Accessories

Going Deep: SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger

$150 (50% off with mail-in rebate till January 4, 2015) | 4 ounces with 4 AAA lithium batteries | www.findmespot.com

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Comment on this article before Friday, December 26, for a chance to win a SPOT Gen3 (reviewed here), including one year of basic service with Extreme Tracking. Total MSRP: $450. (This contest has passed. Congrats to winner Mike Hedman, and thanks to all for their comments!)

Let’s face it—many of us love trail running because it allows us quick and light access to the pristine backcountry. Deep in the mountains, though, cell service is often unavailable, and we typically carry little survival gear and sometimes travel alone. Say it’s cold, getting dark and, suddenly, you compound fracture a leg hopping off a log, 15 miles into a run. Now what?

As much as we mountain runners like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, in this case, many of us would pay dearly for the ability to call for help. Here, the quarter-pound SPOT Gen3 might be worth its weight in gold.

In a nutshell, the Gen3 is a GPS-based messaging and location device that employs the private Globalstar satellite network.

The palm-sized unit allows you to:

  • Pre-program three different short messages (which include your precise GPS coordinates/location) that you can email and/or text to your friends and family;
  • Track your progress (online via Google Maps upon your return home, plus you can share it in near-live time with your contacts);
  • And, in true emergencies (as above), send a distress message directly to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which will call your listed emergency contacts then dispatch emergency personnel depending upon your location (e.g. local police, search-and-rescue teams, etc.).

After you’ve purchased a Gen3, you will need to go to www.findmespot.com to select a service plan and activate your device. A required service plan (one year mandatory) will put another dent in your bank account; the most basic option costs $150.

Once you’ve set up your online account, you can pre-program the three messages and email addresses or phone numbers they will be sent to if activated. Operating the unit was fairly simple and intuitive, and the short online tutorial narrated by a chipper British chap provided a good starting point.

Below is the email text of one message I sent during testing:

“Latitude: 39.41136

Longitude: -107.22401

GPS location Date/Time:12/16/2014 14:39:21 PST

Message: All is good but I may be late.

Click the link below to see where I am located.

http://fms.ws/KmvMc/39.41136N/107.22401W

Clicking on the link takes you to a Google Maps page with the location at the time of the message clearly marked.

The S.O.S. button basically means “send lawyers, guns and money … the shit has hit the fan.” Pushing it will set a rescue operation in motion, so do not press this button (hidden under a protective flap) unless you are in a true emergency situation. We did not test this function, but, if you happen to break your leg deep in the woods on a frigid autumn evening, you may wish to give it a go.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy operation
  • Reassure friends and loved ones on backcountry runs
  • Might save your life
  • Ability to track and share your adventures

CONS:

  • Could make you too reliant on technology (unit might not work in dense woods or could break, or batteries could go dead)
  • Expensive subscription cost
  • Lacks two-way communication capability (for this feature, consider the Delorme inReach device)
  • GPS reception compromised when unit logo is not facing skyward, or when the unit is stored inside your pack.

 

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