quote:Originally posted by Good News Bear
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.