Without any work at all I can find myself on a crazy adventure with no service and probably by myself. For that reason I always carry a device like the SPOT GEN3 so I can message my wife, ask for non-life threatening help and bring rescuers right to my location if it all goes south.
The SPOT GEN3 primarily excels in a single area and that’s sending messages and requesting help. With the press of a button I can check it, drop a point on a map, tell my wife and family I’m ok, send a custom message (as long as I’ve set it up on the computer first), ask for help when I’m ok, and signal immediate rescue.
The GEN3 doesn’t have much of an interface on the unit. All you’ll find yourself doing with the integrated buttons are the activities above. To change features you’ll need to connect the unit to your computer and make changes while connected to the internet. It’s not the easiest solution but it keeps the cost of the device low ($150 retail) and the interface simple.
I found setup to be less than ideal and a bit confusing, requiring at least one call to tech support after the fact when it wasn’t tracking correctly. As it turned out it was tracking correctly but I didn’t have one of the settings right since it was confusing.
I actually spent multiple times on the phone with customer support in the first couple of weeks while using the device. At the end of one of the phone calls the very nice woman said, “The software isn’t very easy to use and that’s why we’re here to help. Call anytime”. While I appreciated the pleasant attitude of all the folks I spoke with, it seems like making the online interface more user friendly would be the ideal solution.
When entering phone numbers of people who want to receive text messages from you, you’ll be asked to choose their carrier. That’s an annoying step but a necessary one since they convert those messages into emails which are delivered via text, presumably to save texting charges on their end. The problem for me is that it didn’t work with Verizon. Neither my wife nor I could receive the message so I added my neighbor, also on Verizon. No luck there so I added one more friend, all at the request of SPOT. He was the first to be able to receive the message.
SPOT technical support was of no help in this department though they did try over a couple of hours any many emails with me. I eventually found part of the solution within their own support forum which it doesn’t appear they respond to very frequently. The key was to change ###-###-####@vtext.com to ###-###-####@vzwpix.com with a custom setting in the online app.
Another downside of the device is the plotting of your points and route to their online map where others can follow along. Again, this took a phone call to tech support for me to fully grasp.
At any given time you’re only able to show 25 points on the map. To plot another 25 points (that’s always your limit) you must scroll to the bottom, choose the next page, highlight all the points and select another button to plot only those points. I don’t think that’s super obvious and so you’ll always need to tell people that if they’re following along with you.
The SPOT GEN3 is a great device if you want a small, lightweight package that will alert others to an emergency or if you just want to check in and say you’re doing alright. I normally do all of my tracking on mobile apps even though they don’t post to an online map in real time.
More gear reviews