Initial testing of Spot 2 Messenger

I had for some time wrestled with the idea of buying the Spot 2 Messenger, and in the end I realised that I would be investing in peace of mind for my wife when I am out of the hills on my own.  I almost always walk solo and as anyone knows, phone signals can be a problem.  My wife admits that she is worried when I am out and therefore I purchased this Personal Satellite Messaging Unit for SOS purposes and sending I am OK messages when out of phone signal range.

I have read that a number of people have been quite critical of this unit ranging from it does not work that well to it will be over used and cause unnecessary call outs to the emergency services.

However, a lot of the comments regarding the reliability of the unit relates to the first unit and the Spot 2 Messenger has I understand a more advanced GPS chipset  producing greater reliability.  It is also my understanding that some original users assumed that you could send a message while walking.   In my tests this causes problems with the message being received.  Others have made comment, if it is not 100% reliable then it is useless as how do you know whether the message will be received ? My counter to this is that if you cannot get a phone signal and you are on your own and require the rescue services and don’t have the Spot 2 Messenger then you no chance at all of notifying anyone!

As to the view that they will be overused and cause unnecessary call outs, I think this unlikely, as the cost of the unit means it will  in general only be used by more serious walkers, who like me will only use the SOS button in a genuine emergency.  It is my understanding that casual walkers in the hills with a mobile phone signal are more likely to call out the services for unnecessary reasons.

Spot 2 Messenger

Features and functions of the Spot 2 Messenger

SOS button

This button sends a  message every 5 minutes until power is depleted or a 999 CANCEL message is sent. The message is sent to a centre, located in Texas, who have  your personal contact details. They will inform your chosen contacts, keep them inform of the situation and make contact with the rescue services with the exact location details.

Ask for Help

Requests help from your family contact from your exact location.  Sends a message every 5 minutes for one hour or until a help cancel message is sent.
A email is sent to your contacts with a link to Google Maps for them to pinpoint your location.
A text message can be sent to mobile phones at a small extra cost.

OK button

Lets contacts know where you are and that you’re OK.
Sends three identical messages, but only the first received is delivered.
An email is sent to your contacts with a link to Google Maps for them to pinpoint your location.
Optionally a text message can be sent to mobile phones at a small extra cost.

You get 200 free texts and then costs of 10 cents per message. The email is included in the cost of the service.

Personal Message button

This allows the user to send a message which is set up before setting out on your trip. My message simply says I am at camp, but it could be anything you want. I like this feature, as I often have trouble calling my wife at the end of the day and have to walk around for a while after setting up camp to find a mobile phone signal.  The message is sent to e-mail contacts and as a text message.

Like the OK button, it gives a Goggle map location

How the device has performed

I have used the device on several local walks in the Lincolnshire Wolds and have taken the device on a number of business trips sending OK messages from towns and place such as service stations, like Hartshead Moor services on top of the Pennines.  I have 100% success on all messages sent.  There is one caveat. It is important that you do not try to send a message when walking along, you need to be stationary when sending a message. It does not seem to be reliable if you are not.

Typically from pressing the OK button, it takes about a minute or so, to get a confirmation by the flashing message button.  I have also check the e-mail message on my Iphone, where I have had a signal and typically the email comes through in a few minutes, with the GPS location and a link to Google maps.

So far so good, I have to test further and see how it works in dense woods and deep ravines. I have been impressed with its speed and reliability and I course it does mean that my wife is reassured that should I get into trouble, I would be able to get help.

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19 Responses to Initial testing of Spot 2 Messenger

  1. Martin Rye says:

    I am planning on getting one as well Mark. I intended to get one way back but waited to see if the new one is all it is claimed to be. The reason is like you. Peace of mind and a happy wife.

  2. Martin I think it is going to be a useful tool. I am going for a walk around Buckden Pike tomorrow, see how it goes.

  3. R MacE says:

    I agree with your reasoning regards coverage and potential misuse, it is difficult to get a mobile signal at times even locally (for me) when in the hills, in one case I phoned home when standing outside my tent, arranged for my wife to call back later and placed the phone in the porch. I never recieved the call and only discovered next morning that the height difference between standing outside and placing the phone in the porch was enough to lose the signal, a difference of about 5′.

  4. Richard, I had the same thing today, up on Buckden Pike in the Yorkshire Dales. I could only get a phone signal on the summit. I was sitting behind a wall sheltering from the fierce wind and could only get a signal by standing up !
    I sent a number of OK messages today and all were received back home.

  5. backpackingbongos says:

    I got one for Christmas from my Partner. It has been great so far and has been used to let her know that I am safe and well. All the messages have got through which is comforting.

  6. Hi James, good to hear that you have had the same reliability.

  7. me says:

    It’s very tempting to get one for walking in Scotland. The Mk2 version seems to be a big improvement.

    Yet another bit of technology to carry 😦

  8. I have a plan to do the Cape Wrath Trail ( in sections) and this would be a useful for letting my wife know how I am. Robin when will all these gadgets be combine into one?!!

  9. Pingback: The year of prudence « blogpackinglight

  10. John Y says:

    I used one all of last year, with good results. I programmed the custom message to say “I am camped here for the night”, so I have the choice of this, or a simple OK message for during the day.
    I’ve noted two minor issues: When in the black cover (as your photo), it is almost impossible to open the SOS flap and press the button. I think you would need to take it out of the cover. The silk screen rubbed off the SOS button flap, but after some delay, I did get some replacement covers. They said there should be a spare set in the box, but I never found them. These are very minor issues though.

  11. Mark Roberts says:

    What are the costs of the service? Is it one of those annual subscription things?

    • Mark, It is £84 per year, that includes all e mails and 200 texts. There is an optional service at £12 for rescue service fees. I did not take up as rescue is free in UK, but I guess in other countries this maybe necessary.

  12. GeoffC says:

    Your test would seem to indicate that the reliability has improved, pending further experimentation, but the basic setup appears to be the same as Mk I.
    The recurring cost is a minus point, bearing in mind it’s specifically for this unit alone. I’m thinking of my preferred solution where my position can be displayed on OS maps via Memory-Map, which has no recurring charge in itself but the choice of messaging device and tariff is left to the user – which could be a general purpose phone.

  13. Geoff do you need to have a phone signal for this set up to work ?

  14. GeoffC says:

    To emulate the Spot setup it would have to be a SatPhone (that’s one great advantage of the Spot – it doesn’t need a cellphone network signal), and SatPhone tariffs are ridiculous for my infrequent usage. The MM setup does give you the choice of device though, it’s just that there isn’t a suitable one for me!.

  15. -maria- says:

    84 £ / year is not much to guarantee the peace of mind for your loved ones. I think this sounds quite brilliant! Usually it is just enough to let the family know where you are and that you are ok. For someone using Spot 2 I don’t think the false alarms will be a big problem. Thanks for the review, Mark!

  16. Maria,in Finland (home of Nokia !) are there areas where mobile/cellphone signals cannot be received ?

  17. -maria- says:

    Yes indeed, there are 🙂 You don’t need to go no further than to the islands between Finland and Estonia to miss the signal! For example, in Kaunissaari (I’ve written about that island in my blog last August), there is a signal in the southern parts of the island just occassionally – and sometimes it roams to Estonian operators.

    And of course, in northern part of the country (in the fells of Lappland) there are some areas without signal.

    Otherwise, the coverage is quite good. But one of the great things about the Spot Messanger is that it’s one-way – no one can call to you, even though you can let your family know you’re safe and ask for help if needed… 😉 (Selfish me, shame on me!)

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