Anyone still using a 1st Gen SPOT Satellite Messenger?

ThePartyWagon

Active member
Hi there folks,

Quick question about the original Gen 1 SPOT Satellite Messenger.

I recently made a trip to Southern Utah, to a new destination for us, and we hardly saw a soul out on the trails, or anywhere for that matter. We were deep enough out there that we started thinking about what we would do if we have a breakdown or medical emergency and that would have involved at least 30 miles of hiking to the main road. This prompted the discussion about bringing some sort of communication device in the future, among other things. I had a GMRS radio with me but it's nothing special, a standard handheld and I'm not so sure that would be very helpful.

I have a coworker who has an original Gen 1 SPOT Messenger and I've confirmed that SPOT still supports this device. I'm wondering if anyone actually still uses these devices now that there have been three updated models released since this one was introduced... Its old enough that it uses AA batteries and is not rechargeable. I suppose there is an argument for battery based power, similar to avalanche beacons, but it just seems outdated.

Is this 12 year old device is worth bothering with at all?

Thanks!
 

evldave

Expedition Trophy Winner
Sure. I rarely use it, but it still works great. Far as I'm aware it still uses the same sat tech, so it wouldn't be worse from a connection standpoint.

Mostly you'd just get tracking a pre-defined messages, but that's fine for me

Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Why are you thinking about a Gen 1? Is your co-worker giving it to you? I think all four generations of device are essentially the same guts (the Gen 4 still uses 4 x AAA). I still use my Gen 3 routinely, it does the job fine.
 

ThePartyWagon

Active member
Sure. I rarely use it, but it still works great. Far as I'm aware it still uses the same sat tech, so it wouldn't be worse from a connection standpoint.

Mostly you'd just get tracking a pre-defined messages, but that's fine for me
That's all I really need, a backup plan. Some way to communicate with the outside world in the event of a worst case scenario type situation. Thanks for the information, sounds like it would work just fine for me.

Why are you thinking about a Gen 1? Is your co-worker giving it to you? I think all four generations of device are essentially the same guts (the Gen 4 still uses 4 x AAA). I still use my Gen 3 routinely, it does the job fine.
Coworker is selling it to me dirt cheap, $50. I would go with a newer device if I was paying retail. If it still works for one way communications, it should satisfy my needs. Sounds like they are all still pretty much the same, less the integrated keyboards on the new models. Thanks for the reply!
 

Axelwik

New member
In you're only going to use it for emergencies, I suggest using a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) instead of the SPOT. Same technology as the EPIRB devices that have been used aboard ships and boats for decades. There's no subscription to pay because the whole program is run by NOAA and the Air Force. A PLB also has a much stronger signal and is more redundant due to using more than one satellite system. PLBs also have no dead spots and can be used anywhere on the surface of the Earth.

The SPOT is a commercial device, requires a paid subscription, has a weaker signal (not as capable of getting an emergency signal out of a deep canyon or tall forest), and won't work in some areas. I used to have a SPOT, but their billing practices are terrible. Dumped it and got a PLB with no regrets.

In the long run you'll pay less for a PLB because there's no subscription - it's just the initial cost of the device and having it serviced every 5 years. You also have to register it with NOAA - no registration fee.
 
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OllieChristopher

Active member
SPOT devices are every bit as good as a PLB. Globalstar is not new to the game and is very reliable depending on where you travel. I would not recommend getting a Gen 1. Do yourself a favor and get at least a Gen 3 or higher. Battery life is quadrupled and it has an external power outlet as well.

The subscription is cheap for what you get. Unlike the free PLB, you will not be on the hook for SAR and or airlifts. Most medical insurance does not cover those services. I pay just shy of 300.00 per year and insured through Lloyds Of London for free SAR and Airlifts, unlimited mapping and an off road tow service that will recover my vehicle on any two track in the US and bring me to a paved highway no charge (part of my yearly plan).

PLBs also have no dead spots and can be used anywhere on the surface of the Earth.
That is not true at all. PLB has dead spots like any other device depending on weather or obstructions. PLB plans through NOAA are outstanding for in the ocean. For us land users it is limited and has reliability issues like any other device.

A PLB also has a much stronger signal and is more redundant due to using more than one satellite system.
That is 100% false. Please do not give out misinformation on a lifesaving device. The Cospas-Sarsat system is not the do all end all for satellite tracking. At any given time it can fail like any other satellite system.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
That is not true at all. PLB has dead spots like any other device depending on weather or obstructions. PLB plans through NOAA are outstanding for in the ocean. For us land users it is limited and has reliability issues like any other device.
I think he may have meant no intentional uncovered places. SPOT does not covered the poles and only will have service where they have ground stations. So you do need to be aware of where you are. PLBs do have an advantage in that sense.
A PLB also has a much stronger signal and is more redundant due to using more than one satellite system.
That is 100% false. Please do not give out misinformation on a lifesaving device. The Cospas-Sarsat system is not the do all end all for satellite tracking. At any given time it can fail like any other satellite system.
This is a nuanced point. A PLB typically has a 5 watt transmitter while SPOT transmitter has about 0.6W. But COSPAS-SARSAT satellites sit at a higher orbit than Globarstar. So there's some advantage but also it's just necessary to work.

Also the use case for a SPOT is to have a 10-minute cookie crumb trail so all the time so SOS isn't one-and-done like a PLB. Even if there's some issue with the SOS itself someone who knows to look for you will see your last location update and can call SAR for you with a last known place to start.

The bottom line is both (all) SOS/PLB devices need the best, clear view of the sky as you can get. And since neither PLBs and SPOTs are real time two-way devices (only InReach there) you should do everything you can to make sure you do that.
 

highwest

Active member
$50 for a Gen 1 doesn’t sound like that great of a deal when a Gen 4 is $100 (at least it is on Spot’s website right now). Free sounds like a better deal...

@OllieChristopher, for Spots, isn’t the user still on the hook for SAR costs?
 

OllieChristopher

Active member
@OllieChristopher, for Spots, isn’t the user still on the hook for SAR costs?
Search And Rescue is included as part of the plan. Up to 2 per year. If you are riding, wheeling or hiking in a restricted area then you are on the hook for everything and heavily fined.

The bottom line is both (all) SOS/PLB devices need the best, clear view of the sky as you can get. And since neither PLBs and SPOTs are real time two-way devices (only InReach there) you should do everything you can to make sure you do that.
I'm not sure what you mean by "real time"? If I am in an open area and do a check in, my wife gets it almost instantly within seconds of pressing the button. The new SPOT X has the bugs worked out of it and the guys I know using it are really happy.

Bottom line is any device is better than nothing at all.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
I'm not sure what you mean by "real time"? If I am in an open area and do a check in, my wife gets it almost instantly within seconds of pressing the button. The new SPOT X has the bugs worked out of it and the guys I know using it are really happy.

Bottom line is any device is better than nothing at all.
I neglected to mention SPOT X along with InReach with respect to two-way messaging. I mean when you're afield and send a message on a SPOT tracker or PLB you don't get real time feedback that it was successfully received. If it's an SOS you won't really know for a few hours to perhaps a day or two for sure when SAR does or does not show up.

With a two-way device (e.g. SPOT X or InReach) you have real time dialog with the other end and you know within a few minutes if your check-in or SOS was received. With the one-way devices you must make the effort to check batteries, get clear sky and aim the antenna.

That's why I mentioned with a SPOT tracker the periodic position beacons are important. The bread crumbs are a different way to increase probability of success compared to a single message with higher power.

The turn-around time for a SPOT message is quick normally but it could be several minutes from the time you start the message (e.g. push check-in, SOS, etc.) before the message is received by the constellation. SPOT continues to send the data burst for 10 minutes, for example, which is I think to guarantee the device see full over head passes for at least two satellites. Once SPOT/Globalstar gets the message they have internal handling to parse and handle it, which might just be to format and send the emails and SMS message you set up or generate the notification to GEOS.

FWIW in about 5 years of using a SPOT I've never had a case where a check-in was not received and occasional analysis of tracking I see well above 90% success in the 10-minute position updates. So I have confidence that my device works and how I use and aim it. When I do check-ins at the end of trips at home I get the email almost immediately, too. But whether it's 10 seconds or 10 minutes is not important really, just that it worked. Reliability trumps speed.
 
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jbaucom

Active member
I'd spend the extra $50 and get a NEW SPOT Gen4. I see them for $100 direct from SPOT and at Sportsman's Warehouse; REI is still $149. I've been very happy with my InReach and appreciate having two-way communication, but the initial purchase price of the device is higher.
 

ThePartyWagon

Active member
Wow, this post blew up since I last checked.

Lots of great information here and while it seems as though the 1st Gen will still operate as it should, the two way messaging might be of use.

I work for a Garmin dealer but the InReach is still more expensive than the current model Spot.

I will look into the newer Spots and continue my research.

Thanks for all of the detailed replies, much appreciated!
 

Bill Ruttan

New member
Wow, this post blew up since I last checked.

Lots of great information here and while it seems as though the 1st Gen will still operate as it should, the two way messaging might be of use.

I work for a Garmin dealer but the InReach is still more expensive than the current model Spot.

I will look into the newer Spots and continue my research.

Thanks for all of the detailed replies, much appreciated!
Also, there are now many competitors to Garmin for two-way messaging/SOS on the Iridium Network.
 
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