Gear Review: SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

Never go missing with this personal locator beacon.

Along with a sleek new face-lift, SPOT’s second-generation personal locator beacon improves upon its predecessor (an Editors’ Choice Award winner in 2008) by packing even more features into a smaller, lighter unit. Out of the box, it’s easier to use: The most often used buttons (Check-in/OK and Track Progress) are front and center, while the Help and S.O.S. buttons are protected from accidental activation by safety covers.

Social butterfly? Create a custom message in your online SPOT account and ping your 10 favorite folks from the trail. A nylon case Velcros around pack straps to keep the unit in clear view of the sky. The device still delivers services like Track Progress, which transmits coordinates every 10 minutes and allowed our tester to beam his real-time location to Google Maps as he thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail.

Wish list: a battery-life indicator. $170 (basic plan, $100/year); 5.2 oz. (mfr. weight);