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High Tech Devices?

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  • High Tech Devices?

    I'm looking for some practical guidance/recommendations on [tracking/messaging/SOS] devices for long distance backcountry hiking (Cranberry Lake 50/NPT/Long Trail). I am open to suggestions, but I'm mainly interested in: reliability in remote areas of wilderness; trust that it will sustain power over a reasonable period of time (days?); possess the ability to communicate with home through track logs OR generic texts; efficiently and reliably dispatch SOS in an emergency AND be user friendly to an individual that is far from being knowledgeable and skilled in programming and using this type of technology.

    Thanks for your help and suggestions.

  • #2
    Currently researching SPOT Gen3; Garmin inReachSE+; and Garmin Explorer+

    Comment


    • #3
      Although I don't own one, many forum members do and can help you with your purchasing decision. This topic has come up in several existing threads on this forum so I encourage you to use the Search function with the keyword SPOT or Inreach. For example:
      http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/f...reach-explorer
      http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/f...price-increase

      ​All three of the devices you are considering fall in the SEND category (Satellite Emergency Notification Device) as opposed to PLB (Personal Locator Beacon).

      A PLB is exclusively a distress beacon; it sends a distress message, containing your coordinates and registration number, to a global dispatcher. The initial purchase cost is higher than a SEND but there's no annual subscription fee. This device doesn't meet the needs you specified.

      ​A SEND is both a distress beacon and a communications device. It does what a PLB can do plus it can send non-distress messages (like "I am OK but will be late.") as well as "breadcrumbs" to allow people to track your progress on a shared map. A SEND requires an annual subscription service.

      ​The principal functional difference between SPOT and InReach is that InReach can send and receive messages (2-way messaging). I believe InReach also has a bit more flexibility in its subscription model.
      Looking for Views!

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      • #4
        In four months of experience with the inReach SE (now replaced with a newer model, SE+), everything I have to report is positive. It is easy to use. It never crashes. Custom messages ALWAYS get through, even in challenging locations. The tracking feature works fine. Battery life is not a problem for several days use. It worked flawlessly at temperatures as low as -20 F (mounted on a shoulder strap) and for whole days below zero F.

        The new SE+ and Explorer+ models developed after the Garmin acquisition have more dual navigation/GPS-like features but I would not use them if my inReach had them. Since I am carrying an iPhone anyway (must be in a pocket in winter, or it will shut down because of temperature), I can use its GPS function with an app if I want those features, as well as use it as the interface for inReach. I expect that the GPS app is more functional and easier to use than the navigation features in the new inReach SE+.

        If you want outdated technology, weak/missing transmissions, barely adequate tracking, and low price, get a SPOT. If you want messaging and communication capabilities you can trust, get an inReach.

        Based on my experience with many custom messages (and one successful test reply from my wife), I have no doubt that if I had to send an SOS with the inReach, it would get through. I can't think it is less reliable than a single-function PLB. Even more important in case a rescue, if you are able, you can communicate back and forth with the rescue personnel so they know what your problem and condition is, and can come more effectively prepared to help. SPOT and PLB will only provide SOS and the coordinates of your location.

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        • #5
          Joe, supposing I wanted more reliable tracking (than the Spot gives) and flawless SOS. Do I have to pay up to $600 and get that plus a gps that I don't want?
          Project Full Deck Blog.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Neil View Post
            Joe, supposing I wanted more reliable tracking (than the Spot gives) and flawless SOS. Do I have to pay up to $600 and get that plus a gps that I don't want?

            I agree. I bought my inReach in November for a little over $200. Of course I didn't know that I would have to pay almost double that now. If I hadn't bought it then, I probably would not buy one now.

            It follows the pattern of Garmin and others in the wrist GPS/Baro/HR/etc. sports device market. There are models now pushing $1000 even though I consider them toys, not instruments. The smartphone GPS apps have practically wiped out the handheld outdoor GPS market, and rightly so.

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          • #7
            To all - what are the best smartphone gps apps? and are they useful when the phone has bare minimum reception?

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            • #8
              Originally posted by 50something View Post
              To all - what are the best smartphone gps apps? and are they useful when the phone has bare minimum reception?

              Which phone do you have? Most apps are specific for Apple or Android, but not both platforms. On iPhone I like Gaia GPS and Motion X GPS. Trail Boss knows a lot about Android GPS apps. They are not as full-featured as the old Garmin handhelds, but the GPS technology in the phone far surpasses that in an older handheld unit. Battery life used to be a problem, but I have noticed that Apple has made some changes in the newer iOS versions which reduced energy consumption while GPS is running in the background.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by 50something View Post
                To all - what are the best smartphone gps apps? and are they useful when the phone has bare minimum reception?
                Let me know if you're using an Android phone.

                All backcountry navigation apps are designed to work offline (i.e. no data connection). Maps are stored on the phone.
                Looking for Views!

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                • #10
                  I also use Gaia GPS and love it. I believe there is also a Gaia app for Android.

                  As far as reception is concerned, you can download maps beforehand and shut off your cellular data while hiking. It will still record your track and show where you are on the map.

                  Comment


                  • Trail Boss
                    Trail Boss commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Gaia's Android version costs 3-4 times more than its competition and provides a *fraction* of the functionality.

                    Reviews also indicate there are many bugs.

                    All to say, it may be A-OK on iOS but not so much on Android.

                  • wort hog
                    wort hog commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I don't know about the android app, but it gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play (out of 1237 reviews), and costs 20 bucks. Maybe you're right...

                  • Trail Boss
                    Trail Boss commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Read the reviews. Even the ones with 4+ stars mention bugs or deficiencies. Common complaint is several useful features are only available in the *Pro* version (subscription: $40 per year).

                    I browsed Gaia's manual and even the completely free OruxMaps exceeds its functionality. There are far more backcountry navigation apps available on Android and Gaia falls in the middle of the pack (although it leads on price).

                • #11
                  ACR ResQLink+ is a highly reliable and possibly the most trusted PLB. If you ever have to use it and your situation is deemed a true emergency they'll even replace your beacon free of charge. No messaging or tracking or any of that. Just SOS.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Trail Boss, Joe Cedar, Neil, 50something, wort hog, and salt:

                    Thank you all for your responses, dialog and helpful guidance. I'm just starting this process and your conversation and recommendations have given me a good beginning. I knew I would receive sound practical knowledge from respected and trusted forum members with lots of experience and common sense.

                    Thank you for your assistance.
                    Last edited by Pete Hogan; 03-31-2017, 08:46 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by 50something
                      To all - what are the best smartphone gps apps? and are they useful when the phone has bare minimum reception?
                      I am on an Android phone and use Alpine Quest full version - cost was $9.99 I believe. A significant savings compared to the $400 spent on my Garmin gps and $100 spent on the maps. There are numerous free maps, road,terrain, hiking, biking, USGS which can all be preloaded and saved for any area, making reception of cell signal unecessary. I find my phone has far better GPS reception than my old GPS did. Fortunately I have a phone with a removable battery and carry a couple of spares as these apps do tend to use some juice, esp the screen. Airplane mode increases the battery life substantially. If someday I need to switch to a phone with a fixed battery I may still use this phone as my GPS. As it would still be lighter than most of the power sources.


                      Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
                      "Commitment is doing the things you said you'd do, long after the mood you said it in has left you"
                      Bear Grylls' Mom from The Kid Who Climbed Everest

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                      • Trail Boss
                        Trail Boss commented
                        Editing a comment
                        +1
                        I used AlpineQuest for several months. Excellent product but I switched to Locus Map because of several important advantages (supports vector maps, ascent can be calculated using a DEM, offline auto-routing, verbal navigation guidance and progress reports, etc).


                        My phone has a 3600 mAh battery so I haven't had any issues with run time. However an inexpensive external battery pack would be a viable option (for phones without removable batteries).

                    • #14
                      If you're using batteries, you're doing something wrong.
                      I might be kidding...

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        My comments to address the OP are based on using a SPOT Gen3 for two years. While I agree with Joe about the SPOT's shortcomings, it does what I need it to do at a reasonable cost. For many of us north of 49, the cost of the inReach makes it outofReach, and ridiculously so. The SPOT will do everything you're looking for:

                        "reliability in remote areas" - The remoteness of the area is not an issue - coverage is virtually world wide.. Ideally, however, you want a clear view of the sky when sending a message. The way the SPOT sends out a message depends on the type of message. When tracking is activated, the device will try once at each interval to send out the location. If the transmission fails because of tree cover or other obstruction it will simply wait until the next interval to make the next transmission. On the other hand, when manual messages are sent, the device will continue transmitting the message for a period of time and increase the chance of a successful transmission.

                        "sustain power over a reasonable period" - If you use the basic 10 minute interval tracking function, a set of batteries in the SPOT will last about two days. If you leave tracking off and only send occasional "I'm OK" messages, I wouldn't be surprised if it will last a week or longer.

                        "possess the ability to communicate with home through track logs OR generic texts" - The location from which you send a message will appear on an on-line map that your home crew will be able to access. You can pre-program the device with three different messages but you can't change them from the device itself.

                        "efficiently and reliably dispatch SOS in an emergency" - Never tried!

                        " be user friendly" - The SPOT couldn't be easier to use.

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