Anytime you travel to remote areas, communication is often compromised. It’s a concern I have wherever I may be. As a former Ranger, communication was paramount for a successful mission. Nothing has changed since those days except the technology. Even with modern smart phones, travel to countries with a limited network will render them useless. Additionally, in the US, I’ve found myself paddling the Great Lakes, Over-landing or even backcountry skiing outside of cellular coverage. A dangerous proposition should a real emergency occur. A simple and affordable device, the Spot X Messenger is designed to remedy this situation.

Spot X
Final systems check before punching out

This lightweight pocket sized device allows two-way satellite communications with the outside world from those off-the-grid locations. The Spot X allows the user to send text messages to conventional phone numbers. It even generates a phone number for the Spot X device so friends and family can send the user messages as well. Wether it be encouragement for your trek along the Appalachian Trail or just keeping you updated to the outside world, the versatility of the Spot X is obvious.

2-way satellite communication

In case of an actual; emergency, the Spot X can provide direct communication with emergency responders and a GPS fix for your location. A simple push of the S.O.S. button located under a protective flap will alert the 24/7 Search & Rescue Center of an emergency. At that point, the user can convey the nature of their emergency to rescuers. Finally, you will be notified when help is on the way. Additional helpful features of the Spot X are a built in compass to aid navigation. Various tracking intervals to allow family and friends follow your progress on Google Maps. Or you can even post to social media via the Spot X.

Spot X
Checking in while off the grid

Recent trips to Saint Lucia and Utah provided us with the opportunity to use both the Spot X messenger as well as the Spot Gen3. Saint Lucia is located in the far Eastern Caribbean Islands. A volcanic island with lush interior rain forests, waterfalls and a rugged coastline. On several occasions my wife and I found ourselves outside of the frail cellular service on the island. Fortunately the Spot X was in our pack should something arise while out of touch. I was able to send and receive several “test messages” while hiking. The backlit QWERTY keyboard doesn’t like my fat fingers. And you’ll have to re-train yourself how to use buttons to move a cursor on the display screen as it is not a touch screen. Despite these minor gripes, the functionality of the Spot X was on point.

Spot X Features:

  • Message: Exchange messages with any cell phone number or email address from virtually anywhere in the world. SPOT My Account comes loaded with 14 predefined messages that you have the ability to customize and sync to your SPOT X device.
  • Tracking: Select from 2½, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minute tracking intervals, and let family, friends and other adventurers follow your progress with SPOT’s easy-to-use Google Maps™ interface.
  • Compass: Built-in compass and programmable waypoints to help you navigate.
  • S.O.S.: Send an S.O.S. to the 24/7 Search & Rescue center, message back and forth about the nature of your emergency, and receive confirmation when help is on the way.
  • Post to Social: Link your social accounts to keep your friends and family in the know wherever you go.
  • Check-In: Quickly and easily let everyone know you’re OK.

Our trip to Utah allowed us to ski in the backcountry with peace of mind knowing that either the Spot X or Spot Gen3 would alert the authorities should something happen. It’s not too difficult to get disoriented or hurt while blasting down an unfamiliar slope in the mountains. Especially if you choose to depart the ski area boundaries in search of un-tracked powder. My youngest son had the Gen3 clipped to his Db Explorer pack keeping it within easy reach should something bad happen. While my wife and I carried the Spot X. Fortunately, neither device was needed. But it’s better to have one and not need it than the other way around.

Spot X
Kevin rocking the Gen3 just in case

Spot Gen3 Features:

  • Tracking: SPOT Gen3’s customized tracking features takes your SPOT experience to the next level. Only with SPOT Gen3, is tracking motion-activated regardless of the level of tracking you choose (Basic or Extreme). A vibration sensor tells your SPOT to send track updates when you are moving and to stop when you do.
  • S.O.S.: 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 Europe The S.O.S. button is for emergencies only.
  • Check-In: 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. Your stored waypoints can be easily integrated into a SPOT Shared Page or SPOT Adventure account.
  • Help/Spot S.O.V. (Save Our Vehicle): Alert your personal contacts that you need help in non-life-threatening situations. Or, use SPOT S.O.V. for professional services on land. (Additional service required).
  • Custom Message: 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 S.O.V. service on your Help button.

Spot offers the adventurer several options for GPS based tracking and communications. Last fall, I reviewed the Spot Trace while traveling to Overland Expo in North Carolina. The Gen3 is a simple to use and more affordable option while the Spot X is the fully loaded Cadillac. However, all devices will require the user to choose one of several subscription rates for functionality. A small price to pay for a potentially life saving device.

SPOT X offers two different service subscription options. Choose either a monthly Flex Plan or annual contract plan. Flex Plans are best for seasonal use and only require a one-month subscription. Annual plans are perfect for get-up-and-go year ’round use with an added benefit of monthly payment. Annual contract plans also have the option for you to pay upfront and get all allotted messages in advance.”