Ventana Wilderness Forums • View topic - SPOT


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Postby fedak on Sun Dec 14, 2014 10:46 pm

> Based on this chain so far, other than John Fedak who has I know solo'd to a lot of remote locations, e

I'm still squarely in the PLB case (McMurdo or ACR) vs the satellite messenger (SPOT or Delormme)- though this largely depends on what your primary use of the device will be.
If you mainly want to send back "I'm OK" messages then you are better off with the satellite messengers If you want the best chance of an emergency distress signal to get through you want a PLB.

REI now has a decent page comparing the two technologies: ... acons.html

And here's an ACR promotional video that goes into the advantages of a PLB over the satellite messengers:
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Postby Hillary on Thu Dec 11, 2014 5:15 pm

I borrowed a friend's SPOT recently on a solo in Ventana (Arroyo Seco - Cone Peak - Gamboa - Stone Ridge - Vicente). Didn't work when I was down in the valleys by the water (which is where most camps are). Some of my check in texts to my friend didn't go through. There was quite a bit of fog so maybe that did it? They aren't lying when they say you need open skies to send check in texts. Battery lasted just fine. I was supposed to be able to send my friend a message of when to pick me up on HWY 1 but ended up picking up cell reception on Cone Peak instead and gave her a call. Ha.

I'm afraid of 3 things in Ventana - rattle snakes, creepos, and falling (well, those are my top 3 fears). Spot SOS would only really help me if I fell (and was conscious) and maybe if there was a rattler (assuming I don't have a heart attack or something freaky).

I've been thinking about picking up a DeLorme inReach. Curious if anybody has experience with that one...
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Spot v. PLB

Postby jbl on Wed Dec 10, 2014 7:27 pm

I thought I'd reignite this thread; I now have concluded that I need to carry something on my solo hikes, and am debating between Spot and PLB (ACR brand is what they carry at REI). Based on this chain so far, other than John Fedak who has I know solo'd to a lot of remote locations, everyone seems to be in the Spot camp; anyone else with any insights/thoughts that I can take into account in this momentous decision?
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Postby Carl Mounteer on Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:02 pm

As far as battery issues are concerned, I make it a point to change the batteries every September regardless of how much I have used my SPOT.

As far as getting reception in VW canyons I have had pretty good luck. Last time was at Vicente Flat Camp. You just need to find a reasonably open space (approx. 25' in diameter) to send the signal.

The need to press the "OK" button twice might be a safety feature to make sure you are really pressing the button you want. I'll bet the "Help" and "911" buttons do the same thing, just to force you to really focus on the button you want to press.

My only anxiety with this device is accidentally setting off the "Help" and, especially, the "911" signals. These buttons are exposed though recessed on the face of the SPOT. This is the only design complaint I have about it. I have solved this issue by turning one battery's polarity to the same polarity as the other battery instead of leaving them with the opposite polarity required to operate the device. This renders the device inoperable until I am ready to use it.

Finally, the peace of mind my SPOT has given me and my family has immeasurably increased our comfort level when I am in the wilderness, especially when I am there by myself. That alone has been worth the subscription fee.
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Postby paul-danielson on Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:05 pm

Despite some of the discussed drawbacks, I have been pleased with my SPOT. It has "saved" me on at least two occasions when I was unexpectedly delayed on a multiple day backpack into the Ventana. The tracking function enabled my wife to follow my progress online and to realize I was ok (could see my track moving during the day and stopping at night). It saved her from a lot of needless anxiety and from calling in S & R. Also, the helicopter extraction insurance option is a good deal (IMHO): --- well worth the modest expense versus the horrendous one of an uncovered rescue. There may be better options, but this one has saved my marriage and extended my solo hiking/backpacking career!!!


Postby Betsy M on Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:07 pm

I have used one for over two years, and am fairly happy with it. It has worked almost everywhere. The two times it did not work, I think 1. I turned it off too soon, and 2. battery issue (see below). The unit is fairly flaky, and oddly designed. I can see why someone might choose a PLB instead.

Issues: after about a year, using on lots of weekend trips, I returned from a trip and realized: no SPOT messages. The unit did not give any battery indicator warning. It just functioned completely normally (as far as I could see, as the user). A call to customer service, being put on hold for 10 minutes, explained the issue, and then I was cut off. A second call to SPOT customer service, again I was cut off. And a third call to customer service, they tell me you should change the battery every so often, just because the batteries might be getting old. As far as a design flaw, this is a pretty big one. And as far as a customer education issue, this is pretty serious. A responsible vendor would issue a warning that the battery indicator is not reliable. Instead, every person must figure this out for themselves. Or check somewhere like the REI product comments.

Another odd issue. I only use the unit for periodic check ins. When it is initially turned on, then the Check-in OK pressed, nothing happens. You have to wait and press Check In OK a second time, then it will start the signal process. When the batteries are very new, it seems that one press will work. But for 95 percent of the battery life, you need to press this button twice.

These are obvious design/support errors. The fact that they are not addressed is not reassuring. But, so far, the SPOT has effectively sent messages showing where I am, everywhere in the Ventana.
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Postby steveu on Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:24 pm

I have a spot and am completely satisfied with it, I have sent messages from some lower canyons, the only problem I have is the yearly subsciption kind of pricey for a couple of messages a year, but it does give me peace of mind, since I hike solo most of the time.
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Postby fedak on Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:49 am

I'm not a big fan of the SPOT devices- they are substantially inferior to the offerings from McMurdo and ACR as actual emergency beacons.

They do have the check-in functionality- which IMHO just causes undue worrying/panicking when inevitably a message doesn't go through.
I haven't used one in the VW canyons- but I *have* used a GPS enough that I wouldn't be optimistic on SPOT coverage.

I think a couple folks who frequent here have SPOTS- perhaps they can chime in with first hand experience.
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Postby mikesplain on Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:13 pm

Anyone have much experience with SPOT messenger GPS units?
I'm especially interested in the reliability of sending an OK/check-in message
from the deep canyons of the Ventana & Silver Peak-
thanks very much for your input...
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