GPS Tracker + Displays Co-Ordinates - Does it Exist?
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Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
GPS Tracker + Displays Co-Ordinates - Does it Exist? on 04/15/2012 21:57:33 MDT Print View

I've been thinking about getting some sort of a GPS tracker unit...primarily for peace of mind for my wife during a few solo trips I've got planned this summer.

Something like the Spot2 or Garmin GTU 10 tracker would seemingly suffice, but it seems like a real shame to be lugging around a GPS unit yet be unable to benefit from the info it collects while on the trail. A tiny unit that in addition to communicating my route with loved ones back home, also displays the GPS co-ordinates to the hiker seems so much more useful for hardly any additional cost. A tiny B & W screen with my basic Lat/Long is all I'm asking. As I push into more remote areas, being able to check my co-ordinates would provide nice peace of mind for me in case i really mess things up my map and compass skills.

But no one makes one right? I'd have to buy a GPS tracker and a small regular GPS (Garmin Foretex or Geko) to fulfill this functionality and that's way too much cost / hassle / complexity.

Edited by dandydan on 04/15/2012 21:58:09 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
GPS Tracker + Displays Co-Ordinates - Does it Exist? on 04/16/2012 00:17:02 MDT Print View

@Dan

The Garmin unit uses the AT&T wireless network to transfer your position so probably not what you are looking for.

I finally made the leap and bought the Spot Connect that works with my iPhone. If you carry a smart phone with you, then this might be a good solution although it's a lot of extra gear to carry.

The Spot connect (4.6 oz with two lithium batteries) can be used by itself if you think that sometimes you might just be interested in the SOS button. You can't use tracking or send OK alerts without a smart phone but it does have an SOS button.

The Spot Connects features are really great if you pair it with a smart phone. You need a smart phone to turn on tracking and the smart phone app lets you select over a dozen predefined messages to send to predefined contact groups (you pick your contacts when you send the message). This extends the functionality of the regular Spot 2 signicantly and is why I went for the Spot Connect over the regular Spot 2.

I can choose from a dozen or so predefined messages for my outgoing OK/warning messages OR I can send a custom message (type it on my phone) and send that via the Spot Connect. This is what makes this unit worth owning IMO. Even if you don't want to send a custom message to your friends or family (at 50 cents a message), the idea that I can send custom instructions with an SOS alert is a BIG deal to me. Nice to be able to tell the SARs team what to expect in an emergency situation.

It's a lot of extra electronics to carry (iphone + waterproof case = 6.0 oz and a Spot Connect at 4.6 oz) but I'm able to leave my MP3 player and GPS behind so it's not a bad trade off. I could also leave my camera behind and just use the iPhone but I think smart phone cameras stink, so not something I would consider to save the weight.

I'm not aware of any other device that provides this type of service.

Edited by skopeo on 04/16/2012 00:29:48 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Spot Connect on 04/16/2012 13:10:30 MDT Print View

That is a lot of functionality. It'll be interesting to watch how this sort of technology continues to develop over the coming years. I don't have an iPhone now (or any cell phone actually) but eventually I'll have one again.

Can you view your GPS co-ordinates on your iPhone with the Spot Connect?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
GPS Tracker + Displays Co-Ordinates - Does it Exist? on 04/16/2012 13:58:04 MDT Print View

Smart phones all have built in GPS's so coordinate viewing is simple. The GPS app looks just like any other GPS. Many of the apps also allow you to download maps so that you can view your maps even when you are outside the cell network. I have several apps on my iPhone that have downloadable mapping and they work very well (exactly like a handheld GPS, with coordinate display, tracks and waypoints).

The only disadvantages with using the smart phone is battery life and fragility. Battery life is not an issue as long as you are going to use it as you mentioned, just grabbing coordinates once in a while and not leaving the smart phone GPS on all the time. I used to put mine in a small dry bag however, I have recently bought a waterproof case that allows me to use my iPhone in wet conditions (nice since I'm a fisherman).

The Spot Connect (or Spot 2) will drop a track point down every 10 minutes and the points are uploaded to your own personal web map (hosted by Spot), so your friends and family can follow your progress. The smart phone doesn't have to be left on once you turn on the tracking, it is only needed to turn the tracking feature on initially or to send an "I'm OK" alert.

The predefined messages on the Spot Connect are really a plus and I've used one of those already... "I'm going to be late" comes in really handy when the fishing is good!

Edit to add: I should have mentioned that your messages can be sent via email, Twitter or Facebook as well as going to the web map. You can set up various contact groups on your smart phone (and on Spot's site) and select whichever one you want when you send your message. Adds a fair bit of freedom to your messaging.

Edited by skopeo on 04/16/2012 14:03:01 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
GPS Tracking on 04/16/2012 14:02:40 MDT Print View

Thanks Mike. I guess I should have realized that. At this point a smart phone + spot is too expensive but it's good to know it's out there.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
GPS Tracker + Displays Co-Ordinates on 04/16/2012 14:23:30 MDT Print View

Dan,

I have a garmin GPS unit currently gathering dust b/c I'm almost always on trails with a map. When I really wanted, though, was something similar to what you are talking about. Google "gps data logger". These are small GPS units for tracking data points that you can use later with other software or Google Maps. This is the kind of thing you might have one a keychain, use with a camera or make your rebellious teenager swallow so you can track them. There are a few that have basic displays.

It would probably be worthwhile to check what kind of GPS chips these have, though.

Edit: try this page. I don't know anything about Semsons but this one has a large number of units:

http://www.semsons.com/datalogger.html

Edited by saparisor on 04/16/2012 14:25:50 MDT.