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

Registered: 08/05/17
Posts: 9
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: 5991
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.
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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: 1307
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: 1944
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)
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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: 1054
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)
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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
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#287179 - 11/23/17 04:34 PM Re: Personal locator beacon [Re: AKSAR]
Russ Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4591
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: 857
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: 978
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: 1127
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: 1970
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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