Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Most Important Piece of Outdoor Gear You Should Own is SPOT's Gen3 Beacon

There's a huge difference in backcountry and front range communication. On the front range, we're used to having four bars of 4GLTE, constant, uninterrupted access to social media, rapid text messages and emails. Step out into the woods, mountains or whatever backcountry scene appeals to you- and you lose a lot of that advantageous, reliable communication. I like to do a ton of solo camping, hiking, kayaking and backpacking- and the thought of running into trouble out in the backcountry without any way of contacting for help scared me. 
During a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park's Baker Gulch area, a dangerous storm popped out of nowhere and i was caught above treeline, by myself. That's a big no-no. What would happen if I slipped and fell while scrambling down some of the boulders? What would happen if I were half an hour away from my car and a tree fell on me, pinning me to the ground? Those worst-case scenarios above along with hearing news of a solo hiker gone missing on the notorious, Long's Peak led me to buying a SPOT Gen3 Global Satellite GPS Messenger.

For $150 (I picked up mine for $75 with a $75 rebate), you get a weather-proof, backcountry communications device with the ability to track your location as you trek, send custom preset messages to others, reach out to friends/family if you need not-so-serious help and most importantly, contact SOS search-and-rescue if you're in a life-or-death emergency.

After purchasing the beacon, you need to subscribe to monthly --or yearly-- plan for satellite service. The standard rate is $15 per month and includes all the one-way communication benefits listed above, I purchased an additional GEOS Member Benefit for an additional $2-$3 per month. As a GEOS Member, you're insured up to $100,000 per year, in search-and-rescue costs that my apply including pricey helicopter-evacuations. That's an absolute no-brainer to pay $17.95 a month for all that trusty security and extra insurance.

The SPOT Gen3 allows you to track your progress as you fill your craving for wanderlust in the backcountry. Turning on tracking mode, your exact location frequently gets pinpointed on an impressive map on your own personal, SPOT adventures site. This can be helpful for loved ones and friends to follow-along as well as give you the chance to see accurately where you trekked. A custom message function allows you to shoot-off a quick message to your predetermined contacts, and even your social followers on Twitter and Facebook. Spot's interactive, easy-to-use mobile app for both the iPhone and Android market, offers easy, on-the-go customization of your messages and who gets contacted for what, along with mobile-tracking, which is fun to go back after a paddle or hike and see where you were once returning to the trailhead.

Have a nervous loved-one or mother? The "I'm Okay!" check-in button sends a quick update with your location to ease the nerves on your favorite supporters who may worry where the heck you are in a massive national park. The red SOS button (hidden under a removable cover), is why I snagged up a SPOT Gen3 beacon though. After coming face-to-face with situations that were precarious and could have led me into deep trouble, I realized just how crucial it was that I carry a beacon. You can be the most cautious, prepared adventurer in the world but if you're out there solo and you get hurt, who knows exactly where you are? No one. Fear not, thanks to GPS satellite technology, SPOT has you covered. As soon as I strapped my beacon onto my backpack on a recent backcountry snowshoe hike in the Arapaho National Forest, I immediately felt at ease knowing that if I needed help- I could get it. Even when traversing through steep terrain surrounded by tall, lodgepole pines, the SPOT's signal still made it through fine when checking- in and tracking. I bring this everywhere I go, county parks, state parks and our country's legendary national park system.

Here are just a few of the facts: 
  • Small, super light-weight and durable.
  • Water proof, snow proof.
  • Very easy to use and see that the device is functioning properly thanks to blinking LED lights.
  • Included strap and carabineer allow for endless opportunities of use no matter what outdoor hobby.
  • Fast, reliable one-way communication to satellites.
  • Easy to sync up to social media accounts, easy to set-up who will be contacted in an emergency, check-in or minor assistance event.
  • Inexpensive extra insurance that will save your life.
  • Very long battery life. Takes AAA batteries, meaning no worry about finding an outlet the backcountry.
  • Works anywhere in the world, tested and true in Iceland on a 14-day trip.
  • Subscription service can be paid in yearly-full or month-to-month.
Buy it, there's no reason not to and there's no excuse, really. A $75 item purchase plus a subscription cost of under $15 a month for reliable, last-resort help? This is one rugged, reliable piece of outdoor gear you need to have in your cache. Fun fact, since its introduction a few years back, SPOT has helped rescue more than 4,697 outdoor enthusiasts from life-threatening situations. That number is still rising.


Cost: $75 ($149 without rebate)