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InReach, Zoleo, SPOT choice


Dec 7, 2011
Victoria, BC
I've been using a SPOT on kayak trips since 2015 and it has worked OK.

I don't use the tracking, so the SPOT was just used to send 'OK' messages from camp.
The annual fees for the SPOT have been an irritant, and I had hassles clearing up a billing error - SPOT's fault- this summer.

A few years ago friends were on a trip and used an InReach to communicate with 'home base' when they needed to move vechicles to a different pull-out spot.

So I've been thinking about getting a different 'communicator' device - one that allows messaging.

A few years ago I bought an InReach 'standalone' with 'buttons' as I didn't want to use a cell phone or iPad on trips because of the hassles with charging. That InReach and a second one off the shelf at MEC were both rubbish - the keypads were defective and the unit was unusable.

Now, I've realized that I'll need to use a cell phone to operate any of the communicator devices effectively. (Even the $$$ Iridium Go requires a phone...).

The InReach Mini is popular but if you want 'home base' to communicate with you it seems to be an awkward process requiring a fair bit of 'facility with technology'.

I've been doing some readin on the Zoleo which seems like a good alternative as it has its own phone number and messaging is easy for the sender.
Zoleo doesn't do tracking, which I don't use.
Zoleo does have a 'OK-Check In' button like the SPOT

I'd appreciate advice, comments and experiences from you all! :)
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'Cougarmeat' posted these thoughts in the PLB1 thread:
John, I moved to InReach because I got tired of paying an ever increasing yearly fee for The Spot when I only used it a few weeks a year. Later, on my own - no help from The Spot people - I discovered they also have a plan like InReach - a small yearly activation fee and a monthly “use” fee - for the months you use it. Note that the month you pay the yearly fee includes activation for that month. So it’s a little misleading - why do they have to do that - because you can’t just pay for the yearly activation. It has to be yearly activation + one month.

I feel your pain with The Spot. They purposely don’t provide a way for YOU to “cancel” your subscription. You have to call, and wait on hold, and talk to someone who is motivated to keep you as a subscriber.

At this point, I have both. And both are incactivated. Next year, I may activate both and use them for a month to compare messaging times. I was going to do that this summer. But you know ….

Happy to compare notes with you when I finally turn one or both back on.
BTW- SPOT maintains one callcenter that handles Canada and the US, as far as I can tell.

When I had (briefly) an InReach and needed to cancel the 'subscription' after returning the unit to MEC, it was irritating to deal with two different billing offices - InReach USA AND their Canadian contractor. This may have changed since Garmin bought InReach??

That was part of what soured me on InReach - I couldn't even access the 'Settings' menu until they had charged my credit card - there was no 'Demo mode' of any kind in the unit...so I didn't discover the defective keypad until I had 'subscribed'.
As Master Ummon observed, “However wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all.”

Blue Cliff Record, case no. 86.
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When I had (briefly) an InReach and needed to cancel the 'subscription' after returning the unit to MEC, it was irritating to deal with two different billing offices - InReach USA AND their Canadian contractor. This may have changed since Garmin bought InReach??
I think that is a legacy of after Garmin bought InReach. I believe that if one buys a new model (e.g. the Mini or GPSMap ones) that you solely deal with Garmin and not use RoadPost for the services handling. The RoadPost web site only lists the "InReach" Explorer+ and SE+ models. I think that is why RoadPost has been sending me promo on the 'Zoleo' communicator:
Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 7.23.01 PM.png

Spot really seems to have dropped the ball on this market after starting with a lead on everyone. The InReach is pretty ubiquitous for people at the Uni doing field work, at least when they don't need to carry a full sat phone.
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As Master Ummon observed, “However wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all.”

Ah, yes, but some responsibilities are 'ongoing' and can't be suspended for weeks at a time, so I have to be able to communicate - a bit.
And, people at home are less anxious when I 'keep in touch' with a daily 'OK' when I'm on a solo trip, as I now am completely in the 'geezer' category. :)

That example of windbound friends organizing a way to get vehicles moved by using InReach messaging rather than pushing N around the Brooks Peninsula in 'iffy' weather made me think. Without messaging, it could have turned into an 'incident' of that very common type: "Somebody had to get home, or we were getting short on food, so we set out even though conditions were going to be bad."
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Does anyone have an update on these devices? I am most wanting an sos for solo kayaking that I can use easily dumped into the water. . So spot looks like it is much easier to use for that than ZolEo. I’m not crazy to have to have a cellphone charged for longer trips especially when outside service areas , but it’s doable But how is in reach. Curious if folks have a preferred option
Kate, IF real-time communication, is not necessary. And IF the Spot has a "by-the-month" pricing plan - usually a yearly activation fee (around $25) and a monthly fee (around $10 - $15), that's a pretty simple way to go. You'll have one device and you setup a Profile for each of the three messages - the fourth "SOS" is reserved for full-on Search and Rescue.

For each of the other three, you define who will get the message (email or text) and what it will say. The message will contain lat/long information as well as a link that places you on a Google Earth-type map.

You can also set up tracking - a map will show your route while tracking is on - and you can send that URL link to friends ahead of your trip. You can password protect the map or keep it open. Unfortunately, there is no route start/stop. If you turn on tracking and paddle around, then turn it off, relaunch somewhere else, and turn tracking back on, it will show a straight-line path between the last stop and the new start. The track remains on the map for seven days. Sometimes the tracks span two map pages and it is not obvious that you might need to click on "page 2".

If you turn the Spot off as soon as you reach shore, in the past, it might still show you out in the water because the next update interval hasn't occurred. You could keep it running for about 10 minutes after you land but it is easier to remember to turn it off on landing and it's easy to forget to turn it off once you start doing other things Perhaps they "fixed" the software so now it sends one more point when you turn tracking off.

But if Spot is changing a yearly fee for something you only use a few times in the summer, I'd consider another device.
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