Gear Closet: SPOT Satellite Messenger Gen3


When it was released a few years back the SPOT Satellite Messenger was a revelation to the outdoor community. Not only did it allow us to call for help in case of emergencies, it allowed us to send preset messages back home to let the know everything was okay, even while we were in remote areas. On top of that, it shared GPS coordinates online, giving friends and family the opportunity to see where we were located at any given time. All of that was rolled up in a small, lightweight package with solid battery life and an easy to use interface. The device was later updated with some evolutionary changes that slimmed down the Satellite Messenger slightly and added some measures that made it more difficult to inadvertently set off the SOS button.

This past summer, SPOT released the Gen3 Satellite Messenger which brings more substantial improvements to the Messenger. The device did get a bit larger in size but it made up for it much improved battery life. The new model is capable of running for twice as long as previous Satellite Messengers, which is an always a welcome upgrade. That improved battery life is put to good use, allowing the new device to be much more active. Two new GPS location sharing setting are available, allowing users to post updates every 2.5 or 5 minutes, in addition to the standard 10, 30 and 60 minutes. Sharing coordinates that often is probably overkill when backpacking in the backcountry, but it is nice to know the capability is there should you need it. In a further battery saving mode, the new SPOT unit will even shut itself off when it detects that you haven’t moved for an extended period of time. That puts it into battery saving mode to conserve power. As soon as you’re back on the go, it’ll resume sharing data at the usual rate that you’ve set.

The new model also has multiple ways to keep itself charged as well. In addition to the standard, long life, rechargeable battery pack, the Gen3 is also capable of using off the shelf AAA batteries, which don’t have the luxury of lasting as long as the rechargeable pack, but they are inexpensive, easy to find, and small enough to easily carry. The device can also be powered directly from a USB port, which can come in handy when wanting to use it to track a vehicle for instance and you don’t want to run the batteries down completely.

Of course, the Gen3 still does everything the old models did in terms of sending pre-canned messages and having the ability to call for an emergency evac. Those features are often what owners most want out of the device, eschewing the tracking abilities in favor of at least being able to travel more safely and confidently in remote places.

I’ve had the good fortunate of testing the Gen3 for several months now and feel that it is a solid update to a device that was already quite good. It remains lightweight and durable, it tracks accurately and its ability to communicate with others back home, remains solid and reliable. Essentially, it is everything that we’ve come to know and love about previous SPOT devices, just improved in some important and useful ways.

The Gen3 also remains very affordable. It carries an MSRP of $169.95, which is a low cost of entry for a device that provides some excellent safety measures for our adventures. Of course, the Satellite Messengers itself isn’t very good without service, and in order to use it you’ll need to sign up for a monthly plan. Basic service runs $149.95 for the year, or about $12.50 per month, with extended tracking abilities adding more expense to the price tag.

With the holidays just around the corner, the SPOT Gen3 would make a great Christmas gift for your favorite outdoor enthusiast. It gives them the ability to travel in the remote corners of the globe without worry, and it’ll give you peace of mind knowing that should an emergency arise, they’ll be able to quickly and easily call for help. I can’t think of a better gift for them or you.

The SPOT Gen3 is a solid update in every way, giving first time buyers the best device the company has ever created. The Gen3 is so good in fact, that it should entice owners of previous models to upgrade as well. The improved battery life is worth the update alone, but the other features are certainly icing on the cake.

Kraig Becker