What is the TEK 2.0 GPS Tracking System?
The SportDOG TEK 2.0 is a professional GPS Tracking System designed with hunting and working dogs in mind. It has fantastic features and many hunting-specific features: like being able to track up to 21 dogs at once or having data on the sun and moon rising/setting. These are not something an average pet owner will ever appreciate but are very important for a hunter.
The other activity trackers we previously reviewed offered a lot of flashy features and stats, but this tracking system is not geared towards these functionalities. It is not a small unit that you will leave on the dog 24/7 to track their activities or sleep patterns.
TEK 2.0 was designed to handle every environment and weather while providing accurate location information of the dog up to a 10-mile range, and it is excellent in that.
How does it work?
The TEK 2.0 was designed for off-the-grid adventures, so it doesn’t need cell coverage. Instead, it uses a HopTek technology because the Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) provides immunity to signal interference and extends the collar’s range to up to 10-miles. The range will, of course, still be highly dependent on the terrain and weather.
The handheld unit also comes with 1:100,000 preloaded, colored topo maps with unlimited lifetime map updates, and you do not need a subscription to use it like in the case of many other GPS systems.
Both the collar and the handheld unit are waterproof: the collar is submersible to 25 feet, the handheld unit is up to 5 feet.
The Different Versions
The TEK tracking system comes in two versions: with or without the e-collar functionality. The e-collar version offers 99 continuous, momentary, and rising static stimulation levels, which is a vast range to choose from to fit any dog’s needs. There is also an option to train with vibration only or use a tone.
When setting up a dog profile, you can choose the button functionality for each dog. This way, if you have a dog who does not need the e-collar functionality, you cannot accidentally push that button when using it with them - which was something that many of you asked about.
The side buttons are straightforward to use, and they are positioned far enough to distinguish between them even in the dark easily.
The corresponding button functionality is always shown on the side in the Tracking or Training screens, making it easy to remember the current settings. For example, you see a setup with Vibration - Tone - Vibration for the three buttons below.
What’s in the box?
The tracking system comes in a cool-looking, well-made box, which provides a neat unboxing experience and safe shipping.
The package includes a quick start guide, the charger, cables, and a lanyard. Since we received the training collar version, it also had two sets of contact points (standard and long); a test tool to check if they are working and a plastic cover for the inside of the collar if one decides not to use the training functionality.
Battery life & Charging
Both the collar and the handheld unit have rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. The GPS Collar charges in 4 hours, lasts about 24 hours per charge, while the Handheld Device charges in 8 hours and lasts about 12 hours per charge. The batteries are expected to last for 3-5 years.
It’s neat that the charger allows you to charge both the collar and the handheld unit at the same time while only using one outlet.
The collar has a charging cradle that snaps on the collar while charging.
The handheld unit has a covered charging hole on its back.
The Handheld Unit
The handheld device is a very well-made, sturdy GPS with a non-slip cover. We used it plenty of times in rain, mud and never had an issue with its grip or waterproofness. It is not a touch screen, so you have to navigate the menu with the buttons, which needs a little practice to get used to it, but in return, you will have no problems using it on rainy days.
It is highly recommended to go through their long manual before setting up the collar and the handheld system. This is not one of those trackers that you can intuitively set up. There are many awesome features and options that I would have never found if I was not following the manual step by step.
I will not go through every button, tabs, and setting option because there are plenty of videos doing that already. SportDOG also has a Youtube channel for TEK 2.0 with videos walking you through the settings, showing how to pair a collar and everything else you might want to know.
The location update rate can be set to 5, 10, or 30 sec or 2 min time intervals to extend the battery life, but we used it with a 3-second update rate that provides almost real-time tracking.
You can create an area on the map and get immediately notified when the dog leaves the boundaries.
You can create 1,000 waypoints that you can edit or delete from the handheld unit. The waypoints will show the coordinates, date and time, and elevation.
A unique feature of the TEK 2.0 system is that it can provide voice alerts and updates through Bluetooth earpieces. These could be, e.g., the moving speed of the dog, or if they are on point, or if they are barking. The update rate can be 1, 2, or 5 minutes.
As we mentioned before, you can use one handheld GPS to track 21 dogs. You can also create and save 100 different dog profiles that you can match with the collars under the My Dogs menu.
Another awesome feature is seeing other handheld units under the “My Hunters” menu after setting up location sharing.
The Trip Computer screen provides a quick summary view of all the data from your recent trip. Every collar and handheld unit has its own screen so you can see their battery level, average moving speed, etc., for all.
You can save activities, waypoints, breadcrumbs of one track and keep them in a journal entry. I used this to save Mia’s search tasks before clearing the data for the next one.
The charging cable of the collar and the handheld unit are also USB cables that you can use to connect them to the computer and update their software through the Companion App.
The App doesn’t provide access to the data stored on the GPS, so you can not download or access your previous tracks through a computer. There is also no way for someone else to hand you a premade map to upload to the device.
The collar is pretty bulky, and it best fits dogs 8 pounds or larger with neck circumference between 10.75" and 23".
Suppose you need a replacement collar strap or prefer another color. In that case, you can buy those separately on SportDOG’s website, along with an antenna replacement or any other accessories that you might need.
The collar has a small LED light, but it’s only there to communicate the different states of the collar (on/off, pairing, etc.), not to provide visibility in the dark.
TEK 2.0 GPS Tracking System Review
The TEK tracking system was designed for hunters, but since we do not hunt, I will not review it from that point of view (there are plenty of youtube videos on that topic if you are interested). Instead, I will focus on how well it worked for off-the-grid hikes and Search and Rescue training.
We extensively tested this GPS collar for over five months, using it on every search training twice a week. These tend to be shorter tasks (on average 3 km, 1.8 miles), with one longer area search once a month. Mia runs off-leash in the woods during searching, usually ranging from 100-200 meters (330-660 feet), so it’s a very different scenario than hunting dogs who might follow the scent much farther. We never had any problems with the connection between the handheld unit and the collar, but then again, we never challenged the 10 miles range that they promised.
I artificially tested the range by leaving the collar in a parking lot, and it showed the location correctly from ~6 miles, but this is a different scenario than a dog moving away from you.
We ran into a few issues while using this tracking system and worked with SportDOG’s customer support to debug them with mixed results.
One of the problems was that our Trip Computer is usually off a little bit at the end of a search task. Although, during these tasks, I am walking in a more or less straight line while Mia is ranging out in all directions. Still, my Distance Traveled is usually slightly more than Mia’s - which is impossible. A slight difference, especially on shorter tasks, can just come from the different update times of the collar and the handheld unit - although both were set to the most frequent 3-second update rate.
Their customer support recommended calibrating the handheld unit before every use to ensure better accuracy, which did seem to improve this controversy, although it didn’t completely eliminate the problem. Many times I still got almost the same Distance Traveled for both of us, while Mia’s average moving speed would be much higher during the same time. I believe it’s just due to the combination of GPS inaccuracy and that Mia moves around me while searching instead of running away in a straight line like (I assume) a hunting dog would. I believe the GPS technology’s inaccuracy makes the system think that Mia also just walks by me, and we both end up with the same distance while she is moving a lot more.
Another small but annoying issue was that I could not zoom in to any other parts of the map; it always centers on the current location. So if I would like to go back and zoom into a part of the area that we just gridded, there is no way to do that. I can zoom in and out, but it keeps the current location centered. The same applies when I look up a previous track saved in the journals.
The last problem we faced and couldn’t resolve was that I could not pair the collar to the computer through the Companion App. It worked flawlessly with the handheld unit, but not with the collar - even when I was on the phone with their customer support, who walked me through the debug process. Eventually, they sent me a new collar with a new cable, but I experienced the same issue.
When the cable is plugged into the computer, I get the amber light blinking on the collar (pairing mode), but nothing else happens. I tried the order of steps in every combination: first, the App was already running, when I plugged in the collar, then turned it on; then I tried to plug it in when it was already turned on, tried to open the App once the collar was already plugged in, etc. Got the same results; it is just greyed out in the App.
I also tried it on another computer with the same result. One of the collars initially showed up under the Device Manager, but not anymore, and the second never did. Both computers I used are running Windows 10, so it might be a compatibility issue.
This currently only means that I cannot update the collar, so I didn’t lose any functionality for now.
For search purposes, it would be great if the App would have more functionality - like uploading and downloading maps. After an actual search, we would need to hand over the tracks to the Incident Command, and so far, I did not find a way to do that. At the beginning of a search, I would also receive the search assignment as a map that I cannot upload to the handheld device.
Initially, SportDOG planned to include these functionalities in the software, and I hope eventually they will do that. This would make the TEK system perfect for searching since it already has all the on-device capabilities for it.
The battery life and ease of charging are excellent in the case of both devices; we never run into issues with these. The only thing to keep in mind is to turn them off when removing them from the charger because they automatically turn on while charging. Unfortunately, I made a mistake a few times, assuming they are still off since they were when I started charging them, and then their battery just died by the time I wanted to use them.
If you look for a GPS collar only for off-the-grid hikes or only need a training collar, the TEK 2.0 is clearly overkill both size and price-wise. But if you want to invest in one device that can do it all and has a wide range of functionality, the TEK system offers a solid solution.
The collar never disconnected; it always showed the dog’s distance and location correctly. I never had trouble using the handheld unit in bad weather, and it also handled the landing well when I dropped it a few times.
We keep pointing out that no gear or product would work perfectly for every need and every situation. With trackers, it all depends on your primary use case for the product. We cover the most frequently asked questions with four use-cases below. Still, as we discussed before, the TEK system is geared towards a few specific situations, like hunting, rather than an activity tracker like the other devices we tested earlier.
• Is TEK 2.0 a good option if I’m worried about my dog getting loose and running away?
The geofence will give you a timely notification, and you will be able to see the dog’s location, but this tracker is probably not something that one would have on the dog at home (it is not recommended to have the collar on the dog over long periods). Technically you can use it for daily walks to ensure you can find the dog if they get loose. However, both the collar and the handheld units are on the bulky side.
• Is TEK 2.0 a good option for tracking how much my dog is running around while we are hiking?
Since it doesn’t count steps as many others do, it logs in less distance if your dog runs around in your proximity. However, the 3-second update rate will give you a close enough estimation and clearly shows if the dog is ranging out from you.
If you are hiking off the grid, it is an excellent option since it will work anywhere regardless of cell coverage.
• Is TEK 2.0 a good option to track my dog’s overall activity level?
No, because you will probably not have it on the dog for long enough to track the daily activities at home, sleep patterns, etc.
• Is TEK 2.0 a good option to check on my dog while they are with a dog sitter or at the doggie daycare?
No, it works in a 10-mile radius max, and again, it is not something that you want on the dog all day while at daycare. Technically you could have it on the dog if you are around while the dog walker is walking your dog or give them the handheld unit for extra security, but there are much smaller and cheaper solutions for this use case.
After finishing this review, I kept in touch with them to discuss some of the issues we ran into - like some inconsistency in the dog’s travel distance at the end of a task.
We received an updated version of the TEK 2.0 collar in November for more testing, and we have been using it on every search training ever since. At this point, I am confident to say that the tracking of the collar became a lot more precise and the summary “Distance Traveled” on the Trip Computer screen is a lot more realistic!
The only issue I still have is connecting the collar to the computer. I did a fair amount of debugging, but I still don’t see it popping up in the Companion app, and I don’t think I see it in the Device Manager at all.
I am discussing with the SportDog team regarding this last issue and will update the review with more information once we figure out why we are running into it while it works perfectly for many others.
TEK 2.0 Review Summary
As we said before, this is a professional tracker with excellent, robust features geared towards hunters. If you are looking for a tracker with a fancy-looking phone app showing sleep patterns and reaching daily step goals around your home, this is not it. However, if you need GPS tracking regardless of phone coverage, especially if you want to track multiple dogs with different profiles, it is a great option!
The issues we ran into with the original version were around the accuracy of the summary data. Still, it always showed Mia’s momentary location and distance correctly, even when she was away in dense woods regardless of the weather. In addition, the collar and the GPS unit on the collar are still in good shape even though Mia pushed through bushes while wearing it weekly.
Altogether this is a very robust hardware and software and delivers the functionality it promises - just be sure to go through the manual first to ensure it fulfills your expectations. It is a well-made and designed tracking system that will not fail you.
Where to buy
You can buy the different TEK tracking systems on SportDOG Brand’s website.