DeLorme PN-60w SPOT Preview
Last week Chip at DeLorme was kind enough to give me a sneak peak at the new PN-60w SE with SPOT messenger. For those catching up, what is most unique about this setup is that you can send custom text messages from the GPS through a special SPOT messenger. So if you are running late during a major outdoor adventure or have a change of plans you can let people know even if you are well outside of cellphone range.
The setup is really slick. Picture yourself out on a hike with someone scheduled to meet you for a pickup on Sunday at 3:00 pm. Sunday morning a thunderstorm moves in and delays you by an hour or so. Rather than having your friend waiting… worrying at the pickup point you can simply type out a quick message “thunderstorm, I’ll be 1 hour late” and send it along. You type the message out on the GPS and hit send. The PN-60w sends the message to the SPOT, the SPOT sends the message to the communication satellites, the satellites then send the message out to your friend.
Chip had set me up as a ‘recipient’ on his demo PN-60w SE and I got to try it out a few times. Perhaps what was most amazing was just how fast it worked. I typed out the message, hit send, then reached in my pocket, pulled out my iPhone, pulled up the Mail app, and the message was already there waiting for me. Super slick.
You can setup a number of different dispatch/recipient lists and pick which group of people you want to send each message to. So on a trip you might setup one group of people as “friends/family” that you may want to send periodic trip updates to. You could setup another list for emergency contacts, and another list for someone picking you up. When you send the messages there is also an option to send the update to Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve always loved the Elevation Profile feature within the included Topo USA software and this feature finally makes an appearance on the GPS itself. I do lots of hiking and mountain biking and live in the mountains, so the elevation profile is a welcome addition that has been available on competing devices for some time now. Right now you can’t see the elevation profile of a route unless you convert the route to a tracklog ahead of time in Topo USA and send the tracklog over to the GPS– but that workaround is certainly better than nothing. I’ll enjoy being able to see the profile of a trip and use it to strategize breaks.
Activity Based Settings
Also catching up to some of the competitive devices out there, the new PN-60 series devices now allow you to have custom preferences for different activity types rather than one global set. For example while mountain biking I like to see my average speed and trip odometer on the map screen. While hiking I like to see the distance to the next stop on the route along with my average speed. While kayaking I like to see the average speed and current heading. For geocaching I like to see the distance to the finish along with the estimated GPS accuracy.
The same goes for many of the other pages on the device where I use different fields for different activities. I’ll now be able to set everything up once rather than constantly changing the info fields across various activities. If you use your GPS across multiple activities this will be a huge timesaver.
If you are familiar with the current version of Topo USA you will likely be very familiar with the ‘Exchange Dialog’– and you probably have a love/hate relationship with it. (This is the process used to transfer things like waypoints, routes, and maps back and forth from the computer to the GPS.) This process has been redesigned in the new version of Topo USA and should make things much easier once you get used to the new project. On launch the software will look at the files (waypoints, routes, maps, tracklogs, etc) in your current project and compare those with the files on your GPS. It determines which ones have had changes and allows you to sync those changes back and forth so both your desktop and your GPS will have the most up-to-date copies. This feature should also be popular with geocachers.
It is also worth mentioning the new UI on the PN-60 GPS. While the new fonts, colors, and shaded menus don’t add pure functionality to the device it does make the device look much, much nicer. Frankly the older interface on the PN-20/40 looks like old Pac-Man style graphics while the new interface brings things into the 21st century. It just looks super sharp.
I’m looking forward to getting the PN-60w SE and taking it for a real-world spin.