Used to work at REI when they started carrying them, I think they are really cool for the right situation which includes travel. I believe most sattelites are govt controlled and can be "innaccessible" for periods as the rep told us and this model seems to be limited beyond that:
Provides virtually full coverage in North America, Europe and Australia
Also covers portions of South America, northern Africa and northeastern Asia, along with thousands of miles of offshore areas
The ACR's use a little different technology and the ones I have had the most positive comments about:
I have a SPOT tracker. My girlfriend's parents got it for me, with a years subscription.
It is nice for checking in with loved ones...the 'Check-In' feature is nice and easy, I leave it on for four minutes and it does the trick. It sends a text message to pre-determined numbers, along with an e-mail including googlemaps coordinates to check progress. for $50 additional you can have a live-tracker feature (seems stupid to me) that lets someone watch where you go.
The 911 feature seems like it would work fine. Being in a canyon may impede that but I haven't tried (the check-in feature) in a tight canyon.
I don't understand the Help from Family! feature. I guess if you have a pre-arranged plan it would make sense on a per-trip basis.
Overall, it has been great to ease the mind of my worried girlfriend, and let me not worry about trying to find cell service. The initial cost and $99 sub. were paid for already, and it is waterproof and durable. Seems like it could save an emergency, give peace of mind to worried loved ones, but is not an essential.
I've been researching this thing pretty heavily and decided its well worth the money. I fly a small plane and also have an emergency beacon. Trouble with those is that there is no non-emergency help option, you hit the button and the cavalry comes, and its in the Denver Post the next day. If you've got a non-emergent medical situation (broken arm, or shoulder injury) or a holed boat that just keeps you from paddling out the spot allows you to hit a button and folks who you've linked to your account will get a message that you need assistance. Also the OK button helps prevent folks sending out help if you are overdue on a trip 'cause of logistics and need no help
It seems to get good reception, better if it has view of southern sky, should work in the canyon. Mine just sent a message from inside my house. The only issue is that it uses Globalstar's satellite system, which has had some issues recently. Most of their working satellites are in the southern sky. Their system sucks for sat phone service right now, but seems to support Spot fine. I'm on a bush pilots chat room as well and its pretty popular with pilots in Alaska who are using it to send messages daily.
I bought one, I like it. I think its worth the money.
Just noticed mention of the SPOT personal tracker.
We got one about 4 months ago, and still have not been able to track on the net as they claim. We've asked them and after their responses come back 3 weeks later, they seem to be confused. I said, "its simple, it doesn't show up the locations on the SPOT map on the SPOT web site". They then send a message back 3-4 weeks later, "your unit is working fine, what was the question?".
Just gives me a sense that maybe they are a little overwhelmed right now, bad sign, especially when you may be depending on that thing for your life. There's no other choice out there right now I guess, so I'll have to "live with it"...but to this day, I really don't know if it is working or not. I've not sent an emergency message to test of course, but even the "OK" messages don't register.
I am working this unit down just south of the equator in south america so that could be a factor.
To use the check-in feature you need to go to their website, and enter e-mail addresses and phone numbers you want to notify. Mine has worked well sending my girlfriend check-in messages when I'm out on the river for a few days.
In the e-mails she gets, there is a link to google maps which shows the location the message was sent to. The tracking (real-time (or atleast within 10 minutes)) is an extra $50 per year. The one-time pin point signals are included with normal service.
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