youtubeWestern Washington residents have likely heard the names and seen the faces of the following people on the evening news.

Brendon Nepon, 37 - was last seen Sept. 27 near the Snow Lake. 366 searchers have spent a combined 2,000 hours combing the area.

Shirley Baumann, 61 – last seen July 20th. Search and Rescue volunteers have spent over 3,000 hours searching for her.

Tom Simonseth, 66 - The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office has called off the search for a Mount Vernon man who failed to return home May 22 from a day hike on the Hidden Lake Trail in the Marblemount area. Search and rescue crews from multiple counties have spent the past week looking for Thomas Simonseth, 66.

Andrew Devers, 25 who disappeared June 18th, was found after missing eight days. SAR volunteers and 4 Sheriff's Deputies spent hundreds of hours searching for Mr. Devers!

These are all outdoor enthusiasts that went missing in the past year in the Puget Sound Region. They could have been you or me.

Fortunately, Andrew Devers was found safe after surviving on river water and berries for 8 days after search and rescue teams had spent hundreds of volunteer hours searching for him.  The others remain unaccounted for and are presumed deceased.

Had they been carrying a satellite messenger device like a SPOT X, all would have been found quickly and hopefully alive.

A satellite messenger allows the user to send a message or for others to track the user (with their permission) via satellites from almost anywhere in the world regardless of cell phone coverage. More advance satellite messenger devices like the Spot X allow for two-way communication via email or text.

Here are some key reasons every RVer should carry a satellite messenger:

Call for help when needed:

Summon first responders to your exact location with a push of a button. By depressing the 911 button on a Spot messenger you will alert first responders that you are in need of immediate help along with providing them the coordinates to quickly reach your location. The SPOT X allows you to customize your 911message with details of your emergency while allowing first responders to reply back assuring you that your message was received and help is on the way. They can also ask for additional details about your particular emergency.

Send Help: All Spot messenger devices allow you to send a predetermined message to a predetermined list of people. With my previous Spot messenger, the message asked my adult children to dispatch emergency road service to our location. The coordinates are included in the message. If my children received this message they knew I had no cell service and had either run out of fuel or had mechanical issues with my tow vehicle. With the SPOT X, I can send a detailed message of my emergency road service needs and receive a reply of the estimated time of arrival.


As mentioned above, Spot messenger devices allow others to track your location online. If you fail to check in as promised or return home on time, others can alert first responders and dispatch them to your known location. In the case of the four missing people referenced above, the tracking feature would have quickly lead search and rescue teams to them. I highly recommended that solo recreationalists utilize the tracking feature at all times, regardless whether they are on the road driving or hiking away from the RV, as they never know when they might be in a disabling accident or have a medical emergency preventing them from summoning help on their own.

SPOT X - Plenty of campspots in the Pacific NW where there is no cell service

Not just for emergencies!

As an outdoor enthusiast and search & rescue volunteer, I started carrying a Spot messenger because I am often out of cell phone service participating in what many consider risky sports like mountain climbing, dirt biking and snowmobiling. However, I use it much more for the following:

· Checking in: My wife and I often boondock in remote areas that don’t have a physical address. By depressing the “check in” button on the Spot I can let others know we are “okay” and where we are camped, which they can view on a map or via satellite imagery. Even if I had cell phone coverage, it is quite difficult to tell someone where we are camped in the boondocks (ie: past the third tree after the second right about a mile from the stream crossing). Coordinates provided with the “check in” message provide them our exact location. If we fail to check in the next day, our last known position has been documented.

Sharing: I have several people that live vicariously by following my travels via Spot messages. When I am at a unique point of interest that is visible via satellite, I will send my vicarious friends a Spot message. They can then utilize satellite view to see the mountain top, old mine structure or other point of interest where I am located.

Always available: The two way communication provided by the SPOT X means I am always available to receive texts and emails regardless of cell phone coverage. While one of the benefits of RVing is escaping, many of us still have responsibilities that might require immediate action. In my case, I am the responsible party for an elderly parent in a care facility. It is therefore essential that I can be contacted when needed. A SPOT X comes with its own cell phone number which I can provide to others to use to contact me when urgent matters arise.

Satellite Messengers aren't just for mountain climbers

Why I choose to carry the SPOT X

Experience: I have carried a Spot device for over 10 years and trust the product to send a message when needed. Especially, when I needed to activate the 911 function to rescue an injured RVing friend high in the Rocky Mountains. The response was quick and efficient.

Keyboard: The SPOT X features a full keyboard allowing me to draft and send custom messages without the need or know-how (I am in the over 60 crowd) to pair a device to my cell phone

SPOT X Lifestyle

Peace of mind

Do yourself, your family and local search & rescue volunteers a favor and obtain a satellite messenger device like a SPOT X.  The expense is minimal and the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can call for help from anywhere is priceless.

The MHRV Show Association producers of the Seattle RV Show, the Puyallup RV Show and the Enumclaw RV Show help support one of the King County units of search and rescue. You can read more about the unit, what they do and how you can support them by clicking here.

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Questions? Comments? Please add your thoughts below.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.


0 #1 Larry Hinton 2021-08-31 19:09
Although the SPOT and Garmin Reach in theory are nice and do serve a purpose, you cannot rely on the messaging. Both devices use specific, call it dedicated, satellites for their messaging network. They are great as a backup, but for a true emergency you are better off having a real Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

ACR, for example, has a number of PLBs, from basic to more feature rich. The big plus with these PLBs is their signal can be received by a wider range of satellites which increases your chances of being rescued. In addition, these units have a higher output power than the Spot or Garmin InReach, which is another plus when in an area where there is marginal satellite reception.

As a pilot, I personally carry an ACR ResQLink View when flying my plane, especially when flying over the Cascades and Rocky Mountains.

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