or messages for about 4 hours. The odd thing was that we had just come to a place without any higher mountains on our sides, or anything else that might have been in the way of the satellites. So even today I do not know why it stopped working. I even tried to only send an OK-message, but even that didn’t go through. Also the total length distance that the SPOT indicated for the hike, seemed unreliable (too much).  I hope that the newer model SPOT Gen3, is more reliable.

There are more reliable GPS trackers available on the market than the SPOT, but they are duplex (two-way communication) devices, which affects the price. For example a Yellowbrick, that is a duplex messenger device, costs about 600 € (almost three times more than the SPOT). But okay, you get more functions with the duplex capability.

For a person who hikes occasionally, to locations that are not so extreme and remote, I think a SPOT is sufficient – at least if you observe the price-quality ratio. Yes, I know the SPOT isn’t 100% reliable, but you get quite much for your money. If you just won the lottery, I think you then should buy the Yellowbrick device. On our expedition to Vatnajökull, we had a Yellowbrick device with us to trace our track. It worked just fine without any problems. But I don’t own one and I therefore don’t have much experience about it,  so I sadly don’t have more opinions to share.

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