Personal Locator Beacon or Satellite Communicator?

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
. . . The other nice thing about the Spot is that you can have 5 minute tracking intervals much cheaper than Garmin (I believe). 10 minute intervals is fine if you're hiking, but on a bike at 45 mph that's 7.5 miles (compared to 3.75 at 5 min). that just seems a good bit more distance for help to search in order to find you. . .
Looking at the CURRENT plans, as of about 5 minutes on the SPOT and the GARMIN websites this is what I see:

SPOT Gen 4 (1 way communicator), basic plan, $11.95/month + $19.95 activation = $164 for year 1, $144 each additional year

SPOT X (2 way communicator), basic plan, $11.95/month + $19.95 activation = $164 for year 1, $144 each additional year

InReach Mini (2 way comm), basic plan, $11.95/month + $29.95 activation = $174 for year 1, $144 each additional year

Basic plans for all 3 units include tracking at 10 minute intervals, which on a motorcycle may not be ideal

  • SPOT X has serious advantages over the SPOT Gen 4 but price goes from $99 to $199 for the initial purchase. Seems like that it would not be too hard to justify the added cost of the SPOT X even if it was only used for sending the pre-set messages, tracking and check in
  • InReach Mini has some user advantages over the SPOT X, but the price jumps up to $349 for the initial purchase. Compared to SPOT X there are fewer pre-set messages, but several other advantages, not the least of which seems to be more reliable connectivity.
  • But if none of those added features are actually used, then those advantages are really pretty pointless and the $99 SPOT Gen 4 does everything at the lowest total cost, even if you add in the price of disposable batteries for the Gen 4.
 

dduelin

Site Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2012
Messages
5,008
Reaction score
1,498
Points
113
Location
North FL USA
Visit site
OK. Who knows of or has heard of anybody who has had a problem on or with their bike and they died because they did not have one of these devices to summon help?
In the summer of 2009, the year before my friend's mishap on Push Mountain, AR, a rider by the name of Donald Masters went missing in ID. Long distance and touring friends knew he was traveling on his Goldwing and a rough idea of his itinerary so when he did not show up on a certain day and place, hundreds of people in the riding community started cross-posting in forums about his going missing and many people began physically searching for him. A day or two later a group of hikers or hunters spotted his bike and body down in a ravine off ID RT 93. At the time it was rumored that Donald survived the crash but at some point later succumbed to his injuries. IIRC he was missing for three days. After this incident and my friend's experience with an SOS response getting him help in AR I decided to buy my Spot Tracker. I already had an EPIRB in my offshore sailboat and believed low earth satellite SAR capabilities might give me a chance to survive something similar and if not, at least give friends and family a starting point to search for me.
 
Last edited:

dduelin

Site Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2012
Messages
5,008
Reaction score
1,498
Points
113
Location
North FL USA
Visit site
So this has me thinking. The concept of the breadcrumbs, or automatic tracking sends a location to some mapping software (both SPOT and InReach off this). If, for example I was going out on a trip, and my wife at home and my sister who lives on the other side of the earth, had a spare iPad/Android tablet and logged in and left it running, could they watch my route (in nearly real time) as I travel?

Maybe the tracking actually has some safety uses and peace of mind for those at home if they can simply glance at the tablet that is sitting on the kitchen counter and see where I am.

THOUGHTS?

* I do realize that if the tracking is set for every 5 minutes and I'm traveling at 60mph and it takes 5 minutes to actually transmit up to the satellite and back down to earth that I could be a good distance from the most recent 'ping' on the mapping software displayed on the tablet but it would certainly show directional history and anyone viewing would simply understand that there is a LAG TIME.
The bread crumb thing could be peace of mind for your family, as it is mine, and it is a way to record and share ride maps with friends or forums. In 2014 I completed an IBA 50CC and posted a public link here and elsewhere for folks to digitally watch/accompany me as I rode from Jacksonville Bch, FL to Oceanside CA in 42 hours 30 minutes. My track and progress was displayed on a map similar to this screenshot of my ride last weekend. In real time or history, you can click on one of the crumbs and a message box opens with location, speed, etc., information. You can disable speed information for public views.

IMG_1031.PNG
 
Last edited:

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
I posted a thread similar to this on a Snowcat forum where I am a moderator. My snowcat is my avatar photo here on this forum. Snowcats are generally operated in remote locations, but I actually have driven mine down the roads around here too, just for the fun of it.

Several of the members over there are full time Search And Rescue others a SAR volunteers. One of the full time guys STRONGLY advised 2 way communicators and has personally been involved in several rescues where the InReach system was used. He spoke very highly of it.

Basically he was saying that a 2 way gets you the right type of help, and helps you get it with minimal risk to others while still getting you exactly the type of help you need as quickly as possible. ARC beacons tend to get you every type of resource possible but that can also come at a high cost as lots of resources may be scrambled for a modest problem.

From what I can tell, he indicated that 1 way communicators like the SPOT Gen 4 can send the same type of responses as the ARC beacons but do try to contact your family list and local authorities prior to sending out full responses.
 
Last edited:

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
The bread crumb thing could be peace of mind for your family, as it is mine, and it is a way to record and share ride maps with friends or forums. In 2014 I completed a IBA 50CC and posted a public link here and elsewhere for folks to digitally watch/accompany me as I rode from Jacksonville Bch, FL to Oceanside CA in 42 hours 30 minutes. My track and progress was displayed on a map similar to this screenshot of my ride last weekend. In real time or history, you can click on one of the crumbs and a message box opens with location, speed, etc., information. You can disable speed information for public views.
So how often does you Spot drop a breadcrumb?
Are you set at 10 minutes?
Or do you use a shorter time interval?
 

670cc

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Mods
Site Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2012
Messages
9,024
Reaction score
2,333
Points
113
Location
USA
Visit site
I posted a thread similar to this on a Snowcat forum where I am a moderator. My snowcat is my avatar photo here on this forum. Snowcats are generally operated in remote locations, but I actually have driven mine down the roads around here too, just for the fun of it.

Several of the members over there are full time Search And Rescue others a SAR volunteers. One of the full time guys STRONGLY advised 2 way communicators and has personally been involved in several rescues where the InReach system was used. He spoke very highly of it.

Basically he was saying that a 2 way gets you the right type of help, and helps you get it with minimal risk to others while still getting you exactly the type of help you need as quickly as possible. ARC beacons tend to get you every type of resource possible but that can also come at a high cost as lots of resources may be scrambled for a modest problem.

From what I can tell, he indicated that 1 way communicators like the SPOT Gen 4 can send the same type of responses as the ARC beacons but do try to contact your family list and local authorities prior to sending out full responses.
I bought in to the two way InReach product because the ability, hopefully, to communicate the nature of my emergency sounded better than just pushing a help button and then waiting to see what happens. I don’t recall what other emergency systems did or did not have that capability.
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
I am leaning very heavily toward the SPOT X unit for $199.


Honestly I think the Garmin InReach Mini has a more robust and quicker satellite network but the tracking and breadcrumb features on the SPOT X are significantly better and less expensive than those on the InReach Mini. The BASIC service plan, combined with the free tracking and the unlimited pre-loaded messages should be more than enough for anything that I would need.

The Garmin InReach is worldwide, the SPOT X is 85% of the world. The reality is I will only use it in North America and possibly the European Union, which are covered by both brands.

The SPOT X seems like it is an older design that is not quite as good as the InReach but not quite as good seems like it is still very very good. The fact that the newest version of the SPOT X has bluetooth connection to a Smartphone + has an updated map seems like it fixes some of the early shortcomings.

Unless someone can give me a really compelling reason to spend $150 more for the InReach + more for the monthly service I'm thinking that as soon as I confirm a few more things in my mind, watch a couple dozen more YouTube videos, then I'll be sure of my choice.
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
So after watching dozens of videos on these types of devices I stumbled upon this one. I think that, FOR MY USES, the Garmin InReach is simply over priced and under performing. If I had different circumstances of where I travel then I might actually choose the Garmin over the SPOT.

But for now, until I find something that disqualifies it, it is looking more and more likely that I will get the SPOT X. Initially I had pretty much disqualified the SPOT X from my consideration, I'm glad I found a few videos like this one, and did some additional research. I also originally discounted the idea of using the tracking but for peace of mind for my family, it actually seems like that will be a very useful feature, and for that purpose the SPOT X clearly excels while the Garmin InReach fails in comparison.

Yes, the SPOT X does have several weaknesses in comparison to the InReach, but for the features I need, it seems to be the better unit. At least so far.

 

GregC

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2015
Messages
834
Reaction score
149
Points
38
Location
Southeast USA
Visit site
my Spot Gen3 is "one way," but has the "canned" messages so I can distinguish between "I'm ok" messages, I need help but it's not an emergency, and "holy crap send the cavalry." So while I can't send a message saying "i broke my leg, but I'm otherwise ok," in my mind if I'm injured, alone, and cannot get out under my own power, I need the cavalry. An incapacitating injury is going to require EMS at least, so I don't want a tow truck to show up. My multiple friends in EMS and law enforcement have always told me they'd rather show up 100 times and not be needed than the other way around.

My Gen3 is set for 5 minute tracking intervals.
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
my Spot Gen3 is "one way," but has the "canned" messages so I can distinguish between "I'm ok" messages, I need help but it's not an emergency, and "holy crap send the cavalry." So while I can't send a message saying "i broke my leg, but I'm otherwise ok," in my mind if I'm injured, alone, and cannot get out under my own power, I need the cavalry. An incapacitating injury is going to require EMS at least, so I don't want a tow truck to show up. My multiple friends in EMS and law enforcement have always told me they'd rather show up 100 times and not be needed than the other way around.

My Gen3 is set for 5 minute tracking intervals.

What I really like about the SPOT X is the ability to have 14 "canned" messages that can be sent out. The Garmin InReach MINI only has 3 "canned" messages.

With the SPOT X you are limited to sending/receiving 10 "custom" messages with the basic plan but you have UNLIMITED "canned" messages. I can pre-load messages like 'stopped for a short break' and 'stopped for lunch, back on road in 60 min' in addition to 'done for the day and at the hotel' plus a few various "I need help but..." messages and "flat tire but fixing it" type things. With 14 messages there is a lot of info I can cover without incurring an added fee. With Garmin's 3 'canned' messages and lack of free tracking in the basic package I'm skeptical it will do what I'd like.

I think, given the new lower prices, if I go with the SPOT brand it will be the SPOT X. At $199 it seems like a bargain, while the SPOT Gen 4 at $99 would do the minimum needed, I think the extra $100 for the SPOT X is worth the money given all the extra features. The monthly fee for the SPOT X is the same as it is for the SPOT Gen 4.

Does anyone know if, when you send a "canned" message, do your coordinates get sent along with that message?

 
Last edited:

dduelin

Site Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2012
Messages
5,008
Reaction score
1,498
Points
113
Location
North FL USA
Visit site
Does anyone know if, when you send a "canned" message, do your coordinates get sent along with that message?

When you send a canned message the contacts on your list receive this message:

Device name (this is your device nickname)
Latitude XX.xxxxx
Longitude XX.xxxxx
GPS location Date/Time in 24 hr local time

Message: whatever you choose to put in the message appears here" (easily edited in your Spot Tracker account)

Check the link to see where I am located: http:// (this opens a Google Map satellite view that zooms down to 1/10 mile with all the info above repeated)

You have received this message because [your named device nickname] has added you to its SPOT contact list and attempted to contact you. (messages are sent via email and/or text message to up to 10 contacts)
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
When you send a canned message the contacts on your list receive this message:

Device name (this is your device nickname)
Latitude XX.xxxxx
Longitude XX.xxxxx
GPS location Date/Time in 24 hr local time . . .
THANKS, just ordered a SPOT X

So here is what I see:

The GARMIN InReach Mini is a lot better at mapping and may be slightly faster at getting a signal up to a satellite. The InReach Mini has a message sent confirmation, which is nice. But for much of the ease of functionality the InReach Mini requires a connection to a smartphone for ease of operation and for use of some features. It might be "better" but it almost requires 2 devices. The InReach Mini breadcrumb tracking is expensive. There are plenty of advantages to the InReach Mini for those who might need the strengths of the little Garmin unit and most comparisons of InReach Mini -vs- SPOT X tend to favor the Garmin unit. I can understand why.

But a lot of people don't want/need that advanced mapping for navigation and want the breadcrumbs that the SPOT offers as part of the basic package. The fact that the SPOT X functions as more of a stand alone unit also is appealing to many. There is a larger, heavier, InReach unit, which costs roughly $450 that does more than the MINI unit which might be better to compare to the SPOT X, but then we are comparing a $450 unit vs a $199 unit and the monthly cost for the $450 still cost another $0.10 per breadcrumb dropped in the basic package. Yes, the newest iteration of the SPOT X has bluetooth and connects to a Smartphone from some added functions like the GARMIN units, but that is actually a minor upgrade given how much more functionality the SPOT X unit has due to it's design.

--------------

So now I wait for my unit to arrive.

My plan is to dust off my old iPad and see if the SPOT X app will work on the ancient iPad. If it works, then I'll set the iPad up in kitchen, next to the emergency weather radio, and every time I go for a ride I'll start up the SPOT X app on the iPad so it can track my movements. That should give my wife a little peace of mind. If the old iPad is not capable of running a compatible OS then I'll probably buy a refurbished unit or maybe a cheap android tablet for the purpose of having it sit in a stand on the counter while I ride.
 

Bulitt

Active Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
177
Reaction score
213
Points
43
Location
Jacksonville Fl
Visit site
Thanks guys, I learned a lot.

For all the extended wandering I have done over the years, (AK, Nova Scotia, Alps, etc.). My wife just says, “when did you say you would be back, …..just send me a post card every few days…..”

They say, “It takes a strong woman to let the dog out of the house…….
..knowing he will come back”

……author unknown
 
Last edited:

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
Got a shipping notification that my new SPOT X has shipped, should arrive Tuesday afternoon.

I am having 'buyers remorse' in not getting the super sexy little Garmin InReach Mini, because it is so super sexy and small. But it makes no sense to buy the InReach Mini at $150 more expensive than the SPOT X plus the fact that InReach's service plan would cost $25 per month -verses- only $12 per month for the SPOT X subscription. I'm not saying the Garmin InReach Mini is over priced or a bad choice, but FOR MY USES, it doesn't seem like the correct piece of equipment.

Thanks guys, I learned a lot.

For all the extended wandering I have done over the years, (AK, Nova Scotia, Alps, etc.). My wife just says, “when did you say you would be back, …..just send me a post card every few days…..”

They say, “It takes a strong woman to let the dog out of the house…….
..knowing he will come back”

……author unknown
I get the TRUST thing but that does not address the WORRY thing.

When I was younger my wife trusted me and didn't seem to worry too much either.

Now that we are a bit older (60) the worry is starting to set in. The whole idea of carrying one of these is to address the worry side of the equation. Having a tablet sit next to our weather radio that displays dots on a map as I am off adventuring may provide a little peace of mind. Having a "check in button" that sends back an I'M OK might provide a little more peace of mind. Having the ability send back various messages beyond a simple "I'm OK" may even add to the peace of mind. And then there is that S-O-S button.
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
SPOT X 2-way satellite communicator arrived late yesterdayand I got a bit of time to play with it.

A few things:

The screen is not backlit, so using it at night requires some sort of external light. I know other units are similar. Still, there should be some emergency light for those moonless nights.

It takes several minutes to send off messages. This is not like texting. I knew this. It beams up to one of 24 possible satellites, which then beam back down to earth to another person's phone or email. The process can take 5 or 10 minutes. Again, totally known in advance. But what I didn't expect the messenger to follow/track me around our pool while I was sending out some test messages.

It can only send out 3 messages at a time so if you want to send out 4 messages, you have to wait until the first 3 are gone, then you can send out the 4th message.

The SPOT X comes with a dedicated phone number so you can have your contacts include that phone number in your contact info. They will then know that the messages are from you, not spam.

The unit allows you to preload 14 messages. You get unlimited sending of those messages without incurring any fees. It comes with samples but I edited those better suit my needs. This is a great feature. If you have access to a computer during a long trip you can change these daily to fit your needs/plans. I wrote messages regarding food, fuel and sleep stops, emergencies, etc. I even included a statement NOT to reply to the SPOT X unless it was an emergency because I have a limited plan on 'custom' messages.

The map below is the unit tracking me while I was transmitting from my pool deck tonight.

Since I typically ride alone this tracking will give my wife some peace of mind while i am off exploring the wilds of Indiana/Illinois, she can live the map open on an old iPad we have and the map will get a "breadcrumb" added every 10 minutes.

It will also give some peace of mind to our daughter and other family members when my wife and I ride on our long distance trips or do our backpacking trips. We have a Route 66 ride in planning stages and plan to hike across Wales, UK early next summer. The SOS button will work 24/7/365 regardless of cell service or location.

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 11-1.13.50 PM.png
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
Oh and I should read that da#n manual.

The screen IS backlit
The keyboard IS ALSO backlit

A quick touch to the power button toggles on the backlighting.
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
Just a few more observations about the SPOT X.

After reading and watching reviews of the SPOT X and the Garmin InReach Mini I was expecting so little from the SPOT X that I'm actually finding that it is far better than the negative reviews it gets. Perhaps because most of the negative reviews were of the 2018 version of the SPOT X and I have the newest iteration? And other Satellite Communicators like the BivyStick and the Zoleo area also getting rave reviews.

I find MOST of the controls to be very intuitive and it barely requires referral to a manual to figure out things. Its actually pretty simple to use, but there are some things that could be improved.

The features that actually "sold" me on the SPOT X over the other Satellite Communicators included:
  • PRICE - $199 for the unit + $12/month subscription but the subscription includes UNLIMITED tracking and UNLIMITED pre-programmed messages
  • STAND ALONE - this does not require a Smartphone to operate like the BivyStick or Zoleo, so you actually need to keep batteries charged on 2 devices.
  • PRE-PROGRAMMED messages - SPOT X includes unlimited sending of 14 pre-programmed messages, Garmin InReach only allows for 3 pre-programmed messages
  • TRACKING - unlimited tracking at 10 minute intervals, Zoleo has no tracking, Gamin costs 10-cents per pin drop or requires a more expensive monthly plan.
My SPOT X is the new "Bluetooth" connected version, but I'm not really sure that it needs to be connected to a Smartphone at all. The App works, but doesn't actually do much so there is not much point to it. Maybe I'm missing something?


Regarding the PRE-PROGRAMMED messages, the editing is done on a website and then 'sync'd' to your SPOT X. The editing is cumbersome and there is no way to change the sequence of your messages. I wanted my most used message to be first, and my least used message to be last, in the list of messages. So by order of projected use, the first messages would be sequenced first, second, third ... and the least used would b sequenced 12th, 13th & 14th. But there is no way to sequence them other than to DELETE everything and then type them in 1 at a time in the sequence you prefer. If you think of a new message you want in a specific position you must re-type all the messages or have you new message 'out of sequence'. That may not matter to some people, but it seems easy to have similar messages grouped together, and in order of priority.

I opened a word document, typed up all my messages 1 thru 14. Edited them the way I wanted them. Resequenced them. Then when I was satisfied, I simply "copy & pasted" each of the 14 messages, 1 at a time, into the SPOT X website, saving each to sync. When they were done, and I sync'd the unit, all of them were in the order sequence I wanted them to be in so now I scroll from most used to least used.

For example: "Made it to my destination safely" is 1st in the list. But in the last position is "I need assistance..."
 

melensdad

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
1,474
Points
113
Location
usa
Visit site
Have been doing a bit of testing for signal acquisition and am finding that having a satellite communicator in your chest pocket is not ideal. On a 35-40 minute ride I should send off 3 to 4 breadcrumbs. While the unit is in my pocket I manage to get 2 breadcrumb signals up to the satellite. I returned home on a different path, but with same results of only 2 pings to the breadcrumb map. Hardly a scientific test, I should actually run the same test for a much longer time period. And then duplicate that on at least 1 more day to confirm. But it gives an indication that the pocket may not be ideal.

However, similar drive in a car, antenna unobstructed, while the unit was on my dashboard, 3 electronic breadcrumbs were dropped each direction. So the happy folks at Amazon had a RAM mount for the Spot X available, $11 delivered to my door next day. Mounted it yesterday but due to rains and a tight schedule I didn't get to test it.

Initially I thought that wearing it on the outside of my jacket, near my collar would work great but I could not figure out how to attach it. On my MESH motorcycle jacket it would not have been too difficult to sew an attachment point but I really didn't want to sew through my leather jacket or worse yet my Gore-Tex jacket as once you poke holes in those materials there is no turning back and, in the case of Gore-Tex, the waterproofing would be ruined.

I already had a RAM mount holding my QuadLock for my iPhone. iPhone does my navigation. Now both sit side-by-side at the bottom of my field of view. The antenna on the SPOT X is pointed up and unobstructed so it should perform better than in the pocket where it can slip around, and obviously be obscured by my chest, helmet, etc.



tempImageVJP3oX.jpg
 

GregC

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2015
Messages
834
Reaction score
149
Points
38
Location
Southeast USA
Visit site
the only problem with mounting on the bike is if you depart the bike and need the SOS (which is the situation I'm most concerned with), you're out of luck. I keep mine in a jacket pocket and it seems to work well ... but your side by side test is very interesting. I view my Spot as an emergency communication device (SOS, etc.) ... the tracking is a nice to have addition but not the main reason I have it (even though I'm paying for the 5 min interval plan).
 
Top