Editor’s Choice: Globalstar SPOT Gen4 satellite tracker

Globalstar proudly claims that more than 7,500 rescues have been effected since SPOT launched in 2007 and the Gen4 is the latest version of its rugged off-grid satellite tracker, replacing the Gen3.

The updates to the unit itself are relatively minor and include a sleeker, squarer and far less orange body but a better IP rating of 68 (meaning it’s dust tight and resistant to prolonged immersion in water) and improved mapping software, which automatically activates when you move, are welcome upgrades. A strap and carabiner also make the Globalstar SPOT Gen4 easy to clip onto clothing or the outside of a grab bag.

We are so used to the functionality of smartphones and tablets with their big screens that the SPOT Gen4’s interface, which consists of three main buttons, two under protective flaps and an array of LEDs, seems scarily simplistic but this isn’t a device with day-to-day use in mind.

It is set up and controlled via an online account, with pre-programmed messages that can be sent to contacts to let them know you are safe at the push of a button. It’s simple, reliable and extremely economical in its use of AAA batteries.

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You need to activate one of two monthly plans before you can use the SPOT Gen4, the basic plan coming in at £10 per month. For this you get unlimited use of the Help, Check-in, Custom Message and Track functions and, crucially, the SOS service, which connects you to a worldwide network of search and rescue assistance 24/7 using the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Centre (IERCC) if you are in real trouble.

Whether it’s a preprogrammed contact or the IERCC, when SPOT sends an SMS or email it includes your GPS coordinates and a web link if the message goes via email so the recipient can view your exact location via SPOT Mapping.

The Custom Message and Check-in functions do much the same thing and allow you to inform contacts quickly that you are safe and sound but the Help button allows you to alert specific contacts in non-life threatening situations or send a direct message to roadside or marine assistance services.

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For boaters – SOS aside – the Track function is the most welcome option, allowing you to update live positions on the map at intervals as short as every 2.5 minutes so that those on shore can easily keep track of your position – again via the SPOT Mapping – without having to think about it. Battery life is so good that you should be able to keep this function running for weeks, even with regular transmissions, before it runs flat.

In essence, for day boaters and those who like to stay close to home, the SPOT Gen4’s capabilities are overkill, but if you have bluewater cruising in your sights or plan to venture outside the boundaries of mobile phone signal then this compact tracker is a comforting and affordable safety net.

Price: £150 inc VAT (plus monthly plan and activation fee)
MBY rating: 4/5
Value: 4/5

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Read YBW’s guide to the best satellite phones on the market.

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