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post #91 of (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 11:01 AM
Headed for the Mountains
 
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Location: Invermere, BC, Canada.
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In BC, SAR groups were recently given a PLB and there is a way to test...However they were registered as a group provincially so the individual groups didnt get the results. As an individual you will be able to test your PLB. Also with everything it pays to do a little research. I once thought all satellite phones were the same and worked everywhere. I now know that there are VAST differences. A Globalstar phone might as well be a brick in your pack for how much it works and that is the same system SPOT uses I believe. The PLB's go to the same place that aircraft ELT signals go, not some call centre in Texas.
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post #92 of (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 12:22 PM
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SPOT uses Gobalstar, but seems to be way more reliable than the GlabalStar sat phones. Not sure why. Irridium is much better, but still not completely reliable. We've used an Irridium phone quite a few times, and it's been very good, but clear sky view is pretty important. Even a tent causes a loss in reception quality.
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post #93 of (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 02:57 PM
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As long as the signal gets to the call centre in texas, there doesn't seem to be a problem with the system from there on.

Iridium has been the better satphone for a long time, but GlobalStar has been sending up more satellites recently and will be continuing, so things might be getting better there.
What I hadn't realized at first was that the satellites are keyed so coverage is better during the day, but much less covered in the evening/night. Also the fact that around here, what you really need is a view as far to the south horizon as possible, rather than so much just big sky above.
as above, I think different people have different needs, and it's certainly important to figure out what works best for what you need individually.
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post #94 of (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 07:39 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by johngenx

SPOT uses Gobalstar, but seems to be way more reliable than the GlabalStar sat phones. Not sure why. Irridium is much better, but still not completely reliable. We've used an Irridium phone quite a few times, and it's been very good, but clear sky view is pretty important. Even a tent causes a loss in reception quality.
Globalstar satellites are in orbits sort of aligned with the equator. I don't think they even work near the poles. So if you're going far toward the poles, use Irridium. Irridium's satellites are in polar orbits, so their coverage actually is more dense as you go far north or south.

SPOT's advantage over Globalstar phone calls is that SPOT automatically retries making contact, and is only one-direction, while phone calls have to be redialed and are full duplex.
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post #95 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 07:45 PM
Scaling New Heights
 
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Rachelo,

For me, it comes down to my personal experience and belief that complex multi-purpose systems are generally less reliable than simple or single-purpose systems. If I ever have to hit the button I don't want to be worrying about the 30% fail rate mentioned above, or that the batteries may be dead due to the tracking feature being left on. The website tracking feature in particular puts the device in "toy" classification in my books since it is not necessary at all for the purposes of calling in SAR during an emergency.

Something else; SPOT is a made in China product, with a 1 year warranty. In comparison to the ACR line (for example) which is made in the US, and comes with a 5 year warranty. Take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTcKWGLn8cE .

IMO this debate is similar to the smartphone vs dedicated GPS discussion.

But back to the topic at hand, I mentioned the discontinuing of dedicated PLBs because it shows how MEC has really thinned out it's mountain gear lines in favor of things like yoga gear. IMO SPOT is something that appeals more to people who spend a lot of time in the urban environment and want something they can play with, which fits in with MECs trend of catering more and more to customers who rarely get out of the city.
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post #96 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 08:10 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Some things to consider for the old Spot vs PLB debate:

- I don't think we have reliability statistics for either device but my first SPOT did fail (just stopped working one day.) It was very promptly replaced under warranty.

- I don't agree with the idea that the "tracking" feature is a gimmick. Depending on the nature of the danger, you might not have the opportunity to trigger your SOS button on your Spot or to turn on your PLB. When you don't come home at night, the tracking feature will allow your emergency contact to direct a search crew to your most recently transmitted location instead of having to start the search from the trailhead.

- In a similar way, the user programmed "Help" button can help to indicate the severity of your request. Example: I often program my "Help" button to mean "I will need help to get out but I am stable and safe and this is not yet an emergency." In other words - a simple search performed in daylight by foot will suffice. That way, everyone knows that if I hit the SOS button, the situation is very bad and justifies the fastest response possible.

- There was recently a TR on clubtread where someone used a Spot to call for help when they broke a bone. It worked well but it sounded like Spot contacted the local police immediately but that there was a delay in the police contacting a SAR crew. I don't know if I have repeated that story accurately or even if all the facts were available to the original poster. However, it does raise the question: How is the decision and communication chain different for each device?


Finally... a SPOT or PLB should not be a part of your plan and will never remove the need to carry anything else (compass, map, etc.) or to do anything else (have an emergency contact, leave an itinerary, etc.) It should be viewed as a back-up to your back-up.


As for how this ties into MEC. I would agree that MEC should carry both.
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post #97 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 08:24 PM
tu
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I really miss the now-eviscerated books and maps section in the Vancouver store. Maybe it didn't make money. But it worked as a loss leader for me.
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post #98 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by tu

I really miss the now-eviscerated books and maps section in the Vancouver store. Maybe it didn't make money. But it worked as a loss leader for me.
It makes me very, very sad that the books/maps are now all over the store instead of in one place. At least some books are making it onto the website now, but that doesn't replace a chair or two and a bunch of bookshelves
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post #99 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 11:48 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Good News Bear

Rachelo,
For me, it comes down to my personal experience and belief that complex multi-purpose systems are generally less reliable than simple or single-purpose systems. If I ever have to hit the button I don't want to be worrying about the 30% fail rate mentioned above, or that the batteries may be dead due to the tracking feature being left on. The website tracking feature in particular puts the device in "toy" classification in my books since it is not necessary at all for the purposes of calling in SAR during an emergency.
Something else; SPOT is a made in China product, with a 1 year warranty. In comparison to the ACR line (for example) which is made in the US, and comes with a 5 year warranty. Take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTcKWGLn8cE .
IMO this debate is similar to the smartphone vs dedicated GPS discussion.
But back to the topic at hand, I mentioned the discontinuing of dedicated PLBs because it shows how MEC has really thinned out it's mountain gear lines in favor of things like yoga gear. IMO SPOT is something that appeals more to people who spend a lot of time in the urban environment and want something they can play with, which fits in with MECs trend of catering more and more to customers who rarely get out of the city.
I don't think it compares to a smartphone vs. GPS. A smartphone GPS is generally a not very good GPS - not a GPS with additional features. I think it more compares to buying a Garmin GPS vs. a Garmin GPS with built-in radio. Additional features do not necessarily degrade the important feature.
If the SPOT is not working, it has nothing to do with the additional features. As I said above, if it is a less reliable distress beacon, that's a fair argument against - but the fact that it has additional features to the distress beacon do not themselves take away from its ability to send an emergency signal.
Of course the tracking is not necessary to call in SAR. It is an additional feature that does not interfere with the first purpose to call SAR. Sort of like a compass stuck onto the side of a whistle. Doesn't make the whistle any less good of a whistle - even if the compass might be pretty junky.

But that tracking is one of the reasons some people choose it over a PLB. For one, it serves a separate additional need. some people just want to be able to call SAR. Others want to do things like be able to check in with their wife to calm concerns. Tracking works for that without inhibiting the call SAR feature.
On the other hand, some people like the tracking for its potential safety use. A PLB needs someone to activate it. The tracking feature won't call SAR, but could relate. I have heard some people who do a fair amount of soloing mention that they got the SPOT with tracking so that if something happened to them and they were unable to activate a distress signal, their s/o could see that they haven't moved (as shown by the tracking feature) and call in help, even if they're not yet overdue.
As for batteries, anything that requires batteries at all also requires the brains to ensure bringing a spare set if it is going to be a potential emergency use item.
The people I've seen from this forum mention they bought a SPOT are definitely active outdoorsmen who found the SPOT best for their assorted needs - not occasional mountain visitors.
I definitely think MEC should be carrying PLBs as well, though it may be that those don't sell well, unfortunately, but even if a SPOT is found to not work as well as a PLB, it's solidly more than a toy.
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