Spot Satellite Looks like a Good Safety Device

I’m scheduled to drive from Tok to Anchorage solo on Jan 19 to host an Inauguration party. I have a rranged in case I can’t get out of Tok safely (-40 or below is probably the threshold).

But I’m also scheduled to drive – with my daughter and dogs – to Anchorage Feb 1. Now, I’m a huge fan of driving. I spent over a year living on the road in my RV and traveling to 40 of the 50 states. By myself.

However the drive from Tok to Anchorage is about 8 hours in these winter conditions (that includes an hour stop for gasoline and food in GlenAllen). And with a toddler on board, I suddenly feel shocks of terror coursing through me at the thought of getting stuck in very remote parts of interior Alaska without any cellphone signal at all. With a 2-year-old.

A few people have mentioned the Spot – a satellite/GPS handheld device that let’s you send updates as you travel in remote places and in case of an emergency, can send your GPS coordinates to 911 and your contacts. This device looks like it really rocks!

spot-satellite-messenger-__-home-page-1

It is pricey – just under $200 to purchase the device and $99.99 USD per year for the service subscription and  $49.99 USD additional for the tracking upgrade option allowing your contacts to track your progress on a private Google Maps powered Web page. So we’re looking at about $350 plus shipping.

Let’s see.

Safety and a potentially life-saving connection to others.

$350.

Yeah, I think it is worth it.

For an additional $7.95/year,  Spot also provides “up to $100,000 USD of additional search and rescue resources, including helicopter extraction around the world and reimbursement benefits for any emergency service expenses incurred.” WOW!

Anyone out there have experience with Spot? Thoughts? Experiences?

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61 Comments

  1. Never used one of those. Even with one you could be sitting in your car for over an hour (best case) for the trooper to show up as there is no trooper posts outside of Delta, Tok, and Glennallen until you get to the populated areas of Fairbanks and Anchorage.

    Best bet is to have lots of warm cloths and supplies to get you thru until help arrives. I always have firewood, gas, ax, and road flares in my vehicle. If I break down or hit a moose, I can have a fire going in less then 30 seconds right off the side of the road. I had to do this once and it was much better than sitting bundled up in a cold vehicle.

    Having traveled both of those roads in winter a number of times, there is usually enough traffic on them during the daylight hours that someone would come by and assist you if you break down. Always try to travel during the daylight as the moose are all over the roads at night and can be very hard to see with the ice fog.

    In any case, be prepared to help yourself for a good length of time out there. Even with a device like that, help could still be hours away if the troopers are busy (there are only a couple on duty at given time in each of those towns mentioned above) and no one happens to be traveling that day to assist.

    Here is another option if you do not feel like driving and your schedule lines up with theirs:
    http://www.alaskadirectbusline.com/schedule.htm

    Reply
  2. Testing to see if this works. We live in the San Juan Islands WA. Lopez Island… Our son in Anchorage. We drove the Alcan last year and ate at the Grumpy Grizzly went to your store there and stayed at a really funky hotel. We are photographers and got grreat pics.. Our son sent you blog as it appeared in their paper in Anchorage.. Travel safe.. Anne Sister Celtic
    http://www.lopezislandlife.blogspot.com

    Reply
  3. Joe

     /  January 10, 2009

    Sure isn’t worth risking your life to throw a party for Obama, who will prove to be among the worst Presidents ever. Oh wait, one less Obama supporter would be a good thing…

    Reply
  4. John

     /  January 10, 2009

    Don’t drive at night.

    I was driving from Montana to Anchorage and thought I would save some time by driving through the night. Big mistake.

    I had no idea how many deer there are in those unpopulated, unhunted woods. They are drawn to headlights like furry kamikazes. When I hit one at 3AM I was well outside of the closest town (Whitecourt, AB) and RCMP were nowhere to be found.

    Reply
  5. Barbaric

     /  January 11, 2009

    Yet again the classy GOP types show that they are simply bad people half the time.
    I second the survival gear and I try to carry some even going to Kenai from Anchorage. I used to live in North Pole and in the ice fog even going to Fairbanks was hazardous. Flares, a big flashlight, big sleeping bags, those mylar space blankets, charcoal heat packs are all good to have. Even in the summer/spring/fall. One time my truck broke down on the Parks outside of Nenana and I had to camp there for a couple of days to fix it, hitching into town for parts.
    Grad school was fun!

    Reply
  6. Anthony Starr

     /  January 11, 2009

    I lived in AK until I was 10. We had good friends that lived in TOK (still do, I believe), so we went there often.

    I have been there when it was at least -60.

    Sure do have to plan to travel in AK in winter. Good luck.

    Reply
  7. Well I voted for MCCain and Palin and I like them both and I’m an independent voter just to throw in my thoughts..

    Reply
  8. Bob

     /  January 11, 2009

    I have a boat, a Beneteau 423 and I bought Spot and used it all last summer. I works well! It reports your position back to the Spot website every 10 minutes. You can send a link to anyone you like so they can track you too on the Spot website against a Google map. The connection does not depend upon a cellphone signal, it works by via satellite and according to the Spot website, they have coverage in Alaska. You have the choice of four signals you can send: 1) automatically every 10 min as to where you are, 2) Push a button and you can send an e-mail(s) to anyone you want that indicates you are “OK” 3) Push another button and you can send another set of messages that you need help, 4) lastly, push the last button labeled 911 and you trigger the rescue function from Spot headquarters. They will come after you via any means they can find near where you are at and pay for it with the $100,000 fund insurance.

    It can also send a message to a cellphone but I haven’t used that feature yet. It’s a terrific value for the money for someone out of range of cellphone coverage.

    Bob

    Reply
  9. I have a Spot, and use it often when hiking in Alaska. For me, it works as advertised. A very real benefit is being able to tell your loved-ones you’re OK when you’re otherwise out of touch. I second the opinions on carrying safety provisions in your car. But I heartily recommend the Spot, as well.

    Reply
  10. Erik

     /  January 11, 2009

    Joe,
    You would wish a woman and her toddler death because of the way she voted? You are an excellent representative of the compassion that has been so lacking in Bush’s America.

    If you want to blame someone for Obamas election, blame Bush…THE worst president of all time.

    Reply
  11. amy barber

     /  January 11, 2009

    Lady, you’re nuts. endangering a child in that extreme temperature. Children’s services should be watching you. Shame, Shame on you!

    If your car has problems your child will die, think about it!

    Reply
  12. Bo Stukes

     /  January 11, 2009

    ….Amy Barber is absolutely right….it’s crazy to set out in that kind of cold with a toddler….read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London before you compemplate any further ego trips like this.

    Reply
  13. What I find fascinating is that anybody thinks I’d actually TAKE these scheduled trips in bad weather conditions, with or without a toddler.

    As anyone who lives in these parts knows, one day could be -50 and then then next -10. We all just have to play it by ear in terms of whether a “scheduled trip” will actually happen.

    Reply
  14. sagalaska

     /  January 11, 2009

    OK here goes, people here in Alaska are fiercely indepentant, and unless you live here, we can get pretty defensive about outsiders sticking there nose where it does not belong. So amy barber, bo stukes, unless you live here mind your own business. People here drive in -50 everyday, I work outside almost everyday in -20 to -50, kids go to school up to -50, it is our way of life. My kids, now in UAF drive and live their everyday lives in this weather. I have read To build a Fire, sorry no correlation between that and driving to Anchorage. Aliza, pack your arctic gear and blankets and enjoy your trip.

    Reply
  15. I just have to say, I discovered this blog tonight, and I’m mesmerized. And suddenly half a foot of snow and 18 degrees (current conditions where I live) doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Keep warm out there.

    Reply
  16. Alessandro from Italy

     /  January 11, 2009

    Dear Aliza,

    I reached your blog from the homepage of worldpress. Compliments! You are doing a great job!

    If you’lla have enough time to see my blog on wordpress (alessandrobertin.wordpress.com), you’ll see that I’m a lover of far north regions and of social network also.
    Now the blog i s in italian, but I’m working on an english section and I use to communicate in english on twitter and on linkedin. So compliments again! Bye

    Alessandro

    Reply
  17. Jane

     /  January 11, 2009

    I love this blog! I found the link on Drudge, and I have enjoyed reading it. I will be checking back soon!!

    Reply
  18. I was stationed in Tok for 18 months some years ago at the Coast Guard LORAN Station. What’s the Coast Guard doing in the middle of Alaska? Aircraft use the LORAN signal for navigation as well as sea-going vessels. I would pack plenty of keep-warm gear for you and your toddler; it doesn’t take long to freeze at those temperatures if your vehicle should break-down!

    Bob

    Reply
    • Bob – the Coast Guard housing is near where we live. I was wondering the same thing until I learned about the LORAN Station!

      Reply
  19. I found your site via the story on the Drudge Report, and I was fascinated to read about life in Tok, Alaska. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  20. When I got orders to Tok, I was living on the East Coast. I thought I’d better buy a four-wheel drive vehicle since I would be driving the ALCAN in Winter. I bought a brand new Suzuki Samurai. I installed all the standard devices for the cold temperatures in Tok (block heater, battery blanket, etc.) and off we (the Samurai and I) went. By the time I reached Tok, most of the fancy (plastic) trim and the spare tire cover was toast. The only thing that remained of the spare tire cover were the strings that tied it all together! Other than that, The Samurai proved to be a worthy vehicle for the trip and my tour.

    On one particular cold day in Tok (-70 or so), my tires were frozen stiff. I had all weather radials and they tend to bulge-out by design and they were frozen in that shape. It took a few miles of driving before the tires heated-up enough to spring back to life. It was like driving the Flintstones car! Materials behave in peculiar ways when the temperature drops that low!

    You have to love it! lol

    Reply
  21. And I thought it was cold at the NFC championship game in Green Bay last year. I totally understand what Sagalaska says but if you have the opportunity to leave the baby with your hubby why would you bring her?

    How long a drive is it?

    Have fun and stay warm. cold front coming to chicago this week at -6 overnight. At that temp would you all be out getting sun?

    Let us know when you ar eleaving and who is going with you.

    Reply
  22. And I thought I was cold at the NFC Championship game in Green Bay last year.

    Good luck with the ride. How long is the ride?

    Reply
  23. Thanks for your comment on our sight. I somehow missed the one several months ago….Welcome to Tok!

    I was reading about your daughter and just wanted to comment that in future the 911 line is actually pretty fast. (You are correct to say that driving to the clinic is the best way. Just make sure you contact the on-call provider to meet you there. That’s probably the most important number to have available.)

    Our EMS system here in Tok is actually fantastic and our response times are surprisingly faster than some of the cities. If you guys are living in the Dipple’s old house then you actually have a Paramedic and myself within less than a mile of your place! =)

    Anyway, welcome to town and we love your blog-sight! Stay warm…..

    Reply
  24. I thought your email responder was broken, but then, I realized I misspelled my email address, duh! lol

    But now I can’t correct the email address for my subscription because the verification is being sent to a non-address.

    I originally entered bobr@bob-r.com instead of the correct bob-r@bob-r.com.

    What to do?

    Reply
    • Let me check and see if I have some kind of admin tools to fix that. I’m still fairly new to using WordPress. Was more of a Typepad kinda gal.

      Reply
  25. Asleep At The Wheel

     /  January 11, 2009

    In February of ’91, I was driving back from Fairbanks late at night and, like a real knucklehead, fell asleep at the wheel about 30 miles out of Tok at Cathedral Rapids. I subsequently went off the road into the ditch and got stuck. It was -30 below and there were no other cars on the road in the middle of the night, so I got out my arctic gear and built a fire. After 3 hours of no traffic, I said screw this and started walking. I stopped at Yerrick Creek bridge to rest, gave my life to Jesus, and walked on to Tanacross where Gramma made me a nice breakfast. Good outcome, but I learned not to drive at night in the extreme cold. Chief Andrew was right; why ask for trouble?

    Reply
  26. AJ

     /  January 11, 2009

    Back to your original question, I was a given a SPOT for my birthday before heading out on a solo three month tour around the United States. After many nights in the backcountry, my family and friends were very happy to get my SPOT reports. I paid for the extra coverage. Although it doesn’t replace a PLB, satellite phone, or common sense, you are right that $350 is worth a bit of backup when cell phones fail.

    Reply
  27. LOVE this tool, get one ASAP!

    It’s kinda funny that anyone would think that you would ever intentionally endanger your child. Obviously they did not read your last post.

    Love the blog, can’t wait to follow you live in Alaska!

    Reply
  28. Fitz

     /  January 11, 2009

    Hi bloggers !
    I am enjoying your remarks in and about the frozen tundra…as I considered taking a dip in the Ohio River this afternoon.It is a mere +32 degrees here. Too bad politics have to rear their ugly heads amidst interesting comments.If you do decide to take this trip,please be careful.Friends in Minnesota always loaded their trunks with gear for winter trips.
    Pax,
    Fitz

    Reply
  29. Alaskan

     /  January 11, 2009

    They are actually very useful. I don’t personally use one, because most places these work a cell phone will work as well. The one area in which I’ve seen these work better and become more useful is when used off the highways. When riding snowmachines, ATV’s………these things are great for an emergency. I can see this being well worth your money if you plan on going back and forth from Tok to Anchorage a lot. Or get to know everyone along the highway…which is pretty easy. You have great folks 28 miles out of town, Mentasta Lodge, Chistochina, Glennallen, Eureka, Sutton, Palmer…..great folks always willing to help I’ve found.

    Reply
  30. Bob

     /  January 12, 2009

    I’m trying unscribe to a thread but keep getting this error mesage when I click on the link: “Manage your subscriptions”

    Error message:
    “You cannot view this page without a valid key”

    Can you help?
    Bob

    Reply
  31. Brooklyn88

     /  January 12, 2009

    Stopped reading after the “host an inauguration party” line.

    Reply
  32. BRUCE

     /  January 12, 2009

    My son is a Loadmaster on an Air Force C5, he was in Fairbanks on Saturday @ -62. He said it was his worst experience since he has been in. Including his SERE training and many blackout night landings in the desert. With size 15 feet the AF didn’t have Mukluks to fit him. He said while working with the chains for the load, if they touched an exposed skin they immediately adhered to it and would take out a chunk of skin when pulled off. Being from the Midwest I have seen -30 ,but cannot imagine -60 to -80, and hope I don’t have to.

    Reply
  33. Scott K. Smith

     /  January 12, 2009

    I’m an electronic communication specialist and am VERY familiar with the SPOT system as well as sat phones, PLB’s (personal locating beacons), EPIRB’s (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), VHF radio, SSB radio, etc. A PLB or an EPIRB will alert several goverenment agencies that you have a LIFE THREATENING emergency and they will dispatch help. That help would likely be a helicopter from a nearby military or Coast Guard base. This is not appropriate use of these devices. The SPOT is an excellent choice as it allows you to send additional information to family, friends, or police. You cannot do so with an EPIRB or PLB.
    As long as you can see the sky, it will work.

    Reply
  34. Scott K. Smith

     /  January 12, 2009

    Wanted to comment on survival gear for that long trip. Some new space heaters have recently come on the market that are designed for use in campers, tents, rv’s and such. Most importantly (VERY importantly) they operate on propane and do NOT need to be vented (other than to replace the oxygen they consume). While it would require care in where you placed the heater, it could keep you warm for an extended period INSIDE your vehicle. I can hardly imagine building a fire OUTSIDE the vehicle when it is -70 deg and the snow is being driven by 45 knot winds! I mean, REALLY ! All the usual survival gear is a must (flashlight, batteries, radio, flares, space blanket, extra WARM clothes, water, food, etc.) And always remember that Mr. Murphy is out there waiting for you.

    Reply
  35. Jim

     /  January 12, 2009

    I live in Colorado now, I lived in Fairbanks. for several years. I travel with cold survival gear even now in this relatively mild winter climate. I over-plan and hope I never get to use any of that extra crap banging around in the back of my jeep.The device you mentioned sounds totally cool. If you can afford it, it’s a no-brainer… Please don’t take off for Tanana if you get stuck. For those of you who haven’t lived there: Don’t tell an Alaskan what to do in the cold or wilderness. (although I must say, it’s sorta amusing)

    Reply
  36. marc

     /  January 12, 2009

    Wow, we get upset here in Texas when it gets to freezing. We really only have a handful of days at or below 32 degrees. I am really shocked at how cold it gets there. More so how people can survive in this element. May you and your family be blessed with good health and survival.

    Marco Polo

    Reply
  37. Ed

     /  January 12, 2009

    First responce was right on. You always should be ready to “camp” when driving Alaskan winter roads. Fire starters, Shovel, stove and more importantly sleeping bags ( 2 per person),VB boots, overboots and clothes. Car trouble or eathquakes or moose or other travelers, you shaould always be ready to spend the day out. Have you learned how to build a snow shelter of some kind? They are very warm, 20’s, warmer than a car or tent. Even if you dont drive to Anchorage, a survival kit in the car comes in handy if the cabin burns etc.

    Reply
  38. RFig

     /  January 12, 2009

    Getting the device shows personal responsibility and the manufacture will pay for the search and rescue not the taxpayer. Sounds like very Republican ideals to me. If it was my choice and I had the money I would get that unit and a satellite phone and pack all the survival gear that I am sure you already have. How reliable is your car in extreme weather? I can not help remembering the sad case of the CNET writer who died in Oregon trying to get help with his wife and child in the car. Be safe.

    Reply
  39. Mark

     /  January 12, 2009

    All that driving has left quite a carbon footprint, I’m sure, especially the year in the RV. Probably why Tok is only at 80 below instead of 120 below. Way to be unconscionable.

    Reply
  40. Smarticus

     /  January 12, 2009

    Spot has been reported to work well most of the time. Better in areas where there are few trees.

    Better check with SPOT company for reports of its reliability in AK.

    Also, I think any sane mother would not intentionally place their child in danger. The question is whether they would UN-intentionally place them in danger.

    The big question for you is, if things go really bad, what actions will I have to take to make us safe until help arrives (and how long will that be)?

    Reply
  41. Well, I’m in Mississippi, so if a single snowflake falls, someone swerves into a power pole and knocks out electricity to most of the city. All that to say that I’ve got no advice save be careful and pack a bottle of scotch (preferably 18 years or older).

    Reply
  42. Hey, I just got back from RVing Central America with my 3 kids and we used Spot to send tracking messages to my husband, who really appreciated them. Sometimes we would go 3-4 days without phone access or cell signal.

    I also took the to Alaska and up to Inuvik this summer and wished I had Spot then, since cell service is wishful thinking in many parts of the great north.

    Several tips:
    1. The reviews on REI give good advice, particularly in how to hold the device for best sending, sending multiple “I’m ok messages” to make sure at least one makes it, and being patient on the Send feature (sometimes takes 20 min.).

    2. Take extra lithium batteries- they were not to be found in desolate places, but we did make it almost 2 months without needing new ones.

    3. I put a “Call AAA and here’s my account number and their phone number” as the “Help” email message so that if anything mechanical happened, several recipients could make sure help was on the way, no matter what the problem (note: mechanical trouble is not a 911 call in Texas, but it probably is in Alaska in the winter, so your call).

    3. There were many promo codes out there before the new year so that a friend got the device and all the tracking for much less than I did. You need to buy the device first, then sign up for the services and they don’t need to be from the same website. I’ll see if I can find my old message on that and repost it for you. I’m not sure if they’re still valid, but it will hopefully give you a good start on the offers.

    Hope that helps! Sorry I missed you both times I went through Tok this summer!

    Happy travels,
    Tessa in TX

    Reply
  43. Chicken Highlanders Scotch Club

     /  January 12, 2009

    Scratch, you’re all class.

    Reply
  44. Ryan O'Keven

     /  January 12, 2009

    I have a SPOT device, and have used the “911” button once to initiate a search and rescue operation here in California. Two helicopters arrived in one hour. I cannot recommend it enough. Email me for photos of the search and rescue.

    Reply
  45. With all this free advertising, the Spot folks should give you a free one! lol

    http://findmespot.com/en/

    Just testing my subscription actually, thought I’d throw that in there.

    Reply
  46. It’s all good now.

    Having a “heat wave” in Tok I see; all the way up to -30! lol

    Reply
  47. Biff

     /  January 12, 2009

    Don’t get a spot. Get a PLB instead. If you are debating how much to spend to save your life, you are endangering your life. A real PLB costs $500 or a bit higher for entry level models, but the signal goes directly to search and rescue and the units must meet _stringent_ durability requirements. Check this site out for more info on cold weather survival, spot, plb, and more: http://www.equipped.com and for communication, you absolutely need a vhf/uhf/ham radio capable of communicating on emergency sar (search and rescue) frequencies, local aviation, local/state emergency frequencies. Get the radio first and worry about a ham/vhf license later. You can communicate on any channel without a ham/vhf/uhf license during an emergency per FCC rules. Get this radio: http://www.yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&ProdCatID=111&encProdID=64C913CDBC183621AAA39980149EA8C6&DivisionID=65&isArchived=0
    or here: http://tinyurl.com/6y5ty3 to carry on your person, get a spare battery and emergency charger, and get another more powerful ham/vhf/uhf mobile radio for your car.
    You can shop here: http://www.hamradio.com/

    And for a basic understanding of the radio and its frequencies and the FCC rules and how everything works, get one of the entry level ham radio license course books. It will explain everything necessary for you to know, and the second and third level books will take if further if you decide to know more.

    The car radio (50 watts or more, better antenna) will carry and boost the handheld’s (5 watts max) signal if you are anywhere near the car and the car is on. Forget a satellite phone. The handheld radio will put you into immediate and direct touch with police, fire, ambulance, snow plow drivers, DOT personnel, troopers, airport, airplane, other hams anywhere in Alaska or Canada or US or worldwide, etc. You should find the frequencies of the most relevant and useful emergency personnel and any other frequencies to use in an emergency, and any ham radio clubs in Alaska, and pre-program them into the radio. Hams are tight-knit group and will go out of their way to help you in an emergency, and many hams are also ex-military or ex-Coast Guard, and many are current or retired police/first responders. Besides a cell phone, a ham/vhf/uhf radio and a plb, among other survival equipment are mandatory when travelling in life threatening conditions.

    Reply
  48. Scott K. Smith

     /  January 13, 2009

    I’m afraid I have to strongly disagree with Biff. Ham radio is NOT a great idea in this instance for several reasons. Please read my previous post.

    My credentials:
    1. Extra class ham radio operator first licensed in 1958. (NR1V)
    2. FCC First Class Radiotelephone License (GROL) with ship radar endorsement.
    3. Degree in electrical engineering.
    4. Instructor for the USCG in matters pertaining to emergency communication, proceedures and equipment.
    5. Licensed FCC / USCG radio safety certificate inspector with 15 years experience.
    6. Own and operate more and different types of ham radio communication equipment than anyone that is likely to read this post.
    7. Net control operator (periodically) for the Maritime Mobile Service Net. (To allow communication between vessels worldwide)
    Shall I continue ?

    A ham VHF or UHF transceiver is illegal to operate without the proper license from the FCC. Period. You might get a pass on a one time emergency call, but if you interfere with police communications, you might very well get arrested by them! In addition the range of this type of ham radio equipment is quite limited and is usually NOT capable of communication with most “police, fire, ambulance, snow plow drivers, DOT personnel, troopers, airport, and airplanes” . The first 6 services you mention typically use duplex frequency offsets that are nearly impossible to set up on a ham transceiver. They also use sub audible tone squelch or digital id to communicate with other operators in their service. And in most parts of the US, trunked radio systems, not compatible with ham radio, are in widespread use. In addition, mountain top repeaters may be of no use. I remember being atop a mountain (12,000 ft) in Rocky Mountain National Park a few years ago and couldn’t raise a single repeater or other ham operator. Most aircraft vhf communication is accomplished via AM rather than FM which is used in ham equipment of this type. They likely won’t hear you !

    Again, a PLB (essentially a personal EPIRB) is not appropriate for someone in an automobile.
    When activated it simply sends out a code to a satellite that is then used to determine WHO the PLB is registered to and where it is located.
    Nothing more. The series of events that occur after receipt of this distress signal is awesome. You will be calling on major segments of the United States and other governments to commit vast resources to RESCUING you. I know. I had to use one of these devices when a sailboat I was on caught on fire in the middle of the night halfway between Boston and Bermuda. Within 30 minutes two F-16 fighter jets flew over us about 200 feet off the ‘deck’ . They were scrambled from Otis AFB on Cape Cod. In my opinion, these beacons should ONLY be used when you are in IMMEDIATE danger of LOSING YOOUR LIFE. Period!

    Reply
  49. Captain Sourdough

     /  January 13, 2009

    Smitty, you got all twitterpated over nothing. These cityfolks who’ve been posting here are mainly from big places like Anchorage, where there’s this fear of being in the wilderness without some kinda security object they gotta carry with them to feel like they’re still connected in case they get scared or something.
    Last summer, I crossed the Gulf of Alaska in my little boat with a rented sat phone and a GPS epirb, and at times the gale got a bit intimidating, but not once did I feel like I needed to call in the ‘Cav. Gee, being on land with a set of warm clothes, fire starter, and a good bottle of hootch, I dunno what people are so afraid of…maybe not getting home in time to watch Oprah, or something!

    Reply
  50. Biff

     /  January 13, 2009

    Once again, read http://www.equipped.com on why to avoid SPOT. I’m sure the manufacturer has salemen monitoring the site and will be just as aggressive in defending their product here as they are with http://www.equipped.com and the FCC. And as they appear, imho, to be litigious, all this is imho. If you locate a ham club local to your area (I’m sure there are ham operators in your area), you should ask them who in the area, including snow plow operators, police, fire, ambulance, red cross, other emergency responders ALSO, in addition to their primary radios, monitor ham/vhf/uhf frequencies. In addition, while hiking the Rocky Mountains during a non-emergency may not make it possible to hear first responder frequencies and be able to communicate on those frequencies, during an emergency when first responders are specifically listening, it is possible to respond on frequencies that other hams can discuss with you. And as I explained in my earlier post, during an emergency, as written in FCC regulations, it is entirely legal to transmit on ANY frequency available to you. As for the plb, being stuck in a car in temperatures well below zero is life threatening emergency, even before your engine stops running, even before you run out of fuel. If you are stuck and no cars are coming by to help or they can’t see you at night or won’t stop to help, during temperature conditions below zero, or even warmer, especially with children in the car, this is a life threatening emergency. Don’t let the two F-16/spot salesman scare you. Search and Rescue is Search and Rescue, regardless of who it is that comes to save your life. They aren’t there to come and change your tire. That would be a tremendous waste of resources and they could probably charge you criminally or sue you for the cost of launching that Search and Rescue. But once again, you described, and I’m discussing protection from a life threatening emergency. Before getting to the emergency, and perhaps during a life threatening emergency if you can’t get a cell phone signal, if others “have their ears on”, you can use a CB radio to contact a trucker in the area or other nearby residents who keep in touch using a CB radio as a hobby. But a ham/vhf/uhf radio has a far greater distance capability. Learn how it works, learn what frequencies work/are monitored in your area, and then get your entry level ham license. But don’t let the lack of license stop you from buying and keeping the radio in your possession for emergencies. And you no longer need to learn morse code for a license. Reading the amateur operator’s manual should be enough, or a local club even in Alaska should be available to you to take an entry level course, or in a big geographic area like Alaska you might even be able to do some long distance learning over the Internet. But again, the manual should be enough to get your beginner’s (technician) license. You went to the trouble to sign up for a cell phone right? Go here: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/classes.html to get a start on a real backup to a cell phone.

    And as for two F-16s coming to investigate a plb signal over an ocean area, that’s exactly the point. Ocean/plb and/or epirb means possibility of sinking/drowning, out of fuel, heavy seas, etc. Satellite epirb/plb emergency signals are monitored by Search and Rescue AND military. It was Russian military monitoring that alerted US military that then alerted Swiss or some other European country Search and Rescue where some skiers were in trouble and activated their plb and who were rescued from overnight freezing temperatures, a broken bone, and possible death in a heavily snowed in mountain area. If I’m stuck out in the ocean and F16s are the closest to my location I sure hope they come to investigate my plb distress signal so they can relay info back to Coast Guard or other Search and Rescue. So should you if stuck in 50 below zero weather on the side of the road at night with children in the car and no cars passing by or passing but not stopping at that time of night. And in Alaska, on land, just as on the ocean, the response will be proportional to what the signal is, what is registered with the plb/epirb, along with what assets are in the vicinity. And the other poster makes my point for me. 50 below zero, stuck on the side of the road or in a ditch with no houses in sight, no cars passing by or stopping, that’s an emergency. No equivocating. Search and Rescue is needed, and is immediately launched upon signal received and confirmed with registered info if not earlier. No issue of whether you paid your latest monthly or yearly fee, or if a company’s communications are temporarily down or out of business or whatever other reason could crop up from a private business as compared to direct signals sent to satellite monitored directly by Search and Rescue and the military. Direct info on SPOT vs PLB: http://www.equipped.org/blog/?p=82

    Reply
  51. I found my email to my RV group from 11/2/08. Hope it helps!

    One more tip: I found in Central America that the tracking (sending my coordinates every 10 min. for 24 hours) did not work as well as sending a simple “I’m OK” message a couple different times.

    Tessa (see below)

    FindMeSpot device – GPS & Satellite tool for travelers

    Have you heard of the FindMeSpot? We found some awesome deals for you!

    FindMeSpot is a satellite emergency device that uses the GPS. I can send “I’m ok” messages to email addresses and cell phones, a “send

    help!” message that has a preprogrammed message (I made the message: “Call Good Sam’s ERS for me!”) and finally and most

    importantly, it has a 911 emergency service.

    The good news is that it works where cell phones don’t AND it gives my exact GPS coordinates to get help. http://www.findmespot.com/en/

    It’s won all sorts of awards and been credited with dozens of rescues since its inception last December.

    Given 50% of the U.S. does not have cell phone coverage, not to mention other countries, this may be something my fellow travelers would like. Bikers and hikers also find it helpful. Grandparents like it so their grandkids can track them on the map.

    Read all the reviews on REI though so you are fully informed as to the limitations. It does not give confirmation that the message has been received and there are cases where it didn’t send. Knowing that, I think it is better than nothing.

    Now Virginia and I were able to find several deals. If we’d each found all the deals, it would have been great. Instead, we each found some, which I’ll share with you (actually, Virginia found all of our very best deals). I have to be quick because I only have one week before we go. Virginia, please fill in the details for me!

    Normally it is $170 for the unit, $100 for subscription, and $50 for tracking, $8 for optional search & rescue. Total= $328. Virginia’s findings allow the same options for $98 + $8= Total = $106. I am in awe.

    Here are the BEST deals we could find:

    1. A new $50 rebate program started yesterday at participating suppliers. It says $148 at participating suppliers and REI has it

    for $148 and the rebate. That’d be $98 and pick up at the store for free. There are many other stores selling, so search online first if

    you don’t have a local REI store. Just go to REI http://www.rei.com/ and seach for “FindMeSpot”.

    OR

    If you hate rebates, purchase the unit from Amazon for the best price I could find $128 with free shipping: http://tinyurl.com/5kotpm

    2. When you get your Spot in, then you register it online, with the serial number of the unit. This is where you input your promo code on the first page to apply it. Virginia found a HUGE discount on Fire Eagle. It is free $100 subscription (required for use) AND free

    $50 tracking on the Google maps (optional, but cool!)http://fireeagle.yahoo.net/gallery/spot_promo

    Here’s what Virginia says “If you have a yahoo ID then you already belong to Fire Eagle –

    just login to yahoo on the fire eagle link – it will ask you where you are but don’t have to do that just scroll down page and will see the SPOT article then click on ‘more …..’ – then in the whole article is a link to get the promo # – ya get it by being logged into yahoo.

    She talked to Fire Eagle and this is all legit. Get your promo code and write it down! You’ll need that when you register the

    unit. http://www.findmespot.com/fireeagle/

    Virginia has already done this. While I spent $108 for registration with the free tracking (thinking I was smart), she only spent $8!

    I only got the ThumperTalk23 promo code deal (and yes, I did join Thumpertalk first) which was $50 off the tracking. Here’s that

    link: http://www.findmespot.com/thumpertalk/

    Okay, clear as mud? Hope that helps someone and hope Virginia answers questions to help anyone who needs it! 🙂

    Tessa in TX

    ’92 MB – Ciao Baby!

    Reply
  52. I found my email to my RV group from 11/2/08. Hope it helps!

    One more tip: I found in Central America that the tracking (sending my coordinates every 10 min. for 24 hours) did not work as well as sending a simple “I’m OK” message a couple different times.

    Tessa (see below)

    FindMeSpot device – GPS & Satellite tool for travelers

    Have you heard of the FindMeSpot? We found some awesome deals!

    FindMeSpot is a satellite emergency device that uses the GPS. I can send “I’m ok” messages to email addresses and cell phones, a “send help!” message that has a preprogrammed message (I made the message: “Call Good Sam’s ERS for me!”) and finally and most importantly, it has a 911 emergency service.

    The good news is that it works where cell phones don’t AND it gives my exact GPS coordinates to get help. http://www.findmespot.com/en/

    It’s won all sorts of awards and been credited with dozens of rescues since its inception last December.

    Given 50% of the U.S. does not have cell phone coverage, not to mention other countries, this may be something my fellow travelers would like. Bikers and hikers also find it helpful. Grandparents like it so their grandkids can track them on the map.

    Read all the reviews on REI though so you are fully informed as to the limitations. It does not give confirmation that the message has been received and there are cases where it didn’t send. Knowing that, I think it is better than nothing.

    Now Virginia and I were able to find several deals. If we’d each found all the deals, it would have been great. Instead, we each found some, which I’ll share with you (actually, Virginia found all of our very best deals). I have to be quick because I only have one week before we go. Virginia, please fill in the details for me!

    Normally it is $170 for the unit, $100 for subscription, and $50 for tracking, $8 for optional search & rescue. Total= $328. Virginia’s findings allow the same options for $98 + $8= Total = $106. I am in awe.

    Here are the BEST deals we could find:

    1. A new $50 rebate program started yesterday at participating suppliers. It says $148 at participating suppliers and REI has it

    for $148 and the rebate. That’d be $98 and pick up at the store for free. There are many other stores selling, so search online first if you don’t have a local REI store. Just go to REI http://www.rei.com/ and seach for “FindMeSpot”.

    OR

    If you hate rebates, purchase the unit from Amazon for the best price I could find $128 with free shipping: http://tinyurl.com/5kotpm

    2. When you get your Spot in, then you register it online, with the serial number of the unit. This is where you input your promo code on the first page to apply it. Virginia found a HUGE discount on Fire Eagle. It is free $100 subscription (required for use) AND free $50 tracking on the Google maps (optional, but cool!)

    http://fireeagle.yahoo.net/gallery/spot_promo

    Here’s what Virginia says “If you have a yahoo ID then you already belong to Fire Eagle –
    just login to yahoo on the fire eagle link – it will ask you where you are but don’t have to do that just scroll down page and will see the SPOT article then click on ‘more …..’ – then in the whole article is a link to get the promo # – ya get it by being logged into yahoo. She talked to Fire Eagle and this is all legit. Get your promo code and write it down! You’ll need that when you register the

    unit. http://www.findmespot.com/fireeagle/

    Virginia has already done this. While I spent $108 for registration with the free tracking (thinking I was smart), she only spent $8!

    I only got the ThumperTalk23 promo code deal (and yes, I did join Thumpertalk first) which was $50 off the tracking. Here’s that

    link: http://www.findmespot.com/thumpertalk/

    Hope that helps! 🙂

    Tessa in TX
    Ciao Baby!

    Reply
  53. Adam

     /  January 13, 2009

    Hey there! A colleague sent out a link to your blog today during an email discussion of the “cold” temperatures here in Austin, TX (it’s supposed to be in the mid-20s tonight). I saw your post about the SPOT locator, and I recognized it from one of our online video pods. Our company is called Invodo, and we create, host, and syndicate online videos for product manufacturers. These videos can be viewed by shoppers at manufacturer or retailer websites, or by search engine browsers. In any event, I thought I would just share a link to the videos we have for the SPOT device, in case one of your readers needs some more information:

    http://www.gpssystemsonline.com/SPOT-Personal-Satellite-Messenger/p/GS1001

    We don’t sell the device directly, but I’m sure the videos can help somebody. Good luck through the remainder of this Winter. Stay warm!

    Reply
  54. Aliza,
    Stumbled on your thermometer post. Enjoying your blog and memories it brings.

    My folks went up the Alcan in ’46 or ’47 in a ’31 Durant. No block heater for that — just a campstove under the oil pan.

    Moved back outside in the early 60’s. All 6 of us kids born in Fairbanks. Whether you stay or move on be sure that Alaskans form lifetime bonds no matter where they go. We’re still close to friends from that era — including having grandkids of old Fairbanks “family” room and board with us for college in the current era.

    Oh and about some those posting here … DON’T FEED THE TROLLS!!! 😉

    Reply
  55. Hi Aliza! If you’re still looking at getting a SPOT – they are curently at Costco in Anchorage for $199 plus a $50 mail-in rebate through 2/28/09.

    Reply
  56. I was just at Costco and saw that! Almost got them but was budgeting my money for food stuff. Shopping for Tok life is quite an interesting new way of looking at Costco, I must say.

    Reply

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