Hello from Middle Earth: SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

9 01 2011

First of all, don’t get it twisted…I’m not a Lord of the Rings super geek, not that there is anything wrong with that.  In about a month I will be embarking on a trip to Patagonia, or for those of you that are geographically challenged the area comprised of southern Chile and Argentina.  For me, being an avid fly fisherman, this is a trip of a lifetime and one that I have dreamt about for a long time, but more on that in another post.

The specific areas where I will be fishing are extremely remote, even by “American West” standards.  For example, one of the lodges where I will make base camp for a week is a 2 hour flight, 3 hour 4×4 drive, and 1 hour jet boat ride from the closest metropolitan area.  The lodge itself is completely self-sufficient will all food raised locally on-premise, solar power and basically no connection to the outside world other than the jet boat and a satellite phone which can only be used in case of emergency.

Since I will be traveling alone in some instances and will basically have no communication to the outside world, I have been looking for a cost effective way to call for help if I get myself into hot water.  On a more positive note I simply wanted to ability to let my wife, friends and loved ones in general know where I am on a periodic basis, and that I haven’t been eaten by a giant trout.  OK, well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but anything can happen when your that far into the wilderness.

In comes the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger…a purpose built satellite messaging and emergency communications device.

At an MSRP of $169.99 the price is right compared to a satellite phone, and it ultimately provides all of the functionality that I’m looking for in terms of allowing me to call for help as well as providing a tracking system for my wife.  Wait a second, did I just really say that…um maybe I should rethink the tracking part.

There are several different features so listed below is a brief summary:

  • SOS function to notify emergency services of your GPS coordinates in the case of a life threatening situation.  There is a GEOS International Emergency Response Center which will alert the proper authorities worldwide and you can pay extra on your service plan to enroll into the GEOS member rescue benefit.  This extra service covers up to $100K of rescue expenses and will even engage a private SAR contractor if needed to get you to safety
  • Help function which allows you to notify personal contacts that you need assistance in a non-life threatening situation.  Like SOS, you can pay extra on your service for SPOT assist which will contact professional services to provide non-life threatening assistance on land or water
  • Check-in/OK function that allows for you to let loved ones know that you are OK and can also send your GPS location along with a pre-programmed message.  The messages can either be sent as an SMS text or via email, in which case a link to Google Maps is included which shows your location.  Your waypoints are also stored in your service account for later reference and you can even integrate them into a SPOT Shared Page, which is what I’m going to try and do from my blog site
  • Custom Message feature enables you to create and send albeit small, but custom messages as a secondary OK message, which can also be linked to your GPS location.  I’m going to create one that reads “I just caught a huge @$#!ing fish!!” and send it to all my fishing buddies back home 🙂
  • Track Progress feature which allows you to send your GPS waypoints in near real-time back to your SPOT account which can then be setup on your SPOT Shared Page where friends and family can access to track your location on a Google Maps interface

All in all it’s a pretty cool device for the money.  There is a $99 yearly fee for service and some of the additional add-on features that I mentioned above can up that to around $162 a year, but that’s pretty fair if you compare it to satellite phone or even mobile text services…which may or may not work depending on the situation or area.  I can see this type of device being pretty handy even in the states if you do any type of adventure travel or heck, even if you are driving in a remote area that doesn’t have cell coverage.  It’s a small insurance policy to leave in your wife’s or kid’s car if ever in remote areas.  I often fish only 2 hours from my house but it’s a very remote canyon, the Linville River gorge, and all it would take is a slip on a rock to break a leg and without something like this I would be in a bad spot.

Oh yeah…I almost forgot about the reference to Middle Earth.  This was something that came from one of my favorite DVD’s of all time, and appropriately used as terrain of Patagonia is very much other worldly.  If you haven’t ever heard of the ‘Trout Bum Diaries’ or later developed ‘Fish Bum Diaries’, then I would highly recommend you check them out, even if you aren’t an avid fisherman.  They are highly entertaining and a completely new genre of adventure fishing entertainment that are really as much about travel in remote areas of the world and culture as they are about fishing.

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