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SPOT2 Personal Locator Review and Extensive Field Test
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Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: SteveO - bad review on 11/30/2010 19:57:32 MST Print View

In addition to Russel's comment...

The first release of the SPOT 2 had problems and was recalled. When reading a review (like the one copied by Steve O from another site), it's important to make sure you know if they are talking about SPOT 1, SPOT 2 pre-recall, or SPOT 2 post-recall version. Our field testing was with the SPOT 2 post-recall version.

More information about the recall is below:

Link to product recall information

"During continuous testing, we discovered that some of these SPOT 2 devices may not meet battery and messaging operating specifications..."

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: clarifying SPOT transmission processes on 11/30/2010 20:05:46 MST Print View

>Alan carries both a sat phone and a SPOT, and found that the SPOT transmitted messages in places where he could not get sat phone reception, so the sat phone is not unambiguously more reliable. It does, however, have the advantage that if you are talking to somebody you know they have received your message.

And the sat phone is heavier, larger, and more expensive both on initial cost and monthly service cost.

And as Amy noted, if you are going to have trouble getting SPOT messages through, you are likely to have problems initiating a sat phone call. Both systems use the same type of satellites.

Russell Adams
( - F
reviews on 11/30/2010 20:14:44 MST Print View

Before purchasing my Spot II I spent a great deal of time looking at reviews. It became evident that the device is not without problems, especially the early models, and I have no doubt that many are legitimate. As such, I purposely bought mine from REI (luv that return policy) so that it could be returned if it failed to work to my expectations.

That being said, I began to notice that more than a few of the negative reports were regurgitated stories many times removed from the original source. (I fully expect to see the tragic account of the 2 men on a Colorado peak mentioned in this thread before we are done)

Also, part of the reason you see so many comments on the performance of this locator compared to PLB is because you can actually use them prior to an emergency. They get used frequently and often. I send out messages on my Spot II on almost every trip. Had I purchased a PLB it would have remained in my pack untested and unused, thankfully.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
spot2 on 11/30/2010 20:33:09 MST Print View

thanks for the comprehensive review! :)

I do echo your suggestion of being able to get simple GPS coordinates- this would eliminate (for me anyways) carrying a GPS

I'd also echo Mary's suggestion on the capability to text a message- maybe not feasible, but certainly could be very advantageous

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
another data point on 11/30/2010 20:33:41 MST Print View

I've been using a Spot 2 for most of this year. It's a cool way to share your adventure with family and friends, though as with all electronics it can fail, and that ought to be planned for. Don't share the tracking page with especially histrionic, non-adventure literate relatives.

For those interested in how to kill a Spot, know that the immersion waterproof for 1 hours is quite accurate. On a packrafting trip I attached mine to a strap which came loose, and the Spot floated off into oblivion. Oddly, it sent "Help" messages every five minutes for an hour (as it floated downstream) before dying. No emergency calls or emails were sent, and Spot CS was unable to explain this oddity.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Position display on 11/30/2010 20:34:23 MST Print View

A year or more ago I asked the SPOT manufacturer if a coordinate display would be forthcoming. The answer was a terse no! I hope your industry clout brings a better result in this area. A unit that decodes GPS but doesn't display the result! What were they thinking!?

Edited by herman666 on 11/30/2010 20:35:07 MST.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Position display on 11/30/2010 21:47:50 MST Print View


SPOT has some valid reasons for not putting a LCD display on the unit because a) LCD displays do not work in low temperature environments and the SPOT is intended to work in Arctic and Antarctic environments and the cold of very high summits, b) the LCD is more delicate to being shattered in warm environments—the current SPOT is extremely rugged in terms of impact resistance in comparison to something like a GPS where the display is easily damaged on impact.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: another data point on 11/30/2010 21:57:45 MST Print View

An alternative possibility for the 1 hour:

SPOT will send your message and current GPS location every 5 minutes for an hour for redundancy and overall reliability."

So, the SPOT may have still been operational if you could ever locate it. It just stopped sending after an hour as it was designed to do.

I carried a SPOT on a packrafting trip in AK for a week. It did fine on the water, although mine stayed attached to the boat...

Edited by alandixon on 11/30/2010 22:00:09 MST.

Robert Richey
(BobR) - M

Locale: San Luis Obispo
surveying others' experience on 11/30/2010 23:40:53 MST Print View

Thanks for the thorough review. I really appreciated follow-up comments from Amy quoting the experience of the SAR volunteer and your respective message protocols. I have been interested in this product since the first model came on the market. Enthused after reading the very positive BPL review, I went on to survey the reviews on the REI site. Of these reviews 14 rated the device as reliable while 19 found them unreliable. The accounts appeared to me to be first-person accounts and not recycled myths. The theme of all the reviews was the device is terrific unless it fails, and device failure seems to occur for about half the people writing reviews. Some of the negative reviews were written after the recall of 9/27/10, but obviously the purchases could have taken place earlier. All of the negative reviews emphasized that the Spot customer service was seriously substandard if a problem did arise. It sounds like Alan and Amy had the benefit of having a device that operated properly, but there may be quality control issues that have not been resolved. If all the problems have been taken care of and the bad reviews cease, a Highly Recommended rating may be justified. But with electronics like the Spot and the Steripen, one expert's extremely thorough review may not be a reliable guide to others' experience. For these kinds of devices a broad survey of users may be a more reliable indication of what one might expect.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
interesting on 12/01/2010 02:20:01 MST Print View

thanks for the review

now the question is who to believe
- REI reviews


Sabine Schroll
(sabi) - MLife
not perfect on 12/01/2010 03:20:16 MST Print View

I had a Spot 2 with me on my 5 weeks (hiking and packraft) in West Greenland this summer - short version: only about 60% of my messages arrived.

I had to exchange my new device immediately after it came to me because of these technical problems and after around 6 months (!) I received an exchange Spot2 - obviously not new, but a used one.

I sent a mix of OK and custom messages (set up camp, etc.) every evening, interesting points - I am not sure yet if there is a difference between the two, but could be.
Even in a perfect clear sky, sunny, no canyons, no trees, waiting for at least 20 minutes until the light is of - only 60% of the messages came through.
Worst were 4 or 5 days in a row without messages! I didn't use the tracking function - it is obviously more redundancy, sending only 1 or 2 messages per day seems not enough for reliabilty.

Maybe it is because Greenland is on the edge of the served area?

The label and colour on the two buttons for Help and SOS is already disappearing.

I still think it is a good thing and I would recommend it too, but knowing and accepting that it is not perfectly reliable should be part of the deal.

Shontelle Adams
(shonkygirl) - F

Locale: Central Coast, Aus.
Delorme GPS with SPOT anyone with experience. on 12/01/2010 04:14:15 MST Print View

Thanks for the great review of SPOT 2. I have been looking at Personal Locators for the last 6 months and am very tempted with SPOT 2. However I have found something that I think is even more tempting but waiting to see user reviews.

Delorme GPS Earthmate PN-60W with SPOT satellite Communicator

The main advantage is the ability to send custom messages typed in the field.

If anyone has experience with this I would love to hear about it.

I am assuming the SPOT device is SPOT 2 technology so this review is relevant, but have not seen a Delorme Earthmate GPS and wonder how this compares to other GPS units.

Philip Werner
(earlylite) - F - MLife

Locale: New England
SPOT-TY Coverage on 12/01/2010 06:55:54 MST Print View

I don't use the tracking mode on my spot. However, I do send out an OK message each morning at breakfast and one at dinner. In my experience, both in Scotland and in New England, about 10-15% of these OK messages are never received. My wife and I have come to accept this limitation but I can't say we're happy with it.

Finally, the review seems to suggest that the SPOT web site is usable. NOT. It's the biggest piece of usability crap I've seen in a long time. Trust me. Set up your messages once and avoid trying to use that bloody site. It's awful.

Alex P Vertikoff
(vertikoff) - M
Spot 1 worked fine but will get Spot2 on 12/01/2010 07:26:22 MST Print View

I lead wilderness high adventure treks for a scout troop. We are out from between 5-14 days. I have used my Spot1 to send ok messages at the end of each day and to warn of problems. We get into some very deep and remote canyons in New Mexico and Arizona. It has worked fine, always. I have no need for it to track our movements throughout the day. I personally know of several lives which were saved with the spot 1 in the Superstition Wilderness though unfortunately I also know of some prank and just plain stupid distress calls (including one for a dog that had a cactus thorn in it's paw). While I will move on to a spot2, being a gadget person, I refute what seems to be a blanket hatred of the spot 1 by some folks.

Thanks and happy trails,

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Re: Position display on 12/01/2010 07:59:09 MST Print View

"SPOT has some valid reasons for not putting a LCD display on the unit ..."

The temperature and fragility of an LCD position display excuses don't wash with me. It's not all that difficult to ruggedize a small display, and if I need to get a fix when it's -40, I'll warm it up under my jacket.

Edited by herman666 on 12/01/2010 08:02:24 MST.

Daryl Hawkins
SPOT on 12/01/2010 08:17:01 MST Print View

As a test to see if your 'OK' messages are being sent, you can set up your account to text message your own cell phone. My cell phone has rung as little as 20 seconds after the SPOT reports that it has sent out the OK message.

Of course your cell phone will only ring if your in a service area.


Edited by dlh62c on 12/01/2010 08:52:32 MST.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: SPOT - pre-trip message testing on 12/01/2010 08:41:15 MST Print View

>As a test to see if your messages are being sent,

Excellent point Daryl! It really makes sense to test all message types (but SOS) pre-trip. Even better done again in the town before you hit trail head if you have a cell phone. Not only does this test the unit, it also familiarizes you with its operation. And it also gets local ephemeris GPS data which will speed operation of the unit when you hit the trail. From the review:

"Pre-trip, the SPOT2 user sends tests for all four types of messages, OK, Tracking, Custom, and Help to all Responsible Parties/Emergency Contacts and makes sure they receive all email and text notifications, and that all messages show up on the Web tracking page."

Daryl Hawkins
PN-60w on 12/01/2010 08:57:22 MST Print View

Concerning Delorme's PN-60w with SPOT. I'm sure its the bomb. I have a PN-40. But if you think you'll ever need it for door to door routing outside the US of A. I'd get a Garmin.


Pat Comer
(WPComer) - MLife

Locale: Aborokas
new units on 12/01/2010 09:01:09 MST Print View

As an owner/user of an original unit, I have had one delayed message out in several years of using my unit. I always felt if I had the patience to wait on an esbit to boil water I had the patience to wait a bit on startup of my unit. I admit I have never used the track feature on my old unit but I do bread crumb at times through the day. I'm really happy to see the new units improvements and if lots of folks that were unhappy about the workings of the original units like the new units then I am sure I would be overwhelmed at how well the new unit works and the fact it is about half the weight and size of the old units. From an owner that lost a unit, take out the insurance for a lost unit. My replacement was headache free and fast. I'm very happy to see the new gen. units are making folks happy now.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
PN60w spot on 12/01/2010 09:04:07 MST Print View

I have a black PN60W with Spot. Yes it is the bomb. Used it for a 3.5 day 70 mile trip just recently. My family recieved all my text messages everyday, evertime i sent them. The battery life is amazing. I was at 95% after the trip. I switched it on and off. the only downfall of the delorme units is the software, which you should give yourself AMPLE time to learn several weeks before you intend on using the unit for a trip. Once you learn the software, Its great. Never had to use spot for emergencies(just for texting), but nice to know its there.