For us, the best thing about riding an ATV is being able to get away from it all—way away from it all. Regularly, we drive to the far reaches of civilization, stop the truck, unload and ride even farther away from the rest of the world. It’s great to be so secluded, doing and seeing things normal city folks only read about.
On the downside, if there is ever a major problem, help can be hours—if not days—away or more. Letting our coworkers and family know where we are is an important part of our work, and riding with a partner is mandatory. Still, things can happen, and having a way to communicate back home is important.
The Spot Global phone just made this task a whole lot easier and cheaper. Satellite phones have been around for decades and work pretty well, but have always cost a fortune and were not available through major retailers. That was until Spot got into the business. You see, Spot first got into the business by offering a little orange tracking device that riders could carry with them as a link back to home. If the rider was to get into trouble, like crashing or breaking something, he could push a button to send a message back home. Later versions allowed members at home to watch the rider’s progress on the trail over Internet mapping software.
The latest product from the company is the Spot Global phone. At $499, the Global phone is not cheap but is very practical. Have one search-and-rescue helicopter sent out looking for you and the bill could be in the thousands. After the initial purchase price of the Spot phone, you do have to pay an additional monthly fee similar to your cell-phone plan. Although prices are again steep, they’re comparable to what cell-phone rates were 20 years ago when they were just becoming popular.
Rate plans begin with a $25-per-month package that will give you 10 minutes of talk time. A little better deal is the $40 plan, which gives you 80 minutes of talk time, and additional minutes are only $.50 each. At the other end of the pricing scale, an unlimited plan is offered for $150 per month, or $1800 a year. Remember, this is an emergency phone for when you are way out in the boonies and your cell phone doesn’t work. You are not going to be chatting late into the night or surfing the web on this thing. However, you can access the Internet with a $20 accessory data kit. With it, you can connect it to your computer to surf the web and answer e-mails at up to 25 kbps.
In the months we have been testing this phone, we have traveled to many remote areas and had great luck with it. The phone is light (under a pound) and fairly small. It’s a little taller and fatter than an Apple iPhone and only weighs twice as much. The plastic case can hold up to some abuse in a backpack or pocket, but we wouldn’t throw it into an ATV storage box. We kept ours stored in a soft goggle bag. Spot claims the battery life is up to 36 hours of standby time and four hours of talk time. While we travel, we left the phone turned off and never had the battery go low. The phone comes with a wall charger only. The accessory 12-volt or USB charger is available for $40 and $20, respectively.
To use the phone, you simply power it up, raise the thick external antenna and point it to the biggest patch of clear sky you can find. It takes about a minute for the phone to find a signal, then it’s ready to go. If you are in dense woods or a deep canyon, search for higher ground. You dial the phone like a standard cell phone; there are no special operators to speak to or country codes to use. To monitor call times, you can preset alerts to go along with the standard minute alert already programed into the phone.
We have kept our calls short and never encountered a dropped call or even heard static. We have been told sound is crystal clear at both ends. You do have to stay relatively still, and resist walking around or calls may be dropped. Also, the phone can display satellite coordinates that would help rescuers if there was an emergency.
Thankfully over this past summer, we haven’t actually needed the support of the Spot Global phone, although there were several close calls. Just feeling safer with the assurance of only being a phone call away has made all of our test rides more enjoyable in carrying the phone.
If you want to give your family some peace of mind while you’re out on the trail and make them less nervous at home waiting for you, look into the Spot Global phone. You can buy them at major retailer such as Cabellas and Best Buy, or directly through www.findmespot.com. Landline, cellular or sat phone calls can be made as well to (866) 651-7768.