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  #1  
Old 7 Dec 2010
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GPS tracking devices

Anyone used any GPS tracking devices like SPOT or EPIRB? We are travelling from the UK to South Africa down the eastern route starting next april and thinking of getting a GPS/satellite tracker for emergencies. I wondered if anyone had used one, especially the SPOT system as the coverage map seems to get sketchy south of Ethiopia. Also interested if anyone wants to sell one second hand in the UK (same goes for a 12v fridge too!) Thanks! Rachel
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Old 7 Dec 2010
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Hey Rachel - I use a SPOT .. and here's a colour-coded coverage map from SPOT's very own website:



You can see that in Africa, the closest Globalstar 'gateway' is in Nigeria. So the farther away you are from Nigeria, the less chance SPOT will work. If you're in western Kenya or Tanzania, SPOT might still work, though some messages will likely get dropped. If you're in the eastern parts South Africa, SPOT will probably not work at all.


just my 2p's worth.

Cheers

KEITH

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  #3  
Old 8 Dec 2010
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May be other Emergency locator beacons on the market

Hi Rachel,

We are also very keen to get an emergency locator beacon. My partner's mum has been doing a bit of research into it as they want us to have one too!!! There are some other brands on the market - I'll find out what we know and report back.

We are leaving on the same trip in February - might bump into you on the road! Get in touch via our website if you want to swap info or exchange route ideas!!
Cheers
ness
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  #4  
Old 12 Dec 2010
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use your mobile

Depending on where you are going, you can also use your mobile e.g. iPhone app allows family to see where you are at any time, it works as long as you have mobile service. I did it Peru and it worked great
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  #5  
Old 13 Dec 2010
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Hi

I have a SPOT which is great. Just make sure you have a clear view of sky even in areas that have coverage - otherwise your message might not go...but that might be the same for any type of system. They just need to have a text function and they would be perfect.

Adastra
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  #6  
Old 13 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indianarach View Post
Anyone used any GPS tracking devices like SPOT or EPIRB? We are travelling from the UK to South Africa down the eastern route starting next april and thinking of getting a GPS/satellite tracker for emergencies. I wondered if anyone had used one, especially the SPOT system as the coverage map seems to get sketchy south of Ethiopia. Also interested if anyone wants to sell one second hand in the UK (same goes for a 12v fridge too!) Thanks! Rachel
I've been happy with my 1st generation SPOT. It worked well during a ride across Canada. But I don't think you could go wrong with either a SPOT or a EPIRB for piece of mind. I'd be more concerned about whether a rescue infrastructure is in place to make either one useful in the area your going to.

How about adding a ISATPhonePro to your kit?
IsatPhone Pro $499.00! Call SatPhoneCity +1.866.473.6044 - Home

daryl
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  #7  
Old 24 Dec 2010
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why?

Not to be a "nay-sayer" but why do you need an epirb/sat-phone/SPOT?

I mean, if you should get into real trouble, the only thing that will save you is your wits.

Spending money on electronic devices will not ensure anything but more expenses and more things to loose.

A GPS is a nice-to-have and a map is a need-to-have but talking to locals on the way is what will get you anywhere in the world, with a minimum of hassel.

From my experiences, for whatever they count, I would say: Less is more.

You can get internet access anywhere in the world today, so keeping a blog updated is not that hard. You will be surprised!

GL with your travels!
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  #8  
Old 10 Jan 2011
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Smile Some info on PLBs

Hi everyone,

Right, here is what I've found out about PLBs and SPOT.

Firstly, we want to get a PLB as we want to do lots of trekking and climbing in remote areas, so if we hurt ourselves it will be good to have a PLB. We will also use it in the backcountry once we get home to NZ, as we are keen trampers (hikers).

So, here we go...

PLBs

PLBs and EBIRBs are essentially the same, and use the same technology, the difference is an EPIRB is used at sea.

There are loads of PLBs on the market – each country has many different brands. They all operate at 406 MHz which is a dedicated frequency that was set up by the international SAR community. Each country has its own agency that monitors this frequency, and acts on any distress signals originating from its residents.

PLBs need to be registered, and each country has a unique code, so if you set one off, it will be picked up by your national SAR agency – for this reason it is important to buy your PLB in your country of residence, and its imperative that you register it with the authorities so if you have to set it off in an emergency, they know who you are.

When activated, PLBs transmit a distress signal to a network of satellites called the Cospas-Sarsat system and then back down the Search & Rescue organization where your PLB is registered. If your PLB has an in-built GPS unit it can pinpoint your location down to within about 50m (some more accurately) whereas PLBs without GPS solely rely on triangulation from the satellites (I think), and are only accurate to about 5km. So an in built GPS makes the PLB MUCH more accurate, and helps SAR groups locate the signal quicker and find you quicker!

The Cospas-Sarsat system of satellites has worldwide coverage, including both poles.

There are a number of brands – ACR seem very popular, and have a model that has a similar function to the SPOT in that if you subscribe to the 406Link.com service (for a yearly fee), you can send an “I am OK” message to family/friends etc. I think it is this aspect that has limited coverage and does not include east Africa, but the emergency locator aspect still works in Africa. This PLB is called "SARLink 406 MHz GPS Personal Locator Beacon" made by "ACR Electronics". Product No. 2885 Model PLB-350C. There is another one that appears identical called Aqualink. We have just purchased an Aqualink in NZ and have registered it there. So if we set it off, the NZ SAR will be alerted and will organise a search for us.


Another one called fastfind PLB looks good too, but we went with the Aqualink as when we get back to NZ we can register it and then we can send "I'm ok" messages.
Get found with Fast Find - The 406 MHz Personal Location Beacon (PLB)


Australian review
Here is an Australian review of 5 brands GPS Australia - EPIRB - 406Mhz Emergency Beacon compare (PLB)
The one that comes out on top is still not available, even two years later! So sounds like they recommend the GME one.
ACCUSAT™ Pocket Pro+ MT410G, manufactured by GME, Standard Communications Pty Ltd. Skylark Productions � Personal locator beacon—406 Mhz comes to the rescue

SPOT


SPOT devices are not PLBs. They operate at a different frequency from PLBs, and aren’t based on the international Cospas-Sarsat system but use a different satellite system called Globalstar which doesn’t have global coverage.
Unfortunately this coverage doesn’t extend to east Africa.
SPOT distress signals are not monitored by each country’s SAR agency, but rather by a private company based in America. With a SPOT you can either send an “OK” message to a predefined email address(es) with your location (i.e. to family and friends), or you can send an emergency alert, which is picked up by the SPOT monitoring company called GEOS , who then pass on the distress signal to the Search and Rescue authorities.
It appears that search and rescue (in the States at least) don’t rate SPOT very highly, If a SPOT emergency signal is set off, the SAR regard it more as a “missing person report” and don’t necessarily deploy a rescue team... There is a good write-up at this website: FAQs: SPOT vs EPIRBs / PLBS

There is a good comparison of SPOT and Fastfind PLB here:
Review of the SPOT Satellite Messenger vs. PLB's
Looks like thePLB comes out on top.

So it depends what you want it for really. Some friends of mine have SPOT and they rave by them. The fact they don't work in East Africa kinda makes it a no brainer for us to go with a PLB.


SUMMARY
  • If you want to use it in emergencies, and if you want it to work in Africa, then don’t get SPOT, get a 406Mhz PLB that runs on the COSPAS-SARSAT system.
  • If you want something that can track you, and send lots of "I'm ok" messages, get SPOT, but remember they don't have worldwide coverage.
  • If you get a PLB, definitely pay a bit extra and get built-in GPS
  • Buy and register your PLB in your country of residence
  • Some PLBs appear to have similar features to the SPOT where you can send “I’m OK” messages – ACR is one. 406 Link Plus
Hope this is of some help! I'm not an expert, I just found this out on the internet so correct me if I'm wrong on anything!

Cheers
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  #9  
Old 11 Jan 2011
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What about taking all three?

A SPOT for your friends and family to track your adventure. An EPIRB for emergency use, and a Sat phone for someone to contact you once you press that button.

The real question is whether an rescue infrastructure is in place to quickly come to your aid. When you press that button, will a squad of Marines start dropping out of a helicopter 30 seconds or 30 days later. I'm sure the pressing of the button is detected somewhere within milli-seconds, but it could be hours before your help arrives.

daryl
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  #10  
Old 11 Jan 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlh62c View Post
What about taking all three?

A SPOT for your friends and family to track your adventure. An EPIRB for emergency use, and a Sat phone for someone to contact you once you press that button.

The real question is whether an rescue infrastructure is in place to quickly come to your aid. When you press that button, will a squad of Marines start dropping out of a helicopter 30 seconds or 30 days later. I'm sure the pressing of the button is detected somewhere within milli-seconds, but it could be hours before your help arrives.

daryl
Getting help in hours is better than not at all. Someone knowing you are hurt and being able to pinpoint your location is better than no-one knowing that you are hurt and no-one knowing where you are...
We have travel insurance that covers search and rescue, I'm confident that that NZ SAR would organise someone to come and find us, the cost will be covered by insurance. There have been rescues in some pretty remote parts of the world over the years, including remote parts of the Himalayas and at the Poles.
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  #11  
Old 13 Jan 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adastra View Post
Hi

I have a SPOT which is great. Just make sure you have a clear view of sky even in areas that have coverage - otherwise your message might not go...but that might be the same for any type of system. They just need to have a text function and they would be perfect.

Adastra
Hello Adastra

Spot Connect is out now which allows texting (upto 41 character)

http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=116
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  #12  
Old 14 Jan 2011
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I've researched them in the past and just ordered a SPOT, mostly to reassure a group I'm taking on a trip that their possibly anxious people back home can track them easily - but also to try the system out.

The real question is whether an rescue infrastructure is in place to quickly come to your aid.

That is indeed the crux, IMO. What will pressing SOS in Nepal or Rwanda deliver? Doubt it will be a dozen abseiling nurses any time soon. And say in UK inshore waters (a place I may use it personally)? Again, better to know who exactly is being alerted.

I contacted GEOS in Texas about who are the 'SAR services' they would contact in my upcoming area if I pressed SOS on the SPOT. It got forwarded to the Head of the Geos International Emergency Response Coordination Center. Yet to get a reply, but if it's the Illinois National Guard, it wont be much help.

To me then, the 'Help' button which can be set up to contact specified individuals by email is much more useful (as is the nightly position marker linked to an embedded Google map, or some such).

My meltdown scenario is an attempted abduction (actually highly unlikely) rather than an RTA. I won't have time to fire up the sat phone - and may not even have time to hit the SPOT, but the speed and ease of jabbing one button is the issue.

My only concern is I hear they dont send off signals so well on the move. Anyone know about that? Seems a bit unlikely - they track and upload onto a Google Map after all, dont they?

For full-on 24/7 satellite tracking I have heard
Yellowbrick Tracking - truly global satellite tracking beacons for yacht racing, adventures, treks, expeditions and challenges
is good. It uses Iridium network but who knows what it all costs.

Chris S

forgot to say, thanks for good summary G'bean
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Last edited by Chris Scott; 14 Jan 2011 at 20:58.
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  #13  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post

For full-on 24/7 satellite tracking I have heard
Yellowbrick Tracking
is good. It uses Iridium network but who knows what it all costs.
They hide the costs at the bottom of a PDF file in the products page.
Rental:
2 days £75.00
4 days £125.00
8 days £150.00
15 days £200.00
30 days £300.00

A bit pricy if you ask me.
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  #14  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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Its the best money you'll ever spend....

Quote:
Originally Posted by peter-denmark View Post
Not to be a "nay-sayer" but why do you need an epirb/sat-phone/SPOT?
I mean, if you should get into real trouble, the only thing that will save you is your wits
I can tell you that I really appreciated having a satellite telephone when I was lying in the middle of the Dempster Highway in Canada 300 kilometers north of the Arctic circle with a badly broken leg. Even though several other vehicles came along... having the phone available cut the emergency response time by several hours.... much appreciated when your foot isn't attached to your leg any more. The alternative would have been relying on the goodness of strangers to come by, stop and then drive an hour to the next town, find and alert the emergency services, then another hour for the ambulance to get to me. And thankfully I was only an hour from the nearest town. Any other point in the day and it could have been as much as 4 to 5 hours to get help.

I'm all up for adventure and using my wits... but when there's a real emergency where time of the essence... anything that saves minutes bringing help can save your life or a lot of pain. And its hard to be clever when you're lying under a motorcycle badly injured. That sat phone rental was unquestionably the best money I've ever spent on anything in my life.

I can see the value in a spot. Fortunately I was fit enough to pull the phone out of my pocket and call the RCMP. I was able to read off the coordinates from my Garmin GPS. If I was in worse shape, being able to press a button that relayed my location and the need for help might have made a big difference.
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  #15  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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That sat phone rental was unquestionably the best money I've ever spent on anything in my life

I agree. In the context of the original question regarding what I presume are emergency comms (not the same as tracking), a sat phone is far and away better than any SPOT, EPIRB etc. Quite simply talking to an actual person can speed things up as I have found. Many days were saved.
Doesnt even have to be an emergency to save time having spares sent on and so on.
Knowing your location - tracking - is only the first stage in an emergency but a GPS can do that very well and so can a sat phone. AFAICT a SPOT is more of a handy, easy to use gadget by comparison, while an EPRIB calls International Rescue. I know a guy who set his EPRIB off either by mistake (testing a signal?) or possibly not in a full-on emergency. Very soon the local army was on him and quite annoyed. He was banned from returning to that country.

Only 200 quid for a used old model Hughes/Ascom Thuraya off ebay (good for everywhere except Americas). The only problem is the battery will go flat when it's off for days. Get a cig lighter charger. (New models may have better batteries). Cheaper calls than the other networks too.

Of course in most places a mobile will do and a GPS can keep track 24/7. The good thing with a SPOT as I see is that on a long remote trip letting others know where you are on an online map is easily done - a text or call from a sat phone could achieve a similar result but is more of a hassle. It's more reassuring for others than you on a trip.

Chris S

Regarding SPOT Southern Africa coverage:
We used it successfully from Durban and further up north through Botswana to Zambia then back to Botswana and in Namibia.

We started to have trouble getting a signal out as we went further south on
the west coast of South Africa and stopped sending from about Langebaan
southwards until we got further round the east coast from Matatiele (South
Lesotho) we were able to send again all along the east coast back up to
Durban and northwards. Which looking at the coverage map shouldn't have
happened but did. Gap Year 4x4 in 2010
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Last edited by Chris Scott; 15 Jan 2011 at 16:54. Reason: added southern Africa
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