The SPOT Messenger is a very helpful device using the GPS satellite network to acquire your current latitude and longitude coordinates, and then sending its location with a link to Google Maps that can be viewed by your designated family, co-workers, and friends. SPOT also lets you send pre-programmed messages via a commercial satellite network to any email or text message recipient you setup before you leave. SPOT can identify and relay your location and programmed messages from nearly anywhere in the world.

Alas, it's not perfect. There's no way of knowing for sure if your message successfully made its way to your intended recipients, and it can be finicky in certain terrains or circumstances that keep it from working as you expect. So we've put together a series of articles that will help you get the most out of your SPOT Messenger. Most of this also applies to the SPOT Connect, although the activation steps are mostly made via your smartphone, not the SPOT Connect device itself.

Your first step should be to setup your SPOT profile at To help you setup your profile, we have developed a separate set of instructions for you to review first. The information below describes how and when to use the Custom Message button. This function allows you to send a pre-programmed message on any nature as needed when you're out of cell phone range but still need to communicate. Other articles in this series include:

Understanding the LED lights on your SPOT Messenger
How to Send a Check-in/OK message on your SPOT Messenger
How to Send a SOS Message on your SPOT Messenger
How to set your SPOT Messenger for Automatic Tracking
How to Send a Help Message on your SPOT Messenger

First, note the location and function of each of the primary buttons on the SPOT unit in this picture:

How to use SPOT function keys

Here are the simple steps to follow, along with some useful tips on using the Custom Message button:

Load three AAA batteries. Make sure they are lithium. Turn the POWER on, by pressing the center button and holding it a few seconds. It will start flashing green.

You need to be outdoors, ideally with a clear view of the sky in several directions to communicate with the satellites. Position the unit flat on a surface or in your hand, with the logo side up toward the sky. Press the CUSTOM button on SPOT for several seconds until it starts flashing green in unison with the POWER button light.

The GPS light will then start blinking also. Probably red - for hopefully just a few seconds - as it first searches for the GPS satellites, and then will blink green while SPOT sees the GPS satellites and is trying to lock in your GPS location. Once the GPS location is obtained, the GPS light and Message Sending light blink green together for approximately 15 seconds to notify you that your custom text or email message was sent with your current GPS location.

But don't turn it off just yet. If possible, keep SPOT on until the CUSTOM button light quits flashing, in about 15-20 minutes. That will better ensure a successful message completion. If you press another button during the CUSTOM message cycle, it may interrupt the signal and you'll need to start over. The Message Sending light will blink for about one hour, at which point the only button left on will be the POWER button. You can always turn off the device at any time, but to better ensure success, leave it on in a stationary position for as long as possible. It will certainly work while moving, but there is greater opportunity for something to interfere with the CUSTOM signal transmission, especially if you are hiking in and out of a wooded area for example.

It's best to experiment with the SPOT device at home and get familiar with all of its functions and features. Activate the CUSTOM button in your backyard for example and note the time you pressed the button. Then go check online and see how long it takes for the message to come through. Generally it is within 5 minutes, but can sometimes take a lot longer. Not every message will go thru every time, so you should send multiple CUSTOM messages each day for the peace of mind of those at home.

For more information, find the complete User Guide at, or we have put together a Quick-Outline Guide you can print and take with you on your trip. It was designed for our SPOT Messenger rental customers, but applies to any user.

We also rent the DeLorme InReach SE for two-way satellite communication capability when outside of cell phone range.