Pros / It’s great for deep woods hiking off the grid.
Cons / It isn’t good at live tracking in real time.
Verdict / While the SPOT Gen3 is a great GPS tracker if you plan on going totally off the grid, it’s not as easy to use as the other trackers we tested.
This hearty little tracker is built to last a long time and keep you safe while exploring the lesser-known corners of the world. Built to easily attach to your clothing or bag with a long battery life and an SOS button, you don’t have to worry about getting lost.
The Gen3 requires a subscription and the tracker itself is rather expensive, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. Compared to the other trackers we tested this one is a little clunkier and not as streamlined. Activating it requires installing four AAA batteries, but make sure to get the authorization code before you screw the cover back on because you’ll need it. We didn’t realize this and ended up having to take it apart again. You can track through a free app or web browser, which is convenient, but your location doesn’t update immediately. While other trackers like the Veriot Venture update in near real time, even in a fast-moving car, the Gen3 updates every 5 minutes. In times of crisis or if the tracker is moving quickly this can feel like a lifetime. You can change the tracking rate to update as quickly as every 2.5 minutes or as slowly as once per hour, but even 2 minutes feels really slow comparatively. You also must download an updater on your laptop or desktop computer to use the tracker on your browser. This isn’t the worst thing in the world but it’s an extra step not required by other trackers.
This 4.1-ounce tracker is the heaviest of any we tested, but that weight feels nice if you’re relying on the tracker to tell your friends and family where you are in deep woods, an uninhabited desert or the mountains. It’s also waterproof in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes; we know for sure because we dunked it. The edges of the device have holes you can run a piece of clothing or string through, but it comes with a carabiner for easy carrying too. Green blinking lights also clue you know for sure the tracker is working.
In our tests we drove the Gen3 around with it set to update its location every five minutes. It did just that, though the tracking app isn’t very visually appealing. We received movement alerts every so often, though they’re very large on the screen and obscure the map behind it. The discovery range on this tracker is about 100 feet, so while you might have to dig around a little you should be able to find it, particularly if it’s attached to something large like a vehicle. The Gen3 was also only one of two trackers we tested that worked when we took them on a hiking trail in the mountains.
The device goes to sleep when you’re not moving to save battery, which is ideal if you’re going to be far from civilization. In our tests the device was still functioning after two days and the website says the battery life depends on what tracking mode you're using. In SOS mode only it's supposed to last about 13 days in clear view of the sky and about six days in partial clear view of the sky. It's important to give the Gen3 an unobstructed view of the sky so it can pick up service.
But back to battery life if you have the Gen3 on 24/7: if tracking is set to update every 2.5 minutes the battery will last about seven days in full view of the sky and 3.5 days under obstructed sky. By contrast, you can get a whopping 52 days of battery life if tracking updates every hour under open sky and 26 days if you're under tall trees or mountains that block the sky. The Gen3 also has an SOS button that, when pushed, will notify the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center of your location, which subsequently alerts the nearest emergency services. If you need help but it's not an emergency, you can press the help/SOV button to alert your personal contacts of your location.
Another unique feature of the Gen3 is "check in," which lets you tell your preset family and friends you're OK when you're out of cell phone range simply by pressing a button. It will send whatever message you've preset in your SPOT account online along with your location. These kinds of emergency features really make the Gen3 useful in certain circumstances. It’s not that the Gen3 is a bad tracker, it’s just useful in very specific situations whereas others we tested like the Trax Play could be used every day to track your possessions or protect loved ones.