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SPOT System


MrGecko
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when I was involved with moutain rescue, the SPOT call-center continually fucked up routing emergency calls. Some call center in Texas answers the emergency signal, and they're supposed to know which local authorities to contact. But in reality, they never knew who to call and by the time we got contacted, they'd usually been going round-and-around with other various agencies before finally reaching the correct sheriff's office. But then they were often really inaccurate about location, too -- sometimes giving us the wrong location entirely and making us call back to complain that the coordinates they gave us are in Iowa or some shit. Terrible company to deal with. Still, at least they got through, I guess.

 

Personally, I've had nothing but trouble getting reception in poor weather with a SPOT device. I guess they use Globalstar for satellite communications, and Globalstar notoriously sucks. I've only ever had the SPOT work in good weather with a clear view of sky, so hopefully I never get hurt in bad weather or under deep tree cover :smirk:

 

Ease of use: I can never remember how to decipher all the blinking light combinations, and it's sometimes not clear to me if the message was actually sent.

 

Is it still better than nothing? Maybe. Just don't count on it too much, I guess.

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Rad did a piece in the NW Moutaineering Journal a bit ago....

 

My thoughts are if you really want something to work in an emergency, go with this .

 

SPOT just seems like a gimmick, and has a fairly steep annual subscription price. As Rob has mentioned their satellite system leaves much to be desired when compared to the real deal of the PLB network.

 

Scared has a good point, what do you want it for?

Edited by JasonG
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Used a spot for years, with good results around the cascades. Plenty accurate and reliable in my experience, given the specs and cost. Even used it in one emergency scenario with good effect.

 

I think the best thing it affords is a defense against the unwanted/unwarranted overdue climber rescue. We had it set-up so that one of the two customizable messages indicated I'd be overdue, but was otherwise fine.

 

Sat phones are pretty expensive for just checking in (though they'd probably do it better), and PLB's can't send anything but emergency calls (though they're more effective at it). Spot is the only thing right now that attempts to bridge the two.

 

It's a legit option if you need what it does. Just recognize it's inherent limitations.

 

PM if you want to hear more.

 

Noah

 

 

 

 

 

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What I want from the SPOT.

 

I leave all my travel/climbing route info with someone when I am away. I give them a well considered cut-off time for my check-in so that they would know when to call 911. I don't need anything to check in and say "I'm ok". I would like a simple device that when the sh!t really hits the fan and we can't self rescue that I can signal for assistance. I want it highly reliable and not with a ton of features for tracking my movement, sending texts, 10 different blinky lights and crap that drain the batteries. It needs one button labeled "GET MY ASS OUT OF HERE" and that's it.

 

Regarding cell phones: GSM (AT&T/T-Mobile) cell coverage and signal penetration into the mountains is not as great as CDMA (Verizon) technology. CDMA technology was developed by the military and later bought out by Qualcomm and brought to the consumer market. It works well and has good signal penetration. What one can do is carry a Verizon(CDMA) phone that has a good antenna. You don't need the handset to be activated as all handsets must be able to dial 911 by law whether they are activated or not. Keep the battery charged up and if you have an emergency you can turn it on and dial 911. Test the handset before you head out to make sure it will make emergency calls. You can find them for cheap on eBay or Craigslist. I also carry a spare battery charger pack for my cell phone in case I need extended talk time. It runs on AA batteries, the same my headlamp uses to I will have plenty of spare power should I need it.

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what ever happened to being self reliant? how about instead of buying some fancy device that can call in the calvary when you get a splinter you take a WFR course and act conservatively when you're way "out there" and realize that if you fuck up you could die. I go to the mountains to get away from it all, and having a button to press that sends a chopper really takes away from that.

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somebody might commend your purism... and if you'd presented it differently (without the elitist/extremist attitude), i'd temper my own opinion of that mindset- but i'd just call that "stupid," myself.

 

i don't want to DIE and leave my wife and 4 boys without a husband/father because i broke my ankle egressing a blizzard 5 miles from the trailhead.

 

can we all assume you're a free-soloist too? self-reliance.

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i've done self-reliance. i'm 30- i spent the first decade of my back-country experience without ANY way to contact rescue/civilization. i'd tell somebody i was leaving, and give them a multi-day time-frame for when i might be back. fortunately, i somehow survived it all, despite a few close calls. now that i'm responsible family-man/business owner/smarter/have more money- it would be incredibly irresponsible of me to head out without any backup.

 

i think the idea that people use their PLBs and Spot devices for splinters is grossly inaccurate. obviously some abuses have been reported, but i'd be willing to bet my next paycheck the vast majority of emergency PLB/Spot calls are for bonafied emergencies, and are, per capita of experienced enthusiast using them, very rare.

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i don't want to DIE and leave my wife and 4 boys without a husband/father because i broke my ankle egressing a blizzard 5 miles from the trailhead.

 

 

THen you should definitely get a PLB, not a SPOT. Don't fuck around, if you want an emergency beacon, get a real one.

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I tend to agree with Keenwesh. I carry a cell phone often, but that is it. Having an "easy button" would take something away from the experience for me. But I definitely don't condemn those who choose to carry one, either because they have a family or just want to be extra careful. Let's face it, it could end up saving your life.

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I tend to agree with Keenwesh. I carry a cell phone often, but that is it.

 

Let's assume your cell phone has coverage in your emergency. In that case, how is carrying a cell phone somehow more "self-reliant" than bringing a PLB or something similar? It all serves the same purpose. Calling 911 from the cell phone doesn't seem that much different to me than hitting the panic button on a beacon, except for the added gamble that it might not work, so I'm not sure why a PLB would take more away from the experience than a functional cell phone would.

 

In my mind, if you really want the "wilderness feeling" or whatever, you shouldn't be bringing a cell phone either....

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THen you should definitely get a PLB, not a SPOT. Don't fuck around, if you want an emergency beacon, get a real one.

 

the advancement in capability is what i like about the Spot Connect... like i think has been said in this thread- if you're going to be a day late, but are otherwise OK, it's good to be able to send that to the wife/roommate/mommy/boss and avoid wasting SRT's time looking for somebody who just had his map upside down.

Edited by bkb0000
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Up in alaska when doing multi day trips (fly in access only) our company had a few of them so that they could keep tabs on how the groups were doing. Each day we would get an update as to their location. This was really handy if we had to reschedule an air taxi or plan on a quick turn around for guides because they got held up by weather or injury.

 

All of the pilots that I knew up there also used them, because you can have it send out your location every few minutes, and those small planes don't have emergency beacons in them. The only bad thing I knew of was one of the pilot's spots kept sending out the help message repeatedly, but other than that they all liked them.

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what ever happened to being self reliant? how about instead of buying some fancy device that can call in the calvary when you get a splinter you take a WFR course and act conservatively when you're way "out there" and realize that if you fuck up you could die. I go to the mountains to get away from it all, and having a button to press that sends a chopper really takes away from that.

 

I have my WFA, been doing this for 20+ years and have self-rescued to take care of my splinters a couple of times. Shit happens that can be a little more time sensitive and like most living things I have an instinct to survive.

 

I also find it helpful to have should I come across another party in dire need and I can offer assistance.

 

If you don't want a rescue device then don't get one.

Edited by MrGecko
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What I want from the SPOT.

 

I leave all my travel/climbing route info with someone when I am away. I give them a well considered cut-off time for my check-in so that they would know when to call 911. I don't need anything to check in and say "I'm ok". I would like a simple device that when the sh!t really hits the fan and we can't self rescue that I can signal for assistance. I want it highly reliable and not with a ton of features for tracking my movement, sending texts, 10 different blinky lights and crap like that that drain the batteries. It needs one button labeled "GET MY ASS OUT OF HERE" and that's it.

 

What you want, then, is a PLB, not SPOT. They don't call them "the button" for nothing.

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haha sorry, I couldn't resist creating a little shit storm right there. while I personally don't carry/see the need to carry a PLB I am also a 19 year old with no children and no one who is dependent on me, plus I feel that I am fairly conservative and realistic about my abilities in the mountains. later in life I might actually pick one up, not because I want to survive if shit gets really hairy but because others are depending on me as a father and I can't imagine not growing up without a dad. My fist line of defense against dying though is making good calls and keeping a cool head when shit hits the fan. Carry on with the discussion about which beacon mrgecko should get and please disregard my previous post.

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At 19, you're still immortal. Hopefully you'll survive that stage. I'm glad I did.

 

I recently rented a Sat phone for a trip and had a good experience. I called in from peaks twice to say goodnight to the kids (not needed, but nice). I met someone on a peak who borrowed it to change a boat pickup day, giving them an extra day for an added adventure. I was curious so we tested in several spots whether we could get a signal. It worked on ridges in all kinds of weather but didn't work in the forest.

 

A recent party on Shuksan could have prevented a helicopter rescue/assist if they had phone or other non-emergency signaling device - but then it sounded like they needed the assistance anyway.

 

I haven't tried SPOT and am not tempted to buy one.

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