Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Device Takes the Worry out of Solo Canoe trips

I love the feeling of isolation Algonquin provides. It's incredible to canoe all day and feel that disconnect from the rest of world that the park provides. As much as I love all that, on the flip side are the feelings of worry that a spouse, parent or loved one feel not knowing if you are enjoying a sunset or laying alone in the wilderness with a broken ankle. I have always wanted to have a way to let her know I was fine, but the options (sat phone) were just too expensive.

That was until last night when I was reading the April, 2008 edition of Backpacker magazine and found a review of a new (....well, new to me anyway) piece of gear called SPOT.

SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker is an palm sized GPS, personal locator and emergency responder all rolled into one.

It works in there ways:

  1. You safely arrive at camp but want to ease your spouse's concerns back home. Hit the "OK" button and the unit triggers and "I'm OK" email message to her with your location pinpointed on a Google Map.
  2. You fall and break you ankle. The injury is non-life threatening, but you need assistance. Press the HELP button and at an email/location message is sent to your family/friends.
  3. A bear chews off you foot ( wouldn't happen, but stay with me) , press "911" and emergency responders will be dispatched to your location.
It's not cheap, but at about $160 for the device and an annual fee of $100 it's not hard to make an argument in favor of buying it. For me, the "I'm OK" message feature alone makes it worth the cost.

I will talk it over with Tanyia, but I'm seriously considering it just to give her peace of mind.


Bob M said...

Looks like a neat device. There are threads discussing it at and at myCCR, both started by Harlan of "across Ontario solo" fame. It seems that people seem a little disappointed but their complaints didn't strike me as that significant. (What's wrong with reporting times as GMT?) Anyway, I think I may give it a try.

Chris said...

Last time my wife and I were in the park my Mum had just gotten out of the hospital the night before we left (after a month) so we didn't want to be out of touch and we rented a cell phone. Having read about the SPOT messenger a while ago, when it came out I looked into whether you could rent them too -- you might want to look. I made the following note to myself on a non public blog I keep:

These are possible locations for renting the new SPOT messenger which allows you to send a pre-coded message to a satellite system or potentially call for help. Not as robust as a PLB, though.

Suds said...

This is something that Marie always wanted but I never knew the device existed.

David H. Johnston said...

I think that the price is super cheap compared to SOLAS approved Personal Locator Beacons which run in the $800-1000 range.

Make no mistake that the SPOT isn't as robust and water proof as PLB's but are perfect for situations in which you are going out in.


David H. Johnston

Jim said...


I read the same thing and I agree that times in GMT aren't a big deal to me or my wife, but her knowing I am "OK" is.

Thanks for reading.

Jim said...


That's exactly the kind of thing that I think the spot is perfect for.

Some great links buddy! Thanks for sharing them and visiting the blog.

Jim said...


I agree. For my purposes the SPOT is perfect.

It may not be as durable or waterproof, but a dry sac would solve that.

I will have to check out your site too..thanks for visiting.

Chris said...

Hey Jim, could you update as to whether you've used your SPOT and how it worked out for you. I hope I haven't missed an obvious post about it. We're looking into renting one for an upcoming trip so would like to know if you had any issues with it. Cheers!

Jim said...


Yes I have used it and LOVE it! Flawless design and easy to use. Even my 8 year old daughter was using it (after a lesson on what buttons to press and when of course).

I can't recommend it enough. Shoot me an email, as depending on where you live you can just borrow mine.

email jtcavers AT