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Thread: Spot v. Garmin

  1. #1
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    Default Spot v. Garmin

    I've about decided to purchase a Garmin instead of a Spot. If you think this is a major mistake, please reply.

    I don't have a cellphone/smartphone, so the Garmin will be used basically for: occasional messages to my family that I'm okay (important to my spouse) and messages to shuttle provider that I'm on schedule for pickup or need to change the schedule. The ability to receive texts is good and a real plus to my spouse (Spot lacks that ability). The tracking feature and SOS capability are icing - nice to have but not essential. I don't need maps. Typically, I'll be doing three-day to week-long section hikes on the AT or similar locales.
    Spot is much cheaper and the battery life seems a bit longer, but it isn't very flexible for sending messages. Basically three pre-set options and one customized message that basically can't be changed on the trail.

    Thanks for any input.

    P.S. I'm sure this topic has been covered many times, but a quick search didn't show up anything except some conversations about various Spot/Garmin plans changing over the past few years; hence a desire to get up-to-date info.
    Last edited by Dan Roper; 06-24-2020 at 13:31.

  2. #2

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    My biggest frustration with the Spot was the service contract requirement. If being stuck in a 12 month contract isn't an issue for you, and you don't need the flexibility of writing out custom message like you can send with an inReach, then the Spot might be a good fit.

  3. #3
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    Thank you, Caleb. After doing a bit more research, I changed from Spot to Garmin for two reasons: (1) Garmin can receive incoming texts; and (2) there's much more flexibility in sending texts.

    By the way, I think Spot now has monthly flex plans.

  4. #4

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    I hope they've added it back. It apparently was an option at one point, but when I bought one based on that about a year ago it was yearly only. Very disappointing and expensive mistake.

  5. #5

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    There are a couple of companies that rent SPOT. I rented one for 2 weeks. Came with batteries and they added my contact into from a PDF the sent me to fill out.

  6. #6

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    Dan,

    I'll offer this as more content for your "pros" column on the Garmin device (assuming the quality is the the same since Garmin purchased Delorme): I've owned a Delorme In Reach SE for somewhere around 8 or 9 years now. It's been the most reliable piece of electronics I've ever owned. Though just this year the screen has become dim and hard to see in daylight.... but I've used the heck out of this thing.

    I use mine in a similar fashion as you describe: mostly for messaging. For the last decade or so I've been backpacking almost every weekend plus a few week long excursions as life allows and these add up to somewhere between 30 and 40 trips per year; so sometimes as many as 75 bag nights. My established protocol is to message my wife when I reach camp for the day and leave the unit on until she messages me back, then I turn it off. As such, I only charge the battery about once a month or so.

    To date, it has never failed to deliver the message. Sometimes it can take a long time, as when I'm camped in a valley without much view of the sky. I think the longest I've ever waited for a message to send was around 4 hours and that was from the Citico creek valley while camped pretty far off-trail in the dense forest with a high surround and too tired to move to a more open place for better line of sight to the satellites in orbit.

    If you decide get a smart phone, you can add the Earthmate app and use it without the dedicated GPS; it can use the GPS chip built in to most smart phones. A feature that I'm in love with is the ability to download map overlays to the base Earthmate "Topo North America" map. I love overlaying old USGS quads from the mid century and trying to find old trails and landmarks for off-trail exploration.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Dan,

    I'll offer this as more content for your "pros" column on the Garmin device (assuming the quality is the the same since Garmin purchased Delorme): I've owned a Delorme In Reach SE for somewhere around 8 or 9 years now. It's been the most reliable piece of electronics I've ever owned. Though just this year the screen has become dim and hard to see in daylight.... but I've used the heck out of this thing.

    I use mine in a similar fashion as you describe: mostly for messaging. For the last decade or so I've been backpacking almost every weekend plus a few week long excursions as life allows and these add up to somewhere between 30 and 40 trips per year; so sometimes as many as 75 bag nights. My established protocol is to message my wife when I reach camp for the day and leave the unit on until she messages me back, then I turn it off. As such, I only charge the battery about once a month or so.

    To date, it has never failed to deliver the message. Sometimes it can take a long time, as when I'm camped in a valley without much view of the sky. I think the longest I've ever waited for a message to send was around 4 hours and that was from the Citico creek valley while camped pretty far off-trail in the dense forest with a high surround and too tired to move to a more open place for better line of sight to the satellites in orbit.

    If you decide get a smart phone, you can add the Earthmate app and use it without the dedicated GPS; it can use the GPS chip built in to most smart phones. A feature that I'm in love with is the ability to download map overlays to the base Earthmate "Topo North America" map. I love overlaying old USGS quads from the mid century and trying to find old trails and landmarks for off-trail exploration.
    I have had similar experiences although not quite as extensive. I chose the InRreach (DeLormer version) for better satellite system, two way communication (inclu confirmation that your message was sent and received so you're not left wondering) and monthly vs yearly subscription.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    If you decide get a smart phone, you can add the Earthmate app and use it without the dedicated GPS; it can use the GPS chip built in to most smart phones.
    I had not realized that; learned something new.

    If you don't have a smartphone, you won't be messing with the Mini, but I suppose Garmin is Garmin, and other people will look at this thread, so...
    I've had the Mini for 1yr, and hate it. I like what it does, and that it works every time, but hate that it does so *eventually*, and is a frustrating piece of crap in use.
    The GPS is sometimes pinpoint accurate,
    20200624_233124.jpg

    20200624_233154.jpg

    ...but has also caused me major problems on a trip, leading me several hundred yards away from the actual trail(and onto a game trail heavily used by elk that made me think it actually might be right, at first) while showing I was dead on it-could even trace the trail on my screen all the way to my destination, but it was sending me in the wrong direction.

    I have used my Garmin above and below treeline in the High Uintas, in the Needles district of Canyonlands(desert), on a bald in the NC mountains, throughout the Appalachian foothills of Alabama and gorges of the Cumberland Plateau in TN and KY, and, most recently, a river valley in N. GA.
    Not once has it ever shown it had anything but a weak GPS signal. Not once has it sent a preset message on the first try.
    Usually doesn't even display the arrow showing it's trying to send. I've walked hundreds of yards to a bridge over a creek to get out from under tree cover, and...nothing. Finally decides to send 25min later when I'm back in camp.
    When I tell it to "send anyway"(while it says it has weak signal), it does so, but does not send coordinates or a map. When I do this after a couple of unsuccessful tries, it sends the preset without coordinates or map 3x.
    20200625_011923.jpg

    Screenshot_20200617-171255_Samsung Internet.jpg

    I have zero confidence in the GPS, or in its ability to send an emergency signal in the event I need to do so. I didn't want it to begin with, and only keep it because it does always send my "all ok" message, which is really the only reason I carry it.
    Needless to say, I do not recommend it.
    For what it's worth, my friend's full-size version, which prompted me to buy a Mini and would be of interest to you, works fine. I got to see it in action in the CO Rockies, as he sent presets, emails, texted with his wife and a coworker, and checked the GPS, which indeed showed us the exact place we were standing. I need to stop procrastinating, and see if I can swap for a different unit or model...

  9. #9
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    Thank you for you feedback, everyone. Much appeciated. I made sure not to buy the Mini.

  10. #10

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    I have the Garmin Mini. To take advantage of all the features, you'd really need a smartphone. That's where the Earthmate app comes into play and you can download a slew of overlay maps for your area. Phone graphics are infinitely better than handheld GPS. Texting is easier, too. I'm on the annual (basic) subscription since I hike, hunt, and fish year round in remote areas. You need to upgrade if you want to add 'free' tracking at various intervals. (The cheater solution is to text a pre-set message of, (perhaps) "I'm OK" to your pre-set contacts. Then both you and they can see your position. Depending on your contacts, regular texts may or may not piss them off. My wife doesn't mind a bit!) The only issue I've had is with its ability to connect to satellites in heavily wooded valleys. In vertical mountain valleys, it might just take a while until the satellites align. In the steepest, most heavily wooded bottom land valleys, the signal can be a no go. There also seems to be an odd disconnect between the ability to obtain an exact position and the ability to text. (Not sure why that is.)

  11. #11

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    Dan Roper - I have a Delorme inReach SE for sale if you are interested. Here's the post: https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...rme-inReach-SE

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