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  1. #26
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    I have the basic inreach plan and it is $15 per month and can put it on hold anytime. Unlimited preset messages. Pay .10 for tracking point and .25 for custom messages. I only use tracking when backcountry skiing solo. The most I have used custom text messages is when wife and I got stuck leaving the ski area and had to tell grandma we would not be home for kids bedtime. Also very handy when on a bike packing trip and split into multiple groups. Never used in rescue situation, but more than paid for itself in usefulness. Never had coverage issues...used all over Western NA, South America, Antarctica, Japan, Iceland, etc...

    Had a spot for awhile prior to inreach and found it worthless...horrible coverage in trees and not knowing if it was working or not.

    Does 5g work in the rain/snow? Plus all the line of sight issues to a cell tower. I don't see cell tower tec replacing the coverage from spacecraft anytime soon.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by meter-man View Post
    Having been on a number of trips with Spot devices, I highly recommend NOT buying a Spot or any other PLB that only allows one-way communication. You have no way of confirming whether the messages are received, and it is impossible to communicate any details about your situation to SAR/first responders. My experience with the Spot is that you send messages out into the ether and, in theory, your Spot blinks green when the message is successfully sent. The Spot owners were using them to send "we're okay and in this location" messages to their loved ones. (Personally, I think this is a really dumb way to use a PLB, but that's not really material to the issue of best scrambling help in the event of an emergency.) At least half of those "we're okay" messages were not received. I would not be at all surprised if the folks in the Hulk incident linked up top had a one-way PLB like a Spot.
    ^^^This.

    It turns out the folks in the Hulk incident were in fact using a SPOT. From the comments in the FB post here:
    Sam Goldman I was the one who set off the PLB about 30 seconds after we realized the severity of the compound fracture and our position in the couloir. It was a Spot Gen 3 and I had been paying for the insurance on a monthly auto-pay plan. Still trying to determine what went wrong. After immediately pressing it, we didn't take our chances so I sent the third member of our party down immediately to call for help for redundancy in the system. Of the many lessons learned, one is that having a 2-way system, such as the Inreach Mini, which would have been much more helpful, as I knew immediately based on the storm and incoming night that a chopper would not fly in these conditions. MONOSAR are complete pro's, could not be more impressed by the group of heroes that showed up in record time
    I switched from a SPOT Gen 2 right when the inReach came out, after 2 separate incidents with the SPOT had me questioning it:

    1) A buddy did a trans-Sierra tour, and took a SPOT and used it to check in with family. One night, the SPOT said the check-in message went through successfully, but it never actually made it to family, so they eventually called SAR on an unncecessary rescue.

    2) On Bloody mountain, completely open view of the sky on a completely clear day, and WITH 3G CELL COVERAGE, I sent a couple check-in messages, and I had it set up to send those messages to my phone as well as family members. The device indicated that the messages went out, but I never received them. Ever. After that trip I called SPOT and they checked the comm records associated with my account and never found evidence of those messages ever getting sent.

    The "normal" SPOT device (excluding the SPOT X, which is more like an inReach in that it can do 2-way communication) only has one-way communication with the satellite link. So it tells you when it *thinks* it has successfully sent a message to the satellite, but there is no guarantee that it actually went out. So, if it is possible for a "normal" message to never make it out, then what about the 911 message? Well the answer is that the only difference is that the unit attempts to send that message a lot more often than a non-emergency message, so it's a lot more LIKELY to go through. Sure, the units work fine most of the time. Sure, they have been used successfully in many rescues. But I personally have had enough failed messages to not trust it.

    The inReach, on the other hand, has true 2-way communication. And being able to send custom text messages when you need them is invaluable. One time we were on an overnighter on the north side of Mt. Adams. No cell coverage for miles. We had just descended a pretty hairy face with some pretty real objective hazards. I was able to send a custom text to my friend's wife and let her know that we had made it down safely, and the approximate time that we'd be back within cell coverage... and receive a text back from her. Nothing close to that with the SPOT (again, not talking about the SPOT X model). My friend bought an inReach immediately after that trip.

    And then there's this:
    Instead, get an inReach or other PLB that allows two-way communication. With the inReach, you send and receive messages with first responders. Having that information is critical for determining your own plan of action, as well as informing SAR of your specific circumstances and issues on the ground. It's akin to the difference between texting and telegraphing - with one you get a response, with the other you don't.
    Having 2-way communication in a real rescue scenario is invaluable. Being able to communicate the nature of the injury etc allows SAR to optimize the rescue and know what they're getting into. Pretty much everyone I've talked to who is actually involved in SAR recommends the inReach for this reason.

    The other thing that the Jobs Peak slide article mentions, which AKB shared, is that good cell phone service can also be far more useful in rescue situations than people really think about it. In CA, and especially in the Eastern Sierra, Verizon has far better coverage, and works on basically any front-range peak.
    I was in the exact same drainage where the Hulk rescue occurred 2 days prior to that incident. I fell off a rock and tweaked my leg... it could have easily been a broken leg scenario but fortunately wasn't. There was zero Verizon cell coverage anywhere back there, even at Twin Lakes (which is why they have payphones there at Mono Village). Yes, if you do actually have cell coverage that is probably going to be the best bet.

    Someone in another thread described the difference between the Iridium network (inReach) and whatever Spot uses, but I don't know the sciencey stuffs that well, and can't find it right now. Will post if/when I do.
    SPOT uses Globalstar. Generally Iridium seems to be a lot more robust and have better worldwide coverage.

    Some good info in those.

    A few other random tidbits about inReach:

    - On an iPhone at least, when paired via Bluetooth, iOS shuts down the internal GPS since it's using the one in the inReach. This helps with battery life on the phone. You can use any mapping app you want on the phone, not just the Garmin Earthmate app (though you do have to use Earthmate for sending custom text messages practically speaking; it's doable on the inReach Mini standalone but the interface for typing is horrendous; it's easier on the older/larger inReach devices). Typically when I'm in the bc with the inReach, I have my iPhone in airplane mode with Bluetooth turned on so it's paired with the inReach. Cache any maps in your map app ahead of time.

    - You can enable offline dictation to do speech-to-text with no cell connection. So, if you're in the field and the shit hits the fan, you can open Earthmate and *speak* the text into it directly, the iPhone converts it to text, then you send that and it goes out via the inReach. One less thing to worry about (typing) when you're stressing in an emergency situation.

    - Technically, SPOT/inReach are not a "PLB" in the traditional sense, they are a "satellite communicator". Some people are picky about that difference. PLB = emergency/SOS only via dedicated satellite SOS system. Satellite communicator = communication/messaging + SOS capability via satellite comm system.

    - I just accidentally sent my inReach Mini through a full washing machine/dryer cycle. Still works fine.

  3. #28
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    Okay, despite reasonable past performance, I now have serious doubts about my Spot. I defer to the collective.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    Okay, despite reasonable past performance, I now have serious doubts about my Spot. I defer to the collective.
    I never thought the spot makes sense.

    I have an inreach, but also a mcmurdo plb, which i would use first to send an sos signal, which I'm sure would get thru.
    Then the inreach, which might take longer because of the iridium satellites orbit.

    Sent from my Armor_3 using Tapatalk

  5. #30
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    lots of useful info here.

    Next ignorant high tech question. How does in-reach connected to Bluetooth in airplane-moded phone affect signal reception with an avi transceiver? How about non-airplane mode. Or other fancy combos of digital tech the “kids” these days use at the same time (like 2-way radio)?

    For instance, when I read about the incident at the hulk with a storm occurring during a nite time rescue, I was curious about whether there would have been a growing avi hazard, making terrain risk assessments in the dark, and the functionality of transceivers....

    Personally, I’ve been keeping it simple; transceiver only.

  6. #31
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    So far all the talk has been about spot vs inreach, and the conclusion is spot sucks, inreach better.

    but what if comparing the inreach to something like the ACR ResQLink+ PLB that transmits on 406Mhz and 121.5Mhz to LEOSAR and GEOSAR constellations, the communications networks the military uses? No paid subscription, no two way communications.. but from what I've read it is the most reliable device when your goal is to get a signal out in a difficult location.

    if you're solo, broken leg, and your inreach can't get a signal because of tree cover, or you're in a canyon.. what good is it? is it better to carry the device that has the absolute best chance of getting a signal out?

    i guess if our lives are worth $300, they're probably worth $600.. could just buy both and really cover all the bases. get the PLB, activate it, and throw it in the pack and not think about it for 6 years until the battery needs to be replaced. no subscriptions, no charging, nothing.. and get a garmin inreach for two way communication and gps functions.

  7. #32
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    If our lives are worth it, “we” could also just buy a guide that carries a sat phone, carries the blow, and serves as the hooker.

    I’d “volunteer” myself, but only under certain conditions. “Do you like to scuba?”

  8. #33
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    I just bought an InReach Mini. Cost was $350; they're not discounted anywhere, but you can save 10% at outdoor stores where they offer that standard (edit: $300 at Amazon, which is a bit more than 10% off). Service price (for minimum basic) is $12/month on yearly contract, or $25 per year plus $15 per month that you enable service. Weighs a little less than 4 oz, can be used stand-alone or (for easier text entry, mainly) in combination with a smart-phone with app. Allows 2-way text communication with emergency providers and/or whoever you have a text phone number for. People can send you texts in response to texts that you send out, or they can text you via a web interface (your unit does not have an actual phone number). Battery life is up to 20 days if you set it to a mode where it isn't checking location frequently. Uses the Iridium sat network, considered to be the most reliable (edit: of the two commercial networks), accessible world-wide, but requires open access to a decent slice of sky (might not have worked for Aron Ralston).

    There's another device called BivyStick, also $350, also uses Iridium, also GPS with two-way text capabilities. Weighs more like 7 oz, but that includes the capability to recharge your smartphone up to two times. Unlike the InReach Mini, it requires a working smartphone, with app, to use (I'm not sure if it can even send out a context-free SOS in stand-alone). Service plan is $18 per month that you decide to activate it (similar to Garmin's "freedom" plan, except that there's no $25 annual fee, and it's $3 more per month). Unlike the Garmin, this device gives you a phone number that people can text to directly, though the phone number changes if you deactivate month-to-month.

    Garmin makes a heavier InReach, with longer battery life, a bigger display, and easier text entry. I think it's around 7 oz, and about $100 more; otherwise the same tech and fees as the smaller InReach.

    Proper PLBs are devices that send out a context-free "HALLLLLP!" with GPS data. They continue to send out calls until the battery is depleted, but there is no acknowledgement that it was received, and no way to communicate otherwise. The advantage is that there are no service fees. The most reasonable unit for what we're talking about here is the Res-Q-Link, which runs $300, weighs about 4 oz, and lasts about 6 years (if unused) before the battery needs to be replaced for up to $200 (DIY could bring that down probably towards $100). This technology was originally developed for maritime use, and is much better suited for that than for mountain emergencies, where conveying the context of the emergency is much more important for getting the kind of help that one needs.

    Until fairly recently, Spot enjoyed being the only product of its kind in its weight class, but I don't think it's competitive these days. Its comm tech is inferior, service fees are right up there with the others, and their only 2-way texting device, the rather new Spot X, has not been well reviewed.


    I'd be interested to hear which unit failed to work for the Eastside group, keeping in mind that "PLB" is often used to refer to any sat-comm SOS device. (Edit: Just read above that they were using a Spot device, least reliable comm and no acknowledgement, so it's not a shocker that it failed and that they had no idea that it failed.)

    My general feeling about these devices is that the ones with two-way text capabilities are most appropriate for mountain trips, and that the weight and price can be justified for people doing any kinds of off-trail stuff. I do enough solo backcountry that I really should have gotten one years ago. What spurred this purchase, actually, was that my wife and I are doing a backpack trip in June while our 11-year-old is away at camp, and we'll want people to be able to contact us if there's an emergency with our kid.
    Last edited by bobz; 05-24-2019 at 09:29 PM.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobz View Post
    I just bought an InReach Mini. Cost was $350; they're not discounted anywhere, but you can save 10% at outdoor stores where they offer that standard. Service price (for minimum basic) is $12/month on yearly contract, or $25 per year plus $15 per month that you enable service. Weighs a little less than 4 oz, can be used stand-alone or (for easier text entry, mainly) in combination with a smart-phone with app. Allows 2-way text communication with emergency providers and/or whoever you have a text phone number for. People can send you texts in response to texts that you send out, or they can text you via a web interface (your unit does not have an actual phone number). Battery life is up to 20 days if you set it to a mode where it isn't checking location frequently. Uses the Iridium sat network, considered to be the most reliable, accessible world-wide, but requires open access to a decent slice of sky (might not have worked for Aron Ralston).

    There's another device called BivyStick, also $350, also uses Iridium, also GPS with two-way text capabilities. Weighs more like 7 oz, but that includes the capability to recharge your smartphone up to two times. Unlike the InReach Mini, it requires a working smartphone, with app, to use (I'm not sure if it can even send out a context-free SOS in stand-alone). Service plan is $18 per month that you decide to activate it (similar to Garmin's "freedom" plan, except that there's no $25 annual fee, and it's $3 more per month). Unlike the Garmin, this device gives you a phone number that people can text to directly, though the phone number changes if you deactivate month-to-month.

    Garmin makes a heavier InReach, with longer battery life, a bigger display, and easier text entry. I think it's around 7 oz, and about $100 more; otherwise the same tech and fees as the smaller InReach.

    Proper PLBs are devices that send out a context-free "HALLLLLP!" with GPS data. They continue to send out calls until the battery is depleted, but there is no acknowledgement that it was received, and no way to communicate otherwise. The advantage is that there are no service fees. The most reasonable unit for what we're talking about here is the Res-Q-Link, which runs $300, weighs about 4 oz, and lasts about 6 years (if unused) before the battery needs to be replaced for up to $200 (DIY could bring that down probably towards $100). This technology was originally developed for maritime use, and is much better suited for that than for mountain emergencies, where conveying the context of the emergency is much more important for getting the kind of help that one needs.

    Until fairly recently, Spot enjoyed being the only product of its kind in its weight class, but I don't think it's competitive these days. Its comm tech is inferior, service fees are right up there with the others, and their only 2-way texting device, the rather new Spot X, has not been well reviewed.


    I'd be interested to hear which unit failed to work for the Eastside group, keeping in mind that "PLB" is often used to refer to any sat-comm SOS device.

    My general feeling about these devices is that the ones with two-way text capabilities are most appropriate for mountain trips, and that the weight and price can be justified for people doing any kinds of off-trail stuff. I do enough solo backcountry that I really should have gotten one years ago. What spurred this purchase, actually, was that my wife and I are doing a backpack trip in June while our 11-year-old is away at camp, and we'll want people to be able to contact us if there's an emergency with our kid.
    i read the opposite, that all of these devices will struggle in a slot canyon, or in mountain areas with steep rock walls, etc.. but that a PLB like a Res-Q-Link with a 5 watt output will fare better at getting a signal in difficult locations (cloud cover, tree cover, mountains, canyons, etc) than something like the garmin inreach which will be less reliable at satellite acquisition, and has a 1.6 watt output. that if you absolutely want to make sure your signal has the best chance of reaching someone, you want a proper PLB, and that a two way satellite communicator (inreach) is not a replacement for a PLB. And the PLB will keep sending a signal until the battery dies, over and over until a satellite passes overhead.. even if you pass out, etc..

    but if i'm wrong, please correct me, i don't want to spread misinformation, i'm just regurgitating what i've read in articles.. gist was, they're not perfect, nothing is perfect and nothing will work in all situations, but the PLB has the best odds in challenging conditions/terrain. i didn't find an article where someone tested a garmin inreach vs a 406Mhz PLB, but here's someone who did a bunch of testing with a PLB in slot canyons in utah.. https://www.backcountrychronicles.co...t-canyon-test/

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by grapedrink View Post
    i read the opposite, that a PLB like a Res-Q-Link with a 5 watt output will fare better at getting a signal in difficult locations (cloud cover, tree cover, mountains, canyons, etc) than something like the garmin inreach which will be less reliable at satellite acquisition, and has a 1.6 watt output. that if you absolutely want to make sure your signal has the best chance of reaching someone, you want a proper PLB, and that a two way satellite communicator (inreach) is not a replacement for a PLB.

    which makes sense because if what you're saying is accurate, there would never be any need for a PLB for $300 when you can buy a garmin inreach for $300 that can send a signal like the PLB does, get a signal in a wider variety of conditions/environments, and does two way texting and gps tracking/mapping. if a garmin inreach is better in the mountains, then it surely wouldn't be at a disadvantage on the open sea. but if i'm wrong, please correct me, i don't want to spread misinformation, i'm just regurgitating what i've read in articles..
    Thanks for the added info about relative sat-comm performance, which I didn't really address in my post.

    My view about proper PLB versus two-way Iridium is that (1) The variety of rescue situations that occur in the mountains makes two-way communication very important, partly to convey the relative urgency, and partly so that help arrives with material and skills appropriate to the scenario, that (2) Typically, one would be able to get a signal out, perhaps with some persistence if the unit has the capability of receiving an acknowledgement and acknowledgement has not yet arrived, and that (3) Private groups of people carrying their own gear, on a not particularly bleeding-edge outing, aren't likely to justify carrying more than one SOS device.

    I agree that, in some situations, a two-way sat SOS device plus a PLB could be justified for the additional security.

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobz View Post
    Thanks for the added info about relative sat-comm performance, which I didn't really address in my post.

    My view about proper PLB versus two-way Iridium is that (1) The variety of rescue situations that occur in the mountains makes two-way communication very important, partly to convey the relative urgency, and partly so that help arrives with material and skills appropriate to the scenario, that (2) Typically, one would be able to get a signal out, perhaps with some persistence if the unit has the capability of receiving an acknowledgement and acknowledgement has not yet arrived, and that (3) Private groups of people carrying their own gear, on a not particularly bleeding-edge outing, aren't likely to justify carrying more than one SOS device.

    I agree that, in some situations, a two-way sat SOS device plus a PLB could be justified for the additional security.
    yeah but if you're concerned about being able to call for rescue, it sure would suck to not get a signal on your garmin. you don't have to be summiting k2 to justify these things anymore than you need to be skiing 50 degree death spines in AK to justify carrying a beacon AND airbag. interestingly though, i've noticed a lot of people in the mountaineering world refuse to carry any devices like these, and feel that they invite people to take risks they otherwise wouldn't, because they think they have a lifeline.

  12. #37
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    Well, you know, that's mountaineering. A less-is-more discipline, where the outcome isn't guaranteed, and some of us like it that way. It would suck for that self-arrest, or that piece of pro, to fail, and yet we use it, rely on it to the not unlimited extent that it's reliable. We make careful choices about what to pack, and what to leave behind, and different people make different choices.

    For my money, and my limited top-pocket space, I have more confidence in the inReach's well established comm reliability, and the idea that rescuers will know immediately what my situation is, without wondering if my situation is less of an emergency than the known problems that they're also dealing with, without having to spend valuable time doing speculative research, making calls to people on my contact list who will ignore the call because they don't recognize the number, etc etc. But I respect your choice as well. And I respect the choice that I've been making up to now, telling people exactly where I'm going and when to expect me back and carrying a small FRS radio + signal mirror + flashing red light.

  13. #38
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    if i had all the fancy stuff, i would have been the third ski descent of mendel couloir (first on teles) and the first on boomers, with like 3 gopros and two outside (friends) camera angles. because of the inability to adequately and digitally document the descent and the minimal chance for a helicopter rescue (a la cham) of my broken carcass and certainly because of the the boomers and the lack of snow in the chute, we pulled the plug. however, my friend took the opportunity to tomahawked down part of darwin couloir and some of the apron the next day. that was certainly a learning experience and i also got a pretty sweet picture of him making big GS turns down the couloir before hitting the sheet of ice.

    that article about the Zion NP study was interesting. i'm curious what has changed in the tech since 2008. also, last time i was touching navajo sandstone, i did a lot of swimming in dark and cold water. how do these things hold up to water and temperature?

    I'm still wondering about signal interferences of all of this tech, especially with a avi beacon.

    I'm certainly appreciating these discussions and information. thanks all.

  14. #39
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    Most of these products, including the ResQLink, BivyStick, and inReach Mini, are at least quite water-resistant. Still, I'd stick it in a ziploc inside a drybag if I was dealing with the possibility of full immersion; with expensive electronics, why not?

    Radio interference with beacons shouldn't be a big concern; by default, the inReach is active as a radio device, checking for messages and optionally transmitting location, every 10 minutes, and it's probably wise (for battery life) to reset that to 30 minutes (the 30-minute setting also turns off Bluetooth). Or you could leave it turned off until you need to send out your canned "we're back safely for today" message. Of course, with PLBs, they're completely radio-dead until activated.

    [edit: I was considering the situation where the SOS device, on a victim or searcher, was turned on but basically idle. It could be quite different if someone was searching while carrying a device that was actively sending out an SOS signal, which is worth thinking about, and I don't know what the interference potential is in that situation. It's generally best (in backcountry, a bit less so with sidecountry) to hold off on SOS efforts until after devoting considerable initial efforts to search.]
    Last edited by bobz; 05-24-2019 at 11:16 PM.

  15. #40
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    Thanks. So basically one is generally dealing with the standard interference issue of a cell phone and other electronics when in search mode

  16. #41
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    Couple of corrections but I'm traveling. biggest:

    BivyStick is a dangerous piece of shit that should not be on the market as an emergency device. Nobody should discuss it except to dissuade others from buying it.

    5G won't do shit. It's short range and not mtn friendly. Actually 5g might seriously degrade weather forecasting in the future.

    Your electronics do Not need to tlbe transmitting to interfere with your Avalanche beacon. Any electronic device which is on can cause interfering emissions because the circuit board and wires are essentially energized antennas which may cause significant problems at short range. Some devices cause a ton of noise even in airplane mode. Literally the only way to know the level of degradation in beacon range/performance is practice with your beacon, then practice with your electronics. It's a lot easier to tell if yor beacon has analog, but that means that you are an advanced Mammut user or using a beacon past is retirement age. Turning off unnecessary electronics and maximize distance of energized electronics VS the beacon is the way to mitigate.
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  17. #42
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    Thanks for the info about BivyStick; I was trying to be compleatist in that post, and even per specs, inReach Mini is clearly better, if only for the BS's lack of stand-alone capability.

    Also thanks for the note about interference, which I'd underestimated. Yeah, I should pull my old Ortovox out of the box and do some experiments sometime. Fact remains that SOS devices are perfectly useful for their main intended purpose if simply left turned off while one is active on the hill.

  18. #43
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    Thanks, Summit.

    I’ve been thinking that a thread focused on beacon interference from other devices and best practices would be useful: phones, digital cameras, gps, 2-way radios, etc., and devices interlinked via WiFi and bluetooth.... or maybe not.

  19. #44
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    inReach style devices seem like a great option because you can get help before you really really really need it.

    That being said, having an inreach allows you to check in with people who might think you not checking in means they have to come rescue you. Which sucks, and could put them in danger.
    Its not that I suck at spelling, its that I just don't care

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    Okay, despite reasonable past performance, I now have serious doubts about my Spot. I defer to the collective.
    Its not that the Spot is a bad device, it is just that inreach is better for the reasons discussed. Many people have used Spot devices with good success. A Spot device is better then nothing, which is what most of us carried for years. Cell phone made things a little better, but have severe limitations. Spot upped the game, and now InReach has upped it again. Kind of like avi beacons, they just keep getting better, but one doesnt need to go out and buy a new one every time there is an upgrade.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

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