BackCountry Emergency Assistance from Spot
Spot has released and been gracious enough to send me a unit to test that will communicate to your friends and family from the backcountry permitting you to check in and indicate that you are either alright or that you need help to drag yourself out of the bush. If your friends will not suffice and you are faced with a serious emergency the Spot call center will also alert emergency services that you need assistance and provide emergency services with your location.
The advantage of Spot is that it sends messages to satellites which are then relayed to the Spot Center or your contacts via email or text message. By using satellites to communicate you are able to keep in contact in locations where there is no cellular signal. In Alberta, this includes almost every location in which you want to hike.
I have been testing Spot for a few weeks now and so far I am pretty impressed. The Spot has four functions. Spot will allow you to:
1) Send a emergency 911 message to Spot which will result in the notification of all of your contacts and emergency services of your location.
2) Send a message that you have preprogrammed into the Spot site requesting help from your contacts when you press the help button.
3) Send a message of your choice indicating that you are okay to alleviate worrying spouses that otherwise may not let you venture into the backcountry either alone or with what they view as your untrustworthy friends.
4) Allow your contacts to track in real time your progress on your hike. Again I can see this being advantageous to help alleviate worrying but would also be convenient to coordinate pick ups on a long hike. If you have ever spent three or four hours waiting in a parking lot either for a pickup or to pickup some friends after a excursion into the bush you can understand the benefit of this feature.
I have not finished my review of Spot yet and I will update this post when I am finished. I am still playing with the tracking feature and the feature that permits you to create a shared web page that lets people see your messages anytime by viewing a web page as opposed to following a link to google maps via email or text message.
Over the weekend I saw a couple of trail runners a few kilometers into the backcountry. They had no gear other than a water bottle and a small fanny pack. In the summer I have come across other trail runners and hikers with no emergency equipment. Coming across these trail runners I thought that Spot is the perfect product for them. I would not and I expect that Spot would not encourage you to think that their product is a substitute for proper planning and equipment. After all, if the weather or conditions are poor your would be rescuers may not be able to get to you, but should you sprain your ankle, blow a knee or startle an angry bear, it might be nice to get a message out. As spring approaches, consider whether Spot might be a product that will give you some peace of mind and added security.
For more information or to purchase Spot check out the Spot site. The price is $169 for the unit, $99 per year for emergency service, and the OK and help features. In order to use the tracking feature the cost is an additional $69 per year. Chances are if you use it once, you will think the cost is well worth it.