A few years ago, a friend of mine split off from the group after an all-day adventure ride and headed home. But he never made it. As darkness fell, his wife tried reaching him on his cellphone, but he didn’t answer. The next morning a highway patrol officer found my friend on the side of a mountain road, out of cell range. Fortunately, his injuries were minor, but he spent 18 very uncomfortable hours trapped under his BMW R 1200 GS.
Situations like that are the primary reasons to carry the Spot Gen3 Satellite Personal Tracker. Some of our favorite test roads pass through remote areas, away from crowds, traffic and cell towers. If someone crashes and gets badly hurt, being able to quickly notify emergency responders can be the difference between life and death. When you hit the Spot’s S.O.S. button, the device contacts the GEOS International Emergency Response Center via satellite, and GEOS sends your GPS coordinates to local responders (similar to calling 911). S.O.S. monitoring via GEOS is included in the Spot annual service plan (see below), but the costs associated with a rescue may be billed to the user. For $17.95/year, the add-on GEOS Member Benefit covers up to $100,000 in search and rescue expenses.
Fortunately, we’ve never had to use the Spot’s S.O.S. function. The Gen3 also has a Help button, which notifies your primary and secondary contacts in the event of a non-emergency situation, such as running out of gas. If you sign up for the Spot Assist Roadside plan (starting at $30/year), pressing the Help button contacts a third-party roadside assistance provider.
What we use most often is the Check-in/OK button, which sends an SMS text or email to up to 10 contacts. It’s a great way to let loved ones know all is well when you’re traveling or camping in the boonies. A few years ago my father, brother and I used a Spot to send nightly OK messages to our wives during a 16-day float trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, where we had no contact with the outside world. Similarly, the Custom button sends a pre-written message to your contacts.
There’s also a Tracking function that allows others to follow your progress. Just send them a link to your Spot Share Page, and they’ll be able to follow your breadcrumb trail in real-time, with GPS pins dropped every 10 minutes (add-on tracking plans allow intervals ranging from 2.5 to 60 minutes).
The Spot Gen3 ($169.95 for the device, plus a $149.99 annual service plan) works best with an unobstructed view of the sky, and we recommend keeping it attached to your jacket or backpack so it will be within reach in the event of a crash. Its durable, hard plastic outer case measures 3.4 x 2.6 x 1 inches, it weighs just 4 ounces with AAA lithium batteries installed (not included), and it’s waterproof and works in a wide range of temperatures and altitudes.
For more information, visit your outdoor retailer or findmespot.com.