SPOT or InReach? Ruminations from a Satphone Owner.


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
SPOT satellite messenger is small and light, but only offers one-way communication.

SPOT Satellite Messenger is small and light, but only offers one-way communication.

Time for another look at SPOT — and more.

First thing, since SPOT is not a 2-way comm device the nagging question always exists: If I trigger the SOS/911 button, can I be sure something will happen? Sure enough to just sit there and wait while staring at the sky trying to imagine the Iridium satellite constellation doing my bidding?

I’d say the answer is yes if you’re in a country with organized rescue services. How it would work in a third-world situation is a different story and one that continues to mystify. My advice is if you want rescue call capability in a place such as Peru, use a 2-way device such as a satphone (or the new inReach SE, see below) and have some phone numbers pre-programmed for people who speak your language and can assist you if you need help (guide services, trekking organizers, etc.).

SPOT emergency calls are handled by an outfit called GEOS located in Houston, Texas. I keep having pictures in my head of how a rescue call is handled there. Would it be a low-wage employee spilling her jumbo Coke as she reaches for her headset? Or are these trained individuals who speak multiple languages and have a huge database of rescue resources at their fingertips (and are drinking multiple espressos instead of sugar syrup)? The GEOS website doesn’t do much to inspire confidence — it has the cookie-cutter feel of a budget web presence, replete with 2011 copyright.

Initial setup went fine for a new unit we got in the family. SPOT website is much improved over several years ago. Even mentions how to cancel an accidental SOS! One gripe is that under the SOS contacts section the web account still only allows two. That’s ridiculous. For example, my wife and I are our son’s main emergency contacts but we frequently travel together out of cell phone range. Thus, Louie needs a third contact in there and that’s not possible. This is a major oversight that SPOT should correct as soon as possible. At least provide three!

When you register a SPOT unit you’ll notice a number of value added options. While some things might be of interest, don’t spend the $12 a year or so on GEOS Member Rescue Benefit “insurance.” Read the fine print and you’ll see that in this case you get what you pay for, meaning you get nearly nothing that at most is a secondary or tertiary benefit to any other insurance policies you have, meaning not only will you get little to nothing if you file a claim, but you may have to wait months or even years if the insurance companies start wrangling. This thing makes me sad. SPOT is a good device that saves lives; to denigrate it with what’s essentially a $12 scam is bogus.

Thing is, if the GEOS benefit is what they imply it is (without being axed by the fine print), it really should be included in the cost of the SPOT unit. But the fact that search and rescue (SAR) is rarely billed to the victim in most areas where the benefit works puts the lie to the deal.

Here in Colorado, we’ve unfortunately had a few avalanche accidents this winter when a SPOT could have played a part. Perhaps not to save lives (due to the need for quick companion rescue along and other issues) but at least to hasten and simplify SAR operations and fulfill what you could call a social contract. But, could you get to your SPOT if you were wrapped up in a tree or otherwise immobilized?

In the recent Sheep Creek tragedy, the lone survivor was trapped in the snow with only one arm free. He waited more than 4 hours for help — a rescue that could have taken much longer if it had not been for the sharp wits of nearby friends. Apparently the survivor couldn’t access his cell phone or presumably an emergency beacon if he’d had one. It’s unknown if the man had either item, but his situation does bring one to ponder the issue: If you do carry a SPOT (or a cell phone in situations where it works for 911) could you access your communication device if you were trapped somehow? I used to think it was geeky to mount your SPOT on a pack strap instead of storing it in the top flap or a pocket. Perhaps not.

Back to the issue of two-way communication. SPOT also sells a unit called the Connect that they call a “satellite communicator.” The name is misleading. Spot Connect is simply a one-way communicator paired with a smart phone — it can send text messages but cannot receive them. Other than the ability to more easily send custom messages (and update brag posts on Facebook), the Communicator is nothing more than a glorified SPOT device that unfortunately requires a battery killing smartphone to work to full potential. Highly unrecommended — just use a SPOT.

Due to its diminutive size, long battery life and a few added features such as the “ok” message and GPS tracking the tried and true SPOT is still a top choice in personal emergency beacons, yet you want to find out if that GEOS phone operator is back from the lunch room yet? Two-way communication.

Two Way Communication — The Future is Now

It’ll cost you more money, but 2-way communication in the backcountry is ultimately what any safety conscious person will want. Go with the new Delorme inReach SE or bit the bullet and start using a satphone if you desire 2-way communication from anywhere.

Delorme essentially uses the Iridium satphone texting system that with an Iridium satphone offers free receiving and pay minutes to send. But the costs of a satphone are stratospheric no matter what: Even a used Iridium 9555 phone will run you around $950 — and the least you’ll pay to keep your satphone functional is around $500 a year, otherwise it becomes a brick. (Other satphone companies exist, but Iridium is the only one with truly global coverage, so they’re the best example — since WildSnow readers are global as well!)

DeLorme inReach SE looks to be one of the best solutions out there.

DeLorme inReach SE looks to be one of the best solutions out there.

An inReach SE is about $300 one-time purchase then $300/year to keep it working (plan with enough texting to be practical). We have no doubt SE texts as well as a satphone (and perhaps better due to visible connection indicator), but lack of tactile keypad does not inspire confidence. The basics are there: SOS button and subsequent 2-way comm with the GEOS rescue coordination center (same as used by SPOT). Oh, and it does Bluetooth with a smartphone if you desire for GPS apps and what we hope is a functional mapping system as well as the possibility of rigging with an external keyboard. Quite fully featured, really.

Perhaps inReach SE is the clear choice, but you want voice communication? I can help you with that consideration. We own an Iridium satphone which we’ve been using for more than three years. In deep mountain valleys it is nearly useless for voice as the satellite connections it gets are brief, usually never more than a few minutes, and you have no way of predicting when a connection will occur nor how long it will last.

Sound like something from the 1920s? Yes.

Indeed you can text from your satphone, but guess what? An Iridium phone will not keep a text on hold for automatic sending while waiting for when the phone finally gets a signal. Instead, you have to sit there like a zombie staring at your $1,000 phone LCD until you see it indicating a satellite connection, then send your text. What if you miss your send? You have to wait again, only this time you have to dig your message up via multiple menus that will tax your intelligence. The nail in the coffin is that while you have a message ready to send, you can’t see the connection strength indicator! Lame is putting it kindly. Get an inReach SE or SPOT. (More about inReach plans here.)

(We’ve kept the satphone because it does data, albeit slowly but still effectively for sending photos and blog text from remote locations when paired with a portable computer and solar system. Of course now that we’ve got 3G all the way up Everest, global wireless coverage is probably not far off. In that case, blog posts like this will become paleontological curiosities.)

(By the way, here is how you cancel if you do trigger a SPOT SOS by accident: Press and hold 911/SOS key for 5 seconds, red light flashes, leave unit on and placed with view of open sky.)

Shop for SPOT.

Shop for inReach SE

Commenters, have you ever triggered a rescue with a SPOT unit?

Comments

39 Responses to “SPOT or InReach? Ruminations from a Satphone Owner.”

  1. Alex Kerney May 7th, 2013 9:08 am

    I’d be pretty surprised if there isn’t a smartphone app for predicting when an Iridium sat is overhead.

    I’ve used one on a computer to predict NOAA and Iridium sat passes in order to receive cloud cover from NOAA and send/receive emails while in fjords. If you know when you’re gonna have a directly overhead pass you should have 10-15 min where you could have a voice connection and longer and much more often for texting.

  2. Alex Kerney May 7th, 2013 9:15 am

    Ha!

    It looks like if you plan ahead you might be able to get the best viewing times right from WolframAlpha with a different query:

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Iridium+satellite+over+04217+at+8%3A20+pm

  3. John May 7th, 2013 9:25 am

    Lou,
    The Spot uses Globalstar, which is rebuilding it’s sattelite constelation. The Spot helped Globalstar recover economically after their previous generation sattelites had a failure affecting the voice side. Globalstar does not cover the entire planet, just most continents, but not the poles.

    Iridium covers the entire planet. Their voice bandwidth is narrower then some oher companies, making the voice quality poor. But Iridium is the only choice for full mmaritime and pole coverage.

  4. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 9:27 am

    Alex, the horizon/horizon time is 8 minutes for level horizon. Have 1/3 that in a valley and you end up with 3 or less minutes. It’s been my experience that this problem can obviate voice communication, and even makes texting and data work difficult. Predicting overhead time would help, especially if one was sitting in a tent or something. It should also be said that if you use your Iridium phone up high above ridges, say on a mountain top, it is quite reliable and may have continuous talk capability. Same on the ocean. Essentially, the Iridium satellites operate like a bunch of moving cell phone towers, passing your signal from one to the other. That’s why sky view is so important. If a sat is moving overhead, it has to have another one to pass your signal to that’s available to your phone signal, otherwise, kaput, broken connection. If they added twenty or thirty satellites that would solve the problem, perhaps they’ll do that some day. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 9:32 am

    Thanks John. Well, I hope Globalstar gets they’re new thing together soon and SPOT can provide a 2-way unit sooner than later. It looks like inReach SE has aced them out bigtime. Despite its shortcomings, the technology of Iridium is amazing, and they’re claiming they’ll have a whole new system running soon, one that’s much more data capable. Lou

  6. Alex Kerney May 7th, 2013 9:39 am

    So I’m probably just remembering NOAA pass times then. For the size of their data it would sometimes pass too fast to get the image in the fjords.

    I’ve only ever had to make a call when I’ve had a wide open view (but in the mountains), all my other Iridium connections have been data, which have been just fine with a couple min window in the fjords. We’d just wait for two sequential passes, send email on the first, and receive on the second.

  7. Chard May 7th, 2013 10:06 am

    I used the Delorme unit last summer on the Sierra High Route at the behest of family and have to say it saved me significant hassle. The new unit you have pictured here appears more advanced, as I had to carry a smartphone and connect via bluetooth to send and receive text messages. I also used the map packet and was pretty impressed, but didn’t have the battery life on my phone to use it very often at all. Where it really came in handy was weather reports from my dad since we got five days straight of violent thunderstorms starting between 11am and 2pm and continuing until sunset. It was a freak and unexpected weather pattern that had not been forecast a week earlier, but thanks to the daily updates, we knew to be up and moving by 5-6am to accomplish what we needed to. We would not have been able to with a one-way tracker. The only downside is the cost and commitment of the plan and add-on’s that are not clearly itemized when you sign up, such as the tracking option. Overall, pretty happy with it.

  8. Kevin Hanes May 7th, 2013 10:23 am

    Another consideration regarding pass time: If the satelites are on a polar (north/south) orbit. and the narrow valley you’re in runs east/west, pass time will be even more abbreviated.

  9. Skian May 7th, 2013 10:24 am

    Lou, what about Hamm radio? At least here in NA. I have heard that with the use of repeaters it’s a pretty reliable communication option for backcountry and many have GPS built in now. Tracking system’s are also available in new radio’s to ping location when traveling.

    I know you have discussed FRS options in the past for group communication but what about an actual license and the capability for these to provide connection with the outside world.

    I have heard from buddy’s down in Baja that cell phones are a joke outside of cities but 2 way radio towers are abundant.

  10. John May 7th, 2013 11:00 am

    I have a General Radio Operaters license which allows operation in the full radio spectrum set aside for amateur radio. APRS is the tracking protocol designed by Bob Bruniga from GJ. APRS is implimentented in many UHF/VHF handsets now, as well as repeaters.

    You still need lots of line of site repeaters to make it work.

    In CO the number of repeaters is limited in the wildeness. CA has better coverage, though not complete.

    UHF/VHF radios are great for real time communication with your ski partner(s).

    I always carry an (opened up) UHF/VHF radio with all the local repeater frequencies, where ever I am skiing in the world. I will also have the Ship, plane, heli, SAR… frequencies as well. Not illgal for emergency use.

    And of course, I also carry a Spot or Iridium Sat phone as well.

  11. Art Judson May 7th, 2013 11:02 am

    Skian, there’s an article on Hamm radio use in the backcountry in the current issue of the Avalanche Review. Although currently inactive I am N0AER (Avalanches Eat Rangers).

  12. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 11:15 am

    Skian, I’m KC0FNM and do know a bit about amateur radio. It’s an option if you mostly ski in one place where you can really get the repeaters figured out (provided it’s a place with repeaters.) Otherwise, the radio is pretty much a brick unless you’re doing all sorts of more complex stuff. If I only skied here in the area I’m in I probably would just use my ham radio, as we have a good repeater system and if you know what you’re doing you can hit a repeater from just about anywhere around here., and the radio club guys are usually listening, though if you had an accident at say 3:00 A.M. you might not get anyone, though a phone patch might work to 911… it’s all pretty complicated and iffy in many ways. A SPOT is much simpler, though yes not 2-way. Lou

  13. silvertonslim May 7th, 2013 12:48 pm

    I have had a SPOT for 5 years; usually use it to advise my wife that I am “OK” up at my mining claims when my cell phone won’t connect. This past Jan. 10th while skiing up off Teton Pass I got all turned around and ended up lost; made my first “911/SOS” call and hunkered down for a 14 hour stint by a fire. Turns out my SPOT message never got from SPOT to GEOS. Jeez what a deal; Teton County SAR did come pick me up next morning in their new Bell 404 but that was only because I also had my cell phone and that did work. Ended up getting SPOT to admit that they had a screw up and I did badger them into donating $2500 to SAR but the doubt lingers…..

  14. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 12:53 pm

    Slim, I hate hearing that about SPOT but without 2-way comm in seems like it would be so easy for that to happen. Now that I know how unreliable Iridium connections are, I’d say that to make sure you get an SOS sent out with a Spot, in a mountain Valley, you’d need to leave the Spot sitting out with a view of the sky for 1/2 hour or longer. Then, we have to worry about who at GEOS actually gets the message and if they’re on their lunch break. Lou

  15. silvertonslim May 7th, 2013 1:03 pm

    Yeah, so did my wife!!! I left my SPOT transmitting for 55 minutes; when I got out I looked on my account page on the internet and there were 11 SOS messages (SPOT sends SOS every 5 min)…but none got out of SPOT Covington LA office to GEOS at Houston. Yes, Houston we do have a problem!!! cheers

  16. water May 7th, 2013 3:25 pm

    So in my mind with GEOS and the spot online tracking feature—that is nice, a feature, a gimmick, a nice ‘extra’. And GEOS seems like..well silvertonslim more or less elucidated what I think of GEOS.

    I have a McMurdo Fastfind 210. I don’t often take it but as I spend all my time in North America, mostly the USA, and have it registered with NOAA, I have quite a bit of confidence that if I ever were to let it rip, the message is going to get to emergency professionals pretty quickly. Whether they can get to my location is another story. To say, I do not have any doubts like anyone can find with SPOT and GEOS.

    I only tend to bring it on winter climbs that are more remote or if conditions are challenging, or occasionally during multi-day backcountry trips. If something catastrophic happens with major blood loss or trauma, no device is going to probably make much a difference on survival. But if someone is incapacitated but stable, and the quickest option to help is a day or longer trek away, that is where I see value in the McMurdo Unit. Or if there is some weather condition on a mountain over-due by a day or more, and while people are aware we’re overdue, if we were to get to the end of our rope waiting it out in a snowcave..it would be a ping that there is still life, but we NEED help at this point.

    It is one-way but I think it is under-rated. I think the McMurdo is like an avalanche beacon that works without extra gizmos. People use the spot for various things but at the end of the day it exists to initiate a rescue. So does the McMurdo but without any of the frills and with a lot more of the dependability, and no yearly fee.

  17. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 3:44 pm

    Water, with McMurdo, who calls in the rescue? Any documentation or web presence for them, or are they just some kind of mystery thing like GEOS? Lou

  18. water May 7th, 2013 3:59 pm

    Lou,

    Only a little bit of web presence and mystery outfit, you decide if they’re legit enough:
    http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/

    Same system as a commercial vessel 1600 miles from land accesses with a EPIRB. SPOT is a toy.

  19. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 4:31 pm

    Ok, what’s weird then is why isn’t this taxpayer subsidized service available to anyone with a device? What’s the need for GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC)? I’m mystified. Or did they set this whole thing up as a way of bypassing things like the law that all PLBs operating on gov SAR frequency have to be registered to an individual? Could it be it’s just a few guys in a room and they just call Sarsat on the phone? Where is my tinfoil hat when I need it! Lou

  20. cam May 7th, 2013 4:43 pm

    what about the new pieps?
    http://www.pieps.com/en/pieps-globalfinder

  21. Lou Dawson May 7th, 2013 4:55 pm

    Ah, the mysterious and ever elusive Global Finder. Last I heard it’s still in development, did I miss the release?

  22. water May 7th, 2013 5:06 pm

    Lou,

    No conspiracy. Sarsat is the real deal. It is the solution for mariners, aviators, and individuals. If the situation benefits from a rescue being initiated through a military chain of command, almost anywhere in the world, its what you want to use.

    If you want to send a txt to your wife or let your twitter followers see the progress of your Denali climb, SPOT can be a great gizmo toy for that. It may, or may not initiate a rescue when needed.

    I think the reason GEOS exists is to make money. They have fine print that probably prevents them from being culpable no matter how catastrophically their product fails. And in the mean time they can rake in the money on the subscription side of things.
    In case it was not clear, SARSAT IS available to anyone with a device, so long as it is registered (and even then I am sure one would still get the same rescue). The signal, esp a newer PLB like the McMurdo encodes GPS into the 406mhz band along with having the 121mhz fine locator signal (if my understanding is correct).

  23. Greg May 7th, 2013 7:49 pm

    I got the older Delorme InReach for Christmas, and have been very happy with it so far. The tracking has all been quick and accurate, the messaging through my iPhone has been super simple, and the device itself is super simple to use. Also, a handy feature that I like is that you can turn off all the radios on your phone except for Bluetooth, and once it’s connected to the InReach it uses the (afaik more accurate) GPS signal from the InReach, preserving your phone’s battery (Obviously, you don’t want to leave this on while traveling in avalanche country, what with beacon interference and all).

    I’d personally recommend the older version for simplicity’s sake – I’d think it’d be easier to just deal with the big rubber buttons, without having to navigate a screen. I typically only pull my smartphone out to pair it up if I’m in a safe stopping spot and want to know where I am, or if I’m in camp for the night, otherwise the InReach just rides on the outside of my pack.

    All that being said, if I was going someplace crazier than what’s in the US, or without the same SAR resources, I’d go for PLB in a heartbeat

  24. Peter May 7th, 2013 7:50 pm

    As Water says modern 406mHz PLB beacons like the McMurdo are probably the best global option – they work anywhere, immediately transmit your GPS location to your home country’s national rescue coordination centre, and don’t have any subscription fees. Here in New Zealand the rescue centre is supported by the government and is linked to SAR groups, police and marine & air rescue services. The only thing they won’t do is non-emergency messaging to friends and family – they are strictly a panic button for worst case scenarios.
    SAR heavily promote use of these beacons in NZ because the dramatically reduce the time, cost and risk of rescue operations – instead of having to mount huge search operations for missing people rescues can be initiated in minutes with a helicopter that knows exactly where to go to find the missing/injured person.

  25. skier May 8th, 2013 6:06 am

    I would vote for the McMurdo Fastfind 210 too, though I don’t have one. Anything that broadcasts on the Marine UHF and Aircraft Emergency VHF freq, 12XXX is going to get lots of attention. Especially in remote parts of the world, pilots have their second radio monitoring this Guard freq. It’s also monitored more carefully now in the US since 911. If you get off frequency, or miss a hand off, better to have Center call you on Guard, than have an F-15 sliding in on your left wing tip with flashing lights!
    Speaking of heavy radios to carry, I helped a friend get a Aircraft Band VHF transceiver for a kayak trip in Northern Labrador years ago. I wrote out all the protocol to raise a trans-atlantic overflight if they had a life-threatening emergency. Also the local air-to-air frequencies the bush pilots use.
    I have carried this same radio on Grand Canyon Private Permit trips. You could raise an aircraft very easily, for baseball scores!

  26. stewspooner May 8th, 2013 7:23 am

    I’ve found the SPOT to be useful and reliable. On multi-day ski tours I let my loved ones know that I’m ok, and my position, which they really appreciate. I’ve not required a rescue, but I expect that if I did, I’d be more inclined to use the “need assistance” button, and let my friends/family coordinate things, than rely on some unknown people and process. As someone who has spent a lifetime pursuing adventures in remote places without any possibility of communication, I’m still stoked with having such a simple and relatively inexpensive gadget that does exactly what I need, and not too much.

  27. Lou Dawson May 8th, 2013 8:27 am

    Stew, it’s a good idea if you’re doing a wilderness trip to just use the “need assistance” button to be the same as the SOS button. But I’d add to that, just invoke them both, that’ll light a fire under things. Lou

  28. Mike Marolt May 9th, 2013 9:31 am

    This tool has saved me a lot of sat phone dollars. I have used it in south America and asia for years to simply send a message to loved ones that “we are OK”. That really helps people back home, and it works incredibly well. it’s also fun to look at google earth to see where you were while on the trip….

    I honestly have never considered it as a rescue tool, however. Just a tool to communicate. But I guess it works. I do have the OK messages sent to my rescue logistics company, Global Rescue, and they say that is good, but they won’t initiate a rescue unless they get the SAT phone call as well. But they like the communication because it pin points location, and it has really enabled them to get to other rescues more efficiently.

  29. Lou Dawson May 9th, 2013 9:42 am

    Hi Mike, thanks for chiming in on that, good information. Lou

  30. Martin May 13th, 2013 1:38 am

    Hi Lou!

    Regarding the Pieps Globalfinder, it is readily available here in Austria/Europe (it’s an Austrian Company, so maybe they focus more on their home market). Haven’t tested it though.

    I do frequently use my SPOT, especially when I’m out in the mountains alone. I spent the extra bucks for the tracking option and always start the tracking function as soon as I leave the car/cabin. That way my wife and relatives can have at least a good guess as to where I’m headed and where to send the mountainrescue, should I go missing.

    But the device is a bit bitchy about satellite connection. If I position it on top of my backpack, facing the sky, connectivity is quite good. Put it in a vertical position or into the pack, and not a single message gets out.

    Cheers from Austria,
    Martin

  31. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2013 5:33 am

    Thanks Martin, I didn’t know Globalfinder was available in Europe so good to get a heads-up on that. While Pieps is an Austrian company, they are now owned by Black Diamond…. I’ll ask about Globalfinder, always kind of amusing now when something is available in Europe and not here, I mean, it seems kind of ridiculous as the world has become so small and interconnected. Lou

  32. Martin May 13th, 2013 7:22 am

    Or maybe Pieps is using their European customers as beta testers… ;-)

    Anyway, seems like they just launched a new online portal where you can share your tracklog generated by the Globalfinder. You can have a look at the progress of an Austrian expedition to the Cho Oyu:
    http://beta.pieps.net/public/track/7DFEBEDEKQ00UAH1

    Martin

  33. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2013 8:03 am

    These days, it seems like just about any product launch in the outdoor industry is a beta test… shoot, remember the first SPOT, that didn’t have a way of protecting the SOS button? Incredibly lame. Lou

  34. Njord May 13th, 2013 8:42 am

    We use the SPOT at Kenai Heli Ski as a inexpensive, light, and easy way to track our groups in the field. We even keep one on the helicopter. It gives our operations personnel a simple “almost real-time” situational awareness tool to back-up our radio communications. The key is to recognize its limitations, we keep Satphones available for emergencies!

    Njord
    http://www.kenaiheliski.com

  35. tc May 18th, 2013 5:04 pm

    No matter what communication device(s) are taken on a trip, the critical thing is to have a clear protocol set up for other people to respond. That protocol has to suit the devices used.

    We recently had a situation where a group was on a multi-week ski traverse. They had a sat phone as in past years, but this time they also took a Spot. The protocols for sat phone communication were relaxed a bit because the Spot was assumed to take care of the general info. However, the Spot updates didn’t work (even though the group were transmitting for 15-20 minutes after the send light came on). The reason hasn’t fully been sorted out yet, but perhaps a combination of northern latitude (~60N) with some terrain blocking the sky. [Test your Spot very well before leaving to know how long it needs to be left on when sending in manual mode. And probably leave it on a bit longer than that (20-30 minutes?) - just in case other factors are making transmission worse]

    The bottom line is, that with a Spot, you can’t confirm your message has been received. Therefore, it is really really important to have a response protocol to deal with that possibility. There are many options for that when you have a sat phone along.

    I suppose the recent problem makes me lean towards an inReach over a Spot. However, Spots have proven to be generally reliable – but everyone should be aware that they can’t just assume they will work. Lessons learned…

    Ah, for the simpler days of just taking an EPIRB/PLB and disappearing into the wilderness….

  36. Pierce Oz October 2nd, 2013 10:56 am

    Wow, I’m pretty sketched out about my SPOT now. I haven’t really used mine much, but have been carrying it frequently for emergency-use-only as a supplement to a cell phone. Sounds like I should really be rethinking that and looking at more of a EPIRB/PLB. Can anyone speak to their experiences with the McMurdo’s vs. the ACR ResQLink?

  37. BC skier sailor November 12th, 2013 5:49 pm

    Hello,

    Contemplating getting the InReach SE device with a primary function of a panic button, but the 2-way communication is an important feature for me so this seems well suited.

    Does anyone have any information on how well GEOS handles distress calls (initiated either from SPOT or InReach)? How well do they liaise with SAR organizations (particularly in BC and Alberta but any information would be welcome)? Any reports of successful rescues or more importantly mishandled distress call responses?

  38. Greg November 12th, 2013 5:57 pm

    BC – See my (longish) comment towards the end of this article:
    http://www.wildsnow.com/7796/

  39. Phil November 14th, 2013 3:08 pm

    An interesting article about problems with Spot GPS location and operator error related to a rescue on Mt.Andromeda in the Canadian Rockies:
    Article in The Jasper Local: http://tinyurl.com/kyqsuah

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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Backcountry skiing is a dangerous sport. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions or templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow its owners and contributors of any liability for use of said items for backcountry skiing or any other use.

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