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Old 8 Sep 2008
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Wisconsin and Panama
Posts: 52
SPOT Satelite Messenger- Very Disapointed

I purchased a SPOT satelite messenger before my ride from the US to Argentina. I spent $150 for the unit, then I signed up for the service ($100 annually), the tracking feature ($50 annually), and the "extraction insurance," ($9.99 annually). I was very hopeful that it would help me stay in touch with my family- at least to let them know I was OK and, if needed, to ask them to send help.

My SPOT didn't work as advertised. You're supposed to be able to set it to TRACK mode and have it post your position on a global map. You're supposed to be able to press an OK button to send emails and text messages with your position.

From the US to Veracruz, Mexico, my OK messages went through perfectly. From Veracruz to Panama, about 1/2 of the OK messages went through. I got so disgusted with it that I stopped sending regular OK messages, and relied instead on my Iridium Satelite phone and my PLB. In places where my GPS was getting good signals, and my SAT phone worked, my SPOT failed to deliver tracking or OK messages.

Once I got back to the US I re-tested it, and, from the dashboard of my truck, once again had 100% success with OK messages.

Save your money. Don't buy a SPOT. Instead, rent or buy a Satelite phone, and carry a PLB.
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Old 8 Sep 2008
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Location: Sucre, Bolivia
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Man I set up the same thing using a mobile phone, check my website. It does require a net connection to send tracking updates though but there's internet everywhere these days.
Also Gmap-track can also be embedded into your blog or forum thread (works on ADVRider, not here) but Wordpress.com doesn't allow the tags.
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Old 8 Sep 2008
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Location: Vancouver, B.C. Canada
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I bought a Spot for a 320 km. canoe trip in the Yukon and all of my OK messages went through. When you say that only half of yours were received do you mean that the device definitely confirmed the sending of a message every time but that your designated recipients failed to receive emails some of the time?

I noticed that it was easy to miss the confirmation that a message had gone off. Since it is a continuous 5 second light versus a flashing one, I literally had to stare at the thing until the solid light came on in order to be sure that I hadn't been momentarily distracted and missed it.
A couple of times I ended up unsure if I had missed the confirmation since after the 5 second confirmation it goes back to flashing mode.

On another note, we also had a Globalstar satphone and it would often fail to pick up a signal. The very experienced outfitter who picked us up at our take out had an Iridium model which he highly recommended. I don't know if there is truly any difference between them but it would be useful to know.

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Old 12 Sep 2008
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: St Louis, MO
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My SPOT seems to work well. Every day I ride into work at 2am on a deer infested highway. The track and OK messages always go out. I have a txt message sent to my cellphone as a confirmation. When I receive it, I know others got it too.

IMO the SPOT does what I ask of it at a price I'm willing to pay.

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Old 16 Sep 2008
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Posts: 10
SPOT works fine

Ive been using SPOT for a few months here around europe in preparation for my trip down to capetown in 3 weeks and it's been working great, before you start i know SPOT wil only have coverage down to sahara, but hey if it keeps the family happy to track me that far

BANANAMAN has some sort of personal crusade going against SPOT, first over on the advrider forum and now here so dont worry too much about him. i think SPOT might have stolen his girlfriend and made his dog pregnant.

short version: i would buy it again.

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Old 2 Oct 2008
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Location: Houston, USA
Posts: 164
I'm in Costa Rica and I haven't noticed any decrease in track points or OK messages going through since my ride started in Texas.

I hate spot for a couple of other reasons other than its connectivity: 1) The shared spot site sucks because it is clunky, uses unnecessary space on the screen (impossible to use on my eee), and is down quite frequently
2) The interface is terrible. Everyone seems to use tracking on the unit, why not have a tracking button instead of having to press and hold the ok button for so long. Also.. Why do I have to power cycle the unit in order to get out of tracking and send an OK message??

I agree with Bananaman's advice 100%, get a sat phone or(and) PLB if you want to be safer in remote areas where your cell phone doesn't work. I try hard to convince my family and friends that it is just a toy and because it is such a pain to use (set up a clear line of site, wait for enough messages to go out with you never knowing if they actually make it).

I am also confused by the "life or death" aspect of 911. Should I have pressed the button when I had guys running at me with guns drawn in Guatemala? They would have had to give me 5 seconds so I could get it out of the tank bag and Press and Hold 911.

That being said, spot is extremely cheap for a satellite tracking device, IMO. I think it is pretty cool that I have a tracklog for my trip from a cron script that scrapes spot's site.

I have an Iridium phone that works amazingly. I was in a valley in the middle of nowhere Guatemala when I needed to get some mechanical advice AND it was raining... no problems! It was great. It only worked for about 10 minutes at a time before it cut out, but atleast it worked. I would just have to wait another couple of minutes to get a satellite. I bought one and plan on selling it and my minutes when I'm done on ebay.
http://davegtravels.com - RTW on a DRZ
All the way south - Texas to Tierra del Fuego in '08-'09

Last edited by daveg; 2 Oct 2008 at 00:52. Reason: iridium update
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Old 16 Nov 2008
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Location: Canada and the Alps
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Originally Posted by Supervaca View Post
I know SPOT wil only have coverage down to Sahara.
Sounds reassuring!
All the best,

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Old 17 Nov 2008
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Join Date: Dec 1997
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
Posts: 4,548
Originally Posted by PocketHead View Post
Man I set up the same thing using a mobile phone, check my website. It does require a net connection to send tracking updates though but there's internet everywhere these days.
Also Gmap-track can also be embedded into your blog or forum thread (works on ADVRider, not here) but Wordpress.com doesn't allow the tags.
Sounds great!

Only reason it doesn't work here is 'cause I don't know how to enable it - anyone know? I tried, but I get a google error. So I'm looking into it.
Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
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Old 18 Nov 2008
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Arizona & Santiago
Posts: 54
Work sort of OK in Chile

I have been using mine in tracking mode in Chile and it works OK. Definitely not as good as in the US or UK but operating in my jacket pocket it gets enough messages out to let the family know where I am headed. I also send out OK messages before I start riding and at the end of the day when we camp.

For the $300 it is good method of keeping the family basically informed.

In my recent case my daughter in Phoenix was checking the spot updates and relaying the info to my wife who is in Australia and out of cell/internet coverage. Saved me making international calls (even when it was possible to get cll coverage which is a bit iffy where we were).

I would buy it again and will quite happily pay my $150 for the next years coverage. All I need to do is work out how to convert email to SMS for international broadcast so I can use the Ah Shit (help) feature.
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