Unlike traditional GPS units that help you figure out where you are, the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is for telling other people where you are. It’s an ‘active’ GPS unit that transmits your location to your friends, family, or to Search and Rescue (SAR) teams if you’re really in deep trouble.
I had the opportunity to try out the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger while on a two week motorcycle trip in Northern Ontario where mobile phone coverage was a bit thin. I was able to send regular “OK” updates to my friends and family via SMS and email (max of ten) so that they could keep tabs on me. The messages included a custom message I established online to let them know I was ok and it also included my exact coordinates that they could click on to see where I was on Google Maps. At the end of each day, I pressed a different button on the device that sent out a different custom message letting them know that I was hunkering down for the night, again it included my exact location. There is also a ‘tracking’ function that sends out your location every 15min and plots it on a map interface hosted by SPOT. I didn’t use this feature but some people might find it useful. For no additional costs, you can configure it to also send messages to Facebook and Twitter so you can also share your location & status with the whole world.
Being able to send regular updates to people is great if you’re on a trip anywhere in the world and you won’t have to worry about roaming fees or long distance costs on your mobile phone while you are abroad. Just press a button and that’s enough to let people know where you are that you’re doing ok. Although, if you’re not ok, you can press the “Help” button and a message will go out to a pre-established list of contacts (again a max of ten) letting them know that you need some non-emergency assistance. Perhaps you’ve had a breakdown, run out of gas, gotten lost, etc. Then it would be up to your contacts to either come get you or send you some assistance.
In a real emergency, the device has an SOS button that pulls out all the stops and sends a distress signal to the GEOS Search and Rescue service and the call is dispatched to the International Emergency Response Coordination Centre (IERCC) which is monitored 24/7. Once they get your distress signal, they immediately contact your emergency contact list and begin coordinating search and rescue efforts nearly anywhere in the world and provide them with your exact location. As you can imagine, this type of emergency response doesn’t come cheap. Hell the cost of renting a helicopter for half a day must be exorbitant not to mention paying for all the expert personnel that would be required. With that in mind, I would strongly recommend buying the GEOS Member Benefit, including the Search and Rescue Insurance, which is underwritten by Lloyds of London. This added protection only costs $18USD/year and will cover up to $50,000USD in reimbursement for any SAR expenses that you are held responsible for and up to two events per year. If needed, the GEOS Member Benefit will even arrange private aircraft/helicopters, charters, or private search teams to rescue you.
Now this all sounds pretty extreme but in extreme situations where your life is on the line, that’s exactly what’s needed. Can you imagine breaking your leg while rock climbing, getting lost while backwoods camping, or suffering a breakdown in a desert without food, water and no way to reach safety? Ideally though, you would only need to use the SPOT Messenger to keep your loved ones updated on where you are and how you’re doing but in a pinch, you can feel comfortable that if you needed rescuing…you will be (on land or on water). Just be sure you can stay alive long enough for the teams to arrive and get you to safety or medical attention.
Now this isn’t just for the extreme expedition traveler. If you are going to go on a adventure trip, or backpacking through Europe or Asia, or on an extended car or motorcycle trip, this would be a great investment. The unit costs about $130USD and the services start at $99.99USD/year. There are some additional services you may want to consider, depending on what type of trips you will be doing. For example, there is the SPOT Assist which is a roadside service plan for vehicle breakdowns, or get the Tracking option for sending real-time updates of your progress, but you should certainly consider getting the GEOS benefits should you ever really need serious help. It just makes sense.
For more information about the SPOT GPS Messenger and their other products, check out their international website and select your region. http://international.findmespot.com
If you want to see some videos about how the SPOT has saved people in the past, follow this link for some real life stories https://www.youtube.com/user/spotarchive