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#287171 - 11/22/17 10:30 PM Personal locator beacon
Ratch Offline
Stranger

Registered: 08/05/17
Posts: 10
I know nothing about emergency or personal locator beacons. I have a nephew who is an avid hiker and climber, and his mother wants to get one for Christmas for him. Suggestions? Best one for a hiker to carry? Places that provides honest reviews? Thanks much.

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#287172 - 11/22/17 10:39 PM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: Ratch]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6082
Loc: southern Cal
I don't think you can do better than the evaluations provided in this website.

I am a big fan of Consumers Reports and their objective evaluations. I don't believe they have ever done PLBs, but, in any case, Ritter's appraisals of the products rise to the CR level.
_________________________
Geezer in Chief

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#287173 - 11/23/17 12:39 AM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: Ratch]
Bingley Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1336
Selecting a PLB strikes me as something that should involve the person who will be carrying it. This is a pretty personal sort of thing. He'll need to know why it's a good idea to have one, he'll need to get into a habit of carrying one, and he'll need to know when to use it, etc.

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#287174 - 11/23/17 12:46 AM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: Bingley]
Doug_Ritter Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/28/01
Posts: 1947
Originally Posted By: Bingley
Selecting a PLB strikes me as something that should involve the person who will be carrying it. This is a pretty personal sort of thing. He'll need to know why it's a good idea to have one, he'll need to get into a habit of carrying one, and he'll need to know when to use it, etc.

In my experience, the biggest obstacle to overcome to get someone to carry a PLB is the cost. When you give it to them and ask them to carry because you are concerned about them, they almost always do. I generally recommend the ACR ResQLink, which is what I carry, unless weight it an absolute critical issue, then the Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 will do.

If she wants tracking, etc, then the SPOT will work.


Edited by Doug_Ritter (11/23/17 12:47 AM)
_________________________
Doug Ritter
Editor
Equipped To Survive®
Chairman & Executive Director
Equipped To Survive Foundation
www.KnifeRights.org
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#287175 - 11/23/17 01:44 AM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: Ratch]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1058
Loc: Alaska
Outdoor Gear Lab had a review of satellite beacons and messenger devices not long ago. They covered the pros and cons of a variety of devices on the market. In my opinion, it comes down to 2 choices.

For the absolutely most reliable SOS function, get the ACR ResQLink PLB. Basically this is purely an emergency device.
Pros:
Most robust SOS function
Low cost (relatively)
No subscription fees
Cons:
Only sends "SOS" message (you can't provide any details of your predicament)
No 2 way communication.


For a good SOS function, plus 2 way comms, plus GPS mapping navigation get the Garmin InReach Explorer. This device can serve other functions besides calling for help in an emergency.
Pros:
Reliable SOS function
Compose and send messages (either routine or emergency)
Receive messages
Send tracks to family and friends
GPS mapping function (get by without a second dedicated GPS)
Cons:
Very expensive (about twice the cost of a ResQLink)
Requires paying for an annual subscription (variety of plans available)
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#287179 - 11/23/17 04:34 PM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: AKSAR]
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4621
Loc: SOCAL
It really boils down to how the device will be used. I carried an ACR ResQLink when I was flying, but that was dedicated for emergency only, much like the aircraft’s ELT or a ship’s EPIRB. We flew over blue water outside 100 miles from the coast and in the unlikely event we ditched, I wanted a very reliable link to the SAR system to back up the aircraft ELT.

The Garmin InReach is a very nice communicator with 2-way text capability. That’s the system you want when you’re sailing a TransPac on your sailboat and you want to stay in touch. Your boat’s EPIRB has the dedicated SAR requirement covered. Add a satellite phone and you’re totally connected. Just wait for them to add a wifi feature wink

A nice middle ground is the SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger. In addition to the the SOS function for life threatening situations, it has tracking and check-in functions so it can be used when times are good. For times when it’s not so good but a less than life threatening situation, you can reach out to friends for assistance rather than calling in the professionals. It has a nice range of options.

No affiliation with any of the above other than a customer of both ACR (for the PLB) and Garmin for my numerous GPS receivers. I do not have a SPOT satellite messenger.

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#287180 - 11/24/17 02:10 AM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: Doug_Ritter]
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 858
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Doug_Ritter
Originally Posted By: Bingley
Selecting a PLB strikes me as something that should involve the person who will be carrying it. This is a pretty personal sort of thing. He'll need to know why it's a good idea to have one, he'll need to get into a habit of carrying one, and he'll need to know when to use it, etc.

In my experience, the biggest obstacle to overcome to get someone to carry a PLB is the cost. When you give it to them and ask them to carry because you are concerned about them, they almost always do. I generally recommend the ACR ResQLink, which is what I carry, unless weight it an absolute critical issue, then the Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 will do.

If she wants tracking, etc, then the SPOT will work.


Somewhere out there somebody has my Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1. My backpack was stolen out of my car with the unit. mad
I reported it to the NOAA as stolen so that if the thief ever figures out how the button works, they can be tracked down by the RCMP. laugh

I will eventually replace it with the same unit. I take it with me when hiking/kayaking. But this time I will make sure I get it from a Canadian dealer (Not an *&$%#@ American Amazon retailer masquerading himself as Canadian) and register it with my own country's registry.

Actually, I don't know why I really need one on the prairies. It's so flat around here that when I ran away from home when I was a kid, my parents knew where I was even 3 days later. smile

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#287185 - 11/24/17 08:33 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Roarmeister]
clearwater Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/19/05
Posts: 988
Loc: Channeled Scablands
Being able to quickly locate bacon is very personal to me.

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#287200 - 11/25/17 10:25 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Ratch]
Montanero Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1171
Loc: North Carolina
I have carried the ACR ResQlink for several years, but never had to activate it. It is not a bother to carry.

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#287205 - 11/27/17 04:33 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Ratch]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 1971
Loc: NE Illinois
I too am an ACR owner.

Two thoughts:

(1) Don't forget that PLB's have a finite (limited) lifespan. I think the expiration date is 6 years from manufacture date, though the battery may be viable for several (3-5?) years after that. Plan for this in the overall cost of ownership. For my older style PLB I found the cost of battery replacement to be too high to justify. I was better off just buying a more modern (smaller and easier to use) PLB.

and

(2) It is VERY important to register the PLB and make sure that the correct contact phone number is listed, and to keep the registration up-to-date over time (which to be honest can be kind of easy to forget to do).

If the PLB is ever activated someone will be calling that contact phone number to confirm the viability of the activation.

Here is registration website in the U.S.:

http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html

On a slightly different note, I chuckle a bit when I read the oh-too-common PLB vs. Spot arguments on other forums (there was one recently on a Boundary Waters Gear forum), in which people quite literally get angry and seriously defensive about their choices. To me the two devices have very different uses/objectives. The Spot is a communication device that might help you out in an emergency. The PLB is the emergency rescue device that you can trust with your life.

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#287208 - 11/27/17 10:17 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Ratch]
Tjin Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/08/02
Posts: 1705
I don't have a PLB (yet), i have stuck on who to set as my emergency contact. Parents are immigrants who don't speak the lauguage, brother is often abroad and does nothing outdoors. Using some of my trip mates can be a issue, if you are on a trip...
_________________________
My Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjQHh-hs39h6xWirxHo_HwA

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#287215 - 11/28/17 10:32 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Tjin]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 1971
Loc: NE Illinois
Originally Posted By: Tjin
I don't have a PLB (yet), i have stuck on who to set as my emergency contact. Parents are immigrants who don't speak the lauguage, brother is often abroad and does nothing outdoors. Using some of my trip mates can be a issue, if you are on a trip...


When I registered my PLB many many years ago I fully expected to find the ability for me to enter my upcoming trip plans, so, if I was forced to activate the PLB, the officials could look at their registration site and read what their plans where. This would help with Tjin's problem. I know some (many?) users would never touch the registration site after the first use, but I honestly believe that those who have their head on their shoulders would indeed post their pre-trip information and keep it up-to-date.

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#287217 - 11/28/17 11:34 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: KenK]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1058
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: KenK
Originally Posted By: Tjin
I don't have a PLB (yet), i have stuck on who to set as my emergency contact. Parents are immigrants who don't speak the lauguage, brother is often abroad and does nothing outdoors. Using some of my trip mates can be a issue, if you are on a trip...

When I registered my PLB many many years ago I fully expected to find the ability for me to enter my upcoming trip plans, so, if I was forced to activate the PLB, the officials could look at their registration site and read what their plans where. This would help with Tjin's problem. I know some (many?) users would never touch the registration site after the first use, but I honestly believe that those who have their head on their shoulders would indeed post their pre-trip information and keep it up-to-date.
My recollection from the last time I updated my ResQLink was that the NOAA registration form doesn't have a huge amount of space for trip details. Also, for those of us who get out frequently, often for short trips, going through the update procedure before every trip would get somewhat cumbersome. Better, I think, is to keep the registration up to date with general info (boat/kayak/vehicle description, etc) and leave the trip plan with the contact person. Of course, this doesn't help in Tjin's case.

Sometime back I had a conversation with someone who works in the Rescue Coordination Center. My understanding was that while they will always call the contact person, not reaching that contact doesn't mean they won't launch a rescue. However, in obviously questionable cases they might first do some investigation, such a GPS location that shows up at your house, or from a boat parked at a marina. He also said there is a lower rate of false alarms from PLBs than from EPIRBs and ELTs. The reason being that PLBs require several deliberate conscious steps to activate. Whereas many ELT/EPIRB are designed to activate automatically in some cases (when a plane crashes or a boat sinks). For example, a hard landing might trigger an automatic aircraft ELT, or a big wave over the deck might trigger an EPIRB.

One good story I heard from SE Alaska was that they spent some time trying to resolve an EPIRB signal that seemed to be cruising down the coast, right behind a tugboat. It turned out it was in a pile of garbage on a barge. Someone was dismantling an old vessel, and inadvertently tossed the EPIRB into the trash. It somehow became activated and was merrily pinging away as it was hauled to the dump!
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#287220 - 11/29/17 01:22 AM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Ratch]
Doug_Ritter Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/28/01
Posts: 1947
1. Correct, if they don't get to the contact person, they will launch. The vast majority of alerts are cleared when it is discovered by calling that it was an inadvertent alert and not an emergency.

2. One common strategy these days is to provide a link in the registration remarks/additional info section to a URL/web page where you post your trip plan/float plan, etc. Lots of ways to make that concept work that is easy to do versus logging into the NOAA site and changing what's there.

3. Make sure you also include your cell number in the listing (there's a place for it) as that is one of the most common solutions to whether it's a real alert or not. Commonly first number called when alert is from someplace where it's questionable that it is real.
_________________________
Doug Ritter
Editor
Equipped To Survive®
Chairman & Executive Director
Equipped To Survive Foundation
www.KnifeRights.org
www.DougRitter.com

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#287225 - 11/29/17 05:44 AM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: KenK]
Tjin Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/08/02
Posts: 1705
Originally Posted By: KenK
Originally Posted By: Tjin
I don't have a PLB (yet), i have stuck on who to set as my emergency contact. Parents are immigrants who don't speak the lauguage, brother is often abroad and does nothing outdoors. Using some of my trip mates can be a issue, if you are on a trip...


When I registered my PLB many many years ago I fully expected to find the ability for me to enter my upcoming trip plans, so, if I was forced to activate the PLB, the officials could look at their registration site and read what their plans where. This would help with Tjin's problem. I know some (many?) users would never touch the registration site after the first use, but I honestly believe that those who have their head on their shoulders would indeed post their pre-trip information and keep it up-to-date.


The main issue is that PLB registration is still paper based in mine country and no extra lines you can fill in about your trip. Also, it takes some processing time, which can be short or long. So get to send in changes to the contact way ahead.
_________________________
My Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjQHh-hs39h6xWirxHo_HwA

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#287226 - 11/29/17 03:43 PM Re: Personal locator bacon [Re: Ratch]
unimogbert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 850
Loc: Colorado
I don't rely on the registration site for per-trip info.

I fill out a trip plan and send it to my contact so that when the authorities call her phone number when I activate my PLB she will give them the trip plan and info describing my capabilities. She also as instructions as to the time I suggest she contact the local authorities as well as who they are as part of my plan.

I think this is much more likely to be effective - and it gives my wife's aunt something important to do. (She's a very competent lady)

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#287235 - 11/29/17 10:38 PM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: AKSAR]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1058
Loc: Alaska
Important note regarding false SOS from InReach

I just ran across this note from Roman Dial (a very well known hard core Alaskan adventurer) regarding triggering false SOS messages from InReach devices.

InReach Fail?
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#287237 - 11/30/17 12:20 AM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: AKSAR]
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4621
Loc: SOCAL
I recall another thread where the false SOS issue was discussed. As I recall, the Delorme inReach SE with the issue is the model that predates the Garmin take-over of Delorme. The Garmin inReach SE & Explorer have been redesigned with different buttons/keys. I think... the Delorme and Garmin models look very different. Rather than having a “lock switch” the newer model has a protective cap over the SOS key. Garmin Inreach SE+ owners manual

All that said, if I decide to go this route rather than buying a new ACR ResQLink (in lieu of replacing the battery by a 3rd party at not much less $), I’ll have a Garmin inReach Explorer in hand to get a feel for that SOS key first-hand. Garmin inReach Explorer at REI. It’s always better to touch stuff than to take internet advice from someone you don’t know. ...or I’ll go with a SPOT Satellite Messenger. Having options is nice.

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