Mod Your 1st Gen SPOT — Avoid Embarrassment

Post by blogger | May 13, 2010      

Mountain Rescue Aspen told me that Jordan’s accidental SPOT 911 triggering a few days ago isn’t the first time that’s happened to them. Below is how Louie modded his SPOT to prevent false rescue callouts. He simply wrapped electrical tape till it was thick enough, he says “that’s all I had at the time, in the patrol shack in New Zealand.” It might be lighter and use less tape to add a chunk of foam or something like that as a spacer, but otherwise I can’t think of any way to improve this method and still do it quickly.

SPOT mod

SPOT mod

BTW, SPOT might have an exchange program to trade new model (that is said to resist false triggers, though we’re not totally convinced about that) for the 1st gen. SPOT website.



15 Responses to “Mod Your 1st Gen SPOT — Avoid Embarrassment”

  1. maadjurguer May 13th, 2010 4:49 pm

    I had the same happen to me on a bike ride. I placed a piece of plastic the thickness of a grocery value card, cut into a circle slightly larger than the 911 button. I then placed that plastic over the 911 button “safety ridge” and taped over it. I’ve not had any problems since then.

  2. John Gloor May 13th, 2010 7:20 pm

    If this is happening a lot, couldn’t one just tape new batteries to the unit and install them if it is needed, as opposed to wrapping the whole unit in tape so it does not signal for help? It might take a minute, but it would avoid deploying rescue crews. If you were solo and really messed up it could be a hazard, but It might be an option. Just a guess here since I have neither of the two devices.

  3. Lou May 13th, 2010 7:40 pm

    Gloor, the deal with your idea is you want to be able to easily trigger the rescue button if you’re injured or stressed, it would be too much to be installing batteries… the tape actually works quite well.

  4. John Gloor May 13th, 2010 8:19 pm

    Lou, I was just wondering about that, as I hear about false signals all the time. It would only be an issue for the solo person I would think. Hopefully an uninjured partner could put the batteries in. The time delay would be nothing compared to the long wait for help. My boss went skiing with his son at Silverton this year and inadvertently triggered his. After he made three laps they figured it out and asked his name and told him people were searching for him. It seems ridiculous that the makers cannot make a more fail safe design that cannot be improved upon with electrical tape. So far I am not impressed with these devices.

  5. J-Man May 13th, 2010 9:10 pm

    I recently purchased the newer model SPOT. After using it on a handful of trips, I have not had any problems so far. I have carried it in my side cargo pocket of my pants and in my backpack with no issues. The SPOT is handy for looking where you went after you get home-3D mode is pretty cool. It also allows friends and family to see where you are in real time and if you are deviating from your schedule they will know. Just make sure you replace the lithium batteries often, a dead SPOT freaks people out who are watching you!

  6. Caleb Wray May 14th, 2010 12:19 am

    After Jordan called me with his ordeal I promptly looked for a solution. The Pelican Micro 1010 Case happens to be a perfect fit. A little heavy but it sits snug and is waterproof. Good for now, as opposed to my wife having a few hours of horror.

  7. Lou May 14th, 2010 4:32 am

    I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the mod shop lately, improving and repairing gear. As I take the long view, it occurred to me that today’s gear may be lighter weight and more functional than that of 30 years ago, but it’s not necessarily more reliable or of better quality. I have to say I expected a better progression, but it seems that market forces intrude and we’ll always get stuff that’s good in concept but that the designers seem to have not completed. It’s like they get it to a certain point, then go out to lunch. Really frustrating at times.

    What makes all this even worse, is it is all too common for the engineers and designers to be so invested in a product that they don’t see the faults. In fact, they’ll devise tests that prove it isn’t so and come up with whacked out rationalizations rather than just acknowledge a problem and fix it. It sounds like SPOT might have fixed this problem in their 2nd generation units, but before that they just kept selling and selling the 1st gen despite the obvious problem of accidental activation. That does not inspire a lot of confidence.

  8. Jonathan Shefftz May 14th, 2010 8:05 am

    Has anyone ever had a false alert from a Spot 1.0 that had been kept off? Such an instance seems impossible: both the On button and the 911 would have to be inadvertently pressed down sufficiently (both in terms of pressure and duration) to activate them, and it would have to be in sequence too. When I had a Spot 1.0, I just kept it off all the time, except when I occasionally sent an Okay message.
    With the Spot 2.0, a false alert seems impossible, even if the unit is kept on.

  9. Jordan May 14th, 2010 8:21 am

    The situation that you are describing is exactly what happened to me. I don’t leave mine on either.

  10. maadjurguer May 14th, 2010 8:24 am

    @Jonathan….the one false alert I had was just as you have described….the SPOT was off and in my pack. What must have happened is that when I set my pack down any number of times, the two buttons were depressed by being jabbed by some rocks or other pointy things on the ground, thus activating the 911 signal. I ran into Sheriff officers 20 later asking if anyone had an emergency locator and was in trouble. Very embarrassing, but I was also impressed with the response. Nevertheless, I devised the cover after that….I too am confounded with why SPOT never thought to build a rudimentary cover originally as they did on the 2.0.

  11. Jonathan Shefftz May 14th, 2010 8:30 am

    Yipes, that is bad!
    On the one hand, the Spot 2.0 design seems to solve that problem.
    On the other hand, amazing that design wasn’t incorporated into the first release.

  12. Louie May 14th, 2010 9:01 am

    The reason I put all the tape on the spot is that It got turned on once in my pack. It didn’t send any type of message, but still ran down the batteries a bit.

  13. Lou May 14th, 2010 10:00 am

    I’d simply have to conclude that the designers at SPOT had some kind of mental problem or something when they came up with that original design. Or perhaps they hired designers who had never carried a pack or been in the backcountry. Really really strange. Like, yippe, it floats, but be careful if you carry it.

  14. Jonathan Shefftz January 30th, 2011 8:30 pm

    Just noticed that the new Spot Connect will allow all sorts of messaging options via a Bluetooth connection with an Android phone. Also has a dedicated “SOS” button.

  15. yugi May 8th, 2012 2:38 pm

    With Spot gen 1 used as you suggest, to keep OFF and turn on for messages, how long should one wait between turning on and sending an OK message? Any experience?

    I’ve had one since 2007 and tested it a few times then and had some missed OK messages presumably because it took too long to get a connection. Any hints on this?

    Or just move to the new SpotConnect which is way lighter anyway?

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