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  #16  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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I'm travelling with my eight year old son this year and SPOT seems like a very good idea.

My biggest fear is that if something happens to me, with SPOT he can press the SOS button and stay with the car and hopefully someone will come along.

Ok it's only Morocco but my fear would be who would SPOT contact and would they respond? Yes my wife would also get the distress message but what could she do from the UK?

What do you guys think, is it worth me having a SPOT for Morocco? (Cost = £200 for year one)


Thanks.
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  #17  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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My biggest fear is that if something happens to me, with SPOT he can press the SOS button and stay with the car and hopefully someone will come along.

I would say that is a bad way to proceed unless you know exactly who will be contacted in Morocco (as I am trying to find out from GEOS).

Better to get him to call your wife on a mobile, or program SPOT to contact the wife and a few others ('HELP') and tell him how to do it. Or rent a sat phone.

It is so much better to have a co-ordinated rescue plan in place than pressing a button on a gadget and hoping for the best. I suspect this is what has given SPOT a bad reputation with SAR services.

You wife needs simply to contact the Brit embassy in Morocco with your details including position. They have all the local contacts and will know exactly what to do. Better still, register with the embassy before you go if you are concerned - they like that.

Anyway, in Morocco you will unlikely be alone for long and if you're driving on what few remote routes there are alone (like MW1 or MW6), then renting a sat phone is much a better idea.

Chris S

Later: I just got mine today and set it up. All very easy - dont know what all these online complaints are about the terrible manual and website (maybe it's changed). Test of Check in/OK message + location arrived by email and text in seconds (from southern England).
Online FAQ did not help so I checked with a SPOT helpline about using HELP/SPOT Assist and (asking several times) I was told there are no 'SPOT Assist service partners' in Europe/Africa. Only in North America.
So you can program the HELP/SPOT Assist as an SOS to your specified individuals out of North America without risking also calling out Crazy Bob's Haulage & Recovery in Hooterville, ID. The Custom button is an alternative for this but only fires off once - HELP keeps on transmitting until the battery is flat - or something like that.
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Last edited by Chris Scott; 20 Jan 2011 at 09:43. Reason: added, then updated
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  #18  
Old 15 Jan 2011
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Thanks Chris, good advise as always.

I would not do any of the remote routes as a single vehicle with my son.

I did MW6 last year btw, fantastic IMO.
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  #19  
Old 21 Jan 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post

Later: I just got mine today and set it up. All very easy - dont know what all these online complaints are about the terrible manual and website (maybe it's changed). Test of Check in/OK message + location arrived by email and text in seconds (from southern England).
Online FAQ did not help so I checked with a SPOT helpline about using HELP/SPOT Assist and (asking several times) I was told there are no 'SPOT Assist service partners' in Europe/Africa. Only in North America.
So you can program the HELP/SPOT Assist as an SOS to your specified individuals out of North America without risking also calling out Crazy Bob's Haulage & Recovery in Hooterville, ID. The Custom button is an alternative for this but only fires off once - HELP keeps on transmitting until the battery is flat - or something like that.
I have mine now as well, once I realised I needed to add 0044 or +44 (dropping the first 0 just in case anyone is as daft as me) to the mobile phone numbers of contacts it worked very well, as you in the south of the UK.

I also bought the tracking add on and so far it has not failed to transmit all the tracking info to their website.

Early days but I'm impressed so far, ignoring the 911 / SOS button which maybe of little value, at first I thought it was expensive but really its cheap for what it does and the way it does it
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  #20  
Old 23 Feb 2011
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We recently did a 2 week tour of Tunisa spending sevral days driving and wild camping in the Chott El Jerid and in the area around Ksar Ghilane.

I used the Spot II throughout the trip as folllows:

Each morning I would activate the tracking feature. The reports from friends and relatives was very positive. The map was updated every 10 minutes with out position and was extremely accurate. This tracked us at 50-60 mph the whole way through France as well as in the remoter parts of the desert at crawling speed.

Each evening once we arrived at our camping spot I would activate the 'OK' button. This sent the message and location to the nominated contacts as well as updating our facebook page and website blog with the brief message and a link to a location map. Most nights it was impossible to get a mobile phone signal or internet access.

We had programmed the 'Help' button with specific contacts and had agreed a sequence of action. Sending the 'help' message meant that our contacts should standby to help as we MAY be in a spot of bother. If they received no further messages within 12 hours they would contact the British Embassy with all the details.

If they received the help signal twice then they would contact the embassy straight away. You can tell from the lights displayed on the unit when the first message has finished sending.

If they received an 'OK' message this would cancel the 'standby'.

We realised that any help wouldn't be immediate and could take days, but we were in a fullt prepared land rover with enough water and supplies to last.

We didn't really consider the 'Emergency SOS' button as a point of total reliance. Spot themselves only guarentee SAR support in certain countries (Tunisia isn't one of them) if you check the small print. Although if the situation was really dire I would have pushed the button as it couldn't hurt to alert them.

As a 'keep the folks informed of your progress tool' it is very good.

As a 'press this button and we will get help tool' it is okay in countries where you have coverage and where you have established a plan with your contacts.

As a 'total reliance that this will save us piece of kit' I would go for a sat phone and a reliable contact number for where you are.

We were on a 2 week 'guided' overland tour of Tunisia. The guide carried a sat phone but I wanted to have some independant piece of mind just in case we became separated from the group. For a trip like this, buying a sat phone was over the top (and expensive). The Spot was ideal.

We will be doing a similar trip to Morocco next year and will use the same principle then.

If I was planning a Uk - Cape Town type trip I would definitly carry a sat phone but, for the cost, I would also use the spot to update the family when it had coverage.

One other small advantage to consider with the Spot II is the fact that you can programme in an additional message. The unit is so small that you can carry it when you move away from the vehicle, such as wandering through souks etc. If you became seperated you could press this button and alert your partner or guide, via their mobile (assuming there is mobile coverage) where you are.

We mounted the spot in a Halfords adjustable mobile phone holder stuck on the dashboard and had no signal issues at any time.

I hope this helps.

Ralph
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  #21  
Old 26 Feb 2011
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SPOT-on

Hi all, and a great forum thread !.

As I was on my own for last-year's RTW trip I'd decided to carry both a SPOT and a new 9555 Satellite phone along with the usual IT gear.

To keep the post short I'd now ALWAYS carry a SPOT. Just knowing the family was getting a "I'm OK" sms and email each day and were able to locate me on Google Earth was worth the hassle. It worked right accross from Oz to Europe ( even the non-signal areas of India / Himmalayas etc ).

The Satellite phone on the other had was unrelaible !...worked only 3 out of 5 times and won't be with me next trip. The service provider could not answer why I had problems, but it was always at higher altitudes ( like calling home from the Highest motorable pass in the world etc ).

It boils down to what you want it to do for you, and for me the SPOT 1 did a great job for me.

Hope this helps, n safe riding !

Frank.
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  #22  
Old 27 Feb 2011
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Spotty consistency

I agree with much of what Ralph says and the way he went about setting up and using his SPOT. Good to confirm there is no SPOT-alerted S&R in Tuni; I take it's safe to say there's none in Alg either. SPOT never answered me on that one.

My experiences just back from Algeria are quite the opposite of Bergrider: sat phone (Thuraya) dependable as always; SPOT hit an miss. The fact that there was a tourist kidnapping soon after my group arrived in Algeria made it all the more important the SPOTs got through.

I suppose I could have been less tight and gone for the tracking option which I might do next time, but on this first occasion I settled on a 'Custom' message sent at lunchtime and an 'OK' each night, with emails and SMS of the nightly 'OK' sent to a short list including my mobile (but not sat).

None of the SMS messages for our 18 nightly locations got through to one mobile (though they had when tested in the UK in seconds) and about a quarter got through to my 'test' mobile (same provider, worked in Alg but not always in range, of course). At first I thought SMS only made it out if the SPOT was transmitting in an area with GSM (even though it's a GPS device) but on 3-4 days of the tour in the Sahara, northern Alg and finally in Spain most emails of locations didnt make it and they didn't make it onto the map either. Just as well most in the group were in mobile contact by then with home. On many of these occasions I can distinctly recall sending the SPOT.

And then, sometimes the map locations would be delayed by several hours (< 24) and all arrived at once in people's inboxes and on the map.

Due to these inconsistencies a couple of times worried people back home would try and call the sat phone to check all was OK. As Ralph mentioned a 12 hour delay before taking action might be a good idea, but within 2 hours of being grabbed the Italian woman who was kidnapped (miles from us) was in another country.

So, if it really matters perhaps SPOT tracking is better (so would be nice if the unit could be run off a 12v PTO like a GPS), or just telephone in every night with a position (and send a back-up SMS with long/lat off the sat phone). The best thing with SPOT is its small, easy to use and automatically reaches whoever wants to know. People back home reported it was fun to track our progress, too. The bad thing is it didnt always work for me and because of that can cause unnecessary alarm.

Chris S

Later...
Now I have RTFM I see one should leave it transmitting for 20 mins after the 'flying envelope' flashes. I never left mine on for more than a minute (assuming it had gone off) which might explain why some did not register. But those that did register were also on for only a minute. Could explain lack of SMS I am told, though off the Algerian coast (on ferry) the SMS was on my phone in seconds, as it was back in UK.
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Last edited by Chris Scott; 27 Feb 2011 at 14:44.
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  #23  
Old 27 Feb 2011
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But Chris,
Cousin Bob is always willing to help when needed!!!!!!!!! Ha
Allen N.
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  #24  
Old 27 Feb 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
I agree with much of what Ralph says and the way he went about setting up and using his SPOT. Good to confirm there is no SPOT-alerted S&R in Tuni; I take it's safe to say there's none in Alg either. SPOT never answered me on that one.

........

Due to these inconsistencies a couple of times worried people back home would try and call the sat phone to check all was OK. As Ralph mentioned a 12 hour delay before taking action might be a good idea, but within 2 hours of being grabbed the Italian woman who was kidnapped (miles from us) was in another country.

........

Later...
Now I have RTFM I see one should leave it transmitting for 20 mins after the 'flying envelope' flashes. I never left mine on for more than a minute (assuming it had gone off) which might explain why some did not register. But those that did register were also on for only a minute. Could explain lack of SMS I am told, though off the Algerian coast (on ferry) the SMS was on my phone in seconds, as it was back in UK.

Chris

This is a direct lift from the GEOS SAR service terms and conditions:

Entitlement will be extended to other geographic locations subject to acceptance by the GEOS Underwriters in writing, which will be provided after the application has been made, and if refused all premiums paid will be refunded.

The following geographic locations are excluded: -

- North, Central or West Africa
- Middle East, Iraq Iran and Afghanistan
- Russia


So you're right to assume that Algeria is out.

This refers to the 'additional' service that they will provide if the local SAR service isn't up to the job. Full details here :
GEOS SEARCH AND RESCUE (SAR)

As there is no 'official' SAR service I guess that means your on your own or in the hands of the embassy.

I note your point regarding kidnapping and would fully support that Spot is not ideal for this. We were in Tunisia and will be going to Morocco. Both countries where tourists are pretty safe (current political situation excepted). If we were travelling to a slightly riskier country I would look for something else such as a sat phone.

On your last point; yes you do need to leave the Spot on until the relevant lights have done their thing. Once we had finally stopped for the night I would turn off the tracking and press the 'OK' button. By the time we had the rooftent out and the kettle boiled (or poured) the messages had been sent and I could turn the Spot off.
I found that one set of batteries (3 AAAs) lasted 21 days of tracking and 'OKs'. I would guess that a 12v input could affect the portability and waterproofing of the unit but, I agree that it would give you piece of mind.

Ralph
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  #25  
Old 27 Feb 2011
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Spot on the learning curve

I found that one set of batteries (3 AAAs) lasted 21 days of tracking and 'OKs'.

That was my next question. I got it in my head/read somewhere it was 2 days (like your average Garmin running on bats) so thought it was not worth the bother. Tracking would be the way to go then.

Never did track down the GEOS SAR T&Cs - but it seems clear now. No 'Help' either, I gathered that much from a Helpline, but I had my own 'Help' organised, if need be.

Chris
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  #26  
Old 21 Mar 2011
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Many thanks!

Hi folks,
One of my wife's patients told her all about Spot, so now it has become "required" equipment for my ride from the States down to Ushuaia and back in a few months. All things considered, the device seems to satisfy the peace-of-mind needs for those back home, is small enough not to be a nuisance, allows tracking for those following along from home, and finally, it does all this at quite a reasonable price.

I appreciate the input from you who have investigated and/or used the Spot and other options. Many, many thanks! Now, I can leave the laptop at home and not bother with a sat phone.

I'll file a AAR when I get home.
Cheers and many miles!
John B.
1150 GS
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  #27  
Old 21 Mar 2011
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well said there is too much dependece on tech and internet now and its all armchair travel if you dont like risks dont travel kids learn to cross roads by crossing them learn not to fall by banging there heads , you dont stick a crash hat on a kid walking! problems are adventure and its times like these real human spirit comes alive . my advice is forget gps, trackers at the most take a phone but dont turn it on too much otherwise you may as well stay at home rather than ticking boxs
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  #28  
Old 21 Mar 2011
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my advice is forget gps...

Depends how you use it and where you go. Me, I have been able to be MUCH more adventurous in my desert travels since the advent of GPS as a back up to nav, and a sat phone has enabled a rescue in just a couple of days when those adventures have gone wrong, as they can do no matter what gadgets you carry.

Chris
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  #29  
Old 12 Oct 2011
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Just found this thread so I may be able to get some info FYI

We've beel looking at the Spot Messenger from a SAR perpective withing Mountain Rescue for a few months. There have been a couple of Spot "activations" (ie the red button) and the outcome had been good. The GEOS centre now pass any activations in the UK to the ARCC (Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre) in RAF Kinloss who will either deal with it or pass it to the Police in the area of activation, who then call Mountain Rescue if requried. I'll speak with my contact in the ARCC tomorrow and find out if they know the procedure in other countries and report back.

On a personal view, I've used a Spot on a few bike trips and its excellent. As in other posts, 3 x AAA Lithium batteries lasts a phenominal time. Tracking is very good, and there's other web sites sych as Spotwalla who can track the devices as well.

Its key to ensure the devices are powered on and running for some time. Messaging is slow as its up to the sat, but seems to work OK when moving on the bike, as long as you have a clear sky.

Iain
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  #30  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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I will agree with iainnic. The tracking was 'spot on' (excuse the pun) for us. The spot was mounted, face-up, almost touching the windscreen, on the dashboard.
It picked up satelites quickly each morning and tracked our every move over the 3 week period.
You must check the T&Cs (GEOS SEARCH AND RESCUE (SAR)) for coverage.

I partially agree with robhoward that much of the risk is being taken out of normal life (and I'm a Health & Safety Manager) but you can use technology to rule your life or use it enhance it.
Having a gps tracker made no difference to where we went but for those people at home, that couldn't join us in person, they could be part of our adventure as it happened.

GPS has always been sold as a 'navigation aid' it is only the way people use it that has turned it into 'the only way to navigate'. There is a disctinct pleasure in interpreting a paper map, plotting a course and navigating by compass (or even the stars). But there's also a great sense of relief, if (when) you get it wrong, to have a gps to help you get back on the right track (or avoid straying into a minefield or military training area, or cross a border you didn't reaaly want to).

So, for me, a gps will always be mounted in the front of my discovery
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