Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Using the SPOT Satellite Messenger

Is a SPOT messenger something you should carry in the backcountry?  Is it really just for those who go deep into the wilderness?

The SPOT II messenger
SPOT is satellite messenger.  It’s a device that has the capability to receive and process Global Positioning System (GPS) data and link that information to a preloaded text or email message.  Messages sent from remote locations can provide updates to family and friends or activate an emergency SOS alert (911) response.

The manufacturer’s web site states:

 The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger provides a vital line of communication with friends and family when you want it, and emergency assistance when you need it. Using 100% satellite technology, SPOT works virtually anywhere in the world, even where cell phones don’t – all with the push of a button.”

SOS:  Use this function In the event of a life threatening or other critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location and that you need assistance. The GEOS International Emergency Response Center alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide – for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe.”

I bought my first SPOT about four years ago and then bought a second (and newer) model last summer.  The newer model is smaller, has a bit more capability and was about two thirds of the cost ($99 at Cabelas). There are many variants of locater beacons/messengers on the market today but I stayed with SPOT because of its reliability and simplicity. 

I offer a few suggestions:

·         Pick those who you would place on the contact/notification list carefully.  Ask permission to place someone on list.  Update the list before each trip.  This is especially true for those assigned to respond in an emergency; be picky.


·         If someone wants you to be on their list think that over.  Do you really want to respond to a request for help?  Will you be available?


·         Keep your emergency contact information current.



·         Provide SPOT web site user ID and password information to a family member.   Put this information on your trip plan too. (Click here for a sample trip plan.)


·         In every message option I list:


o   My cell phone number

o   My activity and general area description (e.g., hunting in the Metolius unit west of Camp Sherman)

o   Who is with me


·         In the field, activate the device in an open area away from trees and cliffs.  A clear view of the sky is the hikers best bet. 


·         If you have a notification schedule – stick to it (e.g., “I will call every night at 6:00”).


·         If you send OK/Check in messages check to ensure the designated contacts received SPOT messages.  Do this when you return home. 


·         SPOT is not limited to backcountry use only.  Take it on trips, to the shopping center and overseas.  Like a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, frequent use develops confidence and understanding.


·         The unit’s buttons are somewhat difficult to push in and activate.  That is a designed capability.  My local SAR organization was activated last spring due to an inadvertent SOS/911 alert. 


·         Keep the unit close at hand where it can be turned on quickly.


·         Lithium batteries must be used in the SPOT messenger.


I have been a satisfied user.   I take it everywhere. Do check the company’s web site occasionally at


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