Steve Howe, veteran Rocky Mountain editor for Backpacker magazine, is currently climbing Mt. McKinley – his third attempt on the 20,320 foot peak. For this expedition, he decided to carry along a SPOT Satellite Messenger -- essentially an Internet tracking beacon that is designed to send SOS messages by email or text message.
When an email signaled Howe needed help was received by family and friends -- including Jon Dorn, Backpacker editor-in-chief -- there was initial panic, until it was learned Howe’s SPOT was inadvertently triggered. Howe was just fine, but was reportedly most thankful for the response. Howe was also understandably somewhat embarrassed by the situation and unwarranted attention.
Dorn penned a well-written blog posting on Backpacker.com (Click here to read) detailing his experience trying to cope with receiving an emergency email notification sent from Howe's SPOT.
Howe's SPOT is now turned off, Dorn’s blog reports.
SNEWS® View: Technology is great when it works, and the SPOT is certainly a fantastic piece of rescue gear to tote along on remote and even not so remote adventures. However, as Howe has discovered, if the SPOT can in any way be turned on inadvertently by pushing against a sharp object in a pack or pocket, then we’d say some redesign needs to be considered. Rescue devices should only be able to be activated as required, but also not turned on accidentally to trigger a rescue response without the knowledge of the user. It will be interesting to see what SPOT discovers happened to Howe’s unit and what fix, if any, is put into play.