SPOT was kind enough to allow us to test and review the new SPOT Gen3 (retail $150) GPS tracking device. This tracking system is not a GPS training watch, nor is it a navigation tool. Its purpose is to allow family and friends to track you along your route over a long period of time, along with sending customer messages and potential distress signals. With their new motion activated tracking system, your SPOT can now run significantly longer because it will only send out updated signals when you are actually moving. Below are two testimonials about the new Gen3 and some tips and tricks to help you along the way.
Craig – The commitment of running super long distances is difficult to make as it is; knowing what to bring and carry with you at all times, is an even tougher one. Whether in a race or a long adventure outing, having the right weight ratio, along with placement of items for optimum comfort are integral to the ultimate success of the outuing. So adding in the weight of the Gen3 to my 100 mile adventure run along the White Rim trail of Canyonlands National Park worried me immensely.
My initial thought was to place it in the middle of my back, attached to the rear pocket closure. However, it was immediately noticable that it would bounce if I pushed even moderately hard. Therefore, I moved it to the shoulder strap just off the crown (slightly rear) of my left shoulder. Using the velcro strap it fit snuggly around the entire shoulder strap. I was concerned early on that it would rub and iritate my skin, but within 5 minutes I had completely forgot it was there and literally ran the entire 100 miles without a single concern for it being on my person.
Isn’t that the true test of comfort, the lack of noticing the item all together, whether good or bad? To not even know it is there has to be a true testament the quality of this product. The mental comfort of knowing we were transmitting at all times to family and friends back home, without even having to think about it qualifies this as an absolute MUST HAVE in the world or ultra running. Youf family and friends can know where you are at all times, whether out for an hour or 24 hour long run.
Matt – I spent the weekend crewing my brother during a 50 mile race in the west desert of Utah. Since the race is run on a dirt road, I (and others) were always nearby in a vehicle, able to provide aid to our runner, as needed. Even with ‘safety’ not necessarily being a factor, I kept the Spot tracker on in the crew car, so family members and friends were easily able to track us throughout his race and ‘cheer’ him on from afar.
I also used the SPOT while pacing 50 miles of the Wasatch 100, where cell service was spotty, and many eager friends followed our progress. Similar to Craig, I attached it to the strap of my pack and quickly forgot it was even there, wearing it for 14+ hours without issue.
Battery Life – with the Lithium AAA batteries the rough production battery life seems to be somewhere exceeding 30 hours, impressive for certain (when transmitting once per minute). I personally wore the Gen3 on two different runs exceeding 24 hours and never saw the indicator light alert me of fading batteries.
Signal Strength – Whether in a tight slot canyon, on a steep mountain side, or under the heavy canopy of trees, the Spot Gen3 continues to pump out a strong signal. Hint, have the device with the logo facing up for strongest signal strength. Also, try not to have it attached in close proximity to another actively working GPS device (ex. don’t put the spot on your shoulder and your Garmin in a chest pocket).
Learning Curve – the Gen3 is easy enough to use, just press a couple of buttons and you’re off. Teaching your friends not to freak out if your tracker hasn’t moved on the map in the last 20 minutes is a whole different issue. The SPOT Gen3 offers 4 different kinds of custom messages to send out (see below for descriptions), whether in an emergency or not. Set appropriate expectations with those following you that they need not worry unless they get a particular message and not to be worried if your movement isn’t being shown online. Often times the site is slower to track you than the SPOT is actually sending out. Ultimately, they just need to know to not worry.
Message Options (directly from their website):
With the push of a button, GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center provides your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams – for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in EuropeThe S.O.S. button is for emergencies only.
Alert your personal contacts that you need help in non-life-threatening situations.
Let family and friends know you’re ok when you’re out of cell phone range. Send a pre-programmed text message with GPS coordinates or an email with a link to Google Maps™ to your contacts with your location. With a push of a button, a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference.
Stay in touch while off the grid by sending your custom message. Set up a message before leaving to send to contacts with your GPS location. Use this feature as a secondary OK message or transfer your personal help alert to this message function if you are using a SPOT Assist service on your Help button.
TAUR Final Thoughts:
We’ve used the SPOT Gen3 enough times now to know that it is an invaluable tool and lifeline that is a must-have for any ultra runner. If you want to start getting into longer distance adventure runs or simply have a device that allows you family and friends to find you when you’re out, this is the tracking device for you. Find out more about the SPOT Gen3 at http://www.findmespot.com/en/