Big Bend Chat

Random Bits from the Outside World => GPS Gear and Tips => Topic started by: dillomaster on October 12, 2013, 08:47:14 PM

Title: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: dillomaster on October 12, 2013, 08:47:14 PM
Anybody have recent experience with the SPOT or inReach products?  I'm trying to decide if I want to get one of those, or an old school PLB.  I don't really want/need the "update" functions - I'm usually trying to stay out of touch and away from tech.  What I really want is something I can use if the SHTF and it is time to bring in the cavalry.  The PLB products are still a little pricey, but you don't pay for a subscription.  Any experience with the current product offerings would be appreciated!
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: Homer67 on October 13, 2013, 12:32:57 PM
PLB's can be rented.  It's not cheap, but cheaper than buying one if just for the occasional trip.

plbrentals.com lists them for $39/wk plus shipping.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: presidio on October 13, 2013, 08:48:18 PM
Anybody have recent experience with the SPOT or inReach products?  I'm trying to decide if I want to get one of those, or an old school PLB.  I don't really want/need the "update" functions - I'm usually trying to stay out of touch and away from tech.  What I really want is something I can use if the SHTF and it is time to bring in the cavalry.  The PLB products are still a little pricey, but you don't pay for a subscription.  Any experience with the current product offerings would be appreciated!

inReach: no experience.

Spot: no recent experience, but I did try a gen 1 for a year. I was unimpressed with the service. When it worked it worked reasonably well, but it was very sensitive to obstruction in vehicles, even with a clear sky view. I did not try it hiking, where it undoubtedly would have worked better.

I imagine the later versions work better simply due to improved electronics but I went the PLB route in the interim. Never had to use the PLB, but it clearly is a more robust technology than Spot. I did use the Spot to let folks see where I was (an obvious benefit that PLB does not offer). The PLB is an emergency device, not a social tool.

If you don't need the social aspects of the Spot, there is little reason to buy one. Should you use the emergency button, your situation will be routed through several layers of notifications before anyone with SAR interests gets involved.

If you use a PLB, that notification goes directly into the SAR system.

So, for your stated purpose a PLB would be the preferred option.

Actually, what I really would like is a sat phone (to be carried and used as a PLB would...emergencies only).
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: Geezer on October 13, 2013, 09:20:31 PM
At following location is a very negative review of Spot2: http://korpijaakko.com/category/gear-talk/

Look several posts down in the gear-talk section of the site.

In a more recent post in that section he discusses something he thinks is better: Yellowbrick YB3. He also notes that the manufacturer supplied him with a YB3 to test.

I've been following his site for some time and think he is a serious guy. Could be he's wrong on this stuff, of course.

Geezer
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: Raoul Duke on October 14, 2013, 01:49:49 PM
No experience with the other devices you mention, but I did use a SPOT 2 device for the Texas Water Safari this year.  I rented it from a place for about $70/week.  It worked fine and broadcast my position every 10 minutes for the entire race. 

Now the rub: I looked into buying one myself so that I could use it when I got to BiBe.  I discovered that SPOT sells their service for $49.99/year, which doesn't seem too bad.  What they don't tell you is that, if you don't cancel the service after the first year, it automatically renews the second year at $160.00 per year.    You can't find the second year pricing anywhere, unless you look somewhere deep in the fine print after you purchase the device.  I am very reluctant to deal with companies that have business practices like that.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: badknees on October 14, 2013, 06:39:02 PM
ACR and McMurdo do real PLB's for $250-$300. That's got to be cheaper than SPOT in the long run unless you really need the tracking feature.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: presidio on October 15, 2013, 01:33:18 AM
What they don't tell you is that, if you don't cancel the service after the first year, it automatically renews the second year at $160.00 per year.    You can't find the second year pricing anywhere, unless you look somewhere deep in the fine print after you purchase the device.  I am very reluctant to deal with companies that have business practices like that.

Yep. I got bit by that as well with the gen 1 device. After the year expired, I started getting renewal emails (which I ignored). Then, they started calling. Since I didn't recognize the number I ignored that also. Finally, they left a message that I had some obligation to them. They went this route because the credit card had expired in the interim and they were unable to automatically bill it.

After about 30 minutes on the phone with them getting increasingly insistent that I "OWED" them because it was a contractual agreement, and me getting increasingly irritated (but, yes, as you say, the language was buried way down in the tiny print), I got off the hook for $50. I made it abundantly clear they would never get another dime from me. I do recall the dunner saying they had gotten lots of complaints about the practice and that Spot was going to make the auto billing very obvious.

It's obvious they never did.

Unfortunately, Spot is not the only company that plays this game.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: presidio on October 15, 2013, 01:37:34 AM
ACR and McMurdo do real PLB's for $250-$300. That's got to be cheaper than SPOT in the long run unless you really need the tracking feature.

Probably, but keep in mind that PLB batteries are life-limited to 10 years in storage and must be replaced by returning the units. I am not aware of any units have user-replaceable cells, though you can buy the batteries online.

The batteries are not cheap. I have not decided yet whether to send mine back or attempt the replacement myself. However, given that a PLB is a last chance kind of device, tinkering with the innards on the kitchen table probably is not the best way to go.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: qkh178 on October 15, 2013, 06:59:14 AM
My PLB (ACR) has a 5 year battery life.  I just replaced it and it cost about $200 (battery and labor).  I paid about $550 for it about 6 years ago.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: Hayduke on October 15, 2013, 12:03:13 PM
ACR and McMurdo do real PLB's for $250-$300. That's got to be cheaper than SPOT in the long run unless you really need the tracking feature.

Probably, but keep in mind that PLB batteries are life-limited to 10 years in storage and must be replaced by returning the units. I am not aware of any units have user-replaceable cells, though you can buy the batteries online.

The batteries are not cheap. I have not decided yet whether to send mine back or attempt the replacement myself. However, given that a PLB is a last chance kind of device, tinkering with the innards on the kitchen table probably is not the best way to go.

I would bet that by the time my PLB batteries need replacing there will be a cheaper, more full-featured option available that probably even weighs less.  The bottom line is that I regard my PLB as a throw away - when the batteries come due I'll buy the newer better thing.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: presidio on October 15, 2013, 12:15:41 PM
My PLB (ACR) has a 5 year battery life.  I just replaced it and it cost about $200 (battery and labor).  I paid about $550 for it about 6 years ago.

Hmmm...that's more than my ACR will cost from what I remember (unit not handy to check again, but I could be recalling incorrectly).

And, now that I think more about it, it does have a 5 year life (earlier comment about 10 years clearly in error).

In the long run, maintaining a PLB still comes out ahead. After you amortize the initial cost of the PLB (which would occur in about 3.5 years compared to the Spot), the ongoing annual expenses for the PLB would average $40/year based on battery replacement vs the $160 Spot subscription.

The bottom line for me is that the PLB is a serious tool for emergencies and the Spot is not.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: qkh178 on October 16, 2013, 06:57:34 AM
My PLB (ACR) has a 5 year battery life.  I just replaced it and it cost about $200 (battery and labor).  I paid about $550 for it about 6 years ago.

Hmmm...that's more than my ACR will cost from what I remember (unit not handy to check again, but I could be recalling incorrectly).

And, now that I think more about it, it does have a 5 year life (earlier comment about 10 years clearly in error).

In the long run, maintaining a PLB still comes out ahead. After you amortize the initial cost of the PLB (which would occur in about 3.5 years compared to the Spot), the ongoing annual expenses for the PLB would average $40/year based on battery replacement vs the $160 Spot subscription.

The bottom line for me is that the PLB is a serious tool for emergencies and the Spot is not.


Prices have dropped considerably since I purchased mine 6 years ago.  They are also much smaller and lighter now.  I just threw in the $550 figure to show what they use to cost.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: iCe on August 11, 2014, 07:51:47 AM
Sorry for resurrecting last years thread. Any new opinions on SPOT vs PLB. I have access to a sat phone from work but IDK what the battery life is. I've never used it. It's for "major comm outages" or emergencies.
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: steelfrog on August 11, 2014, 09:59:53 AM
I have a SPOT; not user friendly, in part because I haven't taken the time to learn it.  I have a Oregon GPS.  And I been thinking about the DeLorme.   I think all things equal I would get the DeLorme because it's the only option actually lets you communicate.  But it's $300.  I dunno If there's a subscription required like with the SPOT; with subscription SPOT is bout same as DeLorme; subscription annual
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: iCe on August 11, 2014, 11:07:02 AM
The net is full of PLB's vs GPS units discussions. The hardcore guys (like in Alaska or offshore sailing) seem to prefer the ACR PLB's. Everyone else likes the DeLorme / Oregon offerings. There are a lot of Spot haters  :icon_lol: , mostly due to their subscription being auto renew and going up a bunch during the second year, but no SPOT 3 haters or likers so far. Maybe it's too new
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: steelfrog on August 11, 2014, 11:14:03 AM
Wow.  Just looked at DeLorme subscription plan--even more expensive than SPOT!
Title: Re: SPOT... InReach... PLB
Post by: iCe on August 11, 2014, 11:24:17 AM
That's what I saw too. PLB doesn't have tracking "cookies" or messaging...


I need to find the Sat phone they gave me  :shock:  I have never done anything with it but charge it up