On my expedition this past August to explore a remote river in Canada’s Arctic, I carried two handy devices manufactured by Globalstar: the SPOT Gen3 and the SPOT Global Phone. Both these gadgets rely on satellite technology to provide adventurers, hikers, and others who stray far from the beaten path a communications lifeline for emergencies or to stay in touch with friends and family.
The SPOT Gen3 is the latest of Globalstar’s emergency satellite communication devices. It is essentially what used to be called in movies a “homing device,” a slick sort of gadget that transmits via satellite one’s exact location to a webpage that anyone with the link can view, or directly through email to whomever one wishes.
It is also possible to send pre-programed texts from the field to up to 10 email accounts, such as “Made camp for day, everything fine here” so that others know you are safe. However, these texts have to be programed ahead of time before going into the field, and can only display a single message.
There is also a tracking feature that can be left on, which updates your coordinates at pre-set intervals—anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on your preference.
The SPOT Gen3 is user-friendly and easy to set up, even for the technologically challenged. It’s waterproof to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes, a handy feature when facing extreme conditions.
But the most important feature of the SPOT Gen3 is the SOS button—pressing it sends one’s coordinates and a rescue message to Search and Rescue authorities. It’s been reported that more than 3,000 rescues worldwide have happened thanks to the SPOT Gen3 and its predecessors, the SPOT Gen2 and the original SPOT.
Overall, it is an excellent product and worth carrying in the wilderness.
The SPOT Global Phone is a satellite phone designed for use in remote locations. Like the SPOT Gen3, it is user friendly; indeed, I find it easier to use than an ordinary smartphone. It weighs only 201 grams and works from most remote wilderness locations in North America.
For our expedition, there was some concern that we would be outside the SPOT Global Phone’s range as we were more than 500 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. We were told that we might have to wait an hour or more to establish a connection with the satellite. Fortunately, this was not the case. We found the phone worked well, and we seldom had to wait more than five or ten minutes before picking up a signal that allowed us to make a call. In other locations, wait times were even less.
Like all satellite phones, the phone only works with a clear, unobstructed view of the sky, which means you cannot use it inside a tent, under a tarp or in thick forest. It comes with a single long-life Lithium-ion battery providing four hours of talk time, 36 hours standby. The phone can also receive up to 35-character text messages.
Overall, it is a good phone and one I would recommend for wilderness trekkers.
For more information on Globestar’s products, visit the company website.