I purchased my first SPOT Satellite Messenger back in 2009 to give me and my family some peace of mind while I was in the backcountry. Since then I have used my SPOT Gen 2 every time I venture into the Backcountry. It helps me feel safer while I am on the trail. And it helps my wife to worry less when I am out of cell phone reach.
I love my SPOT Gen 2 but realize it is aging technology in need of an update. Which is why I was excited to get my hands on a SPOT X Two way Satellite messenger. I wanted to see if it has managed to keep all the features I love about my SPOT Gen 2 while adding some new features that intrigue me.
I have spent the last several weeks familiarizing myself with and using the SPOT X extensively. I have discovered several features I like and several I think could use some improvement. As such here are my SPOT X Pros and Cons.
PRO Number One:
You can send and receive text messages anywhere in the world. Now normally I wouldn’t like this. Most of the time when I’m headed into the backcountry its to get away. I don’t like the idea of someone being able to contact me or even the temptation of sending messages back home when I came out here to be in the wilderness. But This year is a little diffrent for me. My wife is currently 7 months pregnant and I am committed to a backpacking trip just days before the due date. So the idea of my wife being able to contact me to let me know its time to pack up and hike out. Gives me Peace of mind.
And lets face it…there are numerous situations where this can come in handy. And if you are buying a SPOT X chances are you have a situation in mind. So if you need to communicate to the outside world than a SPOT X is one of your only options.
But don’t expect it to work as well as text messages on your cell phone. In my experience it took an average of 5 mins to send a message and another 5 to revive a message back. Some messages never seem to make it out and I didn’t receive every message that was sent to the SPOT X. But I’ll talk more about that in a min.
PRO Number two:
You can check in with Friends and Family. This is diffrent than a text message. Obviously you could check in with a text also, but long before SPOT offered two way messaging they had the OK button. This is a very simple feature that allows you to send a predefined message like “I’m Okay or We are Ok” to a predefined set of contacts.
I have been using this for years on my SPOT Get 2. I send an ‘I’m Okay” message at every Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. This helps my wife worry less and know that I am alive and well.
The SPOT X still has this feature but has added multiple predefined messages. So in addition to the “I’m Ok”, message…you can have up to 14 predefined messages. You may wonder what’s the point if you can just text whatever or whoever you want. Well SPOT has a variety of service plans. Some of which have limited number of text messages. But you can send an unlimited number of predefined messages no matter which service plan you choose.
Also the beauty of the Check in or “I’m okay” button is you can check in with multiple family members with one push of a button. The only catch is you have to define who will receive these messages online before you head out.
PRO Number Three:
In an emergency You can send two way communication with SAR teams. Which the SOS feature is another reason why I purchased my first SPOT back in 2009. The SPOT X takes SOS a step further allowing you to text back and forth with SAR coordinators after you have activated the SOS button.
PRO Number Four:
Tracking Capabilities. So this is a feature that once again SPOT has had available on several of their devices. Basically what the Tracking feature does is allow you to drop digital GPS bread crumbs that allow friends and family members to follow your progress back home. In the past I’v been slightly disappointed with the interval of bread crumbs. I believe on my SPOT Gen 2 it drops a bread crumb every 20 min.
With the SPOT X you can change the interval to anything between 60 min and 2.5 min.
In addition to this…if you don’t want to use the tracking feature, but do want to let a friend know where you are…you can choose to send GPS and Elevation data in a text message to anyone you choose.
So those are the things I like about the SPOT X. But here is everything I don’t like.
CON Number One:
The Antenna has to be pointed straight up. My Number one complaint is the constant little error message telling you to point the Antenna straight up. Maybe this is ok if you send a message and then clip the SPOT X onto your pack…But any other time you are sending a message…including when it is in your hands…this is impractical. If you want to set the SPOT X down…while it takes 5 mins or more to send or receive a message. Than you have to prop it up with something to keep the antenna pointed up.
CON Number TWO:
It Takes a Long Time to Send or Receive a Message. In tests I have run it took an average of 5 min to send a message, and 5 min to receive a message back. If for some reason you want to have a conversation, even a short one, with friends or family…this is going to get old fast. Which might encourage you to set the device down and spend time in the outdoors like you went out there to do. I guess you could argue if you want to have a conversation with someone at home…than stay home.
In defense of the SPOT X we are talking about sending a message up to a Satalite, then back down to earth, through a processing center, out into the internet, through a cell tower and onto a cell phone. The fact that it works as fast as it does is amazing. Not to mention how amazing is the fact you are sending and receiving text messages deep in the backcountry to begin with.
CON Number Three:
No Confirmation on sent messages. One of the things I like about my SPOT Gen 2 is the confirmation light letting me know my message was successfully sent. Since owning the SPOT X I can’t seem to find any sort of confirmation a text was successfully sent. Which brings me to…
CON Number Four:
Not all Messages go through. In my experience some messages get dropped. Over the last couple of weeks as I have used the SPOT X extensively…I noticed my friends and family didn’t seem to get every single message I sent, nor did I get every message that was sent to me.
CON Number Five:
You Can’t Change the Battery. Something I have always appreciate about my SPOT Gen 2 is you can change the batteries. But the SPOT X requires a charger. The good news is one charge does seem to last several days. Even intentionally trying to drain the battery quickly I still managed to get 3-4 days life out of one charge. I’m sure you can get more with regular use. But it would have been nice to be able to change the batteries.
CON Number Six:
Navigation is extremely limited. Now I haven’t spent a whole lot of time playing with the navigation on the SPOT X, mainly because it seems like an after thought. But honestly It isn’t a navigation device. And frankly I wouldn’t want to be wasting battery life on a device that is intended to save my life in an emergency. In my opinion if you want navigation…get a dedicated GPS device. And Save your SPOT for what is good at. Messaging.
So there are all the SPOT X Pros and Cons. And even though that is more Cons than Pros…If I am being honest I am just being nitpicky. This truly is an amazing device that allows you to communicate with friends and family from almost anywhere in the world. This fact alone is truly a technological wonder that can only improve in the future. If you need to communicate outside of cellphone service, you can’t go wrong with a SPOT X.