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SPOT vs. DeLorme PN-60w
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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Dec 12, 2012
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

Anyone have the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS system? How does it compare to other GPS systems you've owned with respect with features,
reliability?
Any complaints?

Also, does anyone have any experience using the DeLorme inReach communicator vs. the one made by Spot? Any opinion on which is better?


I originally was looking at the Spot, but it doesn't appear to have the ability to send AND receive messages, and it uses a poorer satellite system.


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By wankel7
From Indiana
Dec 13, 2012

I was thinking about a spot then I started doing research on plbs like the acr. They use government satellites and are built to a standard. The same technology that boats and aircraft use for distress calls.

The spot doesnt... it uses satellites they put up and are not built to a gov standard.

If your going to spend the cash for a emer beacon then look a plbs.


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By Cor
Dec 13, 2012
black nasty

yeah, i second that... get an acr plb.

the cheapest is like 180bucks. no subscription.

one other note about these units is they use the
two(i forget the names) types of gov. satellites.

if you pull the trigger and send the distress signal out, it goes to the airforce. then they pull up the chart of who owns it, looks at your notes (if you have any special #s to call) and contacts the local government (where ever you may be) to start in on things...

you can not send messages though. but who cares, use it for it's use.

hope this helps.

ps: this is all straight talk! i did some research, and spoke with the noaa people (where it is registered) and then a captian in the airforce who manages the rescues.


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By Cor
Dec 13, 2012
black nasty

oh, and one other thing..

if you are getting this for some special trip to no where land.
the women i spoke with at noaa was like let me see how the satellite coverage is at the place you are going.

in this case, i am going back to patagonia. she told me that both types of satellites are good there.

so i guess, even though it says coverage worldwide on plb's, i guess some areas just don't get as good of service. you could check into that. i think it might be this # 1-888-212-7283

the satellite types were lowes & goes.


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By Tim McCabe
Dec 13, 2012

I have used the Spots but only for tracking at this site trackleaders.com/

It's made Bikepacking races a spectator sport.

It's fun to watch but not a life or death kind of thing.

The only thing I can really add to this is that from what I hear from the Trackleader guys. So apparently some of the new Spot 2 units just up and die. Not sure if they have figured out why yet. Tracking is often spotty at best.

Still fun to watch the races.

Seems like DeLorme is more up on the two way communication aspect of it.

If all you need is a way for the wife to see that your still moving and not dead they'll do the job.


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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Dec 30, 2012
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

Cor wrote:
yeah, i second that... get an acr plb. the cheapest is like 180bucks. no subscription. one other note about these units is they use the two(i forget the names) types of gov. satellites. if you pull the trigger and send the distress signal out, it goes to the airforce. then they pull up the chart of who owns it, looks at your notes (if you have any special #s to call) and contacts the local government (where ever you may be) to start in on things... you can not send messages though. but who cares, use it for it's use. hope this helps. ps: this is all straight talk! i did some research, and spoke with the noaa people (where it is registered) and then a captian in the airforce who manages the rescues.


In terms of how the PLBs work....say you are climbing in Peru. When you pull the trigger, the signal goes to the U.S. Airforce, or a Peruvian national authority? From there who do they contact? Is there a way to stipulate that you would like a certain organization (say you have rescue insurance with the American Alpine Club or similar rather than Peruvian military) to start initiating the rescue so that your rescue bill is covered?

Are there any PLBs that offer two way messaging? Being able to communicate with rescuers seems like it could be huge, even if the initial SOS takes longer to get out (as with InReach).


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By Cor
Dec 31, 2012
black nasty

From my understandings... When you pull the trigger a ping goe out. It is picked up by one of the mant American lowes or goes sats. The Airforce see the signal, which has a serial number type thing. Each plb has a different number.
The Airforce looks at your chart, which you submit with registration of the unit when purchaced. On that chart you can put emergency contact info, and some short notes. They look at this info, so in theroy it shoulx work.... Being you want them to contact Global Rescue, what you get through the AAC.

I will say though... I did talk to a person at Global Rescue, and they were not very helpful in recommending a plb. They wanted me to have a sat phone to call them directly in an emergency. My thought is though that they just need to be contacted in the beginnings. It should not matter who calls, just when. So if the Airforce calls them when the ping comes in..... One could only hope cor some insurance coverage, that one is supposed to have.

I figure it is better than nothing. But who knows. Where we go in Patagonia there has never been a wall rescue in history, and the nearest chopper is 7 flying hours away. So I still figure we are on our own, but it might all help in the end if something big and bad happened.

Hope this helps Tobe...

Ps: no plb does 2way or messages.


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By Neil R
Dec 31, 2012

I bought a spot for a trip down to Northern Patagonia (Frey) last year. It worked well for about the first week in Buenos Aires and my travels to Bariloche. Once I made the hike out to Frey, it worked for just two days before it could no longer connect to a satellite. I was there for a month and tried it everyday, but with no luck. It turned out to be the device that stopped working, and couldn't connect to satellites anywhere, even back in the US.

Then when I got back to the states I called them up to ask for a refund since the device didn't work for the single trip I bought it for. They said I was a few days past their limited warranty and that they could only refund me 25%, even after I explained that the device only worked for the first 20 days I had it. Pretty poor customer service... but eventually I got a full refund after calling them everyday for the next week with them saying "This is a one time thing, we don't normally do this". Which I took to mean "we don't normally stand behind our product, because if we did, we'd have to give everyone a refund".

Anyway, long story short... I would recommend against the SPOT. Happy travels!


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By Buff Johnson
Dec 31, 2012
smiley face

tobe945 wrote:
In terms of how the PLBs work....say you are climbing in Peru. When you pull the trigger, the signal goes to the U.S. Airforce, or a Peruvian national authority? From there who do they contact? ...


The ACR will go to the AFRCC. Typically what will happen are phone calls & e-mail sends out to those in positions of authority who know each other. Then something usually gets coordinated through the State dept and it's usually something like logistical support.

When that last avy incident happened there was a fair amount of e-mail traffic trying to task sat images and identify probable locations. I don't believe that even had a PLB involved, and there was still a large amount of support logistics involved.

You still need a localized ground effort, sometimes supported by heli if the resources and cash are there. Peru is what & where it is.

In a round about way to answer the question, you more than likely won't be able to hit the PLB and have the resources get you picked off the mountain as what happens in the States. But, that doesn't necessarily mean that nothing is happening, either.


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By wankel7
From Indiana
Dec 31, 2012

I am not sure how this would apply outside the us but...

Another huge advantage to a PLB is that they transmit a distress tone on 121.5 mhz.

A lot of rescue agencies hung on to their DF Direction Finding equipment after they shut down the satellites that could lock onto a 121.5 distress signal.

So the gps lat long maybe a little off but if the rescue folks have the DF equipment they can home into your beacons 121.5 signal.

Huge advantage over spot.


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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Jan 1, 2013
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

The more I learn SPOTs are shit, gimmicky toys that have been well marketed but not to be relied on during an emergency. I'm personally going with the DeLorme In Reach because of the 2 way communication. No other device has that. And despite being on Iridium satellites, which aren't quite as good as military, from everything I've read they are good enough with pole to pole coverage. And leaps better coverage/consistency than the SPOT.


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By climber pat
From Las Cruces, NM
Jan 1, 2013

I have thought about this subject a lot after having an incident 18 miles from the nearest road without any way of asking for help.

In the end I ended up buying a satellite phone. I have an Inmarsat ISatPhone pro which costs about $550 + about $1/minute with a prepaid card. It works except the polar regions where you would need an Iridium phone which cost about $1300-$1700 + $1.75/minute on a low use plan. Both phones can be rented if your need is short term; mine need is persistent so I purchased one.

Having experienced the need to ask for a rescue, I was able to imagine how each device would have played out in various scenarios. I my case all I really needed was a horse or mule to carry me to the trail head. Calling our a full blown search and rescue by using a spot or plb would have been significant overkill for the situation but would have definitely solved the problem. But the more I though about it the more convinced I became that I wanted to talk with the rescuers, or global rescue, or my family to customize the help. Also two way communication was highly desirable to make the rescue more effective and cheaper on the providers. I have worked on the search and rescue side enough to know what a serious effort these activities are. Also the ability to talk seems much more valuable than short text messages, especially if I need to get the advice of a doctor for treating a wound or a disease.

I have used both inmarsat and iridium phones side by side and the differences are interesting especially from an emergency situation. These differences are mostly caused by their satellite constellations. Inmarsat uses geosynchronous orbiting satellites which are stationary in the sky; Iridium uses lower orbiting satellites which are moving in the sky.

With the Inmarsat phone you turn it on, wait for it to get a GPS fix and point the antenna at the satellite, let the phone register with the network (or watch the signal strength bars until you find the satellite). Then you can make phone calls just like making an normal international phone call. You must keep the antenna pointing in the general direction of the satellite.

With Iridium you turn it on and let the phone register with the network and make phone calls. No pointing of the antenna towards a satellite (you have no real idea where they are).

With both systems you must have view of the satellite; Iridium is handing off from satellite to satellite (like a cell phone as you drive around) as they rise and set (about every 1/2 hour). Once you establish an Inmarsat call you can keep the call going indefinitely however if you cannot see establish a link with the satellite you must move to a different location. Iridium has a pretty good chance of dropping the call every so often when the satellites are obscured by mountains or buildings or whatever. However if you cannot establish a Iridium call right now you will likely be able to fairly soon as the satellites move around in the sky. The longest I waited to get an Iridium connection was 2 hours when I was deep in a valley; the typical drop out lasting less than 5 minutes.


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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Jan 1, 2013
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

climber pat wrote:
I have thought about this subject a lot after having an incident 18 miles from the nearest road without any way of asking for help. In the end I ended up buying a satellite phone. I have an Inmarsat ISatPhone pro which costs about $550 + about $1/minute with a prepaid card. It works except the polar regions where you would need an Iridium phone which cost about $1300-$1700 + $1.75/minute on a low use plan. Both phones can be rented if your need is short term; mine need is persistent so I purchased one. Having experienced the need to ask for a rescue, I was able to imagine how each device would have played out in various scenarios. I my case all I really needed was a horse or mule to carry me to the trail head. Calling our a full blown search and rescue by using a spot or plb would have been significant overkill for the situation but would have definitely solved the problem. But the more I though about it the more convinced I became that I wanted to talk with the rescuers, or global rescue, or my family to customize the help. Also two way communication was highly desirable to make the rescue more effective and cheaper on the providers. I have worked on the search and rescue side enough to know what a serious effort these activities are. Also the ability to talk seems much more valuable than short text messages, especially if I need to get the advice of a doctor for treating a wound or a disease. I have used both inmarsat and iridium phones side by side and the differences are interesting especially from an emergency situation. These differences are mostly caused by their satellite constellations. Inmarsat uses geosynchronous orbiting satellites which are stationary in the sky; Iridium uses lower orbiting satellites which are moving in the sky. With the Inmarsat phone you turn it on, wait for it to get a GPS fix and point the antenna at the satellite, let the phone register with the network (or watch the signal strength bars until you find the satellite). Then you can make phone calls just like making an normal international phone call. You must keep the antenna pointing in the general direction of the satellite. With Iridium you turn it on and let the phone register with the network and make phone calls. No pointing of the antenna towards a satellite (you have no real idea where they are). With both systems you must have view of the satellite; Iridium is handing off from satellite to satellite (like a cell phone as you drive around) as they rise and set (about every 1/2 hour). Once you establish an Inmarsat call you can keep the call going indefinitely however if you cannot see establish a link with the satellite you must move to a different location. Iridium has a pretty good chance of dropping the call every so often when the satellites are obscured by mountains or buildings or whatever. However if you cannot establish a Iridium call right now you will likely be able to fairly soon as the satellites move around in thDe sky. The longest I waited to get an Iridium connection was 2 hours when I was deep in a valley; the typical drop out lasting less than 5 minutes.


Very helpful. I've thought a lot about a sat phone as well however I do favor being able to text rather than talk. I do a lot of alpine climbing and I can imagine a scenario in which I was on a mountain during a storm and couldn't hear the person speaking to me. Even with the Iridium the DeLorme inreach will give message delivery confirmation, so I can just make another send attempt (not the same scenario as having to worth about dropped calls).


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By climber pat
From Las Cruces, NM
Jan 1, 2013

FYI,

The Inmarsat phone does text and email although the email is more like a text than an email. The email is limited to 160 characters or so. On the plus side received text/email is free for both the sender and receiver. Sending a text/email is about $0.50. The system also buffers the text/email and I use it like a pager. Turn the phone on at camp and see if anyone wants to talk.

The phone also has a built in GPS and can text/email your location.

Both the Iridium and Inmarsat phone have accessories which turn them into wifi hot spots although the bandwidth is pitiful (9600 baud) and expensive as you are paying for the airtime.

Pat


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Jan 1, 2013
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Was very happy with the Earthmate & inReach on Denali. Excellent device. We sent text message dispatches every day with the thing. I was on an independent expedition and basically managed all communications for the group. With one text message, I could send updates to everyone (family, facebook, twitter, blog). It was especially good to get the summit message out, and to confirm that our 5 person team was NOT the team in the avalanche above the 11k camp. Very nice device and the two way messages allowed us to be in contact with home. Helped a lot - even had one communication with our weather guy over it.


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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Jan 1, 2013
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

Cale Hoopes wrote:
Was very happy with the Earthmate & inReach on Denali. Excellent device. We sent text message dispatches every day with the thing. I was on an independent expedition and basically managed all communications for the group. With one text message, I could send updates to everyone (family, facebook, twitter, blog). It was especially good to get the summit message out, and to confirm that our 5 person team was NOT the team in the avalanche above the 11k camp. Very nice device and the two way messages allowed us to be in contact with home. Helped a lot - even had one communication with our weather guy over it.


Would love to hear more stories like these from people using these devices in truly unforgiving environments, and not tweeting to your friends from your local state park about a hike your grand-dad could do!


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By climber pat
From Las Cruces, NM
Jan 1, 2013

I have used both Inmarsat and Iridium phones in Cordillera Blanca of Peru. Both worked well, although I have to give the edge to the Inmarsat phone in that region. The reason Inmarsat worked better in the Cordillera Blanca is that this mountain range is close to the equator (9 degrees south) and the valleys all run towards the satellite's position in the sky giving you an unobstructed view from almost everywhere. Since you are closer to the equator the Iridium satellites are further apart in the sky, maximizing the potential for drop outs.

On the other hand I would seriously consider not even trying to use the Inmarsat phone in far northern or southern latitudes (above 55 degrees) because the satellite will be low on the horizon and easily obscured by mountain ranges. Certainly in the polar regions the only choice is Iridium or potentially one of the PLBs which use polar orbiting satellites.

My wife used the Inmarsat phone in Costa Rica with good success last year. Once in a while the foliage coverage was too dense and she would have to find a less dense area to create a connection to the satellite. All satellite phones should have this problem.

I have also used Inmarsat, Iridium and Globalstar phones and the spot device in the southwestern US. In this region Inmarsat and Iridium both work well. At the time I was using Globalstar their satellites where failing and their service was poor although their voice quality was even better than cell phones, similar to land line quality. I have not used a Globalstar phone since they launched their new constellation and would be reluctant to because you have to get service in every country(region) you wish to use the phone. For example in Peru you had to get service from Peru branch of Globalstar and I could not communicate with them in English. My spot device worked fine too but lacked two way communication capability.

The inreach/PN-60W combo looks like a viable system but the cost is pretty expensive ($270 + $230) plus the subscription is $10 - $50 per month and be able to text from anywhere. You can get easily an Isatphone for $550 + prepaid card with auto renewal and rollover minutes for $1/minute and be able to text and call. But not from the poles.


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By Eric Rich
From Durham, NC
Jan 2, 2013
near the summit of Yanapaccha (17,913ft) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

climber pat wrote:
I have used both Inmarsat and Iridium phones in Cordillera Blanca of Peru. Both worked well, although I have to give the edge to the Inmarsat phone in that region. The reason Inmarsat worked better in the Cordillera Blanca is that this mountain range is close to the equator (9 degrees south) and the valleys all run towards the satellite's position in the sky giving you an unobstructed view from almost everywhere. Since you are closer to the equator the Iridium satellites are further apart in the sky, maximizing the potential for drop outs. On the other hand I would seriously consider not even trying to use the Inmarsat phone in far northern or southern latitudes (above 55 degrees) because the satellite will be low on the horizon and easily obscured by mountain ranges. Certainly in the polar regions the only choice is Iridium or potentially one of the PLBs which use polar orbiting satellites. My wife used the Inmarsat phone in Costa Rica with good success last year. Once in a while the foliage coverage was too dense and she would have to find a less dense area to create a connection to the satellite. All satellite phones should have this problem. I have also used Inmarsat, Iridium and Globalstar phones and the spot device in the southwestern US. In this region Inmarsat and Iridium both work well. At the time I was using Globalstar their satellites where failing and their service was poor although their voice quality was even better than cell phones, similar to land line quality. I have not used a Globalstar phone since they launched their new constellation and would be reluctant to because you have to get service in every country(region) you wish to use the phone. For example in Peru you had to get service from Peru branch of Globalstar and I could not communicate with them in English. My spot device worked fine too but lacked two way communication capability. The inreach/PN-60W combo looks like a viable system but the cost is pretty expensive ($270 + $230) plus the subscription is $10 - $50 per month and be able to text from anywhere. You can get easily an Isatphone for $550 + prepaid card with auto renewal and rollover minutes for $1/minute and be able to text and call. But not from the poles.


How much for an Iridium based sat phone from which you can call AND text? Any particular recommendations? Sounds like a good choice for me too, seeing as I don't know where my adventures will take me next and I want to be sure I have coverage.


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Jan 2, 2013
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No offense to Iridium, but my Earthmate/inReach combo worked MUCH BETTER than my crap rented Motorola Sat Phone on Denali by far. And way cheaper. Plus the inReach/Earthmate combo was much easier to keep charged. The sat phone was near impossible to keep charged with the Goal Zero.


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Jan 2, 2013
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Oh, and yes, I know that the inReach uses the Iridium service. It just was a better device for communication on the mt.


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By climber pat
From Las Cruces, NM
Jan 2, 2013

I would buy the Iridium Extreme phone. I have only played with one of these for a few days and it worked fine. It has a GPS tracking option that I do not know much about, able to SMS/email messages, and an SOS button. Basically all the features in the Earthmate PN-60W combo plus a phone capability. I doubt that the tracking and SMS/email are done as nicely as the earthmate PN-60W but it will be using the same system to relay the messages. Also this phone is a ruggedized phone supposed to work to -20C and water resistant. This is the only Iridium phone that is ruggedized. The Isatphone is also ruggedized but not to the same standard. It appears to me that Iridium standard is tougher.

The only downside I have with Iridium is the cost. This phone is $1350 and airtime is about $200 for 125 minutes.

I bought my phones from www.satphonecity.com/products/iridium-extreme-standard-packa>>> and have had good luck with them. They understand that I am price conscious and have notified me when plans changed in ways that would save me money.

It is also worth checking out www.bluecosmo.com/iridium-extreme-9575-satellite-phone/?gcli>>> they offer a 10% discount to American Alpine Club members.

Cale's comments about battery charging is spot on. Iridium batteries seem to get weak quickly. Look carefully at the output of your solar panel and the needs or your phone. I recommend an extra battery or two. Inmarsat batteries are not too expensive $25 and the Inmarsat phone has an 8 hour talk time/charge. The Iridium batteries are more expensive $100 and you only get about 3 hours/battery. And these talk times are at normal temperatures, the time you actually get will be somewhat less at the extreme cold of the high mountains. Try warming the phone by placing it inside your coat for a while before using it.


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