Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

General Palm Springs area.

Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Wildhorse » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:37 pm

Here is an interesting article about the harmful effects of spot, cell phones and gps in wilderness.

http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/threatsTechnology

In a nut shell, these devices appear to be encouraging risky behavior, as has been observed in other discussion threads here.

In a recent discussion with an acquaintance, I mentioned that I enjoy being lost in wilderness. He asked how I could possibly get lost if I am using a gps. I guess the answer is partly carelessness or error and partly dealing with confusing and difficult terrain, such as one finds in Joshua Tree. (I am also convined that sometimes it is the inherent inaccuracy of gps in some cases.)

I don't have spot, and I don't use a cell phone in wilderness. I do use a gps in some cases, but less than in the past. It really is better to study a map, and then pay attention to one's bearing and the land. And getting lost, and then finding one's way again, really is one of the great pleasures of wilderness and life. It comes with risk. We must manage the risk by developing skill and judgment. Using Spot and calling 911 are poor substitutes for that, and, in ways the article explains, they increase recklessness and harm wilderness.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Ed » Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:00 am

I've never used my SPOT for an SOS, and rarely use my GPS. But I think every solo hiker or group should carry a SPOT or other satellite-based SOS device, and every solo hiker or group hiking cross-country or on snow should carry a GPS.

We can't do much about the abuses of these devices, but anyone can require a rescue some day, and it is also an abuse to expect rescuers to have to find you before they rescue you. I understand the complaint of SAR people that SPOT's and PLB's don't give them any information about the nature of the emergency, but it is worse when someone is reported missing, and they don't even have the location within a broad area.

Then there are the false alarms that can be prevented. One feature I find comforting about my SPOT is that I can send an OK message if I am running late. It is not unusual for people to have a problem that requires them to bivouac overnight, and they hike out in the morning and find that there is a SAR underway, because their family has reported them missing.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby RichardK » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:55 pm

i carry a PLB when we are hiking cross-country in Death Valley. I am 6'5" and 230 lbs. If I should pass out for some reason and my wife can't revive me, she can't carry me out. I'm 68 with medical issues. This is not just a theoretical possibility. At some point, she has to leave me laying in the desert and hike out for help. Or activate the PLB and wait for the helicopter.

By the way, PLB is more reliable than SPOT. If the NOAA satellite that handles PLB is out of range of a ground station, it saves your signal and broadcasts it when a ground station comes into view. SPOT uses private satellites. If the one that picks up your signal is out of range, then your signal goes nowhere.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Ed » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:59 am

RichardK wrote:By the way, PLB is more reliable than SPOT.


I know. But I value the ability of the SPOT to send three other messages, including an OK message. I not only value the ability of the SPOT to call for a necessary rescue, I also value its ability to prevent an unnecessary SAR. And while I believe the experts who say a PLB is more reliable, my SPOT has never failed to send a message.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Florian » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:22 pm

Coincidentally, i just bought a ACR PLB-375. I'd been debating buying one for years. I don't intend to ever use it.

-Florian
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Sally » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:04 pm

I purchased a SPOT many years ago because I was a solo hiker and I had a concern about being bitten by a rattlesnake. It has been used often for entertainment to show family members where I am on Google Earth. I have not EVER gone out thinking that "Oh, I can go out and do something crazy BECAUSE if I mess up I can use my SPOT." I unwittingly messed up enough to have to be rescued once, but the "security" of having a device played absolutely NO part of getting into the predicament in the first place. At the time I felt that the ultimate humiliation would be to ask for assistance. All options were thoroughly explored, and there was no option that could guarantee that self rescue would not result in being a body recovery. I am grateful to be alive, and a generous donation was made to WVSAR.

Recently a couple of hikers summited Mt Baldy and took a wrong turn down Goode Canyon on their way back. The hikers were OK, they just had to spend a night on the mountain and then they found their way out. Had they had a SPOT they would have had the option of letting family know they were OK and prevented an SAR mission.

Check out the West Valley Search and Rescue for details.

If you feel that folks who run into problems deserve to die, don't try to engage me. I won't reply.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Sally » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:18 am

After going to bed last night I laid awake for a while thinking. I believe I used a poor example of a case where having a SPOT could have prevented an SAR mission. The hikers should have been more diligent about knowing their whereabouts by having and knowing how to use a map and compass and/or GPS. Not getting into Goode Canyon in the first place would have prevented SAR to be called. On the other hand, being as they did get into a very sketchy canyon, had there been a serious injury the SPOT could have been a good thing to have.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby ny30mil » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:59 am

I have Verizon and on Cactus to Cloud hike, the first 4 miles up musuem/skyline trail, the 4G service is pretty solid and reliable. Between 4-7miles, service is spotty and you can go about 1/2 mile with no service then pick up 4G in random spots along the trail for 1/2 mile then lose service again. After about 7 miles or so going up the Grubb's Notch, there is just about no service.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby Ed » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:35 am

Wandering into Goode Canyon does not say much for their navigation skills. But I believe it has occurred at least several times. And I can understand how it occurs. I once worried considerably about making the turnoff down to the Ski Hut, when we were coming down the ridge in a white-out, in deep snow, our own tracks filled in. And I've seen people chugging back up the ridge after missing the turnoff in good conditions, with the cheerful explanation 'We are academics'. Being a retired academic, I was torn between finding that enormously amusing and mildly insulting. I think I've seen a post which says there is a good sign there now.
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Re: Spot, Phones and GPS are Threats

Postby RichardK » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:47 pm

See the post in Outdoor Related Topics about an accident involving a solo climber on Mt. Abbott.

He sustained several serious injuries but was able to signal for assistance through his satellite device.
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