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SPOT messengers are unreliable

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby bob863 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:09 pm

Yes, can increase the reliability of the "OK" message by allowing it to cycle through at least 2 message cycles (normally 20-30 minutes)...one of the two messages has a very high percentage of "connecting"....

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby mountainmicah83 » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:06 am

I'm too cheap to fork out thecash for my own SPOT but I borrowed one from a friend and it worked great last week and it gave my wife a good piece of mind that I was ok as long as I was moving and never stopped for several hours during the day when I was supposed to be moving. I had heard in the past about the unreliability of the device and had my doubts as well. I had the tracking on when on the trail and kept in the top of my pack where it updated usually every 10 minutes and never more than an hour and every OK message I sent, was received. That said, it stinks about the poor customer service of the company than anyone else. That is more of a reason for me not to purchase one myself. My thought is that you should never trust a piece of electronics solely to get you up and down a mountain. SPOT is a good tool kind of like a GPS but you shouldn't rely on it (nothing that hasn't already been said). Last, the satellite system that the tracker uses is not the traditional satellites that orbit around the earth, they are Geosynchronous which means they kind of fly back and forth and trade off signals between a few of the satellites thus providing shotty coverage. If you were to use a sat phone on the same satellite constellation, you would only be able to talk about 10 minutes out of every hour.
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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby CO Native » Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:37 am

When it was working I loved it. My family could watch my progress. I had a way of letting them know everything was OK. I could ask for help without calling 911. Lots of features PLBs don't have. However, repeated failure just makes all that pointless. If I had been on one of my big trips and it had failed part way, my wife would probably have freaked out.

My problem isn't even associated with the communications satellites it uses. It can't even get a GPS fix anymore. Even the most basic cheap phones can do that reliably.
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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby TomPierce » Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:33 am

It sounds like the 2nd generation SPOT's just aren't that reliable. I have a first generation SPOT and it has worked flawlessly for 4+ years, even after sliding off the roof of my car onto a paved road at 30mph. :shock:

I've mentioned in past posts that the first generation SPOT directions aren't a model of clarity, e.g. the face of the unit must be pointing skyward to effectively send messages, and a message hasn't sent until one of the two flashing lights stays lit for about 3-4 seconds. That may take some time, but on mine never more than about 10 minutes, usually half that time. But the problems described above clearly don't sound like user error.

I fully agree with benners and others that the PLB's are the superior device for SOS messages, no doubt in my mind. But the SPOT's "I'm OK" function is what makes it a keeper for me, and given its reliability I haven't seen the need to change. But yeah, the recurring reports of 2nd generation SPOT device failures is troubling. I wouldn't buy one, just me.
-Tom

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby Torch13 » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:45 am

I have been debating between a SPOT or PLB for a long time. The below review on the Fast Find is very well written and very thorough. If you are considering either unit, it is well worth reading.

http://equipped.com/McMurdoNewFastFind.htm

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby mountaingoat-G » Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:24 pm

TomPierce wrote:It sounds like the 2nd generation SPOT's just aren't that reliable. I have a first generation SPOT and it has worked flawlessly for 4+ years, even after sliding off the roof of my car onto a paved road at 30mph. :shock:

I've mentioned in past posts that the first generation SPOT directions aren't a model of clarity, e.g. the face of the unit must be pointing skyward to effectively send messages, and a message hasn't sent until one of the two flashing lights stays lit for about 3-4 seconds. That may take some time, but on mine never more than about 10 minutes, usually half that time. But the problems described above clearly don't sound like user error.

I fully agree with benners and others that the PLB's are the superior device for SOS messages, no doubt in my mind. But the SPOT's "I'm OK" function is what makes it a keeper for me, and given its reliability I haven't seen the need to change. But yeah, the recurring reports of 2nd generation SPOT device failures is troubling. I wouldn't buy one, just me.
-Tom


I am in the same boat: have 1st generation SPOT and never had a problem with it. I think if The "real" PLB had an OK button, though, that they would be be better choice going forward. By the time my renewal comes up, I may opt for one of those instead of renewing (I got my Spot - but not the subscription- "free" with the purchase of a kayak about 3 years ago).

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby Boomerang » Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:30 pm

I concur on the usage of the Spot receiver's primary function, which for me/us it's to give those back home the ability to follow along (utilizing the tracking feature), and for the "Ok messages" when I stop for a period of time, or when using the 2nd generation which I have, the "custom message", which for me notifies either starting out, reaching the summit, or concluding my hike. All of which I also review later online as well, to finalize the times during my hike. My wife would have serious, or should I say more serious reservations, about me hiking at all if she didn't have the ability to see some sort of communication. That's why we have it, period. I'd prefer Verizon, AT&T, etc had coverage that covered everything, and then again I'm glad they don't as I enjoy being "away from it all" just the same.

Though I appreciate a lot of the viable data on the other systems, and might even consider making a change in the future, I think like water filter systems it depends on your needs and preferences. I spent a lot of time reading through that thread (on H2O filter's), and it comes down to what your specific preference and possibly weight restrictions may be. Here, the question was started on the reliability of the units, which for me has not been a factor. I've been using the 2nd generation Spot unit for almost 2.5 years with none of the problems others have reported in this thread. Does it sometimes miss a location, sure. But, I'd say it's 1 in 50 to 1 in 100 that are sent, I can live with that. If I were to be having the same problems others here have reported, I too would seek another alternative.

I find it curious that Delorme switched from having a PN-60 unit (that I was looking at awhile back) that had the Spot device built in to it, to now offering the InReach system that pairs with the same PN-60. That unit, with the Spot built in, gave the ability to do what the combo system now does but with only a single device, so something must not have been working accurately for them to dump it. "Hi my name is Sean, and I'm an electronicsaholic", and just like having these items on the pack for my trips. For some, having nothing at all or one of the PLB devices is their preference, and sound to me like options I'd be content with too. Yes, I also like having the reassurance that I can summon SAR in the event that I need to, but recognize that it's not a full proof or perfect system, but given the percentage of sent signals I mentioned above I feel plenty confident that I'm covered when/if needed.

I'd make the analogy that the Spot is a Dodge/Ford/GM, all of which plenty of people have success owning, while others have found one or all of them unreliable at some time. So for now mine is still running just fine, but I don't think it's going 250k miles....like my Toyota :o

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby outsidemike » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:27 am

I've had my spot for about 4 years now (original style) and have had 0 problems so far other than dealing with their terrible customer service. I've paid for my service every single year for 4 years now, each time it takes them about 3-5 months to actually charge my card. Not a big deal, except this year they charged a card that I closed 2 months prior and got nailed with a ton of fees. When I called to ask Spot why they are so terrible at collecting money, they told me that I had never actually paid a single dollar to them and that I owed the close to $500. Turns out, when you get a friendly phone call from "Spot" each year asking you to renew, it's not actually spot. It’s a 3rd party company they contracted. The contracted company has the ability to renew your account, but for some reason, the payments don’t get recorded into the account files on spot's site. So now I have to prove to spot that I have paid each year, so that they don’t cancel my account and send the man after me. What a pain in the A. I will probably sell mine soon and pick up a real PLB for next season.
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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby Sugar Madison » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:22 pm

thebeave7 wrote:Both Sugar Madison and I have the newest SPOT units and have been seeing some intermittent problems with them. It'll send probably 80% of the time, but occasionally it'll miss points. Sounds like its a generic problem with their units. I've heard nightmares about their customer service, so not even sure if its worth calling them.


I actually still have the 1st gen one, but otherwise, yeah...

Though last week I did a 47 mile run up in the IPW and all the messages made it through, so maybe they are getting the issue worked out. Who knows.

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby mattpayne11 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:17 pm

djkest wrote:This reminds me of this account on 2010 mountaineering accidents:

Travis posted a detailed account of those events on 14ers.com: "Today me and Kevin8020 were hiking the hourglass just shy of the summit of Little Bear Peak. The hourglass was completely iced over and was impassable, we decided to take a ledge on the left side of The Hourglass and decided to wait and see if the sun would help melt anything out. 30 seconds after this decision was made, Kevin's hand/foothold (I could not see all of him) broke loose and he fell several hundred yards down the mountain.[remove], both of our spot trackers malfunctioned at a terrible time. I waited 30 minutes by chance that the distress signal did go out, tried to comfort Kevin, and after no response from either Kevin or SAR, I made the hardest decision of my life and had to hike out, leaving my partner behind."


If you are spending all that money, wouldn't you want it to work when you need it? Otherwise, what's the point?


I was just thinking the same thing ;)

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Re: SPOT messengers are unreliable

Postby atalarico » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:25 pm

Agreed. I had my SPOT throw out ridiculous locations when me and my friends were climbing the Casual Route on the Diamond last August. The signal bounce was so bad that it posted some of the locations as being on the far east side of Long's. I regularly relay my story to customers that are curious about SPOT at the store I work at. I don't talk them out of it, I just give them the brutally honest truth. Yeah, it works *most* of the time, but a PLB needs to work *ALL* of the time. No exceptions. That usually is enough for most serious people to ante up and get a Fast Find or a ResQlink.

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