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  • Spot Personal Tracking Device

    A while back I saw an advertisement on television for a device called "Spot." This gadget, which is about the size of a cell phone, is just about the coolest thing since the first GPS unit I purchassed. It embodies the scout motto "Be Prepared."

    Spot uses GPS technology, but instead of showing you where you are, it transmits your coordinates VIA SATELLITE to your pre-set contact list. It also gives you access to a global 911 emergency center.

    Imagine all of the parents of your scouts being able to log onto a web page and see where you are and that everything is OK.

    As a Scoutmaster, we have added this to our gear. Last spring, we took a week long hiking trip. As we were preparing to leave, one mom came up to me and asked "How can I get in touch with my son while you are gone." All I could say was "You can't."

    The area we were visiting had no cell coverage. I assured her that everything would be fine (and it was) and we would find a way to contact her if there was a problem, but she still worried for the entire week.

    Now we own a SPOT! It will give all of our parents the "Peace of Mind" that they are looking for. They can see where we are and we can signal that everything is OK, no mater where we travel. And parents know that we have immediate access to help if we need it.

    This is an affordable addition to our troop budget at only $149 and pennies a day for service. That's a cheap price to pay for peace of mind. Our worried mom would have gladdly paid this herself last spring!

    More Info:

  • #2
    kind of a questionable first post. Selling a satellite location system, which leads me to question your motives.


    • #3
      Oh good Lord! I thought one of the reasons to go out into the boonies was to be out of touch with the modern world.


      • #4
        What a great device for the helicopter parents! No thanks!


        • #5
          Gold Winger... don't you mean the 'modem' world? :-)

          Ya. You shoulda seen the look on the face of one of my mom's when I told here there was no cell phone reception where we were packin' in Yellowstone. I would have paid good money to see the look on her face when we practiced how to play dead in case of a bear attack.


          • #6
            Parental issues and "the need to get away" aside ... if someone is heading out into wilderness - real wilderness - 406 MHz personal locator beacons have been proven to save lives. My son's troop doesn't go to these extreme areas so I as an ASM don't bring a PLB along, but I do carry a PLB when my family travels to remote locations. I see it as low-cost insurance considering.

            There are still issues to be resolved with SPOT. If you're interested in an independent 3rd party opinion, read these comments from - a non-profit organization that seeks to raise survival awareness, promote preparedness, and give independent advice on related gear and techniques:



            When SPOT is working properly it is pretty slick, but can you bet your life on it?


            • #7
              Being guarded by a company of Marines has been shown to save lives too.


              • #8
                By the way, people can rent a 460 MHz PLB for MUCH less than than the cost of buying one - or purchasing the SPOT AND the SPOT service. The cost is $60-$70/week + $5 shipping.


                ... and if you think the SPOT is lower-cost, consider this:

                A PLB w/ integral GPS costs about $500 (+/- $50 depending on the model) on There is no extra cost for 'service' and the battery is good for 5 years before it should be replaced.

                A SPOT costs $123 on The SPOT service costs $100/year.

                Comparing costs for five years:
                PLB: $500
                SPOT: $123 + 5x$100 = $623, not including batteries.


                • #9
                  "Being guarded by a company of Marines has been shown to save lives too."

                  So does being prepared.

                  I'm not suggesting that everyone who goes outdoors needs a PLB. What I am saying is that there are better and cheaper alternative to SPOT for those who want to have the ability to get help if the worst happens in remote areas.


                  • #10
                    I go along with the idea that subscription services are not a good idea. What if the company goes under while you're in the mountains?

                    I suppose that my argument against all of these devices is that people will figure that no matter what they do, they are safe. Just like the idiots that get a carry permit and then wander into the wrong neighborhood thinking that their pistol will protect them. Nah, that's where the company of Marines comes into play.

                    Didn't WildernessStudent say something like, "well, we don't need first aid because we'll have cell phones"? That's what is bad.


                    • #11
                      I think I'll stick with leaving my itinerary with a friend, and with the rangers rather than spend money on a device that may or may not work, depending on where you are, especially since more people are still found by rescue dogs than by people who carry the high tech whiz bang gadgets. Sometimes, the old fashioned ways still work the best.



                      • #12

                        I had that same reaction.

                        The poster appears to be a leader of an Alabama troop, and owner of an online outdoor gear store.


                        • #13
                          Again, not intending to encourage people to buy a PLB, but in an effort to enhance knowledge about these devices...

                          In response to CalicoPenn's "rather than spend money on a device that may or may not work" (and I'm NOT disagreeing with CalicoPenn's excellent comments)

                          Here is a well-done independent study on the effectiveness of several PLB models in some severe locations (steep ravine, ...). The radio-portion of these devices is VERY rugged and effects. If something doesn't work it seems to be the GPS connection.

                          The good news is that PLBs can provide moderately accurate doppler locations even without the GPS location, and future PLB models will likely start using the much more sensitive GPS chipsets that have an amazing ability to lock in the worst of conditions. Here is a link to the study:


                          For those "mountain men" out there who write-off new technologies (PLBs, GPSs, ...), keep in mind that the magnetic compass was a new technology at one time, and have indeed been known to fail.

                          Those who understand survival agree that prevention is the primary objective, AND that it is foolish to rely on a single method of navigation, fire-starting, aquiring water, obtaining shelter, signaling, or ensuring rescue, if needed.


                          • #14
                            After the first couple of responses I decided not to reply but at this point, I feel I must.

                            First - a Scout is Courteous! Many of the replies here have not been which dissapoints me.

                            Yes, I am a troop leader in Alabama, have been a registered scout almost continuously for 40 years.

                            Yes, I own an on-line gear store.

                            No, I don't take my scouts on outings to "be out of touch with the modern world," I take them to teach them about taking care of themselves, building character, how to "be prepared," and other scouting principals. Anyone who goes to be out of touch has simply missed the point.

                            The purpose of this post was to share information about a piece of gear that I am personally very excited about. Make your own decision about whether it would be beneficial for your troop or not.

                            I personally don't see the need for a PLB on most of our outings but the Spot unit is much more than a PLB (some even say it isn't a PLB at all but that's a separate discussion). For me and my troop, it is a way for me to send a message to our parents that "all is well," and the parents know that I have access to emergency help if we need it. No other PLB can do that. It's all about peace of mind.

                            The Spot doesn't interfere with our outings at all because there are no incoming messages. We are still out of touch in that reguard. It stays in my pack, most of the boys don't even know I have it.

                            As a scout, I learned to look at all the possibilities and try to "be prepared" for what ever circumstances arrise. That principle is deeply engrained in my decision making. When I have access to gear and technology like this, I feel that I need to take advantage of it.


                            • #15

                              I apologize if you felt my post was mean-spirited in any way.

                              However, reading your original post left an odd taste in my mouth - like I'd just read an ad when I was expecting to read a news article.

                              I thought it was pertinent that you had a Scouting background, and that you owned a gear store, both of which reflect on your post and desire to spread the word about the Spot devices.

                              Additionally, after a further search, I realized that, the site to which you directed readers for more information, sends visitors back to your gear store Web site to purchase the Spot.

                              In my way of thinking, that makes you not an entirely unbiased reviewer, and it's something that should have been disclosed in your original post, in my opinion.