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  1. #1

    Default low tech/$$ GPS tracker options?

    Hey all,

    as a younger solo hiker, I have promised my family that I'll bring a GPS tracker with me on my thru hike. I was looking at the Spot 3 Satellite or the InReach SE but they're a bit out of my price range! It also seems like way overkill to bring along in addition to my smartphone. Does anyone have recommendations for a device with tracking capabilities and an "SOS" button without all the messaging and other fancy features?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default

    Unless I am grossly misinformed there isn't a tracker with SOS that costs less than the SPOT. Even PLBs cost quite a bit and they only have an SOS button and no tracking. Maybe there's an app you can get for your phone that would provide tracking in places that have cell phone service.

    Also, bear in mind that any tracking/SOS service has a monthly fee attached to it. The non-tracking PLB doesn't have a service fee but the decent ones also come in at the same price as the DeLorme InReach.

  3. #3
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    but the PLBs at least don't require a subscription.

    I've been considering getting one myself, and in some of the reviews I've read i picked up what I thought was a great point AGAINST the messaging type...
    Let's say you're supposed to ping an ok message home every night.
    Well apparently, the reliability of these messages getting actually sent when you push the button isn't all that high. Could be tree cover or whatever..... but lets say you do your nightly duty of pushing the button. You think all is well in the world....
    but let's say that message was never sent or didn't get through....
    Folks back home are now a worried wreck over nothing!....maybe even calling out the national guard!!

    PLB's supposedly are much more reliable in getting the call out....

  4. #4
    Registered User Maineiac64's Avatar
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    Default

    Get your family to fund it.

  5. #5

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    Spot works Most of the time, but there is no feedback to know for sure if your check in went through, so to insure you should send it a few different times throughout the day. You also are stuck with a yearly contract you won't need later. A friend bought a Spot3 on sale for $79 during the Thanksgiving sales

    Inreach has feedback ability so you know it went through, allows sending text messages that aren't predefined, and you can pay monthly. Weighs more and has a higher initial cost than Spot. .

    Other than those two, your only other choice to check in is a satellite phone which costs even more. A PLB only can be used in an emergency.

    I used a friends spot for hiking the 400mile Condor Trail in California last year due to the need for cross country travel and just poor trail conditions where getting misplaced was easy. Rather than sending a check in message occasionally, we set it up for continous tracking where my location was sent out every 10 minutes (interval adjustable). So it didn't matter if I checked in or a few updates were lost since they could track me on a webpage and see that I was still moving forward. The batteries would have lasted for longer than my entire trip. Like you, I don't think the cost is worth it, but it was free in my case so I took it.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Instead just carry a good phone and battery pack. Check in when you have signal. You could b in much more danger in any city in America. You won't b carried off by wolves. ;0)

    Thom

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by blw2 View Post
    but the PLBs at least don't require a subscription.

    I've been considering getting one myself, and in some of the reviews I've read i picked up what I thought was a great point AGAINST the messaging type...
    Let's say you're supposed to ping an ok message home every night.
    Well apparently, the reliability of these messages getting actually sent when you push the button isn't all that high. Could be tree cover or whatever..... but lets say you do your nightly duty of pushing the button. You think all is well in the world....
    but let's say that message was never sent or didn't get through....
    Folks back home are now a worried wreck over nothing!....maybe even calling out the national guard!!

    PLB's supposedly are much more reliable in getting the call out....
    I sent my "OK" message twice a day, morning and evening from the same camp. The nice thing about the DeLorme is that you know if it went through or not because it confirms delivery. I did the twice daily thing so that if I missed two check-ins, not just one because of the above possibility, no one was freaking out. I found reliability to be 100% in the area I was in, and the accuracy was down to a few feet and I always made sure to find an area with a clear view of the sky to send the "OK"

  8. #8
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    I used a SPOT from around 2008 until 2015, versions 1 & 2. Never tried the version 3. The upside is the lighter weight. The downside, you never knew for sure the signal went out. I sent out 'OK' signals for about a week on the AT & nothing went out. Low battery. No indication that the batteries were low. On the plus side, I did use the 'SOS' button once in NZ. It worked as designed.

    Since 2015, I've used the DeLorme Inreach (now owned & manufactured by Garmin). I really like the fact that you know a signal went out. The 2-way communication - text or email - is really nice. It weighs more, costs more (initially), and could cost more per year if you're a big 2-way commo guy. If you rarely send 2-way info & merely send out preset messages, you can opt for the lowest cost 'Freedom' plan and get by OK. The Freedom plan allows you to turn off service when you don't use it & turn it on for a month at a time when you do need it.

    I'd recommend the DeLorme InReach. Really sweet system.
    2013 AT Thru-hike: 3/21 to 8/19
    Schedule: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t1M/edit#gid=0

  9. #9
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    Funny story on GPS trackers. My hiking bud I found along the way had one and around Pearesburg (sp?), Va ran into a huge thunder and lightning storm. We came off the mountain and hitched a ride into town. 70 MPH on an interstate in the back of a pickup, freezing cold, soaked to the bone. We got to the local Walmart and stayed the night at the Church hostel. Moral of the story, Walmart and the hostel was right next to the main hospital. Naturally the family freaked out when they saw we were traveling "at 70MPH and stopped at a hospital". He had 30 worried calls and texts by the time we found the place and put everything up to dry. I say ditch the GPS idea, you'll be around enough people and you're probably safer than anywhere else so what I did was just send a text every now and then. You won't have service everywhere, but it'll be enough to check in every once in a while. I think I texted my wife about every day or so, it sent when it sent. Also I mini-edited short videos and uploaded to YouTube (don't use YouTube, it takes forever to upload) when I got a chance so the family could see updates along the way and some of the highlights I was seeing.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  10. #10

    Default

    I have Verizon and I could always send a text. Sometimes could call out. Bring a charger. Keep the phone on airplane mode. Turn it off when not in use. This method works very well in the south. Once you get in the northern third of the trail things change a little. Good luck, hope you find what you need.
    There are wonders out there, now to find them.

  11. #11
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    I use the Basic Life 360 app on my smartphone, it can be upgraded to show history. Works anytime you are not in airplane mode. Since my hiking is solo much of the time, in western mountains. I carry a PLB (Murdo fastfind). This particular one($225 now) has a 6 year battery, which costs over 100 dollars to replace. You also need to register evey two years, free of charge. No monthly fees however.

  12. #12

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    As the above posts pretty much say, GPS trackers that send signals to family of your position, etc are not cheap, nor are they all that necessary on the AT unless you will be doing a lot of bushwhacking. The population on the AT is fairly high at the point an time one does a thru (regardless of North or South) and are likely to help, or get help, if there is a problem. A cell phone that you can text with should be more than sufficient with the caution that it may be a few days between texts as you move through different terrain.

  13. #13
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    Default

    You said:

    "I have promised my family that I'll bring a GPS tracker with me on my thru hike."

    But you didn't promise to pay for it. The tracker is for them, not you. You've done your part by agreeing to carry a small unnecessary brick to make them happy. You can also help out by providing them all the information so they can buy what they want. If that doesn't work for them, the phone option is a great back up. If that doesn't work for them, you will undoubtedly find an excellent new family on the trail.

  14. #14
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blw2 View Post
    I've been considering getting one myself, and in some of the reviews I've read i picked up what I thought was a great point AGAINST the messaging type...
    Let's say you're supposed to ping an ok message home every night.
    Well apparently, the reliability of these messages getting actually sent when you push the button isn't all that high. Could be tree cover or whatever..... but lets say you do your nightly duty of pushing the button. You think all is well in the world....
    but let's say that message was never sent or didn't get through....
    I disagree with this. I own a first generation Spot and have never had a problem getting an "okay" message through. I've sailed thousands of miles offshore over the years and hiked over 500 miles of the AT last year and always successfully sent an "okay" message. And despite what another post said. I always confirmed success because I sent myself a copy of the okay mesage (although I never saw it when sailing offshore until I reached land).

    The trick with Spot is you must let it go completely through its message cycle. It actually sends three messages and Spot's server chooses the best of the three to send the email. Invariably, if there is a failure of the "okay" message, it is because the user did not let it go through the entire cycle or did not give the device a clear view of the sky. Tree coverage was never a problen. Furthermore, Spot's trained people handle any SOS calls, which could be an important distinction when dealing with a smart phone app that might be free or very inexpensive.

    I saw a lot of Spot devices on the trail last year, and it is pretty much standard equipment for blue water sailors. You can ask any sailor who participates in the Salty Dog rally about that last assertion.

  15. #15
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    There is a kid tracker app. Both parties need the app. This way your fam can track you and your progress. If they havent heard from you, or your marker hasent moved.....they can send someone out to find you. And ......i believe one of the apps works even if your device is off.

  16. #16

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    PLBs are significantly more powerful and GPS tracker devices. In an emergency, I'd want the more powerful option.

  17. #17
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    They aren't PLBs, but these apps will report your location from your phone in areas where you have cellular or wifi service:

    http://www.luisespinosa.com/trackme_eng.html

    http://www.insta-mapper.com/

    https://www.glympse.com/

    I'm most familiar with Trackme - if you use it I would suggest setting the recording interval at 15 minutes. Trackme will store your location records until you have cellular or wifi service, then update the database.

  18. #18
    GAME 2015 Binjali's Avatar
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    I ran a SPOT Gen3 during my 2015 hike. I left it on the default 10min repeat ping the entire trip, with an OK message sent to my folks and my email account. The pings would sometimes be off track due to weather conditions, mainly heavy overcast and rain. High, thin, overcast didn't bother the tracking pings. The OK message was sometimes delayed a few mins during bad weather. I would get to camp, unhook the SPOT from its place on the outside of my pack, move to a place in camp where I had the least tree cover and trip the OK message. I'd leave the SPOT there, set up camp and then grab the SPOT. It usually was able to complete sending the OK within 30 mins while I was setting up camp and eating supper. Then I'd turn the unit off overnight to save battery power. In the morning, I'd break camp, and the last thing I did before shouldering the pack was turn on the SPOT and clip it to my pack. I usually hung it off the lifting loop. I used only the photo lithium batteries, and generally got a good 6 weeks out of each set, although I did carry a backup set at all times. Regular lithium and alkaline batteries can't deliver the current needed by the SPOT, and will overheat and damage the device. I think I tried once, and got an error message telling me to use the photo lithiums.

    The DeLorme is nice, but I decided I didn't want folks back home pestering me with text messages.

    My mother was very pleased with the SPOT's tracking feature (it has a terrain map feature the zooms in quite close), and would log in to the website each morning to see where I was. I left a copy of AWOL's guide with her and she enjoyed following my trek.

    The yearly subscription is a bit of a pain. I wish it was monthly or semi-annually. But.... Just remember to cancel it (within 30 days of the renewal date I think) when you get back. Since you have a budget problem, yes, you might think of wheedling your folks, esp. since they are the ones wanting to watch over you.

  19. #19
    Registered User Kevin108's Avatar
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    I'm seriously considering an InReach. How easy would it be to rent out when you're not using it?

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

  20. #20
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    I wonder if once they see how much they run price wise and hear that they might have to pay for it that their opinion of you having​ to have one will change...
    NOBO March 2018

    Man can only find oneself while alone on the Appalachian Trail. There his mind if free to explore his thoughts, the Universe and eventually find his true self. -Ernest Hemingway

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