Sunday, March 18, 2012

SPOT Gen3 satellite messenger vs DeLorme inReach SE

SPOT Gen 3 vs DeLorme inReach

Which satellite messenger is right for you?

There’s a little more info trickling out on the SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger, including its ability to send your position at 30 minute intervals for up to 45 days on a single charge. The SPOT Gen3 lists for $169.99 and is expected to be available later this month.

Meanwhile, the DeLorme inReach SE may already be shipping (I expect GPS City will update its availability status later today). UPDATE: The estimated availability date has now slipped to May 25.

Comparing the SPOT Gen3 and DeLorme inReach SE

The inReach SE is a two-way communication device with a virtual keyboard that will appeal to those wanting to exchange messages with loved ones (or search and rescue teams) from the backcountry. Its specs (PDF) show a $299.95 MSRP, 125 hour maximum battery life and 100 hour life when firing off your location every ten minutes.

The SPOT Gen 3 is more likely to appeal to those wanting to track extended backpacking trips, or swayed by its lower initial and ongoing price.

Service plans

Both units require a subscription service plan. The SPOT basic plan runs $99.99 per year; tracking will cost you an additional $49.99. DeLorme’s plans run $9.95 per month (includes 10 messages) and $.25 per trackpoint or $24.95 per month for a plan with fewer limits.

Do either of these new units interest you? If so, which one?

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. I’ve been interested in the Spot for a awhile since I’d like to use it so my family can track me on motorcycle trips. I typically end up in areas where there isn’t phone service and few cars (think North Dakota back roads).

    The only thing that prevents me from getting a spot is that I don’t need it year around. A month by month service would be just fine by me. I’d be willing to pay a little more for the device to get this.

    • Be sure to read DeLorme’s fine print. An initial 12 month contract is required.

    • Brad,

      DeLorme offers a seasonal plan. You are able to activate for 4 months and then shut it off without an early termination fee. Check it out:

    • I have considerable experience with SPOT and give it an A rating. I average 200+ days a year in the high desert hiking in remote areas — and this is a 15 year average. I was interested in DeLorme’s inReach SE until I read that it has an internal rechargeable battery that is not user replaceable(!). Where I go there is no AC or DC power to recharge an inReach and what if my battery dies in the field? With my SPOT (that I have owned and used constantly since 2007) all I have to do is quick change the AAA/AA batteries and I am back in business. The last thing I need is a GPS 911 Messenger that I stake my life on that is out of battery power. Why wasn’t this significant fact mentioned by Mr. Owings?

      • This wasn’t a full review but I did mention the SPOT 3’s 45 day battery life.

      • While the InReach SE might have a non-replaceable battery, the earlier (and still available) InReach for Smartphones operates on standard AA batteries. This way you can have the convenience and security of “generic” replaceable batteries, the same standalone functionality of Spot, plus two-way communication (when paired with a phone/tablet).

  2. “DeLorme’s fine print. An initial 12 month contract is required”

    It is and it isn’t. You CAN initially sign up for a seasonal plan – but you have to talk to them on the phone about it because it’s almost impossib;e to fingure this out from their website. And in reality there’s almost no cost savings. I don’t have the exact current numbers, but I ran through them when I considered regsitering an inReach last year.

    The thing is, you can’t sign up for the lowest cost inReach basic SOS plan on a seasonal basis, you need a tracking plan. And there are fees for each service activation, deactivatoion, or downgrade (from annual to seasonal; or shutting it off until next season). In the long run you might save at best $20 to 30 a year by carefully juggling the service options.

    As I was personally only interested in an SOS capability and not continual tracking or text messaging, the annual or even seasonal costs made it impractical for me.

  3. Richard Newcombe says:

    I will start teaching a wilderness survival and first aid course this year and wanted to add one of these “tools” as a fail safe. I bought a Spot last year and was underwhelmed by it’s performance and returned it. Last week I bought the Inreach SE planning to take it on a camping trip in OK last weekend. I tried for 2 whole days to make the unit work to no avail. I have an email dialog with Delorme customer service and it is clearly that this product is not ready for prime time. My efforts spanned 2 computers, 2 different operating systems, 4 different browsers, and 2 different Inreach SE units.!!! I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with the product but the customer service was shockingly bad or ill informed. I basically taught my self how this should work in order to troubleshoot the problems I was having. One of the customer service agents I dealt with was a complete clown and the other was in the dark – even though you can see by my tone in the emails that I was trying (very hard) to make this thing work. One guy convinced me to install Firefox to cure all of the ills and in the end, it was a 32bit version of Explorer that came closest to success.

    For me this is a serious device that could save a life. And for Delorme to basically, ignore the chance to essentially work with a “beta” user to make the product work, shocks me. Finally, even if you get it to work, the subscription plans they offer are borderline absurd – to make the one SOS button work will cost you $120/year, you can upgrade to higher cost plans but if you want to downgrade from one of those higher cost plans they ding you for $$.

    If my experience is indicative of Delormes commitment to this technology, don’t walk, but run away from the inreach (but out of touch) se.

    • Ugh. Hey, where were you able to buy the SE?

      • Richard Newcombe says:

        Rich – I live in Dallas, I looked all around and finally found 3 at Bass Pro Shops – I’ll be returning the second one today or tomorrow. I was hoping to hear from Delorme and not have to do that. On a 5 star rating system with 5 being the best, I would rate the SE a -5 (as in negative 5)

        • If it’s any consolation, I’ve struggled with setup and the first few passes at using every satellite communicator I’ve ever tried. Maybe Garmin will intro one in a year or two and really nail it.

  4. Rich- I am going on a trip for 30 days around the world. I am tryi9ng to decide between the Spot Gen3 and the DeLorme SE. I like the coverage and texting of the DeLorme and was wondering about coverage for the Spot. I also don’t like the expensive service plan of the Delorme. Do you think that coverage on the spot will be good around the world?

  5. I’ve used every generation of the Spot and haven’t had any problems with them. They have worked as advertised. Here’s my problem with Spot – it is IMPOSSIBLE to stop the recurring payment without calling them. My wife and I tend to go on a two-week back-country hike about once every couple of years, and maybe a week long hike in between. Although, I think $150 is expensive, I’d be willing to pay it for a one-year subscription. However, you can’t just pay the $150 before you go on a hike and have it cancel at the end of a year, you HAVE to sign up for a recurring payment. Maybe there’s a way to purchase just one year, but I haven’t found it.

  6. re: changing plans with spot, I found phone support was easy and effective. I signed up for the 1 year Spot 2 replacement plan but dropped it after year 2. I phoned before the subscription renewal date, asked for the replacement plan to be cancelled. On the next renewal invoice, it was correct, I only had basic + tracking + rescue on the plan. I’m sure cancelling a plan is just as easy. Just do it with enough time ahead of a renewal date.

    As for using Spot 2, I’ve found it to be reliable for sending my location (tracking). Of course in mountainous terrain it’s not going to work as well, not much will that depends on communicating with satellites.

    Though not recommended by Spot, I have been using rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries in my Spot 2 for 3 years. With my experience with the NiMH batteries, I’m pretty confident on relying on them. You do get the red low-battery light soon but that’s just the device detecting the lower voltage of NiMH compared to lithium. But my tests show I get at least 60 hours of continuous tracking on a set of NiMH. So I pack enough batteries and some spare for the length of trip. My trips aren’t risky, I have other rescue options. Mainly the spot is for the family to know where I am. Your risks may vary so you may want to stick to lithium batteries.

    Re: the generation 3, I’ll hold off for now as I can manually turn tracking on/off if I’m stationary. On the other hand it lets family know where I’ve spent my time if there is a cluster of points. For a new purchase, I’d recommend the 3rd gen.

    As for Spot Connect, i can’t rely on my cell phone to be still alive to use the Spot Connect. As for Delorme, the subscription costs were prohibitive for my use. For enhanced communication I have 3 custom messages pre-defined:
    1. OK: I’m here. All is OK, On schedule as planned.
    2. Custom msg: Change of plans, delayed by weather or a new opportunity. All OK.
    3. Help: Everyone OK, but we are stranded, cannot proceed on our own. Need assistance.

  7. Someone mentioned DeLorme Inreach SE this weekend, so I was looking into it as our SPOT subscription is about ready for renewal.

    We’ve had a first generation SPOT for years and frequently use the tracking for long endurance rides (100 mile horse endurance events in backcountry/wilderness) or solo off-roading trips to let family know where we are.

    From what I read above, the DeLorme unit isn’t going to help us at all (too prohibitive cost-wise to use mostly for tracking and, as Tony mentions, the pre-programmed messages do the job as far as letting family know what’s going on).

    My biggest gripe with SPOT Gen 1 is it does really badly under tree cover – loses its signal and unless manually reset, will take a while to reconnect – not ideal to have to continually monitor the blinking lights to make sure they are still synced.

    I worry about us becoming incapacitated under tree cover (and I’m not talking *thick* woods) and being unable to alert emergency personnel to our plight. Visions of having to crawl out into the open, dragging a broken leg behind me.

    I’m really hoping, with GPS technology having improved greatly over the last few years, that the Gen 3 SPOT will handle tree-cover as well as my old Garmin Vista HCx does.

    Can anyone comment on how much better the newer generation SPOT devices are compared to the old?

    Oh – and regarding battery life – I don’t think I’ve ever actually changed the batteries in my SPOT unit – despite occasionally forgetting to turn it off after use. Luckily, it stops tracking automatically after 24 hours, so saves battery greatly. But I’ve left it turned on for at least a week once when I put my saddle away in the tack room and forgot to turn it off. 🙂

    • SPOT uses Globalstar satellites, while the inReach uses the Iridium network. The former has 28 satellites, while the latter has 66. My impression is that the Iridium network provides improved reception in marginal conditions.

      • I do lots of solo tramping in New Zealand and twice a year hiking in remote parts of the world. I just about sent off an order to buy the Spot then looked at the coverage map. It reminded me I had rejected it once before because of the coverage gaps. The wonderful areas of the world I like to hike in like Nepal, Tibet, India etc are not covered.

  8. DeLorme now offers, no contract (month to month) “Freedom Plans” for service.

    You will pay only for those months that you use the service, plus the $25 annual program fee.

    Freedom Plan pricing provides flexibility to our customers based on their timetables & seasons. REI is one of the larger retailers of InReach SE & the new InReach Explorer.

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