Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 94

Thread: SPOT Field Reports

  1. #1
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default SPOT Field Reports

    Thought we'd just start a new SPOT thread dedicated to reports from actual use in Alaska. Anyone who's been using a SPOT, feel free to share your actual results here including areas where it does and doesn't work.

    I received one for Christmas and have been using it ever since, running "tests" here and there. So far I've used it in the Kenai and Valdez areas and along the road in between. I recieved the unit with a 1/2 off discount for the tracking feature, so I signed up for that to see how well it worked.

    Using the HELP (as a test msg) and the OK (check in) features, I've been 100% successful in getting these messages with accurate coordinates sent. Not a single failure yet. I've set the interface up so that it sends a txt msg to my cell phone as well as to several email accounts. It is literally ~5 seconds between the sending msg indicator on the SPOT to the location report arriving on my cell phone. This is with both the check in and help messages.

    Now, the results of the tracking feature are not quite as pretty. Note that when the tracking feature is activated, the unit sends a single message every 10 minutes with the location at that moment. These track logs are not sent to your email or text message contacts, they are only viewable on a website that you set up via your SPOT account. You can provide this web link to others and they can view your progress remotely. They would only be able to see what you allow them to see (track logs, messages, or both) and you can password protect the access if you want. They can't access any of your other SPOT account info or features.

    I've recently been in Valdez and using the tracking feature over there while driving around, I was getting about 75% transmission of the track points. Yesterday, I drove from Valdez to Soldotna. I sent a check in msg as I departed and then turned on the tracking mode and left SPOT on my dashboard the entire trip. I sent one more check in msg upon arrival. Over the 9 hour and 20 minute journey, it sent about 55 track points. Only 33 of them arrived, which is a 60% success rate. The areas where the track points didn't get through included Keystone Canyon, most of Thompson Pass, and a section of the Richarson Hwy through Copper Center. Granted, I was north bound in these areas with the SPOT on my dashboard. The comm sats would be behind me and the truck cab could have reduced the success rates. The couple other gaps in the track log were at times when I had tall mountains to the south including Matanuska Glacier area, Eagle River, and Turnagain arm. There was a gap around Skilak lake also. Over all, it would have been pretty easy for someone to follow my progress, even with the missing track points here and there.

    Another item to consider is that the GlobalStar sats are also moving, so over a 9 hour period that constellation would also have been changing. On my next trip over to Valdez, I'll repeat the experiment while traveling the other direction to see if there is any alignment between the gaps that might indicate geographical blocking of the signal.

    I've attached a picture pulled from the Google map showing my track points and the start/end OK points (it is zoomed out quite a bit). Note it is a typical Google map, so you can zoom in, view satellite terrain images, etc. Clicking on any of the SPOT track points would show you the exact coords of that point along with the exact date/time it was sent.

    Will post more as I accumulate more data, but would like to hear actual field reports from others as well.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  2. #2
    Member akjw7's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    537

    Default

    got one for Christmas as well - tested using "ok" messages twice in fairbanks, once at my house and once on the tanana near town

    both worked great via email and text message and had an accurate location

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    North Pole
    Posts
    296

    Default

    Mine has worked, as advertised, everywhere I tried it between Fairbanks and Valdez.
    The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps! (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945)

  4. #4
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Delta Junction AK
    Posts
    4,055

    Default First test is A-OK

    I received one of these for Christmas as well this year. I activated the account and tested it this evening out in the driveway. Temperature is near the low end of the operating range (-32F) here in Delta Junction but the text and email messages worked within 5 minutes.

    Pretty cool gizmo. I can't wait to take it out on an outting.

  5. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    260

    Default Yukon River 1000 - requires SPOT

    The Yukon River 1000 race to be held this summer has required the use of the SPOT devices. I am sure they do not want a public relations nightmare by having these units routinely fail.

    http://yukon1000.com/

  6. #6

    Default

    I have used the SPOT with great success in the fortymile country during the chicken hunt. No issues and the wife had good comfort in knowing where I was at. Track function seems to be intermittent, but it works pretty much as advertised.

  7. #7

    Default Spot

    I've had mixed success with my unit. I have found that in SE I get about a 60% transmission rate. I've used it a lot while deer hunting, and found that even when transmitting through wide open muskeg meadows or on the beach, my messages haven't gone out. I've had better luck when I can turn the machine on and wait for a long time (like when driving). But more often than not I'll take it out for 5-10 minutes while I eat lunch, etc, then turn it off and tuck it back away.

    How long do you guys leave your units on for?

    Is there a way to know when the unit has sent it's message?

  8. #8
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Delta Junction AK
    Posts
    4,055

    Default

    If you watch the lights on the unit it will turn solild for about 5 seconds. That supposedly the transmission taking place.

    I never saw that part but mine worked after about 5 mins and the manual indicates it could take up to 20 mins. I had my cell phone and email set to receive the message to time it.

    I did notice the two lights blinking out of sequence a couple of times which supposedly indicates its having trouble acquiring the GPS signal but that went away pretty quickly.

  9. #9
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default Owner's manual is a MUST read...

    Running the unit for only 5-10 minutes is the reason your messages are not going out. You must run the unit for the full 20 minutes to be sure you get out an OK message (the light will stop blinking when it is done transmitting). The unit spends the first 5 minutes warming up and acquiring your GPS position. If you've already had the power on for awhile and haven't moved far from the position that your last message was sent, then that time period is greatly shortened. Then it makes 3 attempts to transmit your message at about 6-8 minute intervals. If you don't leave it on for the entire time period, your chances of getting a successful transmission are reduced.

    A synopsis of the lights...

    Power on - flashing green over on/off button which will continue to flash in conjunction with other lights when other modes are activated.

    Processing an OK message - flashing green light over the OK button that is syncronized with the power light. When the unit is actually transmitting to the comm sat, this light will stay steady on for about 2 seconds (basically it just skips an off blink). When the unit is done with the 3 send attempts, this light goes out.

    Running in Tracking mode - flashing green light over the OK button synchronized with the power light. Exactly every 10 minutes, it will stay on for 2 seconds as it transmits the current location. Once in tracking mode, it stays there until you cancel it or shut the unit off. Holding the button down for several seconds cancels the tracking mode. The light turns red for several seconds while it processes this. Also note that you cannot run tracking mode while any of the other modes are in use and must cancel tracking mode before you can send an OK message. SPOT can only do one thing at a time.

    Sending HELP message - flashing green light over the HELP button that is synchronized with the power light. Exactly every 5 minutes, it will stay on for 2 seconds as it transmits the current location. This mode will stay active for exactly 1 hour unless you cancel it. When you cancel the mode, the light turns red for several seconds while it processes that.

    911 mode works the same as HELP mode except that it never stops unless you manually cancel it. Every 5 minutes it transmits your current location and will continue to do so until the batteries are dead.

    If the power light and the mode light start blinking out of sequence, that means the unit does not have a GPS lock and your actual position cannot be sent. You should move to a clear sky view to make sure you get a good GPS signal.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  10. #10
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Delta Junction AK
    Posts
    4,055

    Default

    Did another couple tests last night with the tracking feature. I missed one of 10 but otherwise very good performance.

    On another topic...
    Anyone know how to delete the received messages on the SPOT user web site? I've got like 15 messages that I don't see much value in hanging on to. The site says it will store up to 50 and then delete the older ones. Am I just missing something?

  11. #11
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default

    There is no "delete" feature. They will automatically disappear after 50 msgs or 30 days. So there is no real need to delete anything. To not see older messages, just select the "last 24 hours" or "last 7 days" filters. They are also listed with the newest first, so only the most recent 20 messages appear on the initial screen.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  12. #12
    Member AK NIMROD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    SOLDOTNA, AK
    Posts
    949

    Default

    anyone have experience with these north of the Brooks Range or along Hual Road.
    i would think they would work real well in most of PWS as most areas there isn't much to south.
    RETIRED U.S.A.F. CAPT.; LIFETIME MEMBER NRA; LIFETIME MEMBER ALASKA BOWHUNTER ASSOC.
    MASTER BOWHUNTER EDUCATION INSTRUCTOR; MEMBER UNITED BLOOD TRACKERS; POPE & YOUNG MEASURER

  13. #13
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default

    I did some field tests last year for Surveyors Exchange on the haul road from Fairbanks up to Livengood and it worked pretty well in that area. Heard a couple reports of them being used in the Brooks, but can't confirm that myself.

    To add to my first post, I made the return trip to Valdez and recorded my track again. Pretty similar results as the first trip. Certainly looks like the same geographic regions (all with tall mountains to the south) are coming up blank with the tracking mode. I'll have to specifically target these areas to run a few check in message attempts and see what we get using that method.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  14. #14
    Member AK NIMROD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    SOLDOTNA, AK
    Posts
    949

    Default

    looks like you did alot better over by glennallen driving south on the return trip.
    do these use same satellites that gps's use? because my gps does work fine up there.
    RETIRED U.S.A.F. CAPT.; LIFETIME MEMBER NRA; LIFETIME MEMBER ALASKA BOWHUNTER ASSOC.
    MASTER BOWHUNTER EDUCATION INSTRUCTOR; MEMBER UNITED BLOOD TRACKERS; POPE & YOUNG MEASURER

  15. #15
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default

    Yes, same GPS satellites. Getting the GPS lock is no problem, it is sending the messages out. That function uses the the global star satellite telephone system, which has much less coverage than the GPS system. Those sats are only visible to the south, so if geography is blocking your message, it won't get out, even though you have a perfect GPS lock.

    I also noted the better results on the Richardson, and this time I was southbound, so the SPOT was facing south and my truck wasn't blocking any of the signal. That's what I suspected was part of the issue when I was driving north. It's confirmed by the fact that I had fewer track points get recorded through Turnagain Pass, Anchorage, and out towards Palmer where I was traveling north through those areas. They had track points recorded when I was going southbound last time.

    Starting to get a much better feel for the operation of this thing and what it's limits seem to be.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  16. #16

    Default

    FYI, got an email today from REI and the $50 rebate has been extended until 2/15 on SPOT.

    Being an REI email, it did not state if this was exclusively through REI or through all retailers.

  17. #17

    Default

    Can you write and send a text msg in the field on the help mode?

  18. #18
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default

    No. The message that is sent must be written in advance via the online account interface. You can write anything you want for that text message. It is suggested that when you take a trip, the people that you put on the receipt list for the text message would be notified in advance of your trip plan and what the message would mean if they received it.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  19. #19

    Default

    So........is the SPOT worth the annual subscription fee is your view? Or should a person stick with a tried-and-true PLB?

  20. #20
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78
    Posts
    3,720

    Default

    I think you have to ask a pre-qualifying question. Do you have a need to send "checking in, I'm OK" messages to family or friends while you are out in the woods?

    If you're only needing to access 911 during an emergency, then stick with the PLB.

    If you also want to be able to send non-emergency messages, then the SPOT is a good deal in my opinion.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •