I left home decades ago, but that doesn't mean my dear mama doesn't still worry about me when I go out on backpacking trips. Maybe in your case it's your spouse, or the employees at work that want to make sure you make it back in one piece to sign payroll checks. For their peace of mind, the SPOT Personal Satellite Messenger we rent is just the thing to keep folks back home happy. Also, many race event coordinators are now mandating SPOT usage for their events, and we rent SPOT units to participants and organizers for competitive events across the country every year - biking, canoeing, adventure racing, kayaks, sailing, rallies, and hang gliding as examples. See our video on renting the SPOT for use in races and team events, or if you prefer a quick read on the subject, check out our informational page on SPOT rentals and races.
The SPOT we rent uses the GPS satellite network to acquire your current latitude and longitude coordinates, and then sends its location with a link to Google Maps that can be viewed by your designated friends and family. 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 (see a coverage map here).
SPOT is much more flexible than so-called Personal Locator Beacons, and works even when cell phone coverage is long-lost. See our video referenced below, but note that is for an older model - we're just too lazy to do another one with the latest model. This one we rent now is faster and smaller. Find more pictures and instructions on this satellite communicator, but know from the trail or other adventure you can:
You can send a simple periodic "Check in/OK" message to a list of SMS and email contacts at any time of your choosing.
You can have it automatically send "Track progress" position updates every ten minutes (or at shorter or longer intervals, with Spot 3) that can be viewed on a map through any Web browser.
You can send a "Help" message for less-than-life-threatening situations to a second list of SMS and email contacts, perhaps requesting them to come to you or send less urgent assistance.
You can send a "Custom" message of whatever nature to keep friends and family at home abreast of your situation or just notify them there's been a change of plans.
And if your life is threatened, there's a "911" feature that will call a Emergency Response Center. The GEOS International Emergency Response Center alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide - for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe. Once a distress message is activated on SPOT, emergency responders are notified which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, our country's embassy or consulate, or other emergency response or search and rescue teams - as well as notifying your emergency contact person(s) about the receipt of a distress signal.
The basic rescue service and optional tracking services are already registered with each unit so those services are included with your rental. These services would cost you at least $150 directly from SPOT if you buy one, so consider that in your decision to rent-or-buy. There are no other fees or anything else you need to buy when you rent from us, except for some lithium AAA batteries. Once rented, we give you the info you need to do the online setup to establish your messages, contact list and the page for auto tracking monitoring - it only takes a few minutes. You can use the pdf file we send or check out the SPOT profile screenshot video for step-by-step instructions.
The advantages of the Generation 3 model include longer battery life; shorter or longer tracking increments if needed; and rechargeable battery options. For most wilderness excursions, the 2 is just fine; some race participants or long-term users would prefer the 3. You can specify with the dropdown box if you want the Gen 3 at a bit higher rate.
The SPOT is a great idea and nifty little device that we've rented for many years, but there are a couple of important considerations before you go out with it:
Since it works off of satellite signals, reception and transmission can be affected by terrain, heavy overhead foliage, and the then-location of satellites. Fall in a mine or cave, for example, and SPOT probably won't be much help. It will keep trying however. SPOT will not protect you from risky or stupid choices, and on occasion there can be failures in a message transmission. To keep folks at home happy, you should send multiple OK messages a day AS THE PRACTICAL REALITY IS THAT WHILE NEARLY ALL MESSAGES WILL GO THRU EVERY TIME, "NEARLY" MEANS "NOT LIKELY 100%". WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT ANY ONE MESSAGE WILL BE SUCCESSFULLY RECEIVED. SPOT is no substitute for careful planning, common sense, a good map and compass or any trail map we have to offer.
It runs off of 3 AAA lithium batteries (or 4, with SPOT 3), that we don't supply - we want you to buy your own to make sure you have the best you want to buy. PERFORMANCE WILL BE DEGRADED OR NONEXISTENT WITH ALKALINE BATTERIES. For most trips, one set is enough - it's relatively easy on battery juice.
If you push the 911 button just to see what happens (not so smart), or to be legitimately rescued (very wise), you are responsible for all related costs of that effort. There are various type of travel and evacuation insurances available if you want more protection against unexpected costs.
If you want a satellite device that you can communicate both ways - that is, the folks back home can get a message to you, then rent the Garmin InReach instead. The InReach also allows custom texting from the field, if the preset message approach isn't adequate. It is a bit pricier, and you have to pay attention to data usage, unlike this SPOT.
For more information, see the manufacturer's web site, and we have compiled a series of articles on detailed pieces of its operation:
How to Use the Check-In/I'm OK button on your SPOT Messenger
How to Send a Custom Message on your SPOT Messenger
How to Send a Help Message on your SPOT Messenger
How to Send a SOS Message on your SPOT Messenger
How to set your SPOT Messenger for Automatic Tracking
Understanding the LED lights on your SPOT Messenger
Our rental package for the SPOT communicator includes the unit, operating instruction sheet or a link to an online version, instructions for contact setups and location monitoring. There are no service subscriptions or other additional fees you have to pay to fully utilize its features.
Be sure to call us to ask any questions about this great peace-of-mind asset for your loved ones. Between April and October, supply is always tight, so be sure to order as early as possible to ensure availability.