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    • nature_wanderer

      As an avid outdoors person often wondering miles from roads and climbing big mountains, I own a Personal Locator Beacon and I believe carrying it on adventures is an absolute must.

      A personal locator beacon, fairly new tech, is probably the most incredible piece of safety tech you can buy today. A PLB is essentially emergency help button device. Pressing the button sends an SOS with your GPS location via satellite link to government agencies. The US Coast Guard, Air Force, and SARSAT will receive the SOS. One of them will dispatch local search and rescue to your transmitted location.

      The device is merely a tool to send a message of distress. It’s equivalent to calling 911 for help, but it works anywhere, outside of cell, wifi, even CB radio range. You don’t get any special treatment for owning the device. This is NOT press-a-button-and-a-helicopter-miraculously-saves-you tool (though helicopter rescues are fairly common). A local SAR will decide to how to safely access you. Response time in remote wilderness areas can vary from hours to days, depending on weather, daylight and location, so immediate medical attention and survival skills are still necessary when waiting for help.

      You can be sure SAR will send you a bill later, but doesn't matter if your life relies on it. Oh, and a very large fine if you were lazy and didn't make every reasonable attempt to save yourself before pressing the button. And even bigger fines if it’s a false SOS.

      What kind of PLB do you have? If you don't have one, why not?

    • malignity

      I love these but the reason I don't have one is cost. I'm cheap. Super cheap. I love the concept but I feel like the price is expensive for what it is. What I'd like to see is a cheap unit (say $20) with a $80 fee or something for using it in case you need it, rather than a big fee up front.

      That will keep those from abusing it but would allow more people to have it in case of emergency.

    • flei

      I carry an ACR ResQLink+. I highly recommend this device. IMO, at about $230 (there are NO monthly fees; battery life is 5 years; replacement battery costs about $100) they are very cheap insurance ($46/year) that you will get the best possible response in a life threatening emergency. I am a retired Fire Rescue professional and based on my extensive research and personal experience, this is the only device I would recommend someone carry to access rescue in a true emergency. (BTW, whether after being rescued you will be charged or fined anything at all depends on the policy of the jurisdiction in which you were rescued. My department and all other local depts. of which I am aware charge nothing for pre-ambulance/heli rescue services).

    • kevin
      Kevin Harrington

      I too carry the ACR ResQLink+ for the exact same reasons. Price in the long run is much cheaper than its competitors.

      But most importantly, the ResQLink+ is a PLB, and it is another grade above its non-PLB competitors, “satellite trackers.” A PLB is a government regulated designation for devices that meet very specific requirements to operate on the COSPAS/SARSAT

      COSPAS and SARSAT are operated by governments, looking out for peoples' best interests, unlike like their for-profit competitors, have vetted learnings and protocols from military applications, and more direct access to SAR resources.

    • nature_wanderer
      Nature Wanderer

      i hear you. it’s expensive, and for some it’s even hard to afford…

      my ACR ResQLink cost me $230. For the risk I expose myself doing stuff like climbing in the backcountry and winter backpacking, I’d be willing to throw down $1000 for it. it’s insurance that I need

      if you can’t afford the PLB, and even if you carry one, share your itinerary with someone back at home and have a set time for them to call SAR if no response from you.

      Before PLB’s were a thing, I carried a HAM radio with police, fire, and ranger frequencies programmed in. I do a lot a backcountry in the sierra, and they have quite an extensive array of repeaters through the national parks, so you can often talk directly to LE / rangers deep in the mountains far from cell service, an effective tool in SAR that you cannot do with a PLB. Only $24 will get you started. If you're out of range or no one is listening you're SOL, so I'd suggest considering to save up for a PLB or split one between your group if you usually travel in a group

    • flei

      Sorry to ramble on about this topic, but I am invested in this issue. IMO, a two-way radio does not take the place of a PLB for several reasons. First, technically one needs a license to operate a HAM radio (and to my knowledge, all other forms of 2-way radio do not have enough range to always be useful in the backcountry). Second, as you mentioned, if no one is listening you are SOL. Third, if you are too incapacitated to speak or too disoriented to be able to operate the radio and to determine and convey your exact location, you are SOL. Fourth, unlike any other device, with the push of one button a PLB will reach help immediately via satellite (i.e., requiring fewer relays of information (which take time and might cause errors)) and will automatically convey via GPS your exact location; and in a life threatening emergency you need help ASAP (there exists in such situations what is called in emerg. medicine the "golden hour", which refers to the concept that people who are found and attended to within an hour stand a much greater chance of survival). Finally, in my experience with SAR, even if you have a cell phone with service, if you call 911 for rescue, and use your phone GPS, there is a lot of room for error (e.g., you may not reach the closest 911 dispatch center, your location may not be given with enough accuracy, etc.). The PLB above prices out to $33 per year over 10 years (figuring in initial cost plus 5 year battery replacement); to me this seems extremely cheap when one's life is on the line.

    • nature_wanderer

      100% agree. The time and effort to get a HAM radio license is greater than the cost of a PLB, so my suggestion is shortsighted and irrelevant for those looking to save money. Thanks for correcting and teaching me.

      To elbarote: A HAM radio is not a replacement for a PLB, and was something I carried with me before the days of cell phones then PLBs. I am also a licensed HAM operator / GSM license holder.

      Growing up in the backcountry without modern tech, we learned quickly that minor accidents could be life threatening. Signaling for rescue was limited to stuff like smoke signals (really bad practice these days) or flashing mirrors at aircraft. A HAM radio became another tool to carry that could work a little better in certain circumstances. Even if you had to hike miles up mountains to get a signal in, you were better off.

      @flei - So considering the greater cost, do PLB's lower the cost of rescue and make it safer for SAR personal (I think so)? Being cheap and not owning a PLB also puts others at a higher risk.

      Really, you shouldn't be in the backcountry without a PLB these days. Buy one before investing in a new backpack, shoes, new shinny, ultralight cams, etc. Everyone will be better off in the long run.

    • kevin
      Kevin Harrington

      In the early 2000’s I was first responder to my buddy that crashed greenlaning on an enduro adventure at 70mph in the Mojave Desert. He was passed out on the ground for 5 minutes, then woke up mumbling and having seizures. We were miles from a paved road. No cell service in those days. I couldn’t leave my buddy so I had to signal SOS with my dirtbike headlight to a ranger station miles away.

      A PLB would have been the BEST thing to have but in those days they weren't really a thing. A HAM radio might have worked in that situation because we were a few miles LOS from a ranger station, but a PLB would have been perfect. It would take me a few seconds to activate, and then I could spend the rest of the time aiding to the victim. With a HAM, I'd have to find a channel with people on it and describe where I am in a flat, uniform valley. Not really useful!

    • TheBritAbroad

      Hi, I’m with you on a PLB being an excellent thing to have (I ride adventure motorbikes, sometimes a bit off the beaten track and it’s nice to know my ResQLink is with me), but just wanted to clarify that here in Europe (and indeed in most of the world) there are definitely no charges for being rescued, nor fines for accidental false alarms. Deliberate false alarms may well get expensive fast but so they should. Also, in many countries registering the PLB is a legal requirement (it’s usually free). A PLB alert will still be acted upon though under all circumstances, registered or not.

    • ia

      although l have a device, I feel in some ways that it was better not being tied to the outside world.

      Which is not to say don’t take one but consider the responsibility when you do.

    • Moose408

      I have a SPOT device that I've been carrying for the past 10 years. I've never had to use it for an emergency but do use it to send a nightly message to my wife letting her know I'm OK and my location.

      I don't like the annual fee, but consider it just the price I need to pay for safety.

    • nature_wanderer

      here in Europe (and indeed in most of the world) there are definitely no charges for being rescued, nor fines for accidental false alarms.

      👍 I'm learning a lot about the expenses of SAR. I've been in the process of getting people from the wilderness into life flights to hospitals. Those patients were hit with $10k+ bills for the helicopter ride. That's hospital transit, not being rescured. Good to know that activating the PLB button might not end in financial ruin.

    • nature_wanderer

      I feel in some ways that it was better not being tied to the outside world.

      That's why I like my ACR ResQLink. There's no tracking, no messaging, and no radio. It's merely another tool in my first aid kit.

    • nature_wanderer

      I just listed to an episode of the Sharp End Podcast about a guy who nearly died lost in the snowy Sierra.

      By late April, Marcus Mazzaferri had already hiked nearly 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. He was just about to stop for the day near Tuolumne Meadows, high in Yosemite National Park, when he came across a swollen creek and decided to cross it before setting up camp. What happened next left Marcus all alone, with no gear, 15 miles from the nearest road. His story will make you wonder: What would I have done?

      He had a satellite messenger in his pack that washed down a river. Like him, I've never carried my PLB on my person, rather always somewhat accessible in my backpack. This really makes me rethink carrying it on my body in a pocket, via a strap, or some other attachment method.

    • ia

      Carrying on your person is the only way to have it when you need it.

    • cvdavis

      I used to use a SPOT locator when I did solo rides in the California and Nevada desert. I don't use it any other time and have since let my membership lapse. I think it's money well spent if you do any kind of remote or solo riding. If you consider the cost of motocycling then it's a miniscule amount in comparison.

    • jcolombo

      That's the thinking I use - I'll spend $$$ on gear for the bike, etc., so I should be willing to put in $15/month for the insurance policy.

      Also, @ian408, great tip - I'm moving the new Garmin one I'll be getting from the top case to the front pocket of the jacket.

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