The Spot Gen3 Messenger is a satellite based communications and tracking device. When you're out in the wilderness on your adventures far away from civilization or cell phone service, the Spot Gen3 is great to have. Through its private satellite network your family can have peace of mind because they know where you are and that you're OK. And if a life threatening situation would occur, it's comforting to know help is just one button away.
SPOT GEN3 SPECS
Dimensions: 3.43 x 2.56 x 1 inches (pocket size)
Battery Type: 4 AAA lithium batteries
Water Proof Rating: 1 m for up to 30 mins and dust proof
Price Point: $150, then pay a monthly fee of $19.99 to use the satellite network
SPOT GEN3 SETUP
To use your Spot Messenger the first thing you will need to do is create an account at findmespot.com This is where you will sign up for the required monthly plan to use the satellite service. After that, you need to activate the device and update its firmware with the provided USB wire. When you have completed the initial setup, you will be able to make many customization changes to your device. You can enter up to 10 contacts that you want to have follow you or receive your messages. You can also choose how your messages will be sent. Either by e-mail or text message. We will talk more about customization in the next section.
HOW THE SPOT GEN3 WORKS
Compared to many other Satellite Messenger devices, the Spot Messenger is very simplistic in design and user ability. It doesn't have all these extra features you will never use. There are five basic functions.
Tracking: The SPOT uses a vibration sensor to track your movements. When it senses movement it will send your location information back to your family where they can follow your progress by using the google maps in SPOTS website or by using the SPOT App on their mobile phone.
For the SPOT to track you efficiently, you'll need to attach it to your pack in an appropriate place such as on the shoulder strap of your backpack or on top of your pack. The important thing is that the device has a clear line of site to the satellites in the sky.
With the tracking feature you can customize how often the SPOT tracks you. Prior to your hike, you can adjust this on SPOTS website and choose to have it track you every 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. Of course, the more often the device tracks you, the more battery life it will use up. I have found that for backpacking purposes, every 30 minutes works fine.
Note: Something to be aware of is that if the device doesn't sense movement after an hour it will automatically shut off on you to conserve battery life. So it's always good after maybe a long lunch or break to check if it's still on or not.
Check-in/OK button: This function allows your family to know through a short message that you are OK and it gives your GPS coordinates to them. Prior to your hike you are able to customize this button on SPOTS website. You could program it to say, "just checking in to let you know I'm OK".
Custom message button: The SPOT allows you to send a second pre-programmed message to your family. You could have it say something like, "Made it to the trailhead" or "Made it to camp."
Help/SPOT assist button: This button is for contacting your family when a non-life threatening situation happens. Let's say you're on the way to the trailhead and your car runs out of gas and you have no cell phone service and no one is around. You can message and send GPS coordinates to your family and let them know you need help. You can customize this message also.
Note: The farther away your family is, the less helpful this button would be.
SOS: Hopefully this is a button that you will never have to use. But, in the event of a life threatening situation, this SOS button will send a message, not to your family, but directly to emergency services. It will notify them that you need recused which can potentially save your life. Do not use this button unless your life is in danger.
HOW TO USE THE SPOT GEN3 VIDEO
SPOTS TRACKING AND MESSAGING RELIABILITY
With my personal experience, I've had no trouble with this SPOT Gen3. I never looked to see if every GPS signal was sent successfully to the satellites, but what I do know is that on every trip my wife could easily track me and see where I was. Every message I've sent she has been able to receive. If you read the manual, you will find that they recommend to have clear line of site to the sky when using it. But when you're backpacking deep in the woods, especially in the east coast, having clear line of site is not always easy. However, I have found on many occasions that even under tree cover it was still able to acquire satellite communication. So regarding reliability, it has exceeded my expectations.
SPOT GEN3 PROS
Excellent battery life (still using the original batteries when I first bought the device)
Easy and simple to use
SPOT GEN3 CONS
Uses regular batteries and can't recharge it through its USB port
Needs a battery life indicator. Never sure if the batteries have been used up or not.
Could be lighter
Overall I really like this piece of gear. I couldn't imagine going backpacking without the Spot Gen3 Messenger. It puts all your family at ease when you go out into the backcountry alone.
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