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    • While that sounds noble and selfless, the reality is that if you get lost or stranded, someone who knows you are missing/delayed is going to contact the authorities and they ARE going to come to find you whether you want them to or not. Not being able to know your exact location (since you don't have a PLB, etc.) will cost rescuers time, resources and likely increase the danger to them. It will also end up costing those that pay for you to be rescued more money (i.e, in most places, the taxpayer). Since it will also likely take longer to find you, your situation may become more critical, or you could die; this very negatively impacts your family, friends and others. I therefore conclude that, IMO, not carrying a PLB into the backcountry is, rather than selfless, selfish.

    • That's a great perspective, thanks. True, I ensconce myself in an "old school" frame of mind when I'm backpacking, knowing that people have been tramping off-trail through the wilderness for over a hundred years, long before electronics provided means of telling someone at home where we were. But... I hear you. A search *will* take place, because I let my wife know where I'm going and when to expect me back home. And since searchers *will* make use of whatever technologies they have access to... knowing my coordinates would help them.

      I just rearranged my thinking on this. :deal

    • @andrew, I too go backpacking to detach from society. I leave the tech at home (except my DSLR). I'm old school in that way. It was hard for me to stomach purchasing/carrying a PLB, but now carrying it with me on all my trips, I've realized it's pretty old school too. My ACR ResQLink is literally just a big button. Unless I activate it, I am still completely detached from society. Even when I do activate it, I'm off the grid. There are no communications. It's a silent call for help. So I think you'd be surprised how uninvasive it is having a PLB on you. At least for me personally, I'd feel a little less off the grid if I were carrying other equipment like a Sat Phone or Messenger.

      Until we had the conversation on Cake, I viewed my ownership of a PLB as something fairly selfish: an SOS button to save ME. But @flei got us both to reconsider our views. It's quite the opposite, it's the selfless device.

      Hugh Herr describes a terrible accident requiring him being rescued:

      We suffered some severe frostbite and hypothermia because of the frostbite. ... Our physical condition, to me, was the least of my concern. We were plucked from the mountain and we were told that a volunteer rescuer had died [trying to rescue us] from an avalanche. The news of that was just horrible, so I really didn't care what was happening with my physical body. I was just devastated by the news that a fellow climber had perished.

      I couldn't imagine carrying the burden of a rescuer dying in attempts to save me. Now that we have PLB's in this day and age, I'll always carry one to keep other lives possibly a little safer.

    • +1 on the SPOT. If nothing else, the peace of mind (piece of mind? ;-)) it gives my family when I'm out and about is priceless. Worst case scenario something happens and I can't push the button, there's still a track of where I've been that would help them find where I am.


    • It's really cool to see how much people love their Spots. I love my ACR ResQLink, but my loved ones at home don't have the same peace of mind that Spot users' loved ones do because the Spot has tracking and the ability to send pre-programmed messages

      It's exciting to follow my friends' Spot tracks on their adventures sports, including flying gliders across the country and hiking the PCT.

    • 3 hikers in Denali were recently rescued as a result of their PLB transmission. It reminds me that a PLB is another level above a SPOT in terms of triaging the rescue. For these hikers, the transmission was directly picked up by a SARSAT satellite, and the request was dispatched by NOAA to the Alaska National Guard. For a SPOT, the SOS feature would first route through the private company's support center where they would hopefully know who to call given the conditions. I trust my goverment to save my life more than a small private corporation. Sorry to criticize satellite messengers like SPOT. I just want people to be aware of satellite messenger vulnerabilities so we can be as safe as possible when adventuring.

    • I was on several Sierra Club backpacking trips this summer with an inReach device, and was party to several incidents that came up on other trips, where I was the designated contact for people in the field. Some observations:

      InReach coverage seems really good, even in Sierra Nevada canyons. We were never unable to get a signal, though there were often delays, waiting for confirmation that a pending message had been sent. I love the iphone integration, and ability to send messages to groups of people, quickly added from contacts on the phone.

      Receiving inReach messages was really cool, since each is tagged with map coordinates, and a link to the location, in their own mapping service. Getting a response back while in the field sometimes took over ten minutes, even when the person "at home" replied right away.

      They were critical in assessing fire and smoke conditions in the mountains, where people at home could be ready to check with CalFire and relay information.

      Sadly... they also shattered the sense of remoteness I love in the wilderness. I found myself waiting for the beep of an incoming response, even if just a heart emoji from my wife. But it's the price to pay for connectivity. I'll get my own soon, and pair it with my phone.

      We also carried satellite phones on the trips, but did not use them. If there had been a true emergency, such as needing medical attention, we would not have hesitated in turning to the sat phones, since they provide a superior real-time voice connection.

    • Thanks for your insights.

      The PLB's biggest flaw is that it lacks two-way communication. And its one-way communication is limited to a single SOS with a GPS coordinate.

      It's a good tool to have, but a sat phone or a sat messenger like the inReach would be so useful in emergencies. Many mountain rescues take hours or days to complete depending on the weather. I could imagine that being able to communicate with emergency services at dispatch time would be invaluable in aiding them to bring the right equipment for the response. A PLB merely tells a command center that something is wrong in a given location.

      An example of where a PLB falls short is big climbing walls. I had friends involved in a climbing rescue on El Cap in Yosemite. They were able to contact emergency services via cell phone and relay their exact location on the vertical wall and the severity of the accident. YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue) used that information to decide that rappelling in for the rescue was the most viable solution. With a PLB, rangers wouldn't know if it was a hiker that was hurt near the bottom, a climber somewhere on the 3000' wall, or somebody at the top. And they surely wouldn't know how to respond.