Screen Name Required

A screen name is required for sharing content on REI. Click here to create a screen name before continuing.

Set screen name

Electronic Signaling Devices: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Posted on at 4:21 PM

Tagged: GPS, PLBs, SAR, Search and Rescue, WMI, electronic signaling device, personal locator beacons and spot satellite messenger

Ratings and Comments

(0) (0)
write a comment
You already voted on this.
Log in to comment or rate.
Matt The Mad Scientist

If I call 911 and its not an emergency, I can face a large fine. Same thing should go with using the SOS on a SPOT when its not an emergency. I think that most people with these will know when to and not to use them. For those that don't, let them pay a couple grand and hopefully they will become quick learners.

Regarding taking extra risk because one has a SPOT... darwinism.

Flag as Inappropriate

Flagging Questionable Content Protects the Community at

In what way this content is inappropriate? Please check one:

More Details (Optional)

Submit answer


I've wondered how easy it is to accidentally trigger the emergency signal from this device if you stuff it into your pack. It does not look like there is a cover over the emergency button or combination of buttons that you have to press to send out the emergency signal. I've been tempted to get one of these devices not necessarily for the emergency signalling aspect but for the ability it has to upload you progress directly to Google Maps and send out pre-canned non-emergency messages letting people know you arrived at your destination safely.


I have requested my husband carry the Spot for the personalized message function. That way each night he is out backpacking I have a message from him that he is alright and his current location. It has also worked out when he is on the road where there is no cell reception and is significantly delayed coming home from a trip. We have never had an accidental SOS triggered on the Spot.


I love my SPOT! The only way I could talk my wife into letting me solo hike the Enchantments was to demo how she could track my movements with the SPOT. She let me do a solo hike in Death Valley as well. Without the SPOT I wouldn't be able to enjoy the the feeling of a challenging solo hike.


Getting a SPOT was my wife's requirement for solo hiking in bear country(pretty much all of AK). There are cover over the two different help buttons, the "Assistance needed" and the "SOS", so that it would be very difficult to accidentally trigger them. If you are interested in the tracking features however, you would need to either wear it outside your pack, or put it in the top where it can get a good satellite signal.

Sherpa Don

Hey, this is a serious question that Brian has posed. Only two commentors have dealt with this issue. In answer to Run Monkey about accidental activation, this was a problem with the early units but now almost impossible, especially for the Fastfind, ACR and Spot II units (most of them). Brian (an WMI instructor) suggests taking a WMI course?? In a quick check of the course outline for the Wilderness First Responder, there is no mention of how to operate locator beacons responsibly or an analysis of all of the many emergency communication possibilities. I suspect that one could request some guidance while in the 75 hour course, but not to any depth like the other subjects. Brian's suggestion, if my quick check is accurate, is misleading at best and a blatant advertising for WMI. There is nothing wrong with WMI, but that is not the topic of this blog.


Unable to Post Comment

We were unable to post your comment at this time. Your opinion matters, so please try again later.

  • Most Recent
  • Most Commented

    No entries found

    No entries found