While none of our staff count ourselves among the 6,200-plus people rescued after calling in the cavalry with a GPS-linked Spot device, we’ve long kept the gadgets clipped to our gear. The bright-orange boxes provide great peace of mind when our adventures don’t include cellphone service, but communications options have thus far been limited to predetermined one-way emergency messages.
The Spot X adds a keyboard, a screen, and two-way satellite-based messaging to the little lifesaving gadget. Combined with existing features such as location tracking and an outstanding battery life (Spot X gets a claimed 240 hours in 10-minute interval tracking mode), the latest tracker jumps past being a lifesaving device and into the realm of a true communications tool.
The Spot X is at its best sending messages to mobile phones on traditional cell networks, but it also has options for posting to twitter, and even rudimentary GPS navigation tools. A QWERTY keyboard and 2.7-inch display date back to an earlier era of technology, but handle rough use better than a touchscreen.
The device demands a $100 premium on Spot’s third-generation tracker, but a similar price point for basic service, making it a solid upgrade—whether you need it or not.