I love being isolated as much as the next bloke, but failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Something to get us help was high on the list when preparing for our Outback trip.
While poring over page after page of information about
how I was going to get us out of any situation we didn’t want to be in, in the middle of nowhere, with no-one else around, it became clear the SPOT Gen 3 had to be high on the list.
What is it?
It looks simple enough, right? A few buttons and some flashing LEDs. Well yea, it is simple; but it’s also very smart. This little fella sits on your dash, and tells those who you want to know, where you are. This bad boy has a GPS transmitter that talks to its proprietary satellite network – which is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then, in the event that you’ve come to harm, you hit a button and helicopters come to your rescue. Well, that’s what the box said anyway…
The unit itself has five functions:
- Tracking your movements – These are plotted on Google Maps and accessed by those back home using a web link.
- ‘Check in’ messages – Let everyone know at the end of your day where you are.
- Communicate a custom (pre-programed) message to those back home – Maybe your travel plans are delayed, or you really like your camp spot and are staying another day.
- ‘Save Our Vehicle’ message – Not quite life threatening, but bad enough you need some help. This won’t go to the Feds, but hopefully those back home can get you some help.
- SOS – The big one. This button gives the cavalry your location so they can come and get you ASAP. SPOT has a direct link to the ‘GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center’. Sounds fancy, eh. It contacts the Australian Rescue Centre in Canberra and it’s all systems go.
Why not a satphone?
To be honest, when I’m away I’m happy not to be contactable; and that’s just something those back home have to deal with. However I like the peace of mind that, should I need it, help is only a button-press away.
The other benefit is the cost. This little baby owes me roughly $200, and costs about the same for a yearly subscription to the network.
When you factor in the cost of a satphone ($1,000+) and add the minimum monthly fees and call costs ($40+), the price is a fair bit more appealing.
Getting it set up
Now this was a bit of a learning curve, but it’s a good thing the instructions are helpful… otherwise it could be a little onerous and complex to configure. However once it’s done, you really shouldn’t have to do much with it again. You configure a custom message for each of the functions above (except SOS); and whose email/s and mobile number/s you want the messages sent through to.
These can be done on a profile basis. For example, for my needs hiking has a different profile to 4WD touring. It’s as simple as logging in, activating your device, making your configuration, applying the profile then hitting the road.
How does it go?
In one word, flawless. I’d love to say it saved our bacon big time (it would certainly make for a more exciting read) but we have never needed to use the SOS function (luckily). Happily everything else has worked without fail.
We used it for a month in the Outback and the ‘other half’ also uses it on bushwalks (she is notorious for getting lost) and on plenty of long weekend trips.
We are still on the first set of batteries, partly due to running on USB power a lot of the time; but it also has a ridiculous battery life of nearly six months when tracking every day for eight hours.
What didn’t we like?
Well, I didn’t like that it couldn’t make me a capuccino with one sugar every morning… but realistically, nothing. It does exactly what the box says. It’s a device that could save your life and I can’t recommend it enough – just remember to do your research and make sure it suits your situation because there are a lot of options out there.
How much: $198 AUD
Subscription: $164 USD per year (or $12 per month)
More info: www.au.findmespot.com