SPOT Sattelite Rescue Device???

This looks like an interesting product. Seems like a useful device for kayak and backpacking trips.

I have read some of the reviews on REI and I have some concerns over how well it would work for kayaking.

The reviews seem to indicate that the unit has to sit horizontal for a number of minutes before transmitting a message.

Not sure if this applies for 911 messages as well. My concern would be that if you were in the water and needed to use the device that you may not be able to get a message through.

Does anyone have one of these or can anyone with better knowledge of these units comment on this?



Recent thread
There was a recent thread on this topic, here is a copy of a reply I made to the thread:

A spot messenger was used by kayaker Derek Crook when he got into trouble on the west coast of Tasmania. See the second last post at and also the articles at and

I thought it worth noting that he was rescued by a local after 5hrs in the water and may not have survived to be rescued by the emergency services that were searching for him. How much of this delay was due to his spot messenger being registered in Canada and the time it took to get Australian services to respond I don’t know, although it was a very isolated location and any rescue would have taken quite a while. I expect the homing signal on an epirb or plb would ensure a faster location of a person in trouble. Anyway it’s good to know that he’s safe.

One other thing is I doubt that a spot messenger meets the legal requirement for an EPIRB in Tasmania. I know it doesn’t in Western Australia, seakayaks fall under the same rules as other boats here and are required to carry EPIRBs if more than two nautical miles offshore.


My experience
is that it works great for kayaking. I bought mine from Garth Schmeck at Penguin Paddlers because he used it and found it worked great, and said I could return it if I did not agree. I do agree, and it is especially good on water because you will generally have a clear shot at the satellite.

It does take some time to lock on to the satellite. So make sure it is on. The battery lasts a very long time (like a year?) if it is not transmitting, so leaving it on is not an issue. The messages do use some battery, so there is a limit there.

Sometimes it takes a minute or two to transmit when you send an ok message or help message. Since you get a copy of the emails, it is easy to test for yourself, and you can also check on the website itself.

Matt, I would really recommend this since you paddle alone and like to challenge yourself.

Check this thread…

Particularly what Stamer wrote. You’ve got to decide what purpose you have in mind for a device like this.

It looks like with the ACR RexQfix PLB ( ), ACR finally matched the capabilities that the McMurdo Pains Wessex Fastfind Plus PLB has had for years ( ). Had the Pains Wessex for nearly 3 years now. At the time, it was the clear leader in the field. They replaced it for me free of charge once even though it was dropped and damaged!

Mcmurdo has quite a selection now with some higher performing units than the Fastfind Plus apparently:

Another set of reviews…

Bought one…but
Well I got one for my recent trip I just finished. Paid extra to have it sent overnight.

Got it and tried to set it up on Sunday but could not do so. Their system would not recognize the device’s serial number. Called their customer service line but they could not fix the problem before my trip.

So…went on my trip but could not use the device. Not real happy about it as that trip was a solo trip with long crossings and really wanted the device for such trips.

Not too happy with the device so far.


jury is still out but negative now
some reviews here

SPOT used in Everglades Challenge
The SPOT was used by several competitors in the recent 300-mile Everglades Challenge race. One, a local (NC) blogger, Kiwibird, experienced difficulties getting her SPOT set up before the race, but after those problems were resolved, the device worked well. Apparently SPOT will be required for all competitors in a new 1000-mile race on the Yukon River in 2009. Sorry I don’t have the links, but if you Google “kiwibird blog” or Kristen Greenaway blog or, for that matter, Everglades Challenge, you can find more reports.

A user reivew

Another review at:

The reviewer had good results using it in the Bahamas as well.


Is it working yet?

I’ve been interested in getting the device; but given some posters’ experiences on this and other forums, it appears that the jury may still be out.


I’ve had one since December
and it works just fine. It was recommended that I not spend the money for the tracking feature. You can hit the OK button as frequently as you like for the same results.

Plus a location every 10 minutes while kayaking puts them all way too close on the map.

Overall, I’m extremely glad I have mine.

After reading the reviews
it is apparent that there is a real problem with thier technical support and customer service people. Some seem to be knowledgable and good, others(even most) seem to the absolutly incompetant. Are these the same people who are supposed to notify SAR if you use the SPOT to summon help? The idea that one of them doesn’t even know what GMT means is scary—but then what do you expect—most companies don’t pay their call center tech support and CSR people more than $10.00 an hour–at that wage you probably would have a hard time keeping good people.

I returned mine. I bought it largely for the two trips I was taking while on vacation these last two weeks.

Given that I could not activate it and therefore could not use it on these trips. I only make so many multi-day trips per year and these were two of them so my cost per trip goes up significantly after having missed using it on these two. A little frustrating.

Another thing worth noting. The 911 buttom is recessed sufficiently so that you don’t hit it accidentally. The tradeoff on this though is that I think it would be very difficult to hit it if you were in the water out of your boat and really needed help…especially if the water was cold and you were losing finger dexterity.

I am going to stick with my VHF, flares, and smoke flares.


Several of my friends have them
and their experience has been as good as mine. The SPOT doesn’t replace the VHF, flares, smokes, etc- it adds to them. Sounds like you got a defective unit.

Try getting another without being in such a rush this time. I use mine every time I paddle.

flares, etc
Didn’t mean to imply that the SPOT was a substitute for flares, radio, etc. I agree that it is an addition (just as a GPS is not a replacement for a chart and compass).

I’ll think about the SPOT some more.