The second generation SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker started appearing on retailers' shelves in October. It was recalled in mid-December and will not be available again for at least a month. If you've got one, you may need to return it. If not, you'll need to wait to buy one. Here are the details.
The original SPOT tracker was a first: A subscription-based satellite service that allows users to check in remotely from the field to indicate their position—and indicate whether they're OK or in need of emergency assistance. You can read all about it—and the differences between the SPOT and a Personal Locator Beacon—in my recent Equipped article on the topic.
The SPOT 2 is a lighter, smaller, and generally improved version of the original. Some of them, however, suffer from one small problem. The battery strength indicator—which normally begins to flash only when the batteries are low and in need of replacement—instead flashes regularly, regardless of how fresh the batteries are.
This does not affect the functionality of the device. All of its GPS and satellite communication equipment work fine. Users just don't have any way to know whether the batteries actually need replacing.
SPOT requested that all retailers return their existing stock. According to SPOT, new versions should be available "in early 2010." In my opinion and experience with the company, I would guess that this means early February at the earliest, and potentially later than that.
Apparently not all SPOT 2 devices are afflicted. If you purchased a SPOT 2, visit SPOT's voluntary return page. After filling in your device's information, they can determine if yours needs to be replaced. If so, they will send you shipping materials (and postage) so you can return it at no charge.
It is important to note that this recall affects only the new SPOT 2. If you have an original SPOT Tracker, you're fine.
Though slick, the SPOT Tracker is not without its drawbacks and problems. Some of the best, most comprehensive reviews of it that I've found are on www.equipped.org, a survival equipment web site and blog.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.