SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger in BWCA?

Anyone used the SPOT device in Boundary Waters? I’m trying to determine if coverage is dependable.

I had one person on a Quetico trip 2 summers ago that had a Spot along. No problem sending out a daily location/I’m OK message at that time. And last summer I heard of a Boyscout carrying one in a pack, when on a Sommer’s Canoe Base trip. The thing was sending “send help” messages on just about on every portage for a couple days from being triggered from the pack being jostled around. I guess there were some worried parents receiving those messages, but the Base calmed everyone down. There was no radio message from the guide to call for an evac. Which brings up another thing to consider. All Sommer’s groups are carrying 2 way radios to call back to the base tower from most all the BWCA and Quetico. Chances are good you will see Sommer’s groups at least every 3 days out on your trip, even way back in the boonies; and most every day if you are on the well traveled routes.

I heard that the 911 messages go to a Spot center, where they decide who to call (if properly trained and gifted with enough gray matter). I’ve also heard that there’s been a problem with false 911 messages. I’m wondering whether this is a real alternative.

No help
The guy that was carrying the Spot in my group, didn’t send any 911 message. So I’m no help as to where that kind of message goes and who handles what, but isn’t it logical that the “I’m OK” type message is received by the same dispatcher? I just know that in advance of our trip this guy sent in a list of email addresses of where his daily location/I’m OK messages would be sent, and as far as I know everyone who was suppose to receive the messages got them. So wouldn’t it be logical that you provide the service a list of contacts (outfitter?, Forest Service?) should there be a 911 emergency. I was just letting you know there apparently is Spot service in the area to reply to your original inquiry.

The more I check into it the less impressed I am with this mode of emergency transmission over a conventional PLB. It does not summon help directly. It calls a center where humans must decide 1) who to call, 2) whether the emergency is real. I’m sure it works under some circumstances, but a 406 mhz transmission to SAR seems to be minimal to me.

You are misinformed
There are three modes of message on my first gen SPOT.

  1. Used most everyday…the I am OK button. Sends your OK message and coordinates to each party on your contact list. Does not report to a dispatch center.

  2. Help. This is for non life threatening emergencies where you are unable to self rescue…ie you broke your leg. The message goes to your contacts. They have to contact the nearest dispatch center.

    1. There is no judgment made as to the reality of the emergency. All the center knows is that there is a life threatening emergency. For that reason, civilian dispatch centers should never judge whether a call for help is bogus either.( having worked in EMS with all kids dispatchers, I know my way around).

      Now your concern seems to be a time lag in what center is activated(what is an SOS center) , which is a good question. It varies. For that reason I also have phone numbers for my contacts to call to make noise.

      I havent used SPOT in BWCA but in canoe areas several hundred miles north of BWCA.

      The PLB is the one device you hope you never have to use but I am not sure the rescuing agency would be any different than SPOT.

      SPOT is kinda more for the family at home… PLB is all about you.

      I have heard about false 911 calls, but its hard to figure out how something in a pack could have poked that 911 button so hard. Its recessed in Gen 1 and I believe shielded more in Gen 2 though I have not seen Gen 2.