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#258018 - 03/25/13 08:25 PM PLB or GPS?
LeeG Offline

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I have been doing several of the short hikes around the Phoenix area over the past few years. My hiking partner and I are planning on some longer point-to-point hikes through the Superstition Mountains, still single day hikes, but longer, sunrise-sunset type hikes. I have good topo maps of the area we will be hiking and a good compass. I am planning some longer overnight hikes for this fall after the weather cools back down. I have a bit of extra cash that Uncle Sam decided to let me keep, so I was pondering getting either a plb or a GPS. The PLB would be one of the ACR ResQLink and GPS would probably be a Garmen.

My pack currently contains: maps, compass, fire steel, rei matches, lighter, tinder, hydration bladder (3L), Ritter PSK, heat sheet, bivy sack, first aid kit, blister kit, some emergency bars, 10' rope, 50' para cord, headlamp, flashlight, poncho, fleece jacket, sun screen, extra socks, EESE 4 knife, leatherman, whistle, and spare batteries. I also carry my iPhone and a camera.

For this hike, I'll be bringing 4-6 liters of water (12 miles with no water sources) plus the usual trail food. I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions.

#258020 - 03/25/13 08:38 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
What is the nature of the your cellphone coverage in that area? That would a key factor. I imagine you are planning to do these trips fairly soon. By May the Supes get pretty toasty.

The storm predicted for this coming weekend should wet things down fairly well.

Your gear list looks pretty good. What is ten feet of rope for?

I don't believe you mentioned a signal mirror. Take about five minutes and learn to use it. Well worth it, especially in the American Southwest.

Edited by hikermor (03/25/13 08:43 PM)
Geezer in Chief

#258026 - 03/25/13 10:04 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
LeeG Offline

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I have a signal mirror in my PSK. The rope is something I have used a few times to help or be helped on the short sections of the trail that involve short but vertical climbs.

I really can't afford both a plb and a GPS at the moment. I can and have gotten by without either so far. There is decent cell coverage over large portions of this trail, but not so much on some others I will be doing.

#258029 - 03/25/13 10:28 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
Russ Offline

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5265
Anyone doing serious recreation should carry a PLB. As for GPS receivers, since you already have a map, you really only need a basic Garmin. The Foretrex 301 is a solid basic unit (~$130 on Amazon). Teamed with a map (matching waypoints on each), you have a great back-up to your navigation.

Many emergencies start with getting lost. Your goal is to do everything you can to never need to activate the PLB. But it's still there when you need it.
Better is the Enemy of Good Enough.
Okay, what’s your point??

#258030 - 03/25/13 10:28 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
Denis Offline

Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
From a pure risk mitigation perspective, I think the PLB wins. Loosing your way isn't the only situation you could need one, but injury, unexpected weather or animal attacks are other situations where it could be needed (for example). It gives you a way to get help no matter the emergency.

That said, when facing the same decision I went for the GPS (and I pretty much never have cell service where I go). I ultimately decided that staying found was more important to me than having a lifeline for those less likely, but potentially life threatening, situations.
Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

#258031 - 03/25/13 10:30 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
I was struck by the very short piece you mentioned. I usually carry a light climbing rope when in rough country,even when the plan calls for sticking to the trail. But I would carry a minimum of sixty feet, and one hundred feet is often preferable. At a diameter of 8 or 9 millimeters, the weight is tolerable. This strategy has paid off several times for me.

One more suggestion. Do you contemplate any overnight trips? If so, I feel it would be preferable to invest in a quality sleeping bag, and/or tent, or conceivably, upgrade your backpack. I would put any of those items at a higher priority than either a PLB or GPS. In the Superstitions or most of the country in Arizona or similar environs, you will do very well with quality maps and terrain association.

I would agree with Russ with respect to the Garmin 301, which is the model I use. But I would put either electronic appliance at a lower priority than acquiring a good, basic set of backcountry gear, and acquiring substantial first aid training.

Edited by hikermor (03/25/13 10:34 PM)
Geezer in Chief

#258035 - 03/25/13 11:57 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078

Your iPhone has a pretty decent GPS engine built in especially if you have an iPhone 5 combined with some excellent electronic mapping apps. (they want to keep tabs on you down to the nearest couple of square meters)

You could always use it in conjunction with a SPOT connect and use their App to send satellite text messages to Twitter/Facebook etc.


#258073 - 03/26/13 10:00 AM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3601
Loc: Ontario, Canada
You'd get more use out of a GPS and hopefully stay found with it., but getting lost is only one of the reasons you might need rescue. Take a look at your risk factors illness and injury while weighing these two options.

Also, please remember to file a detailed trip plan with someone you know is responsible. Talk with them about when to initiate a search. Have an agreed upon plan for your hike and your rescue, and then stick to it. If you deviate while you're out there, let them know ASAP. IMO, if you can't confidently update them of changes, don't deviate from your route.
Mom & Adventurer

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#258081 - 03/26/13 01:14 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
gonewiththewind Offline

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1517
Like Bacpacjac said, you will actually use the GPS more, but the PLB can save your life. You may only use it once, but that one time could be very important.

#258084 - 03/26/13 01:56 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
Glock-A-Roo Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 04/16/03
Posts: 1076
I say buy the PLB and use the GPS capabilities of your phone, especially since you're in an area without a lot of tree cover. Learn how lat/lon & UTM coordinates work, carry a good gridded map, and then all you'll really need is point position from your phone's GPS. Everything beyond that is gravy.

Over time you'll become very adept and familiar with keeping up with your position on the map, helped along as needed with occasional GPS fixes. Then when you get some extra cash you'll have a bit of a clue as to features to look for in a GPS.

It's win-win. You get the immediate safety factor of a great PLB, and you then enhance your knowledge and understanding of the things that make GPS truly useful.

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