This is one I have been having doubts over for a long time. To buy or not to buy. As with many other things involved in the preparation of a trip like this, there are scores of very well argued opinions for and against the SPOT tracker all over the Internet. Some say that it can save your life; some say if something really bad happens, it will not guarantee that help gets there on time and for anything less serious, there are other ways of getting help, so it is an unnecessary expense, not to mention one more item to carry and worry about.
After weighing pros and cons for my particular case, this was the conclusion I came to:
– There might not be phone signal in most of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, so no way of getting help on the road.
– I can let people back at home know that I am OK and they can track my progress almost in real time on a map.
– My mum would be more than happy that I carry the thing.
– I have been told that phone signal is surprisingly good around towns and anyway, I will not be far from populated areas for that long.
– Being rescued might incur in hidden expenses that can amount to a lot of money (but then again, it is much better than not being rescued at all…)
– It is expensive, at 159€ plus 99€ for one year’s subscription to the service (yes, you do have to subscribe).
I was not going to get one, but a week ago I thought I would check on eBay to see whether I could get a used one and I found a new one on the States for 90€ plus shipping, which was still considerably less than buying one here, so I decided to order it (and make my mum happy).
I went to pick it up from the post office this morning and when the guy behind the counter gave me the box, I though ‘well, it had to happen, a new one for so little money could not have been real… I’ve been conned’. And I had good reason to think so – the box I had been given was labelled ‘Phillips Headphone Set’. Panic.
I walked out onto the street and towards my bike thinking about how unlikely I was to get my money back and trying to convince myself that 90€ was not that bad. I put the box on the bike’s seat and ripped the tape sealing it to find… The real box containing my SPOT!
I went to work, very relieved and much happier! When I got home this evening I was eager to open it and see how it worked.
The box contains the unit itself (a lot smaller than I thought); a kind of pouch to carry it around your arm, velcro it to a surface (the patch is too small, though, – I think I would lose it quick if I stuck it like that on the bike) or just hang it on to your belt or trousers; two replacement covers for the emergency buttons; the instructions and three batteries (Energiser Ultimate Lithium, the instructions are adamant that only this particular brand and model should be used). It does not include a cradle to mount it on the bike, but I can probably get one cheap and adapt it to the RAM mount that came with my Garmin and that I’m not going to use (more about that in another post).