SPOT Gen 3 GPS Tracker

Have you ever wondered how good the SPOT Gen 3 GPS Tracker is (now Gen 4)? Does it perform up to its claims or are there limitations?

SPOT Gen 4

Let me show you what the SPOT Gen3 can do with it’s tracking function.

Tracking Field Test

I set out to determine if there were any limitations with the SPOT Gen3 while in tracking mode. I had several tests in mind and here is a list of the tracking tests I wanted to evaluate:

  1. Tracking
  2. Tracking After Check-In Button Selected
  3. Tracking After Custom Message Button Selected
  4. Tracking After HELP/SPOT Button Selected
  5. Tracking Settings

Here are the buttons and light indicators for the SPOT Gen3.

SPOT Gen3 Layout

TrackingSPOT Gen3 Tracking Map

The tracking function worked perfectly, as I knew it would, as I have used it several times on past hikes. My concern was more with tracking after the Check-In, Custom Message and HELP/SPOT functions were used.

After you select the tracking button, you will notice both the tracking light and the GPS light blinking at regular intervals. This is to let you know that the SPOT Gen3 is linked up with satellites and that the tracking function is operational.

Here is what I found.

Tracking After Check-In Button Selected

spot-gen3-check-in-pinI noticed immediately, after selecting the Check-In button, that both the tracking light and the Check-In lights were blinking, in addition to the GPS light. This was a promising sign and now I just needed to wait to see if the Check-In pin was laid down, in addition to the tracking pins.

It was nice to see that this field test worked like a charm. After you select the Check-In button, the tracking pins will still be laid down at the interval you select.

Tracking After Custom Message Button Selected

I was pretty sure that this next field test would work, as I saw it in action on my last hike at the Eagle Cliffs Trail at the Staunton State Park.

spot-gen3-custom-message-pinAfter I turned off the Check-In button, I waited for approximately 20 minutes and selected the Custom Message button. I received the message and email that the pin was laid down and available for others to view.

The Custom Message pin was now visible, but the previous Check-In pin disappeared from the map view. That is not an issue though as the pin will still be available to view from the message and email that was sent out to my contact list.

I left the Custom Message function active for at least 15 more minutes until I was sure that the tracking pins continued to be laid down on the map, and they did continue to work.

The lights were now blinking for the Tracking, Custom Message, and the GPS signal.

SPOT Gen 4

Tracking After HELP/SPOT Button Selected


Here is where things changed a little.

After I selected the HELP/SPOT button, the previous tracking pins were still visible along with the Custom Message pin. However, the tracking function stopped. This is not important though as the HELP/SPOT messages, emails and pins were sent out every 5 minutes until I turned off the HELP/SPOT button.

You can see the image to the right with the multiple HELP/SPOT pins that were posted as I continued hiking.

I tried to start the tracking again after I had turned off the HELP/SPOT message but I had to wait for at least 10 minutes for the HELP/SPOT button to stop flashing before I was allowed to start the tracking function back up.
SPOT Gen3 Tracking Pin

Here is the final map from the SPOT app with the tracking pin shown.

Tracking Settings

I noticed when I hit the trail that the tracking pins from my previous hike were still visible and I was going to see tracking pins on top of each other.

This is easy to fix as you can go settings and change the date range you want to see. Select the Filter Icon at the top right of the app screen and then select the date to set the range of hikes you want to see.

Remember to select SAVE at the bottom of the screen for your new settings to take effect so you will only see your current hike.

SPOT Gens Settings

Final Thoughts

I really like how simple the SPOT Gen3 Emergency Satellite Messenger is to operate. Not only is it lightweight and small, but it only takes one or two trips out to a trail to fully understand its capabilities.

No products found.

I don’t like to end on a negative note but one concern I have is communications between hikers in a group.

There have been many times that I have gone on hiking trips with four or five people. What happens if your group splits up and someone in your group has an emergency? The message would go out to the contact list but if you don’t have cell reception, others in your group would not be alerted to the emergency.

I believe this problem would be corrected if you had a device that tied your cell phone into a satellite service, or other satellite messengers may solve the problem. I believe the SPOT X, Garmin inReach Mini and the Garmin inReach Explorer+ would solve this issue. I will write about this issue and possible resolution in a following article.

Check out this SPOT Gen 4 field test in the YouTube video below.

Learn more about other Emergency Satellite Messengers in my Emergency Radio Reviews.

Mountain Scenery

Please Email me or leave a Comment below if you have any questions.


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Spot Gen3


World Wide Coverage


2-Way Messaging




Tracking & Sharing


Initial Cost & Subscription Plan



  • Compact & Lightweight
  • SOS Distress Call
  • Track & Share with Friends
  • Rental Options
  • Low Initial Purchase Price


  • Only 1-Way Communication
  • No Smartphone Interface
  • No Navigation

4 thoughts on “SPOT Gen 3 GPS Tracker”

  1. I have never thought about this type of device before because I am not a wilderness girl. However, I have many friends and family members who fly and are avid hunters who could benefit from something like this. It is so nice to know that these options are available to people and could potentially save them in life or death situations. I am so impressed by technology each and every day.

    Thanks so much for the amazing info!

    • Hi Kara. I spent 30 plus years hiking and never knew these existed. You are right about them being able to save someones life or minimize the extent of injuries due to a quick response by a search and rescue team.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.


  2. Very good review thank you! I am taking my sons hiking soon and this will come in handy! I am slightly concerned about not being able to communicate with others in my group, but I figure we will all be staying together on this trip so that shouldn’t be a big deal. I am going to pick one up now thank you again! 

    • Hi Travis. I agree that not being able to communicate with a group can be an issue but most of the time this isn’t a problem, plus as you said, you will be with your sons the entire time.

      I have hiked a lot and on one backpacking trip, my son came with feet of a rattlesnake and a water moccasin, on the same trip.

      I don’t leave home without a emergency locator these days.



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