We don't need any more lost hikers!

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by silent hunter » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:49 am

Yes Jim, i want one of those. How much do they cost, were do you get one and is there a monthly fee. That is the best answer ive herd, But what about those sat dead spots we all have come across. Im usually in one of thoses at least everytime i go out.

Jim Hatt

Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by Jim Hatt » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:26 am

The unit itself in $99.00 for the "Spot-1" that I have, and the Service is another $99.00/Year. So you're looking at $200.00 for the first year, and $100.00 per year every year after. You can read about it at: https://www.findmespot.com/en/

The way I understand "Dead Spots"... It needs to be in communication with 3 satellites to triangulate your position, but it only needs to be in communication with 1 satellite to send out an SOS signal. If you send it from a dead spot, it will send your last triangulated position. Also... dead spots move around, as the satellites move across the sky. A dead spot at 12 Noon, may not be a dead spot at !2:15. If you just keep sending the SOS, it should eventually connect with 3 satellites and send your exact current coordinates.

Jim

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by hikin_jim » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:20 am

There are a couple of categories of satellite notification devices out there. The first and perhaps more well known because of advertising is the SPOT which is a commercially available product from the GlobalStar satellite phone company. The second is the international inter-governmental (Russia, US, France, etc.) Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

The SPOT is essentially a satellite phone that operates in a simple text mode. A SPOT receives GPS signals (just as any other normal hand held GPS device would). When an emergency occurs, the user of the SPOT device presses the "SOS" button ("911" on older models), a signal, including GPS coordinates is sent to a sat phone satellite which then relays a message to SPOT's commercially run coordination center which in turn contacts local SAR resources (typically the local Sheriff's Dept.) to initiate a search. Purchase of a SPOT device and an annual service fee are required.

A PLB does not use sat phone communications but rather relies on the international COSPAS-SARSAT satellite network. The SAR Sat (Search And Rescue Satellite) network was originally developed for the international maritime/shipping industry and provides world wide coverage. When an emergency occurs, just as one would with a SPOT, the user activates the PLB, a signal which includes the user's GPS coordinates is sent to the SAR Sat network, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center is contacted, which in turn contacts local authorities to initiate a search. The purchase of a device is required, but no annual service fee is required.

Advantages of a PLB:
1. The primary 406 MHz signal of a PLB is about 10 x stronger than a SPOT and is more likely to get out of deep canyons or to penetrate cloud cover or vegetation.
2. A PLB has a secondary 121.5 MHz homing signal (a SPOT has no homing signal)
3. If a PLB cannot get a GPS based position, the user's location can still be determined by Doppler shift (the change in radio frequency as the satellite moves in relationship to the user). If a SPOT cannot get a GPS based position, the user's position simply cannot be determined
4. No annual fee.
5. Many more satellites; much wider coverage area.
6. Government run; unlikely to go "out of business". SPOT is a commercial operation that may or may not still exist in five years.

Advantages of a SPOT:
1. Can send and "OK" message. A PLB is only "emergency" or off.
2. Can provide continuous tracking (for an additional fee). If user is unable to send a distress signal at the time of an emergency, at least SAR can see their last known position and perhaps extrapolate forward from there. If a user is unable to activate a PLB at the time of an emergency, SAR has absolutely nothing to go on.
3. Future versions of SPOT may allow dynamic (i.e. you type in a message at the time a situation occurs) messages.

Hikin' Jim's highly subjective opinion of the two:
A PLB is more reliable, and a PLB is cheaper over a multi year period because there is no subscription fee.
A SPOT has more features and is more flexible than a PLB.

Whether you prefer the PLB or the SPOT, some type of satellite signaling device sure seems like a good idea or those who go solo, off trail, or into remote areas.

One guy's opinion.

HJ

Jim Hatt

Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by Jim Hatt » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:47 am

Nice write up Jim,

I have been using the SPOT since last Thanksgiving. I really like the "Check OK" feature and use it quite a lot. It is great for reporting home that all is OK as intended, but it is also nice for documenting the lat/Lon of locations with the push of a single button.

I would really miss the "Check OK" feature, if for some reason, I didn't have it anymore.

Thanks for the excellent evaluation & comparison of the two devices.

Best,

Jim

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by hikin_jim » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:45 am

Hi, Jim,

AZ might be ideal for the SPOT. Tree and cloud cover are known to degrade signal. Heavy forest canopy, even in N. AZ isn't all that common (open Ponderosa or a Apache Pine forest isn't exactly a heavy canopy), and clouds aren't that common. Even monsoons tend to have breaks, so the likelihood of getting a signal out is good. The only problem with a SPOT might be if you were in a canyon and couldn't get GPS lock because you couldn't get enough GPS satellites. Of course I'm speculating a bit here.

I'd be curious, if you've got a feel for it, as to how often your SPOT misses points. In other words, when you push "OK", does your "better half" consistently get a message with GPS coordinates? The biggest complaint I've read about the SPOT is that it misses a lot of points. I'd be particularly curious if you've tried it in "slot" type canyons where you have little view of the sky.

As for me, I went with the PLB. A PLB can be had for about $300 and there's no service fee. A SPOT II is about $150, and service is $100/year. At the end of two years, one would pay $350 for a SPOT but only $300 for a PLB. Of course you can't test a PLB the same way you can a SPOT by constantly clicking OK and seeing if a message gets through. Still, I like the fact that the signal is stronger on a PLB and that it sends out a homing beacon and that one's position can be determined with a PLB even if the device can't get a GPS lock. Wish I could put the two in a blender and get the best of both. :)

HJ

Jim Hatt

Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by Jim Hatt » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:19 pm

H/J,

I am very pleased with the SPOT. It has missed sending out a few OK messages in deep canyons, but if it is an important message, I always check to see home many satellites my Magellan is communicating with before I send the SPOT message.

If I do not have at least 3 satellites showing up on my Magellan, I just move to a better area before sending a message.

Best,

Jim

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by hikin_jim » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:47 am

Hmm. That's a good idea, Jim, to use your GPS to check how many sats are available before sending out a message on a SPOT. I hadn't thought of that. That's using the ol' noggin. :)

Do you find that normally you have plenty of satellites in view?

HJ

Jim Hatt

Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by Jim Hatt » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:03 am

H/J,

Yeah, most of the time I have 5-8 satellites to work with. The SPOT only needs 3 to make a reasonable calculation. Whenever I find that I only have 2. I just climb a little higher to view more of the sky, until I have contact with at least 3 satellites. (as shown on my Magellan)

Since I have been using that method I have not had any problems with lost messages.

Best,

Jim

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by canyonair » Mon Nov 29, 2010 12:05 am

I have used the SPOT messenger and personally I wouldn't waste my money on it. The unit works very poorly in canyons. The times I have used mine in Grand Canyon and in dense forests the signal was bouncing all over and at times the signal was non-existent. I am now using a PLB manufactured by ACR which transmits its signal on 406 mhz. It does everything the SPOT did, but better and with a more reliable and stable signal. SPOT is ok if you are open ground with no obstructions.

Mike

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Re: We don't need any more lost hikers!

Post by hikin_jim » Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:09 pm

That pretty much is SPOT's reputation. Canyons and overhead cover prevent a lot of the messages from getting out.

A PLB is pretty reliable under any conditions, but as I've mentioned is either all or nothing. There's no "check OK" feature on most of the PLB's today although ACR is supposed to be putting one out that will have additional features.

HJ

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