Rating: 8.8 / 10
Value for Money 1.5
Ease of use 1.6
Battery Life 1.7
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:
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:
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
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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
Subscription service ‘Basic Tracking’ (choose basic or extreme, can be paid monthly)
Subscription service ‘Extreme Tracking’ (choose basic or extreme, can be paid monthly)
Network maintenance fee (does not apply to the first year of use)
SPOT Trace Anti-Theft Tracking Device
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
This review was done with product purchased from a retail store by the reviewer