The SPOT Trace GPS Tracker Will Make Sure You Never Lose Anything (or Anyone) Ever Again

Do you own a four-wheeler, a snowmobile, a motorcycle, a golf cart, or any vehicle that doesn’t have LoJack, OnStar, or some other form of real-time GPS tracking? If so, then you’ll be interested in the SPOT Trace GPS Tracker. And guess what? It will even work in backpacks, luggage, or other moveable objects that you need to track.

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The SPOT Trace offers advanced theft-alert tracking for anything. Instantly receive a text or email when your most valuable assets move, or follow them on Google Maps anytime on your phone or computer. Custom tracking options allow you to select the rate at which updates are sent – every 2½, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes.

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The SPOT Trace is a little black plastic box that measures approximately 2.5″ long by 2″ wide by 0.75″ thick. When activated with service, it:

  • Allows you to receive a text/email messages when movement is detected
  • Monitors assets in near real-time using Google Maps™
  • Has long battery life, is compact and easy to install
  • Allows you to select from 2½, 5, 10, 30 or 60-minute tracking intervals

Included in the box are:

  • SPOT Trace Device
  • Quick Start Guide
  • AAA Energizer® Ultimate Lithium 8x batteries
  • Line power with a 5V USB connection (NOT waterproof)
  • Mounting Accessories

There’s also an option for buying a waterproof DC power cable if you need a “secure power connection between your SPOT Trace and a DC power source,” perfect for permanent installs in vehicles.

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Before using the Trace, you need to set up an account at the SPOT site. There are two subscriptions available: Basic is $99/ year and Extreme is an additional $99/year. Here’s the difference between the two services:

Basic: SPOT Trace automatically sends an SMS text/email with your asset’s GPS coordinates once movement has been detected. View the asset’s GPS coordinates anytime online or via our app. Basic service allows you to customize your Trace to track every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. Also, customize your device’s dock mode, movement alert, status, low battery and power off settings.

Extreme: Enjoy even greater assurance with Extreme Tracking . Enjoy all the features of Basic Service, with the added benefit of being able to track your asset’s GPS coordinates every 2½ minutes.

Spot Tracker in motion

Why would you want to go for the Extreme subscription? Well, if you think about it, 5 minutes is a lot of time when something is on the move. Speeding pings up to 2.5 minutes means better tracking ability.

Once your account is set up, you will likely need to do a quick update to your device, depending upon the services that you want it to perform; this is done by tethering the Trace to your computer with its microUSB cable, downloading the Mac or PC update, and then running it.

updating the trace spot gps device

Because the Trace is waterproof, accessing the charging port on its bottom is done by unscrewing two screws to expose the microUSB port.

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The top of the device has a power button flanked by two LEDs. The LED on the left tells you that it is working, the one on the right shows that GPS is engaged.When you first turn the Trace on, the two lights will flash green back and forth excitedly. After 20 minutes the lights will stop flashing; don’t worry, the device is working, it’s just entered stealth mode. The first time you turn the Trace on, you need to leave it outside for the initial 20 minutes so that it can acquire a solid GPS position. Once you’ve verified that it is showing on your account (and/or on the SPOT app), you’re in business.

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Here’s what’s amazing: not only will you get the location of your SPOT Trace, you’ll also get a VISUAL of its exact location (and in this instance, a lovely aerial view of the mounds of dirt that I still need to spread with our tractor to complete our side yard).


That’s pretty freaking cool right? You can also follow the location tracking on your computer.

computer view of spot trace

But since we don’t want to track the landscaping rock that I set the Trace on so it could acquire a signal, we need to consider mounting possibilities. The tracker comes with a plastic mount that can be screwed in for mounting, or you can use the included velcro strips if screwing something in is not an option.

The biggest thing to consider when mounting your Trace is that you don’t want to lose your signal, so …

  • Use the reversible mounting bracket, double sided industrial strength tape, adhesive grip pad or adhesive velcro strips (all included) to affix the SPOT TRACE to your asset.
  • Ensure the SPOT logo is pointed toward the sky
  • The unit can be mounted beneath fiberglass, fabric or glass, but metal obstructions should be avoided
  • If using an external DC source, ensure that the unit will be mounted close enough to the power source
  • If using an External DC source, SPOT TRACE will NOT be waterproof unless using the Waterproof – DC Power Cable (sold separately).
  • Experiment with mounting options to determine what works best for your asset and your needs

For the best reception, you’ll want to mount the Trace “with the SPOT logo pointed towards the sky (the satellite antenna is located under the logo).”

You might want to read the manual (.pdf file) for any other mounting caveats.

My trace is mounted in my Jeep, which has a fiberglass roof (I used the velcro mount). I don’t have to worry about any interference in this location, so it’s perfect.

Spot trace mounted in jeep

Bear in mind that if this is to be mounted on a regular all-metal vehicle, finding a place to mount it might be a little bit tricky. Remember that putting it under metal can wreak havoc with the GPS signal; think about what happens if you pull your vehicle under a metal carport when listening to satellite radio; it’s the same principle. Since the Trace is waterproof and includes mounting screws, you can get creative with where you place it.

Although I mention that the Trace can be thrown in a bag, you should know that it wasn’t made for personal wear. If you are going to use it on someone’s person, it needs to be kept “at least 20 cm (7.9 inches) away from the human body” so in the bottom of a backpack or duffel bag should be fine.

When the Trace is mounted and properly transmitting, if it moves, you’ll know it via email

spot trace on the move

You can select how long the Trace needs to be stationary before you start getting movement alerts via email, text message, or both.

movement alerts

Depending upon which of the Trace’s tracking interval options you’ve selected, tracking updates will be posted to the map every 2 ½, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes — for as long as your Trace is powered on or until the batteries run out.



Be advised that any time you change the tracking frequency, you will need to do a firmware update; this is no big deal, as the process is simple and quick to do. You should also be aware that any time you do an update, you’ll need your Trace’s Authorization number; it’s best to keep that handy.

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On the SPOT site, you’ll see the Trace’s current location any time you want to see it, as well as your history.

Trace history

You can see the same information using the iPhone or Android app.


Battery life is dependent upon many variables, but here is a chart of what you might expect.

battery life

When the battery is low, you’ll get either an email or text message — or both — depending upon what you’ve selected in preferences. At that time, you just remove the Trace from its holster (or pull it from the other side of the velcro), and plug it back into your computer overnight.


While text message notifications seemed to be iffy, I did receive email notifications regularly when my jeep was moved after being idle for 30 minutes or more. The scenario I have in my head, though, is that if my Jeep (or anything else I had this attached to) was to be stolen I might not get an immediate notification, but I would be able to track where it was, once I realized it was missing.

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Everything’s okay; my Jeep is still on the ranch.

The SPOT Trace would be the perfect device to put on a teen driver’s vehicle; you could use the app to make sure that they were where they said they were when they said they were there or for general peace of mind. It’s also a great way to share your location with family members when you are traveling; you can do this by setting up a shared page.

Simply log into your SPOT account at, click on the Shared Page tab and follow the instructions. It’s easy; start sharing your adventures today!


Since SPOT uses GPS rather than cellular, it should work basically everywhere — including the most remote locations that have no cellular service whatsoever.

coverage map

I don’t have any dramatic stories about how having the SPOT TRACE installed in my Jeep got it found after being stolen, and honestly, I hope that I won’t ever. But I do have two things now that I didn’t have before: peace of mind, and an easy way to find my Jeep when I park outdoors. I’ve used it in grocery store parking lots, and it showed me exactly where my Jeep was; I am certain it will be handy when I visit Fredericksburg again and have to park on some side street (I always have trouble remembering where I parked when I do that).

The bottom line is that if my Jeep ever disappears, I’ll be able to find it, and that is a pretty awesome thing.

The SPOT Trace GPS Tracker retails for $99 + subscription, and it is available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers including Amazon [affiliate link].

Special: the SPOT Trace is FREE after rebate through 12/31 when purchased through one of their retailers and activated with Extreme Tracking. For more info:

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Small enough to carry, and it is easily mounted; Easy to set up; Easy to update; Can operate off of its internal battery or be hard-wired; customize notifications based on your needs; Affordable tracking device and plan; Helpful for finding your car in parking lots; A great way to keep track of a teen driver; A n easy way to share your location with family when traveling; Works all over the world

What Needs Improvement: Text message notifications don’t always come as expected; Mounting it under a the metal roof of most automobiles can cause GPS tracking issues

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.