SPOT Gen3 Review
If you travel off the beaten path, and/or just want family and friends to know where you are and whether you need help sent, the SPOT Gen3 personal satellite tracker is a must have. I thought most riders knew about this device and its related technology but found then even in my office there were a couple of editors who had not seen it. One is even an off-road rider who likes to disappear alone.
Well, the SPOT is for those that don’t want to disappear, and more. The SPOT requires a few minutes of account setup online to function and then it is, pretty much, turn on and forget. Changes to your setup, like changing messages, tracking intervals and firmware updates are easy and fast with SPOT’s device updater.
The most important function is that the SPOT Gen3 will, upon uncovering it’s protected SOS key and then holding that key for a few seconds, send your location coordinates, via satellite, to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center. They, in turn, will provide your exact location to response teams in the area in which help is needed. In North America that would be 911 and 112 in Europe. Its coverage is nearly worldwide and SPOT has over 4,000 rescues to its credit as of this writing.
SPOT says it notify responders, “which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, our country’s embassy or consulate, or other emergency search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contacts about the receipt of a distress signal.”
SPOT recommends mounting the Gen3 so it has a clear line to the sky for satellite reception. I agree, but also recommend that the unit be attached to your jacket with the included strap and carabiner or, otherwise remain in your close possession.
On some jackets I don’t have a convenient mounting place, but have found the device works fine in a breast pocket. I recommend that you do not mount it to your motorcycle or car so if you take a spill, or somehow get separated from the vehicle, your SPOT will be nearby to activate.
Keep in mind that no cell phone signal is required to activate this unit for emergencies or other features such as messaging. Messaging is another nice feature of this unit in that it allows the user to enter up to 41 characters in three different predefined messages through the www.findmespot.com web interface.
My Check In/Ok message says “Jonathan checking in. I’m okay. All is well. Here’s a link to my location.” If I press and hold the OK button this message will be sent to as many people as I have on my contact list, whether by email or text message. It is a nice way to let your significant others know you’re okay or done for the day. Honestly, my wife is much more at ease now when I travel in the back of beyond because I’m in touch.
My Custom message says, “I am either broken down or have some problem. I need help sent. I am not hurt. Call a tow truck.”
My Help/SPOT Assist button says, “I am either broken down or have some problem. I need help sent. I am not hurt. Call local police.”
For the last choice, Help/SPOT Assist, I could pay an additional $17.95 per year and that would upgrade the standard SOS monitor to the GEOS Member Benefit for reimbursement of up to $100,000 in Search and Rescue (SAR) expenses – even coordinating a private SAR contractor if needed to get you to safety.
If I paid for that then this button would be like a send tow truck alert. Instead, because I did not pay that fee the Help button allows a third message. That’s why I have an OK message, a “not hurt but need tow truck” message and a “not hurt but send police message.” I haven’t thought of any other messages I might need. Can you?
The next slick feature of the SPOT Gen3 is tracking. See the accompanying screenshots of my track to Camp Scheideck, above Ojai, from my home in Thousand Oaks last week. Press and hold the footprint button for a couple of seconds activates this feature which will lay tracks on a map for you or anyone to whom you want to give a link. You can even share your GPS location and message on Facebook or Twitter so everyone you want to see your tracks can do so.
Your friends and family can follow your progress online in near real-time, save waypoints and review your route at a later date. Enhanced tracking upgrades are available. Unlimited tracking is $49.99 per year ($4.99 per month) and Extreme Tracking will allow you to choose your rate of tracking increments (2½, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes) and costs $149.99 per year ($14.99 per month). You be the judge of what your skin is worth and whether you want to add frills. I did and enjoy all the functionality.
Other services, which are free, include SPOT Adventures, a social networking platform, designed for the SPOT Nation, to share tracks, photos, and stories from your adventures. SPOT also connects to social media.
The SPOT Gen3 requires four AAA batteries. SPOT recommends Energizer Lithium Ultimate 8X or Energizer NiMH Rechargeable for ultimate performance and to always carry spare batteries. I’m using batteries by Panasonic eneloop, an advanced rechargeable battery, which is rated to hold 70% charge after 10 years on the shelf, operate in temperatures to -4 degrees F and come with a small charger. You may power the unit from a USB connection with a microUSB plug in the Gen3. Using line power will not recharge the batteries even though the unit is operating. You will sacrifice the IPX7 waterproof rating (one meter for 30 minutes) if you do this as it exposes the power port to the environment. To conserve power, the Gen3 will turn off after one hour of inactivity unless line powered. See SPOT’s battery life chart at the bottom of this review.
SPOT also offers SPOT trace, a tracking device to hide in a vehicle, or other asset, that will send tracking plots like the Gen3 and email/text when it detects movement. MSRP is $119.95 plus service fees. SPOT sells a Global Phone, too, which connects to the grid via satellite, and will allow you to make a call from virtually any place on earth. MSRP is $549.95 plus service fees.
Long Haul Paul, an avid motorcycle enthusiast who is also married and a father of three recently stated, “My SPOT tracker doubles as a marriage saving device.” Now suffering from memory issues, “it has helped keep my wife from worrying for hours on end when I forget to call her after a 1200 mile trip that day.”
Michael Herrera, SPOT’s 4,000th rescuee and a retired Houston firefighter, was off-roading in Alabama on his dual-sport dirt bike when he took a hard fall. Within 40 minutes of the S.O.S. activation, an ATV and ambulance were onsite. At the hospital, it was determined that he had suffered a broken collarbone, three broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. “Until my accident, I’d only used my SPOT for tracking so my wife could be aware of my location when riding off-road. It was gratifying to know that my SPOT delivered on its promise when I needed SAR services,” says Herrera. He also expressed his gratitude to the SAR teams involved in his rescue, “thank you for your service and your quick response.”
His wife also comments in this video, “I thought there was a mistake … because he’s a really good rider. It was a relief to know help was on the way.”
SPOT, don’t leave home without it.
SPOT Gen3 prices:
- MSRP $169.95
- Basic service is $149.99 per year or $14.99 per month.
From our friends at SPOT – Summer Promotion (50% off SPOT Gen3, SPOT Trace and SPOT Global Phone). Just in time for Father’s Day! www.FindMeSpot.com/FathersDay.
Spot Gen3 Review – Photos
SPOT Gen3 Data:
|Proper battery selection is critical for best performance. (Source SPOT)