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Thread: Anybody use a SPOT X? (or a Garmin InReach Mini?)

  1. #1
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    Default Anybody use a SPOT X? (or a Garmin InReach Mini?)

    I am trying to find out how well the SPOT x works in Alaska, in the southern half of the state.
    I do nature and wildlife photography, and I am by myself most of the time. For my husband's peace of mind, I am thinking about getting one of the 2-way satellite communicators and having it send the tracking message to him. I text him frequently, but many of the places I go do NOT have cell phone coverage.
    I am interested in the SPOT X because it is made to be standalone, and to be able to text easily, in addition to doing the tracking. I am not interested in the GPS function so much, because we have a Garmin GPS.
    I know that the SPOT uses a different set of satellites than the Iridium network that the Garmin InReach uses.I have to say, I took a Globalstar sat phone on a vehicle trip to Denali this year, and didn't have any problems, but it didn't involve any tracking, I was out in the open and not right up next to mountains, and I only used it a couple times.
    I have found some reviews on the SPOT X, and I have not seen any of them that talk about how the satellite system is different and that caused problems. Most of the reviews were based on people not liking the keyboard. I have small fingers and I am used to using a keyboard without any tactile response, so I don't think that would be an issue. My question is whether its satellite system works in SouthCentral AK.

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    I've had trouble with my spot up on the taylor and steese, and even in wasilla. My wife would get only a few of my check in's. You'll find most people up here have switched to the Inreach. I love mine and its been great. The plans were a little better suited for my needs as well.

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    They use Spot trackers on the Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog races to track all the mushers.

    I've used a Spot Gen 2 for years and it works great. Biggest problem that I think most people have when sending a message is not letting it sit long enough. It's an issue my buddy had for awhile. He thought something was wrong with his Spot as his wife wasn't getting his ok messages. Well, turned out he wasn't following the directions. It's important to use them properly.

    That said. Technology is not perfect. I was on a hunt on Kodiak a couple years ago and the Sat phone was totally unreliable with constant dropped calls.
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    Well, that's interesting about the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. That is really saying something!
    I have seen that same comment before about it taking a while for messages to go through with the Spot. I don't recall seeing that same issue with the InReach, but maybe people were happier with them and didn't mention it. I just haven't seen as many negative reviews with the InReach, I have to admit, and people have definitely switched from Spot to Inreach. From reading the forums where the liteweight backpackers and long-distance cyclists hang out, I know they seem to really like the new InReach Mini. For some reason, I just would rather have the integrated keyboard on the Spot, and not have to mess with arrow keys or have to get out my cell phone.
    Yup, we had an Iridium-based sat phone on Kodiak 2 years ago. Weather forced a change of when Sea Hawk came to retrieve us, and we had a lot of problems trying to talk to them.
    Since I am the person who will be using this, I am really considering the Spot. All my husband has to do is receive the messages an follow the track! His patience with little techno gadgets is short-lived.
    Thanks for the info; whatever I get, I'll put a review on here. I do have another person to check with; a pilot friend who has a Spot to let his wife track him. He's had it for several years.....when he get's back from vacation, I'll ask him!

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    I borrowed an InReach Mini and paired it with my iPhone on a fly out hunt this fall - easy to use and worked flawlessly but keeping 2 devices/batteries warm/charged was inconvenient. I like the idea of sending quick text updates to loved ones rather than struggling with reception on a phone call.

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    Trackleaders does use SPOTs for Iditarod and Quest, but because of reliability problems they actually put two trackers on each sled. One is a Gen 3 and one is a Trace. Even so, you'll find some places where there's a lot of lost tracks every year (for example, on the Pelly and Stewart Rivers in the Yukon). For an example, see Matt Hall's Quest track from last year: http://trackleaders.com/yukonquest18...name=Matt_Hall. The blue dots are one tracker and the white dots are the other, and you can see that both drop out from time to time, particularly when there are mountains to the south. (I used to blog about trackers and dog races pretty extensively but found that I was repeating myself a lot and stopped.)

    I used to use a SPOT but switched to an InReach. I'd been concerned about battery life and had been avoiding rechargeables, but battery technology has improved so much over the past few years that I felt okay about making the switch. The user interface on the InReach and other Garmin devices is consistently really awful, but you adjust.
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    I switched from a first-generation SPOT to an inReach about 3-4 years ago and have been nothing but impressed. I think I'm going to add a mini for backcountry runs and so that my wife and I each have one (we're sometimes in different places in the backcountry at the same time), but I like the full sized version so that I can still type custom messages when my phone battery is dead.

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    I use the InReach mini and like it. But I don't use the track function or do a lot of custom texts. I mostly turn it on and send one of the three free messages and turn it off. It works pretty well for me and the battery lasts forever the way I use it. My phone will last a week in airplane mode with one small booster for one full recharge, so I have paired it when typing custom texts on occasion. No complaints here.

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    mlshore:
    Quote Originally Posted by mlshore View Post
    Trackleaders does use SPOTs for Iditarod and Quest, but because of reliability problems they actually put two trackers on each sled. One is a Gen 3 and one is a Trace. Even so, you'll find some places where there's a lot of lost tracks every year (for example, on the Pelly and Stewart Rivers in the Yukon). For an example, see Matt Hall's Quest track from last year: http://trackleaders.com/yukonquest18...name=Matt_Hall. The blue dots are one tracker and the white dots are the other, and you can see that both drop out from time to time, particularly when there are mountains to the south. (I used to blog about trackers and dog races pretty extensively but found that I was repeating myself a lot and stopped.)

    I used to use a SPOT but switched to an InReach. I'd been concerned about battery life and had been avoiding rechargeables, but battery technology has improved so much over the past few years that I felt okay about making the switch. The user interface on the InReach and other Garmin devices is consistently really awful, but you adjust.
    mlshore: I'd be interested in why you decided to change over to InReach, and when you did that. Was the Spot NOT working? I know that the guy we get our sat phones from says that in the last several years, the Globalstar satellites have improved a whole bunch. He takes a Globalstar sat phone with him when he goes hunting.
    Thanks for posting that link. I still find it interesting that both races are using SPOT rather than Garmin. I wonder what the reason is for that; is it because that company (topofusion.com) provides a good tracking service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    I switched from a first-generation SPOT to an inReach about 3-4 years ago and have been nothing but impressed. I think I'm going to add a mini for backcountry runs and so that my wife and I each have one (we're sometimes in different places in the backcountry at the same time), but I like the full sized version so that I can still type custom messages when my phone battery is dead.
    Brian M: So why did you switch? You must have felt the Spot was not working well. I think the timing (3-4 years ago) is about when Globalstar supposedly started upgrading their satellite system.
    ....YOW....that was quite an earthquake we just had!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Genna-AK View Post
    Brian M: So why did you switch? You must have felt the Spot was not working well. I think the timing (3-4 years ago) is about when Globalstar supposedly started upgrading their satellite system.
    ....YOW....that was quite an earthquake we just had!!!
    The first generation spot didnít have two-way texting and only allowed for two preset messages. The inReach was a huge step up. That said, I donít have experience with more recent versions of the spot.

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    Thanks. Yes, I can see that only having preset messages is just not good enough.
    ....if I run off the road and get stuck, I need to be able to tell my husband to bring the big pickup and a tow strap....as opposed to a tool kit if I broke down.
    The tiny size of the Mini is pretty impressive, I have to admit. But most people seem to pair it with cell phone anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Genna-AK View Post
    mlshore:


    mlshore: I'd be interested in why you decided to change over to InReach, and when you did that. Was the Spot NOT working? I know that the guy we get our sat phones from says that in the last several years, the Globalstar satellites have improved a whole bunch. He takes a Globalstar sat phone with him when he goes hunting.
    Thanks for posting that link. I still find it interesting that both races are using SPOT rather than Garmin. I wonder what the reason is for that; is it because that company (topofusion.com) provides a good tracking service.
    The SPOT was okay, but I wanted to be able to receive text messages while in the field, in case anything happened at home. Once I became convinced that the battery wasn't going to be an issue it was an easy decision. That was about two years ago, around the time when SPOT was coming out with their Satellite Communicator, which wasn't interesting enough for me to choose over the Garmin.

    On the question of why Trackleaders (the folks tracking the big dogsled races and other remote events) uses SPOT, there are several reasons. The first one is easy: at the time that they started tracking events, SPOT was the only cheap, commodity device available that had a publicly-available API. The Iditarod was using a tracking service that used custom-built hardware and their own software, and those folks eventually went out of business because the extra reliability provided by their devices wasn't enough to make up for the massive cost difference. Another reason that they've stuck with the SPOTs, aside from sunk development costs, is that the races really don't want people on the trail having two-way communication. It's become clear that that's an exercise in futility (see, for example, the hullaballoo around Brent Sass's iPod Touch, his disqualification during Iditarod, and their subsequent relaxing of the rules around Wifi) but given the races' requirements and the development costs associated with a hardware switch, there just hasn't been reason to move away from SPOT.

    Also, to be clear, both Iditarod and Quest (and pretty much any other race that's tracked) use the same tracking service, so it's not that they're choosing to use SPOT but rather that they're choosing to use Trackleaders, who really don't have any credible competition.
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    Thanks for explaining the race tracking details. Now that SPOT has the X model, they have two-way communication, too, but I guess the races will just stick with certain devices.
    Yeah, I remember all the talk about communication. I kinda liked it better when nobody knew where the mushers were. I wouldn't want to be tracked by half the civilized world.

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