I am seriously thinking about getting a spot for emergency use, and for friends and family to track me on extended paddling trips. If some of you have some experience with this device and/or opinions about it give them.

My .02
Hi John,

I bought one last May and used it very little until a trip to IR in September. It worked properly for 2 days. I wore it in my PFD pocket, it was never immersed, although they claim it can be, I dried it off each afternoon and it only worked for the first two days. After that I got the light indicating it was malfunctioning (low battery lights are different and the batteries last forever…just the same, I tried changing them anyway) After arriving home it still didn’t work so I left it sitting out in the sun for 6 hours. It apparently dried out and began working again, but I sent it in anyway so they could look inside to check for water damage. Customer service was only fair as they did not respond at all to my complaints about the device not being reliable but they got the unit back to me quickly. I will only use it in a dry bag in the future and only as a back up device rather than the emergency device they claim it is. I was disappointed in it and the anxiety it caused for folks at home who were expecting to be able to track our progress as well as being assured we were OK. If it were truly waterproof and reliable I think it would be a great thing to have, which is why I bought it.


Hi Sharon, thanks for your input. I was wondering how your trip to IR went. I’d enjoy hearing about the trip. Have you considered writing up a trip report and posting it on pnet?

No issues.
If you get one, make sure you play with it a few times. The email that they send may get filtered out to a junk mail folder. That’s simple to fix. I’ve immersed mine several times and had no issues. It worked as advertised and my little support crew was able to track me w/ no issues. I didn’t opt for the auto tracking function - would hit the send button when it crossed my mind.

It worked great and was a good supplement to my peace of mind. Mainly, it was a locating device and a simple way to send an “I’m OK” message to the crew.

We’re going to Brazil on a kayak trip next year and will be completely out of cellphone range for the trip. I don’t want to rent and carry a satellite phone either. It’ll be nice to let our families know that we’re OK during the trip.

I’m curious…
How many times did you use the unit before you started your trip? Did you test it to insure it transmitted properly, was waterproof, and that it was sealed properly after installation of the batteries?

we used it
on two shorter trips prior to that. One was just to get an idea of how it works (pretty simple) and all transmissions were successful, about 10 over a 3 day period. The second trip was a wilderness trip on Lake Superior. My husband had it in the pocket on his spray skirt. We had fairly calm conditions so it didn’t get very wet. As on the first trip, all of our transmissions were successful. Both times we sent them from as many different places as we could. For the IR trip the batteries were the required lithium type, brand new and the spare batteries didn’t change anything. The light signal did not indicate low batteries, just malfunction. It’s a simple device to operate as long as it has an unobstructed view of the sky. It worked fine for the first two days, but it would have been nice if it had worked for the whole week.

John, I might get around to writing a trip report one of these days. It was a good trip for sure.


re: Equipped to Survive
You might want to read one of several articles in regard SPOT units posted on the Equipped to Survive website.

Here is a link to one:

Sean Morley

– Last Updated: Dec-09-08 7:54 PM EST –

used it on his recent record solo circumnavigtion of Vancouver Island. He was happy with it, and it worked perfectly as I and many others followed his progress.

I'm also happy with mine.

It sounds pretty good in theory, if you take a lot of trips and if you are frequently out of cell phone range. Also, assuming you have someone at hand to monitor it. For a casual user or one who can use a cell phone most of the time, it seems kind of expensive, due to the ongoing service contract.

The main problem with it is the one-way transmission - this means it doesn’t get a return signal and so it has no way of knowing if its signal has been received. Apparently it handles this limitation by continuing to rebroadcast important messages on a regular schedule. I think they claim a normal 14-day battery life, but I wonder how long the battery will last if it is in one of these rebroadcast cycles.

Also, I’d like to know how long it takes their satellites (how many do they have) to be over all areas of the earth, and if there are any blind spots they will never be over. I gather there are far fewer than there are gps sateliites. So, worst case, if you’re running down a canyon in Colorado and get injured (or you lose your kayak at sea and crawl ashore under some cliffs off the Washington coast), what’s the max time it will take for the signal you send to be received?

“out damned …”

Sorry it didn’t work out. I haven’t seen any other failures on another site that I frequent - it’s mostly adventure-type motorcycling. I assume it was replaced?

Why not EPIRB?

– Last Updated: Dec-10-08 10:19 AM EST –

I'm not sure these sound nearly as reliable as an EPIRB. If you're really paddling somewhere that a VHF is not effective in getting emergency assistance (I don't know of anyplace in the coastal US that fits this criteria) I don't think I'd trust this $150 device to be my last resort. For the cost of the unit and the $100/year subscription, you're half way to buying an EPIRB that requires no subscription, and will alert rescue resources anywhere in the world to your position within about 30 minutes (much faster if you buy a GPS-equipped EPIRB). Plus EPIRBs have been around for decades, are practically bombproof, and are used by every commercial ocean-going vessel and many non-commercial ones too.

The OP intends to use the device to allow family and friends track the progress.

not replaced

They just verified that the unit was working, had no water damage and sent it back. It was working when I sent it in, just wanted to make sure it was OK on the inside.

It’s not a ridiculously expensive device, the basic service (no tracking) is affordable and it has a decent warranty…not bad if you use it enough (I haven’t yet). I’ll use it on the ski trails this winter and if it malfunctions again I’ll try to get them to replace the unit. Does submersible to 1 meter mean snow too? :slight_smile:

I’ll be interested to read the other reports of actual use, not reviews in magazines.


"emergency use"
The first intended purpose stated by the OP was emergency use, and I’m not sure this thing is up to the task of a last resort signalling device in a saltwater environment. For that purpose the EPIRB is head and shoulders above.

You have a good point though that an EPIRB can’t be used for casual signaling.

The problem if it stops working!!!
As the first responder to this post noted, when their unit stopped working it caused great anxiety for those who thought they should be getting the updates.

If people tracking at home stop receiving updates, they have three possible thoughts: They forgot to use it, it stopped working, or they’re dead.

Soooo… If you use this, you better make sure those tracking know that it’s not a perfect device, and that if it stops working it doesn’t mean you’re dead.

Definitely an EPIRB is a better fail-safe. But I can’t help but agree that if it’s working it’d be nice to let ppl know you’re okay and where you are.

Now you tell me!
“Soooo… If you use this, you better make sure those tracking know that it’s not a perfect device, and that if it stops working it doesn’t mean you’re dead.”

Wish I had thought it out a little better before heading out there, but I think I’ve learned my lesson…just don’t tell anyone where you’re going or when you’ll be back :slight_smile:

I agree that as an emergency device that an EPIRB is more reliable. My second choice to a spot would be a PLB. Is a PLB as good as a EPIRB? The PLB’s are a lot smaller and less expensive than an EPIRB.

battery life

– Last Updated: Dec-10-08 12:24 PM EST –

The main difference between an EPIRB and PLB, as I understand it, is battery life. A PLB is not recommended for offshore use (that's offshore by the big-boat standard, meaning hundreds of miles from land), because the battery life is about 24 hours. For a kayaker, if you don't get found in 24 hours, well, I'm not sure spending another $300 on the EPIRB would have done you any good. You're either floating somewhere up to your neck, and not likely to last a day, or you're on an island and can remain their until someone can come find you. In either case, you're not more than a couple hours from the nearest rescue resources. For those reasons I'd think a PLB would be appropriate for a kayaker.

Here's an article on the subject from a great navigation catalog:

Furthermore PLB
are generally small enough to be attached on a PFD.

While the 24 hours transmission time is generally calculated on real cold temps, if you are floating around in those temps you will be dead way before the 24 hrs are up.

PLB are in my opinion a way better safety device than an EPIRB for the sole reason that a kayaker will tend to have one on his/hers PFD.

Documented cases of a kayaker (Andrew McCauley)having an EPIRB that did not get used in an emergency becuase it was stored under deck.

So, what use can it be to a paddler a device that is “safely” stored on the kayak while that paddler is separated from his/her craft?