Boy things have come a long way since smoke signals. The SPOT Satellite Personal Messenger and Personal Tracker is definitely a piece of gear that any solo trekkers, climbers, hunters, fishermen, and canyoneering crazies should consider. When you are indulging your inner Aron Ralston in the middle of the Utah desert, wouldn’t it be nice to just push a button and know that people will be dispatched to your exact coordinates?
That’s what the SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker does, via commercial satellite. It can also send “OK” messages, and can even send and save points along your route to Google Maps. When you get home you can send your friends a view of all the cool remote places you’ve been.
Of course, if you don’t have a clear shot of the open sky then you may still have to amputate your arm and get out of that slot canyon before it will work.
The SPOT Personal Tracker is a lot cheaper than satellite phones or cell-based GPS. And it gets far wider coverage than any cell phone. The SPOT Personal Tracker claims to have almost complete coverage anywhere in the US, Europe, or Australia. What stinks is the coverage over Africa, Asia and South America. So if you are hitting Aconcagua, I’m sure you won’t be banking on this little baby.
While the promise of cheap, easy security is extremely appealing (especially to solo adventurers with a caring spouse and kids) there are have been some reports that the coverage is less than perfect — even in the US. Also, that sending OK messages, etc, is a bit difficult because there are times when you have to leave it absolutely still for 30 mins for it to send. Oh well — nothing’s perfect. In situations where you need this piece of high tech gear, your other alternative is a storm whistle. That ain’t gonna cut it.
Be advised, you will have to pay $99/year for a subscription to the service — and for about $8 bucks more you can get emergency extraction assistance in countries that don’t have emergency services.
All this leads me to add this to my list of things that I definitely would like to try out at Outdoor Retailer this summer. So stay tuned, and hopefully and I will have the opportunity to provide you a first-person summary of how it works in the field. Purchase price is listed at $149.95.