Wouldn’t it be great if you could send messages to friends and family (and yes, rescue personnel) from anywhere in the backcountry, at any time, with customized texts and precise location information? Now you can. By crossing a handheld GPS with a satellite transceiver, these two companies have created a revolutionary tool that integrates navigation and communication.
The all-new category could use a catchy name (GPS Messenger?), but here’s how it works. The PN-60w and its companion SPOT Communicator connect wirelessly to send geolocated text messages of up to 40 characters (up to 500 texts for $50 a year). It allowed our editors to map adventures in Capitol Reef, North Cascades, Denali, and Abu Dhabi and simultaneously beam real-time locations and status updates to the folks back home, who followed our real-time progress on Google Maps and received our notes via email and SMS. (See Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dorn’s string of posts at backpacker.com/abudhabi.) It’s easy, too.
Before each trip, enter up to 10 contact groups in your online SPOT account, connect the GPS to your computer, and export the info. On the trail, use the GPS keypad to type and send customized (or prewritten) messages, post updates to your Facebook and Twitter pages, or notify 911 responders. And the GPS? The PN-60w is a top-shelf unit with high-resolution tracking, terrain and street maps of North America, 3.5GB of internal memory, a three-axis electronic compass, and a lightning-fast, dual-core processor.
In the event that the GPS unit is damaged or out of batteries, a covered button on the SPOT can still transmit SOS messages. $450 for the devices, plus $100/year for the required service plan; texts ($50/year for 500) and the Track Progress feature (real-time routes on Google Maps, $50/year) cost extra; 10.7 oz. (with batteries); delorme.com and findmespot.comGaia GPS is developing by a pair of avid backpackers, living in California Sierra Mountains. We have released 13 updates over the last year, and the app is now one of the most popular hiking apps on the App Store.
Please see the App Store for a description and reviews from users, or visit www.gaiagps.com