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SPOT reliability
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
SPOT reliability on 11/02/2009 16:49:33 MST Print View

Has the company that makes the SPOT PLRB improved its satellite signal transmision/reception as of now?

I'd sure like to get one for my solo trips but won't until I know it will work as well as it needs to in order to punch through tree canopies and heavy cloud cover, like an ACR beacon will.

But I don't want an ACR beacon due to the initial and subscription cost and limited use options.

Finally, beacon rental seems almost like throwing a lot of money away.
Lets hope sat phones & subscriptions get a lot cheaper.


Jonathon Rogers

Locale: East TN
SPOT on 11/02/2009 16:59:03 MST Print View

I have one of the new ones and have been using it for a couple of months now. They claimed to have upgraded the GPS chipset and the antennas and I can say that I have had 100% success with it so far.

It has done well both around here in heavy Appalachian mountain tree cover and also did well on a week-long trip I took to the Peruvian Amazon region last month. Even in the jungle, it would acquire a signal in less than 2 minutes and transmit a message within another minute or two.

The best thing about it is that you get the light telling you that the message has actually gone through. For me (okay so actually mainly for my wife), it has been well worth the few ounces for peace of mind.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 11/02/2009 17:00:12 MST Print View

I have found the SPOT to be very reliable in the Alpine but hard to judge in the valley floors.
Overall not bad when in tree-cover (AB/BC wilderness) but terrain features have often blocked singles for significant amounts of time when tracking.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: SPOT reliability on 11/02/2009 20:20:04 MST Print View

I'm not sure what a PLRB is. Did you mean PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)? A SPOT is not a PLB. A SPOT is essentially a satellite phone in text mode. It's reliability? What reliability? It's notoriously unreliable.

There is no subscription fee for an ACR beacon.

Brad Smith
(DocOne) - F

Locale: Southwest
SPOT on 11/02/2009 20:55:19 MST Print View

If you do a search online you will see that the first generation spot is not very reliable - particularly for GPS reception which it relies on entirely to determine your location. I would hold out for a SPOT 2 (to be released late this month) which has many improvements including better GPS reception if you need the extra SPOT features that allow you to tell your family "I'm OK" or send short messages.

If you are just looking for a pure locator beacon for emergency use, the latest 406 MHz SARSAT PLBs such as the McMurdo Fast Find 210 PLB have high reliability and are significantly cheaper to own as they are free to register and with NOAA and have no subscription fees (see separate thread comparing the two). I own a McMurdo.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
SPOT 2 on 11/02/2009 23:17:36 MST Print View

I'll wait a bit for the SPOT 2 & reviews, especiallly on this site's e-zine. I'd really like the versatility of the SPOT's multi mode messaging.

BUT...the PLRB (Personal Locator Rescue Beacon)mentioned aabove sounds interesting also.

Thanks all for your info. Heck! Another battery-operated gadget to carry. Lessee, Garmin Colorado GPS, SteriPen Adventurer, coin battery headlamp, and next a SPOT. Not to mention an Ortiovox S1 avy beacon in winter. SHEESH!

Someday I'm going to take a trip with just my headlamp, map & compass and some Micropur tablets.


Edited by Danepacker on 11/02/2009 23:19:01 MST.

Jonathon Rogers

Locale: East TN
SPOT 2 on 11/03/2009 09:51:27 MST Print View

The new SPOT is out-has been out for a couple of months now. That's the one I have and my experience noted above seems to echo that of others I have read online.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: SPOT 2 on 11/03/2009 16:33:30 MST Print View

"Someday I'm going to take a trip with just my headlamp, map & compass and some Micropur tablets."

I leave the compass behind most of the time too.

Based solely on the 1st gen. SPOT, I don't trust those things at all. I have been involved in testing where messages arrived up to five weeks after being sent, or never at all. Maybe the new ones are better, but it's not my bag baby. I go outdoors to get away from the technology, sometimes I don't even bring my camera so that I am more immersed in the moment.

Jared Martin
(JaredM) - F
Recent SPOT failure on 06/23/2010 14:54:02 MDT Print View

Check out this article where two SPOTs failed to get out an SOS during the same tragedy.

Check out the awesome information comparing PLB & SPOT technology over at:

As that poster and the one here said, the site has some great testing data to chew over.

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Re: Recent SPOT failure on 06/24/2010 15:22:54 MDT Print View

Be careful from where you get your information, and how you interpret it.
It is unclear exactly what transpired 15 June on Little Bear.
Here is a URL for the Search and Rescue groups report on the accident.