The Spot Messenger 2 is the new and improved Spot Messenger, which has
been on the market since early 2007. The new Spot 2, addresses
many of the weaknesses of the original model, but operates nearly the
same, and is smaller and lighter than the first version.
The Spot is marketed as an emergency beacon, but also offers the
ability to allow family and friends to follow your location. In
an era of social networking, people are finding the Spot to be
appealing for allowing others to track their hike, run or vacation.
You can even have your location posted to a Twitter or Facebook
Unlike other and by some accounts more reliable beacons, which
only a distress signal, the SPOT units provide you the ability to send
updates and also for family and friends to follow your location, with
signals sent out every ten minutes, through the optional tracking
feature. It also has the HELP
function, allowing for a message to family or friends to come give you
help, but it is not an emergency There is also the new custom
message button, which is essentially the same as OK, but can be
preprogrammed for a specific message, or you can choose different
recipients. Overall, we have found the Spot 2 to be a reliable
and easy way to keep in touch with those back at home. It retails
for $169 dollars and requires a $99 yearly subscription. Check discount prices on the unit here.
Original Spot vs. Spot 2
In comparison of the two units side by side, they seemed to operate
identically, as far as transmitting messages. Over an eight hour
period with the tracking feature enabled, the same number of tracking
messages were received. The new Spot 2 does seem to acquire a GPS fix easier and maintain it.
Original Spot on Right
The Spot 2 has a high sensitive GPS receiver. It seems to get a
lock within a couple of minutes, even if it hasn't been on for several
days. If you are in a place where you can't get a GPS lock, the
LED labeled GPS will blink red, which means you need to find a better
I have only seen it blink red once and I was in an office
While Spot advertises a coverage area for much of the world, we can
only verify use in the United States. Click here for a coverage map from SPOT. I have tried the Spot 2 in many locations, including a narrow canyon,
tree cover and in my house. GPS acquistion appears to be quick and within
about 3 minutes of
powering the unit up and sending an OK message, I have received the
email and text message. I had the unit on the dash in tracking mode
while on a 500 mile trip, and it
appeared to have 95% of the messages sent out, received on the website.
The Spot 2 is capable of sending out five separate messages, including one for emergencies.
This is for emergency help, in a life threatening situation. It is
equivalent to calling 911. Once activated, it will transmit the
distress signal with your location, every five minutes or until it is
shut off. These messages go to a center in Houston, Texas, which
SPOT says is staffed around the clock. This center will then find
your location and contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and
notify them of your location. You can expect a "lights and siren"
type response if you press this button. This button is under a
This is a help message for family or friends. It means, come and
get me, where you see we are at, using the link provided. You can
send this to people via text messages and or email. This message
won't go to any dispatch center. The help message will go out
every five minutes, for an hour. You will want to have someone
reliable on your list who will either come and get you or find someone
to. If you sign up for the optional $30 a year Roadside
Assistance, this can't be used for friends, but is dedicated to
contacting a tow truck, etc and could be handy if you travel areas with
no cell service. This button is under a protective cover as well.
This is the most common use of the Spot 2 for many people. It
will let them know you are okay and where you are at. You can
send these out throughout the day on a hike, so they know your progress
or just send one out at the end of the day, so your family and friends
know where you are.
This is unique to the Spot 2. It allows for either a separate
predetermined message, such as "bring food" or "we're coming home"
You can also use it as an OK/Check in message, but have it go to
separate recipients. I use this as an OK/Check in message for
people back at work, if I don't have cell coverage, so they know where
I am at.
This is an optional feature, but a nice one. For $50 more a year,
you can send out a signal every ten minutes. People can track
your hike, your trip, etc and then follow your progress on a custom
webpage you can give them the link to. This feature is available
in the Original Spot, but the Spot 2 has a button dedicated
specifically to tracking. Tracking does not send out text or
email messages, only to the "shared website" you can create in your
account on the Spot webpage.
The Spot website works well in allowing you to set up who will
receive your messages, and has profiles you can switch between for
different activities or contacts.
You can send data to cell phones, email accounts and use social
networking. You can also check your messages when you get back
home, on the Spot website.
Screen of where my tracks were received as I was camping and hiked around the lake. The orange flags show my location.
Same as above, but with satellite aerial view.
This shows you the actual lat/long, time the message was received and if it was a track, check in/ok or a custom message. One nice thing about the SPOT, is that you can download your data from this page and
export it to popular GPS type files. (gpx, .csv, kml) This allows
you to load them into a GPS, or in Google Earth. You can also use
them to help geotag photos.
Spot is making it easy for people to share where they are, using the
Spot. I have used Sat2Twitter, a third party option. The
Spot website now has direct ways to link to Twitter and Facebook account.
There is also Spot's own verious
called www.spotadventures.com. It allows you the ability to
upload your travels to share with others or just your contacts.
Screen of link that can be sent to friends using OK/Checkin or Custom
message functions, so they can look online of your current location.
After registering the SPOT 2, I received an email telling me that the
SPOT does not float and other battery limitations. Read for more
Thank you for purchasing your new SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger(SPOT-2). We
have some important clarifications regarding
Operating Conditions and
recommendations for how to best use your SPOT.
The SPOT Team highly recommends that you keep your SPOT in its carrying case*
and either attach SPOT to you or to your gear.
SPOT will not float on its
own. If SPOT is in its carrying case, SPOT will float for enough time for you to
retrieve the device
from the water. SPOT will stay buoyant for up to a few
hours when in the carrying case alone to approximately 5-10
minutes if the
armband is on the case. Whitewater conditions could shorten these times.
Testing of SPOT under common usage environments has shown that battery
performance can be degraded in operating
environments where SPOTs GPS must
take a longer time to acquire your GPS location. For optimal performance,
please try and utilize SPOT in locations with a clear view of the sky with
the logo side up.
Specs and Battery Life and Accuracy
The unit weighs just five ounces. The battery life appears
to be very good. The Spot2 requires three (3) AAA lithium
batteries. I am still on my original set, after extensive use during five months.
A low battery signal will blink according to Spot, when you have
less than 30 percent of battery power remaining. I did see this
in my original Spot. Follow this link of a .pdf via Spot's webpage,
which will show you all of the specs and give a better breakdown of
battery life. The GPS accuracy of the Spot 2 is good. From
my tests, it usually puts me within 50 feet of where the Spot 2 is
sending the message. I have not seen any serious errors of my
Small and lightweight
Indicator LED's for GPS reception and transmission of messages
Ability to send messages that are not emergencies
Ability to send tracking messages
Options of allowing multiple people to follow your location online, through text message, website or email
Option of additional $30 Roadside Assistance feature (eliminates custom
use of the "Help" button however as it triggers roadside help)
Good website to manage data, billing, profiles, etc.
Help and SOS buttons have covers, to help protect them from being accidentailly activated.
Yearly $99 subscription required (won't send distress signal without an active subscription)
Cannot receive messages
No way to confirm if you message was received by the satellites
Messages cannot be customized in the field, no text messaging supported
Not a true Personal Locator Beacon (no VHF/UHF tracking signal, satellite only)
Will not float
Must be facing upright to properly send messages (this is difficult while
using tracking mode while hiking unless you use the armband)
No ability to upgrade firmware
No GPS readout or display to help you navigate in the field
The carabiner and case provided is weak. I use a Pelican 1010 case to carry mine and it transmits fine while enclosed.
The buttons can be hard to activate, and requires you to hold them for 3 seconds.
The good thing is that they each have an LED, so you know if they
In late 2009, Spot issued what it called a voluntary recall of the new
Spot 2 devices, citing issues with battery and messaging. It was
not until March, that they began to issue replacement units. We
have given our replacement Spot 2 considerable testing and found no
serious issues. In our previous testing of the first Spot 2, I
didn't notice any problems. Spot was fairly efficient in
replacing the unit, sending a first class envelope to send it in and I
had the new one in about ten days.
Spot did run a rebate
program for those already owning an original Spot unit. However the
rebate program was limited to a small window of opportunity and those
who first purchased a Spot 2 when they became available last fall or during the
winter, were not eligible for the $50 rebate (even though they had to
deal with the recall)
Potential for Misuse?
The Spot 2 is allowing for more people access to a satellite emergency
device. This has allowed for many rescues, as authorities are
alerted much faster to an emergency and to the exact location of those
needing help. There are some reports of these type of units being
misused and owners of a Spot should ensure it is not used for anything
but an emergency. You can read an interesting article here about
people who thought they were ringing the butler, while on a hiking
a Spot Messenger does not appear to be used.) At any
rate, most people will be responsible with the use, because you can
expect a small army to come get you if you push SOS and you will want
to be in need of emergency help when they show up. Carrying a
Spot 2, should be no substitute for taking the necessary
provisions you may need on your adventure.
The DeLorme Spot PN-60W
As of this writing, Spot has teamed with with GPS maker DeLorme for a
Spot unit. From what we have read, there are two units, which
communicate together. One is the DeLorme PN-60W GPS,
which is the interface and the Spot unit, which transmits the data.
One obvious improvement and advantage is the ability in this DeLorme unit, to
actually punch in a text message from the field. Other than that,
this unit appears to operate very similar to the Spot 2. These are said to be shipping in late August 2010.
I do like having the Spot2, and now always carry it with me, if I expect I won't have cell coverage. We suggest
if you plan a trip on the oceans or in very remote locations
away from civilization and believe you may need emergency help, you may
want to consider a more expensive and potentially more reliable Personal
Locator Beacon. But for average hikers, hunters, snowmobilers,
boaters, etc, we think
the Spot 2 is a great device, allowing one way communication with those
back home and it has the ability to send a distress signal and get you
help. That help won't be immediate as it can take 5-10 minutes for
the signal to be received at the headquarters, which then contacts the
nearest emergency dispatch center to alert them to your location.
I would much
a Spot if I was lost and wait for help, than have searchers looking all
the wrong places for me or start walking and hope I found some help.
We are of the opinion, that if you send a distress signal, at
least in the United States, that help will reach you in a reasonable
time. Spot has some infomercial/promotional videos you can access here. If
you have a Spot 2, they are worth watching however to show you how to operate it. You can learn
more on the Spot 2 by going to the Spot home page.
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