Review: SPOT Gen3 – Piece of mind from the skies above!

The Gen3 is the latest generation in the SPOT family of devices, and can give you a critical lifeline of communication in emergency situations using satellite technology.

The first thing I noticed about the Gen3 was its simplistic and easy-to-use design.

Included with your SPOT Gen3 is the Strap, USB Cable, Quick Reference Guide, Carabiner & Batteries (unlike most toys you buy).

 

This tough GPS tracker is designed for outdoor enthusiasts. It is waterproof and relies solely on satellites for its reception. The rugged rubber edge wrapped around the plastic exterior guards the unit against shocks and impacts.

The buttons are made of the same tough rubber, and the whole device feels very solid, though light, weighing in at a mere 120g incl. 4 AAA lithium batteries. Perfect for the rugged terrain and adventures that it is made to operate in, where packing lightweight is, in most cases, the name of the game.

At 120g, it’s a very lightweight device that can ultimately save your life!

It is designed primarily to allow you to track the progress of your loved ones’ adventures, or they yours. You track the device live on a smartphone app or web portal powered by Google Maps. You can set it to update its location every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. If you buy the upgraded (extreme tracking) package, you can also set the location intervals to 2.5 minutes.

Setting up your Gen3 is really easy and only takes a few minutes.

It is my opinion that the SPOT Gen3 is made for prolonged adventure, not just a quick run around the block, thus battery life is of real importance.

Tracking on the SPOT Gen3 is motion-activated regardless of the level of tracking you choose (Basic, Unlimited or Extreme). A vibration sensor tells your SPOT to send track updates when you are moving and to stop when you’re not. (This is a great battery-saving feature!)

The Gen3 has a USB power input, so if you run out of battery life you can plug it into an external battery pack or another USB input. SPOT claims 150 hours with just 4 AAA lithium batteries. Using other batteries will give you about 1/10th the battery life the lithium batteries will give.

A yellow light indicates all is working, GPS and tracking is active, or messages have been sent.

Basic Features/Buttons on your SPOT Gen3:

S.O.S.: With the push of a button, GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Centre provides your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams.

HOW IT WORKS: Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to the GEOS International Emergency Response Centre every five minutes until cancelled or until the batteries are depleted. The Emergency Response Centre notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your GPS location and personal information – as well as notifying your emergency contacts about the receipt of a distress signal.

Check In: Let’s family and friends know you’re ok when you’re out of cell phone range. Sends a pre-programmed text message with GPS coordinates or an email with a link to Google Maps™ to your contacts with your location. With a push of a button, a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference. Your stored waypoints can be easily integrated into a SPOT Shared Page or SPOT Adventure account.

HOW  IT WORKS:

Once you have activated your SPOT Messenger and set up your account, you can change your contacts and customize your message at any time. When you push the Check-in button, you send one pre-programmed message to your contacts. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

Help: Alerts your personal contacts that you need help in non-life-threatening situations.

HOW  IT WORKS:

Once activated, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it along with the HELP message through the SPOT satellite network every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

Custom Message: Stay in touch while off the grid by sending your custom message. Set up a message before leaving to send to contacts with your GPS location. Use this feature as a secondary OK message or transfer your personal help alert to this message function if you are using a SPOT Assist service on your Help button.

HOW  IT WORKS:

Once you have activated your SPOT Messenger and set up your account, you can change your contacts and customize your message at any time. When you push the Check In button, you send one pre-programmed message to your contacts. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

*One of the very few cons of the Gen3 is that it is unfortunately not two-way communication compatible, so you have no idea whether messages have been delivered.

Tracking: Allow friends and family to follow your progress online in near real-time and save waypoints so you can review your entire route at a later date.

HOW  IT WORKS:

Once you activate the tracking mode, SPOT acquires and sends your GPS coordinates to your SPOT account and, if you choose, Shared Pages. Creating a SPOT Shared Page allows you to share your GPS route with your friends and family easily in near real-time on the web through a personal link. You can make your Shared Page private or public. Your choice! Just share that URL with your friends and family and they can easily track your adventures. Upload your tracks to SPOT Adventures, a social portal, where you can set up a profile and blog with others sharing their SPOT Adventures.

Live tracking satellite view.

So how did I find the Gen3?

I had the Gen3 for a month and put it through various paces once I did the quick & very easy setup, incl. setting up the various social media links, customized messages & emergency contacts.

This device works by determining its location via GPS satellites. It then sends that information to commercial communication satellites. They send that data to a network, which disperses the emails or text messages. This means that, unlike most GPS trackers, the device works in areas without cellular coverage.

The Gen3 works best when the device faces the sky, as the GPS antenna is located under the SPOT logo. I did find it to work through glass/windscreen while driving, and in a pocket of a hydration pack or shirt, although the best signal is transmitted when it has a clear ‘view’ of the sky. This does mean that signal can temporarily be lost while down in thick vegetation covered coves/gorges, but will be picked up again as soon as you are in a more open area and a satellite passes over.

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Attaching the Gen3 to your pack with a clear view of the sky will yield best results

On a recent long run my wife was lying in the comfort of our bed showing the kids where dad was running in the mountain on her phone/Mac, while on another occasion she tracked me from her office while I was busy with a road ride crisscrossing the Helderberg Basin during peak traffic.

It really does give loved ones a sense of comfort knowing where you are, and whether you are ok.

The Gen3 easily attaches to the handlebar of your bike.

Other uses:

Although the SPOT Gen3 is “sold” as a tracking device for others/friends/family to track your adventures, there are various other uses too.

As a race organiser I used the Gen3 for the sweepers during the recent Theuniskraal Trail Run. They checked in at various points that were discussed beforehand giving me a clear image of where the back of the field was during the 25km event.

The Otter African Trail Run used the Gen3 on the Abangeni or ‘Challengers’ (the top 20 fastest men & 8 women prologue qualifiers) in 2015, to track them live on race day, and adding another dimension for the spectators to follow the race as it happened.

Final Thoughts:

The SPOT Gen3 is a lightweight GPS tracking device that can be a lifesaver in emergency situations. It is ideal for those wanting to escape the hustle & bustle of the tech savvy/instant messaging lives we live, but still making use of this technology to let family or friends know you’re ok. It is ideal for those venturing into the wilderness, or going out on deep sea fishing/kayaking/rowing or SUP adventures where cell phone reception is very limited or nonexistent.

The unit currently retails for about R2970, but additional subscription services are required. For more technical information, service packages & introduction videos regarding the SPOT Gen3, visit findmespot

Jan Ham Jr

About Jan Ham Jr

Jan forms part of the Columbia/GU TRAIL Team, a team of running ambassadors for Columbia Sportswear, GU Energy South Africa, TRAIL Magazine & Inov-8. Jan is a Blog Writer & Contributer to thetrailshop.co.za

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