GPS tracker

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
FWIW: the following items are always in our Jeep when we head out to the wild west: hiking boots and poles, at least one backpack, multiple full water bottles, Gazeteers, AAA maps, Garmin Inreach, cellphone, sunhats, snack, very loud rescue whistle. The inreach stays in the backpack when we are on vacation.
I am likewise loaded up when I go into the wild. But I also carry certain items in both of my vehicles at all times. That includes a gallon jug of water, a fire extinguisher, 12 Volt air pump and tire patching kit, toilet paper and wipes, and Gaia GPS on my cellphone. Many times during the hot summer months I will see a car perhaps with a flat tire on the side of the road in 100 degree heat. And not a drop of water to drink in the car. Sometimes there are kids in the car who are very thirsty. I once helped an 85 year-old man who pulled his car about 100 feet of the road just to take a pee. But it was in a sandy dry wash, and he got stuck. I gave him water and stayed with him until help arrived. It took a tow truck to drag his car back onto the main road.
 

Anthony Hitchings

Super Active Member
Silver Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
3,525
Oakland, California
Yup - in our Jeep we also have a fire extinguisher, 12 Volt air pumps (big and small) and tire patching kit, toilet paper and wipes (and a simple 1st aid kit). And usually also the Maxtrax traction aids if we anticipate driving on some of the more interesting roads out here in the greater Southwest.

We don't carry a winch, because we prefer to keep out of that kind of troublesome situation. Never missed having one. No hi-lift jack either - never found a need for one.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
I have a portable 12 Volt winch that my son gave to me. It hooks up to the tow hooks on the front of my truck or the hitch ball on the rear. I should carry it, but I never do. I also have a 2500 lbs. winch on my Quad. The one and only time I ever needed a winch was when I got my Quad stuck in deep snow. I had to literally drag the Quad out. Like you, if the road looks too bad, I don't go. I have 4-wheel drive on the truck, but I only use it to get me out of trouble... not get me into trouble!
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
Back to the GPS SOS trackers. I finally bit the bullet and ordered a Bivy Stick GPS SOS satellite locator beacon. I chose that one primarily because of the cost, $199.95 and all of the positive reviews. They all have many more features than I will probably ever use. But the older I get, the more I worry about being out in the sticks by myself.

So now that my decisions has been made, I have some questions for the Forum. Has anyone here had to use any type of SOS beacon in an emergency situation? I would be interested in your experience with it. What type did you use, what was your situation, how quickly did you get a response and help, and what did the help/rescue cost you in the long run?

I know some of these question have already been answered, but I want to get down the finer details now. These days all of the Trackers seem do the same thing. They all Bluetooth to a smartphone. They all have Breadcrumb tracking, and they all have the ability to two-way text or email. Initial cost and the monthly subscription cost was my determining factor.
 
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PopUpSteve

Administrator
Staff member
Gold Supporting Member
Dec 22, 2002
20,688
Southeastern PA
Too funny, I was just telling one of my co-workers about these like 5 minutes ago @Grandpa Don. I need to get one for my X-Country trip this year. I forget the one I was looking at but it has that daily text feature which ques you to send an "OK" text/email once a day and no charge.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
Another comment. I use GAIA GPS on my smartphone for everything else. I can download huge TOPO maps before hand, do Breadcrumb tracking which automatically uploads to the Cloud so I can see and store them on my home PC. I can make Waypoints and go to them. It will show a track on the map on the cellphone even if you don't have a cell signal. But it won't upload the track to the Cloud unless you have a cell signal. Consequently, I won't need to use any of those feature on the Bivy Stick locator. In fact I won't even need to turn it on unless there is an emergency or I need to do a "Check-in" or send a TEXT message to someone.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
don, read the use accounts (stories) on the Garmin website. For my Inreach Account I get periodic newsletter emails of yet another rescue or similar.
Anthony, my first choice would have been the Garmin Inreach. I have several Garmin products and am quite pleased with them. But the cost of the Inreach and the monthly subscription cost put it out of my price range.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
I got my Emergency Locator device today. It is the Bivy Stick. Since I have no experience with any of the other brands, I have nothing to compare it to. I was able to program it with little difficultly. Though there was a learning curve. After activation I was able to send an SOS message to Global Rescue as a test. They responded within 2 minutes and we were then able to send text messages back and forth from my smart phone. The phone's dictating feature work perfectly, so I did not have to type in my response. They acknowledged that they got the SOS and then proceeded to tell me exactly where I was, which was at my home. They said that testing the device whenever I wanted was okay and normal practice. I was then able to send a test TEXT message to my son in northern California. He got it within 2 minutes and replied within another 2 minutes. So far everything seems to work as advertised. I did find out that you really do have to have a clear view of the sky to get a good signal. It won't work inside of the house, the car, or the camper. Or at least it didn't when I first tried. Further testing will be necessary.

With each subscriiption plan you get so many credits. The credits are used to send and receive text messages or get the weather report for your area. One text message going out is one credit, and if they reply to you, that's also one credit. Check-ins messages are free and unlimited as well as all SOS messages. The plan I chose allows 80 credit per month. I will never use that many so in 3 months I can switch to the lower plan which is 20 credits. You can go over the allowance for 50 cents each. I'll really be able to put this thing to the test next month when my son and I head back up into the high Sierras for our first trip of the year. Your account or device is issued a unique phone number so that anyone with that number can send you a TEXT message if they want. I'm happy with it so far.
 
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Jkoht

Active Member
Aug 10, 2020
128
Just chiming in about Gaia GPS. A few years ago the screen on my Magellan handheld GPS cracked and became a lovely paperweight. I searched for new GPS units that would be color and have SD card capability so I could use Topo maps I had bought and saved. Well at that time there were only 3 major options and all were $400 or more which really didn't sound good to my wallet. That's when I discovered Gaia on a forum I visited. I got in early with them and paid a flat $20 for the app, which as others have stated uses the GPS chip in your smartphone, but now I believe they charge a monthly subscription cost. Anyways it is an amazing app that I recommend to every outdoorsman. You can use it independently of cell service, although cell service will help buffer the maps, but you can also download maps for use in non cell service areas. They have topo maps, and satellite imagery as well. I often download the same area with different maps so I can get a better visual when I'm out using it. Two years ago for my honeymoon my DW and I decided on a boat trip through multiple lakes on the Minnesota/Canadian border waters. I pre planned my trip my dropping waypoints and was able to successfully navigate around 150 miles round trip on the water without hitting anything or straying over the border. I also use it a lot when I'm on my atv, recording tracks or deerstand locations. If I go somewhere new that I don't know I'll always record the track so I can follow it back if neccessary. All in all that $20 app has paid for itself many times over and totally negated the need to carry an additional electronic device.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
Just chiming in about Gaia GPS. A few years ago the screen on my Magellan handheld GPS cracked and became a lovely paperweight. I searched for new GPS units that would be color and have SD card capability so I could use Topo maps I had bought and saved. Well at that time there were only 3 major options and all were $400 or more which really didn't sound good to my wallet. That's when I discovered Gaia on a forum I visited. I got in early with them and paid a flat $20 for the app, which as others have stated uses the GPS chip in your smartphone, but now I believe they charge a monthly subscription cost. Anyways it is an amazing app that I recommend to every outdoorsman. You can use it independently of cell service, although cell service will help buffer the maps, but you can also download maps for use in non cell service areas. They have topo maps, and satellite imagery as well. I often download the same area with different maps so I can get a better visual when I'm out using it. Two years ago for my honeymoon my DW and I decided on a boat trip through multiple lakes on the Minnesota/Canadian border waters. I pre planned my trip my dropping waypoints and was able to successfully navigate around 150 miles round trip on the water without hitting anything or straying over the border. I also use it a lot when I'm on my atv, recording tracks or deerstand locations. If I go somewhere new that I don't know I'll always record the track so I can follow it back if neccessary. All in all that $20 app has paid for itself many times over and totally negated the need to carry an additional electronic device.
Yes, it is a great app. I have also been using it as I stated above. I no longer need any handheld GPS units. But I do have an older one as a back-up. It will also upload your track and waypoints to the cloud for viewing at home on your PC. I have downloaded the TOPO map for the entire area around Yosemite and Bass lake in California. This app will make handheld GPS unit obsolete. I think my subscription was a one-time charge of $20 something dollars.

Like you, at the time I was in need of a new GPS unit. I was considering the Garmin top of the line for around $450.00. Thank goodness I saw this app!
 

curt86iroc

Member
Sep 28, 2020
46
So now that my decisions has been made, I have some questions for the Forum. Has anyone here had to use any type of SOS beacon in an emergency situation? I would be interested in your experience with it. What type did you use, what was your situation, how quickly did you get a response and help, and what did the help/rescue cost you in the long run?
short answer, it all depends on where you are when you press the SOS button and what agency has jurisdiction for SAR. for example, if you are anywhere in CO, the SAR team appointed by the county sheriff would respond to your SOS and you would not be charged for the rescue. Depending on what your exact situation was, injury, your specific location etc., SAR could be anywhere from 45 mins to 3 hrs away.

SAR is a patchwork of regulations that differ greatly between each state and country. best to know what system is in place for areas you commonly recreate in.
 

Anthony Hitchings

Super Active Member
Silver Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
3,525
Oakland, California
the Bivy Stick data plans on their web site are $$ compared to my Inreach plan which is $11.95/mo. Its the "Consumer Safety" plan.

I bought the device mostly with the $ from a Going Away luncheon check.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
the Bivy Stick data plans on their web site are $$ compared to my Inreach plan which is $11.95/mo. Its the "Consumer Safety" plan.

I bought the device mostly with the $ from a Going Away luncheon check.
There are cheaper plans for the Bivy Stick than the one I chose. I think $14.99 is the cheapest so far. I chose a bigger plan for the first three months so that I could play with the thing and learn how to use it. The plan I have now has way too many features and credits, most of which I will never use. So I'll be dropping back a couple plans in three months.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,400
Northern Virginia
Has anyone here had to use any type of SOS beacon in an emergency situation? I would be interested in your experience with it. What type did you use, what was your situation, how quickly did you get a response and help
A kayaking buddy of mine had a situation on the open water many many years ago where he had to push his alarm. He used the ACR personal locator beacon so not quite what you have. According to him it took rescue nearly 2 hours to rescue him. First they contacted his wife who confirmed he was out and told rescue his paddle plan and equipment he had. The rest of the time was to dispatch rescue and try and locate him. Which was complicated by a nasty storm that rolled in and pushed him further out to sea and tossing him. Thankfully my friend was a strong paddler and knew how to self rescue. It was the coast guard that rescued him. So to say the beacon saved his life. I was strongly looking at one after his experience but couldn't justify the $$$ when I didn't venture out as often or where he does. Of course back then there really wasn't many options and it was expensive.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,592
Southern California
I had a chance to test out the Bivy Stick yesterday. And I sure glad I did. One thing I always do when I get a new toy is try to learn everything I can about how it works and how to use it. There is as with everything a learning curve. I took it on one of my short trips up in the mountains where I did not have a cell signal. At first it was a little confusing because I didn't understand what the little lights were trying to tell me. After a couple of hours I figured most of it out. It turned out to be pretty easy to use, I was just reading too much into it. One stupid thing I did was when I sent a test TEXT to myself. At first I thought it did not work. So I tried a couple more times. Still nothing! Then I realized that I was in a dead cell area and could not receive any messages at all. My phone went crazy when I did get back in to Cell range. If you get something like this regardless of brand, learn how to use it real well before you actually really need it.

When I got home I called Tech Support and got some real-time training and an explanation on what it was trying to tell me. So if anybody else get a Bivy Stick and wants a little first-hand advice, let me know. I can help. The bottom line is that it worked perfectly.
 




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