Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spot on??? Satellite trackers versus cellphones



I am contemplating a 1 or 2 week road trip with a friend and feel the need to invest in a little technology, because cellphone coverage can be spotty.  Last night I went to a bike night event and listened to the tale about  a woman's solo trip to New Zealand.  It got me thinking about safety and whole bunch of other things which I need to sort out in the next few months.    This trip will see me staying within my countries borders. 

There are several satellite driven trackers or personal safety beacons out there that allow coverage where cellular just doesn't go.  There are brand options where you have to pay a monthly/yearly subscription.  


I am intrigued by the personal beacon unit that the lady adventurer has last night, it is a '5 year' beacon that you don't pay any fees or subscriptions for. 

There are other options such as the Spot which I believe you pay a monthly fee, which I am not all that keen on as I have cell and that is costly enough. 


Another friend has this satellite tracker which has text message capabilities and mapping, it has a sliding scale for fees, so when you use it more, you pay more and the months you aren't utilizing it the fee is nominal. 

So my question is to you my fellow travelling bloggers - If you use a satellite tracker what do you like about it? What don't you like about it? Which models have you tried? What to you recommend?

10 comments:

RichardM said...

I've used the Spot 2 for the last two motorcycle trips and the annual subscription isn't cheap. Especially if you want the tracking feature and not just the emergency services feature. The PLB is just for emergencies. I had wanted the tracking. If I was in the market for another satellite tracker, I would opt for the inReach device. The ability to compose messages and to receive messages dramatically increases its utility beyond summoning emergency services. The Spot allows you to pre-compose a message when you have internet access but I can think of a lot of situations when being able to compose a non-emergency message and get responses would be invaluable.

The rubber gasket on my Spot has failed so it is no longer waterproof. The next time I have need for such a device I'll probably need to replace it. On my last trip it lived in a bracket behind the windshield. There were a lot of times when it didn't have signal. I can tell where by looking at the tracks. Such as next to E-W mountains like the Yellowhead Hwy in BC.

RichardM said...

BTW, I will be using it on our road trip since it is paid for into next year. Waterproof doesn't matter much on this trip.

Andrew Thomson said...

My GPS always comes with me on a trip. It won't tell anyone but me where I am...

I did have an free app on my phone at one stage that people could text and it would text back my location (a link they could open in a web browser). It worked pretty well and I've always got the phone with me - the trouble is i now go places where there is no reception...

I think if I went on an extended trip in some far off country then I'd definitely consider a SPOT.

Dar said...

Richard - good to know. My friend loves the inreach. I need to do a bit more research I think.

Andrew - there are lots of places on the island that I don't get cell reception, I want something for those times.

Κινητοί Τοίχοι - Movable Walls said...
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Trobairitz said...

We've had the spot for several years. It is spendy for the yearly subscription but I think it is worth it. When Brad is off on a multi day trip it is nice to be able to track him if he has that feature on, or he can hit a button and it will ping me his location by email and or text message to have a general idea of his route or when he'll be home etc.

One of the additional features of the spot is that it has the 'Emergency' button. If something catastrophic happens they will send someone to get you whether you need to be airlifted or whatever, it is part of their insurance. If local authorities can't or won't do it, they hire someone to send in after you. It is an additional fee of course but helps with added peace of mind.

There is also a separate button you can program to send out if you just need a trailer or gas, etc. No emergency, but need assistance to get home. You can program it to send whatever specific message you like ahead of time and just use it on that odd occasion, but the person on the other end needs to be someone that more than likely isn't with you just in case. This one doesn't go to the authorities just to your pre-programmed people.

Charlie6 said...

I used a SPOT on my trip to AK and back....Martha, my wife, felt better knowing where I was when in the wilds of Canada/AK especially.

If I was looking again, I'd go with the one that allows you to send short texts back and forth.

Beware SPOT's subscription plan, if you don't call them, they'll auto-renew you for another year.

RichardM said...

The auto-renew is why I'm going to use it this summer…

Edward Kilner said...

I don't do enough travel to justify either a Spot or Inreach unit. I think the Inreach payment method turns out to be more than the Spot subscription but that is a recollection from months ago and may not be correct.

Back in 2012, on my first trip across the US and Canada, I had an iPad and used an app called Track My Tour. Intended for bicycle tours it worked fine for me. You need to stop for coffee and bio breaks anyway, so just use a place that has wifi and drop a pin. Sometimes the location services don't work at that spot and you won't be able to drop a pin until the next stop.

No emergency services and no off-road tracking. But free is free...

I just checked and the link from my blog no longer works, but I was able to log in to trackmytour.com and log in and see my maps are indeed still there. Will have to fix it...

Edward Kilner said...

OK, I fixed it but you have to scroll to the bottom of the blog to see two maps. Things have changed and I was not attentive.