I recently ran across a website called I Never Solo. It’s kind of like a poor man’s SPOT device. Hikers, or other outdoor recreationists, can log their activity plan on the website, set a timer on it, and if they don’t report back in time, it sends out notifications to pre-set contacts that you could be having trouble. I decided to do an at-home test of the website before counting on it working during a real adventure.
Registration is easy. You enter some basic identifying information and set a default notification message to go out to your contacts when you activate a plan. Next, you need to add contacts to your account. When adding contacts, you can choose whether a contact can edit or close out an active plan for you, which is handy in case you can get a call out but not get on the web to close out the plan yourself. Contacts are initially entered as “Unverified” but once they go through an email confirmation click, their status changes to “Reliable.”
When creating the actual plan of what you will be doing, you choose an activity type and then enter a more detailed description of both the activity and yourself – e.g. you will be hiking on this trail past these landmarks with this many people and you are wearing these colors. You also have the option to edit your default notification message here. Finally, you select which contacts will be notified for this particular trip, and set either a timer for the total duration of the activity or an alarm with a specific end date and time. Then there is a setting for how long the website waits after the plan ends before notifying your contacts. You can also check whether to notify your contacts as soon as the plan is activated, and whether to include full plan details in that initial notification or not. There is the ability to upload file attachments for the plan as well, which could be maps, photos, GPS waypoints, etc.
Once a plan is activated, the countdown begins. You (or any designated contacts) can login and add more time or notes to the plan in order to keep everyone involved updated. I let my timer run out to find out what would happen next. First, I got a text and an email telling me I need to login to my account and end the plan, or call someone with the capability to end the plan for me. I didn’t do that either, and after the designated amount of time, my contact received a text and an email saying that I hadn’t made it back. The email contains the descriptive information I’d entered about myself and my activity so that help can be dispatched.
When I was initially testing the site, the notifications weren’t working when my plan ran out without me ending it. It turned out that they were beta testing for their new iPhone app and that had messed it up. I suggested having some kind of system down notification so that people aren’t relying on the website to work without knowing that it’s having issues, especially since it’s being positioned as a “safety net.” This was apparently the first time they’d had any issues of that kind so they are looking into adding the system down flag now.
I do love the idea of this website, and did I mention that it’s free? I would use it in the future despite the initial issues I encountered.