• Physical size 8.72cn X 6.5cm X 1cm
  • Weight 114 grams
  • Battery source 4 AAA Batteries - Lithium recommended
  •  
  • Cost $225.00

SPOT Gen 3 Personal Satellite GPS

Safety

Rating

Rating:               8.8 / 10

Value for Money         1.5

Ease of use               1.6

Battery Life                1.7

Weight                       2.0

Durability                   2.0

SPOT Gen 3 Personal Satellite GPS Review

The SPOT Gen 3 is one of those devices that many hikers have heard of but may not have seen, at least in the flesh; but what exactly is it?  At its simplest, the SPOT Gen 3 is an emergency device and can be considered to be a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).  However, if that is all you plan on using this device for then you are better off with the KTI Safety Alert SAG2 PLB or similar device.

Many of us who have a SPOT bought it for its other features (e.g. the satellite messaging) and its these features that make this device attractive to hikers. I’ve being using my SPOT Gen 3 for just on a year now and my overriding reason for purchasing it was to keep my family (i.e. Gill) happy on those occasions when I go off grid (very off grid) solo hiking in remote wilderness areas. Its here that the SPOT excels with the following features:

  • The ability for people, to whom you have provided your access code, to follow you on the SPOT website in realtime. The SPOT Gen 3 provides updates at varying time intervals (based on what you’ve selected) which show up on a map as markers. This means they can see how you’re progressing on your hike. The extreme tracking option provides even more versatility but at a higher price
  • The ability to send a message saying you are OK or have arrived at your camp. These messages are customisable and can be sent through Facebook, Twitter, SMS or email. Your loved ones will receive your message which will help reduce their worry
  • The ability to ask for help without alerting the emergency services. This is a great feature for those times when the mobile phone service is not working. You can push the little button on the left of the SOS button to indicate you need someone to come and help you but that it’s not an emergency. Fine in theory provided this is a possibility. I regularly do hikes where the only access is by foot or by helicopter

As mentioned, the reason I carry this unit is for peace of mind for family. When I’m using the SPOT Gen 3, Gill is much more understanding when I’m doing crazy stuff like hike 54 km in a single day in a snake infested wilderness area where I won’t see anyone else on the entire trip. As it turned out, on that particular hike I encountered bad lightening, thunder and heavy rain all combined with the dense forest and my signal dropped out. I wasn’t aware of this but due to the severity of the storm, Gill started to worry. The signal did come back about 20 minutes later.

The  SPOT uses the Globalstar Satellite System which is not as bulletproof as the well known GPS. For this reason SPOT recommends that you sit your unit on your body. My GPS sits in my pants pocket and I have never had a situation where the signal has dropped out even in bad weather.

Physically the unit is lightweight and robust, and is smaller than most of the PLBs available on the Australian market. Its pretty simple to use with the set up process being done through the online dashboard.

So is the SPOT Gen 3 worth considering? If you use the SPOT Gen 3 solely as a PLB then it is an expensive option. Have a look at the costs outlined below and you’ll soon see that the minimum cost after the first year is $296 AUD per year (costs on the websites are advertised in US dollars so don’t forget to do the conversion). Now if you are hiking regularly and using this unit regularly then spreading the cost over 12 months means you are up for around $25 AUD per month which is a relatively cheap way of providing peace of mind to your family. However, if you are only hiking for one month a year, then look at the new Garmin Inreach units that also have GPS capability as well as two way messaging because that MAY be a cheaper option for you.

Please ensure you do the maths on this to see which option is going to be the best one for you. The answer really depends on your own personal situation. When I purchased my SPOT Gen 3 it was the obvious choice for me.

When making your decision you need to consider if you need:

  • A PLB only and won’t have to worry about batteries going flat; then don’t bother
  • A messaging system to provide peace of mind to your family, you aren’t really fussed about a GPS, and have limited funds; then buy the SPOT Gen 3.
  • All the bells and whistles including PLB, GPS, two way messaging system, and have $700 to spend; then go with the Garmin Inreach. Some stores still sell the Delorme InReach which was the previous model/manufacturer and while this is an older model, the pricing is pretty good

What's in the Box?

  • SPOT Gen 3
  • USB cable
  • Quick reference guide
  • Velcro strap and carabineer
  • Batteries

The SPOT Gen 3 unboxed

SPOT recommends that the unit has a clear view to the sky. This image shows my SPOT on the top of my pack brain. Its attached in two locations using the carabineer and velcro strap so it doesn’t bounce around (which I find really annoying) and doesn’t fall off (which would be more annoying)

Check-in image that shows up for those to whom you send your messages. This image was from our Overland Track trip in February 2017

This image is the one we have programmed for when we reach our night time camp spot. Those to whom we send the image can see on the map where we are and this is backed up by a set of coordinates. I sometimes change this message to read ‘I have reached the turnaround point and am heading back’ for those big days when I am hiking for ten-plus hours

This is the message we send to say we are OK and the one programmed into the ‘OK’ button

We Like

  • Compact and lightweight so I carry a SPOT and a GPS for different reasons
  • Not very hungry on batteries. Comparable units that can also be used as a GPS have a much higher battery use due to the GPS function. I usually manage a minimum of at least five days on a set of lithium batteries
  • If your loved ones worry about you being out in the wilderness they can see online how you are progressing in your hike
  • You can send limited messages throughout the day, or at the end of the day to update your loved ones

We Don't Like

  • The purchase price is not your only cost. Please add up all the associated costs to see how much this will cost you. Garmin also produces a unit that combines a satellite messenger and GPS. Upfront, the Garmin is much more expensive but may be a more cost effective option depending on the hiking you do
  • The satellite system on the SPOT sometimes drops out so ideally it needs to be mounted high on your pack facing upwards to get the best signal. As a comparison, my GPS gets very good signal even when its sitting inside my pocket
  • Sometimes the messages don’t get through so you need to warn people that this may occur
  • You need to check that the unit is on after you take a break as the power-saver mode may have decided that you’ve stopped for the day and turned the unit off
  • One way message communication only
  • No message confirmation
  • Ideally you need to start your trip with a set of fresh batteries
  • You need to check your subscription status to ensure that the unit is still working

Best Uses

  • Provides the ability for your loved ones to track you when your out in the middle of nowhere
  • As a PLB

Buy One

You can purchase the SPOT Gen 3 online from Wild Earth or Amazon

Please note that our affiliations do not influence, in any way, the independence of our gear reviews

If you have used the SPOT Gen 3 or if you have questions, we’d like to hear from you. Post your comment or question below

Investment

Unit Purchase

  • $225 AUD. Keep an eye out for the sales

Subscription service ‘Basic Tracking’ (choose basic or extreme, can be paid monthly)

  • $276 AUD for 12 months

Subscription service ‘Extreme Tracking’ (choose basic or extreme, can be paid monthly)

  • $435 AUD for 12 months

Network maintenance fee (does not apply to the first year of use)

  • $20 AUD for 12 months

Other Versions

SPOT Trace Anti-Theft Tracking Device

  • This device provides anti theft security for larger objects e.g. cars, boats, motorcycles

SPOT Gen 3 versus KTI SAG2 PLB. The SPOT is lighter and smaller

SPOT Gen 3 versus KTI SAG2 PLB side view. The SPOT Gen 3 wins out again for size

Disclaimer

This review was done with product purchased from a retail store by the reviewer

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