written by: KennethSleight•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 3/29/2011
SPOT GPS units are a must have for any adventurer. These units can be used to broadcast your position to the Globalstar satellite network in case you are injured or hopelessly lost. The position will be relayed directly to “The GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center."
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SPOT GPS units were developed to help in the location and rescue of stranded people who are out of cell phone range. The advantage of SPOT GPS is that is sends a signal to the satellite system and then relays your position, within 20 feet, to anyone and everyone on your contact list and any authorities that may be involved in a rescue attempt.
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SPOT Personal Tracker
The SPOT Personal tracker is a unit you’ll either love or hate. First, the things about this unit that make it worth your while: The SPOT personal tracker is a rugged piece of equipment with a waterproof rubber casing done in a bright orange/red color so it won’t be easily lost. It works in virtually any place you can go in the world and, this is the kicker, it broadcasts your location which is something a regular GPS unit can’t do. Regular GPS devices simply receive coordinates whereas this unit can send a signal to the satellite as well. The FindMeSpot.com website, home of the manufacturer of this unit, claims that it offers the following features: a SpotChecking and Casting feature that allows friends and relatives to be alerted of your precise location at all times and an automatic distress signal.
What you might not like about this system is that it requires a credit card account with automatic billing for the surveillance service ($59 a month). The website and messaging system is prone to crashes and the maintenance schedule isn’t published so there are unknown blackout times. The battery compartment of the unit is tough to open (impossible with gloves on) so if your batteries need to be changed in extreme conditions you’ll be out of luck. Also, as this is a line of sight device, you’ll need to have an unobstructed view of the sky to use it. Thick canopies and indoor environments render the SPOT useless.
For the initial $95; available at Amazon, the unit isn’t badly priced. If it lived up to its billing without all of the outages then this product to could be worth it for hardcore adventurers. It is also a good product for people who live outside of traditional cell phone range as an emergency call device.
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SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger works in quite the same capacity as the SPOT personal tracker except it has a few more functions. It includes the SOS feature that allows a direct contact of 9-1-1 (or 1-1-2 in Europe) through the GEOS international emergency response center. There is a help feature that allows you to connect with your friends to ask for help in a non-life threatening situation. New on the Messenger is a check-in feature that allows you send an “I’m okay" message to your friends and family (up to ten contacts).
For $149 at Amazon, it’s not much of an improvement on the Personal Tracker unless you have worriers back at home. If you do, then the check-in feature may be worth the extra $70 bucks.
The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger comes in the same style case as the personal tracker so it is both water proof and heat resistant (up to 185 degrees F). But it also suffers the same poor service and need for line of sight as the Personal Tracker.
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SPOT Connect is the newest SPOT product. It is a simple GPS device that allows you to connect your smartphone, iPod Touch or iPad to the SPOT GPS system. There is a free app in the iTunes Apple store that allows this Bluetooth connection to work with the connect device. This 3" by 2.6" Bluetooth device can, when used in conjunction with the free app, send customized text messages to your friends and family directly from whatever location your adventure takes you to, even in places where you don’t get a traditional cell phone signal. The connect is currently in production and has not yet hit retail stores (it is expected out by early summer 2011). Providing it doesn’t suffer from the same faults as the other two units, this could be a great addition for long distance hikers and adventurers. A SPOT GPS unit connected to your smartphone would be a powerful rescue device.