Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- ACR ResQLink 400 Locator
- RESCUEME PLB1 Personal Locator
- Garmin GPSMAP 66i Locator
- ACR ResQLink View Buoyant Locator
- McMurdo FastFind 220 Personal Locator
- Garmin inReach Mini 2 Locator
- Garmin InReach Mini Communicator
- ACR Bivy Stick Satellite Communicator
- ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
- Garmin inReach Handheld Communicator
- PLB Types: Distress Alert or Satellite Messenger?
- Beacon Range and Coverage: Global vs. Regional
- Battery Life and Endurance: How Long is Long Enough?
- Size and Weight: Portable and Convenient
- Activation Mechanism: Manual vs. Automatic
- Subscription Costs: Hidden Charges
- Emergency Response Time: Speed Saves Lives
- GPS and Tracking Features: Stay Informed
- Durability and Environmental Tolerance: Prepared for Anything
- User-Friendly Interface: Simplicity Matters
- Practice Responsible Usage
- Read and Understand the User Manual
- Regular Testing and Battery Checks
- Protect Your PLB from Physical Damage
- Keep the PLB Clean and Dry
- Store Your PLB Properly
- Regular Software Updates
- Handle the Antenna Carefully
- Be Mindful of Expiration Dates
- Register and Update Your PLB Information
- Familiarize Yourself with Proper Usage
- Seek Professional Maintenance
- Review Local Regulations
A reliable Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) can be a lifesaving investment if you’re a traveler who loves the challenge of a backcountry hike or boating enthusiast who loves exploring new waters. You wouldn’t head off into the woods without bear spray. Why head off the grid without a reliable way to call for help if you need it?
In this product roundup, we share some of the best PLBs on the market that will help rescuers find you in an emergency. We also list some top communicators should you want two-way communication ability during your adventures.
- No subscription is needed for emergency distress signaling
- Sends 406 MHz emergency signal for swift rescue response
- LED strobe and infrared strobe for enhanced visibility at night
- Global coverage with Cospas-Sarsat/MEOSAR for worldwide rescue
- Accurate GPS and Galileo GNSS for precise positioning
The ACR ResQLink 400 Locator is an essential companion for travelers prioritizing safety. With no subscription requirements, this device ensures you can access emergency distress signaling without recurring charges. In times of crisis, it transmits a 406 MHz emergency signal, enabling rescue teams to respond swiftly. The built-in LED and infrared strobe enhance visibility during rescue operations, even in low-light conditions.
- 7-year battery life and warranty
- Operational for 24+ hours during emergencies
- Distress signal usage with no subscription fees
- High brightness strobe light (>1 candela) for increased visibility
- 66-channel GPS receiver
- Unique mounting clip
- Weighs just 4.1 ounces
- No subscription required
The Ocean Signal Rescueme device remains operational for more than 24 hours in emergencies, providing reassurance when you need it the most. You can activate the distress signal without worrying about additional fees without a subscription plan. The high-brightness strobe light, with an intensity greater than 1 candela, significantly improves your visibility during rescue operations.
- Large 3-inch sunlight-readable color display for easy viewing
- Interactive SOS via the Global Iridium satellite network (satellite subscription required)
- Preloaded Garmin TOPO maps and direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery
- Cellular connectivity for weather forecasts and geos live
When distressed, the interactive SOS feature connects you to the 24/7 search and emergency rescue center. Preloaded Garmin TOPO maps and Birdseye satellite imagery keep you informed about your surroundings. Access weather forecasts and geocaching live with its cellular connectivity. Manage waypoints, routes, and activities conveniently using the Garmin Explore website and app.
- Buoyant and rugged locator beacon with GPS and SOS
- Sends SOS distress signals with GPS position globally
- No subscription required
- Multiple attachment clips for easy wearability during adventures
- Send self-test and GPS test messages to multiple contacts
- Global coverage using COSPAS-SARSAT satellite constellations
- Bright LED and infrared strobe lights
The ACR ResQLink View Buoyant Locator is the ultimate safety companion for outdoor enthusiasts. Its buoyant and rugged design suits hikers, boaters, campers, and climbers. In emergencies, activate the SOS distress signal with GPS position and instantly send it to Search and Rescue forces worldwide. The locator also allows self-tests and GPS test messages to multiple contacts, ensuring your communication device is ready when you need it.
- Pre-programmed for US registration, functions globally for emergencies
- Registration is required by law in most countries for safety
- Easy activation with antenna deployment and ON button press.
- 1 day battery life
While pre-programmed for US registration, it functions globally, ensuring reliable emergency communication wherever you go. By registering the PLB, you provide essential information to Search and Rescue Teams, expediting the response in case of emergencies. Proven and tested in some of the world’s most treacherous conditions, the FastFind 220 activates easily with just a few simple steps.
- Compact and lightweight with two-way global messaging capability
- TracBack routing for easy navigation back to the starting point
- Share your location at any time
- Digital compass for accurate heading information
- Syncs with the Garmin Explore app and pairs with compatible devices
The Garmin inReach Mini 2 Locator is a compact and lightweight satellite communicator designed to keep travelers connected anywhere. With two-way global messaging, including interactive SOS, it provides essential communication in areas without cellular coverage. The TracBack feature helps you navigate back to your starting point with ease. The device’s digital compass ensures accurate heading information even when stationary.
- Small, rugged, lightweight 2-way satellite communicator with Bluetooth
- Interactive SOS signal to 24/7 rescue center (satellite subscription required)
- Access to downloadable maps and U.S. NOAA charts
- Optional inReach weather forecast service for real-time updates
The Garmin InReach Mini Communicator is a compact and robust satellite device perfect for travelers seeking constant connectivity in remote areas. It enables 2-way text messaging using the global Iridium network, ensuring you stay in touch with loved ones or can get help when you need it. With the interactive SOS button feature, help is just a button press away. You can access maps and charts through the free Garmin Earthmate app, making navigation hassle-free.
- Ultimate global satellite communicator with 100% Iridium coverage
- Tri-network coverage: Wi-Fi, cellular, and satellite for connectivity
- Group messaging & tracking for up to 12 people off-grid
- Easy check-in & GPS location sharing with loved ones
- Compatible with iOS & Android apps for versatility
- Long-lasting rechargeable battery
- Requires an active satellite subscription
The ACR Bivy Stick is the perfect choice for travelers seeking a reliable and versatile satellite communicator. Its 100% Iridium satellite connectivity offers ultimate global coverage, ensuring you stay connected even in remote locations. The tri-network range allows you to communicate via wifi or cellular when they’re available and satellite when you’re out of cell and wifi range, providing flexibility in various environments.
- ZOLEO global two-way satellite communicator with Iridium network
- Seamless satellite messaging over cellular, or wifi networks
- Dedicated SMS phone number and email address for messaging
- Emergency alerting with 24/7 monitoring and GPS coordinates
- Add-on feature for automatic location sharing at intervals
- 200+ hours of battery life
- Dust, water and shock resistant
Its rugged design and Iridium satellite connectivity ensure you stay connected in areas with no cellular coverage. Transmit messages over the most cost-effective network, satellite, cellular, or wifi, for seamless communication anywhere. The dedicated cell phone number and email address allow your contacts to reach you effortlessly.
- Small, rugged, and lightweight with two-way text messaging capability
- Group messaging via the Garmin Messenger app for sharing adventures
- Check-in with preset messages to contacts for safety updates
- Share your GPS location with loved ones for peace of mind
- Trigger an interactive SOS to Garmin IERCC’s 24/7 monitoring center
Its compact and rugged design ensures you stay connected even in areas without cellular coverage. With two-way text messaging and group messaging via the Garmin Messenger app, you can easily share your adventures with friends and family. Use preset messages to contact contacts without consuming your allotted text messages. Share your real-time GPS location for added safety and peace of mind. In emergencies, trigger an interactive SOS to the Garmin IERCC 24/7 monitoring center, ensuring immediate response and assistance.
Buying Guide for the Best Personal Locator Beacon for 2023
In an ever-changing world where outdoor adventures are becoming increasingly popular, ensuring personal safety is of utmost importance.
A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a compact, handheld device designed to send distress signals to emergency services when you are in life-threatening situations. Before purchasing a PLB, consider the following factors to make an informed decision and guarantee your safety during your wilderness excursions.
PLB Types: Distress Alert or Satellite Messenger?
Before diving into the intricacies of PLB features, it’s crucial to understand the two primary types available: Distress Alert and Satellite Messenger PLBs.
- Distress Alert PLBs are designed solely for emergencies, sending a signal directly to search and rescue authorities.
- Satellite Messenger PLBs combine emergency capabilities with additional features like two-way messaging and tracking. Assess your needs to determine which type suits your outdoor activities best.
Beacon Range and Coverage: Global vs. Regional
Evaluate the coverage area of the PLB’s satellite network. Some PLBs provide global coverage, utilizing multiple satellite constellations, while others are regionally limited.
Consider the locations you plan to explore. If you frequently venture into remote and international territories, a global coverage PLB is essential for prompt rescue efforts.
Battery Life and Endurance: How Long is Long Enough?
Lithium battery life is a critical factor, especially during extended trips or emergencies that last for an extended period. Look for a PLB with long-lasting batteries, and consider carrying backup power sources or solar chargers for added assurance.
Size and Weight: Portable and Convenient
A PLB should be compact and lightweight to avoid burdening your outdoor gear. Look for models that can easily fit in your backpack or attach to your clothing. Opt for a sturdy design that withstands harsh conditions, such as waterproofing and shock resistance.
Activation Mechanism: Manual vs. Automatic
PLBs typically come in manual or automatic activation modes. Manual activation requires the user to trigger the distress signal manually, while automatic activation utilizes sensors to detect severe impact or immersion in water.
Consider your activities and the likelihood of being conscious and capable of manual activation during an emergency.
Subscription Costs: Hidden Charges
Some PLBs require a subscription to maintain their satellite communication services. Before purchasing a PLB, understand the subscription costs and services to avoid unexpected expenses.
Emergency Response Time: Speed Saves Lives
Different PLB models may vary in their emergency response times. Research and compare response times among different brands to ensure you get the fastest possible rescue assistance.
GPS and Tracking Features: Stay Informed
GPS functionality is crucial for accurate positioning during emergencies. Consider PLBs with built-in tracking mode features, allowing rescuers to monitor your location in real time.
Durability and Environmental Tolerance: Prepared for Anything
Outdoor adventures expose PLBs to harsh conditions, including extreme temperatures, moisture, and rough handling. Invest in a PLB with a high Ingress Protection (IP) rating and military-grade standards to ensure it can withstand the elements.
User-Friendly Interface: Simplicity Matters
In stressful situations, a user-friendly interface can make a significant difference in effectively operating the PLB. Prioritize PLBs with intuitive controls and clear displays, enabling easy distress signal activation.
Tips To Take Care of Your Personal Locator Beacon
A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a valuable safety device used primarily for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, boaters, and adventurers. It is designed to send distress signals via satellite systems to emergency services, enabling quick and efficient rescue operations in case of emergencies. Proper care and maintenance of your PLB are crucial to ensure its reliability when needed.
Practice Responsible Usage
Only activate your PLB in true emergencies with an immediate threat to life or health. False alarms can divert valuable resources and endanger other lives.
Read and Understand the User Manual
Before using your PLB, thoroughly read and understand the user manual provided by the manufacturer. The manual contains essential information about its operation, battery life, testing procedures, and maintenance guidelines. Familiarizing yourself with these instructions will help you use the device effectively and maintain it correctly.
Regular Testing and Battery Checks
Monthly Self-Testing: Perform a monthly self-test as recommended by the manufacturer. Most PLBs have a built-in self-test feature that allows you to check its functionality without triggering an actual distress signal. Follow the instructions in the manual for this procedure.
Battery Checks: Monitor the battery status of your PLB regularly. Some models have a battery level indicator, while others may require you to check it through the self-test function. Ensure the battery is charged or replace it following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Protect Your PLB from Physical Damage
Use a Protective Case: Invest in a sturdy and reliable protective case for your PLB. This will safeguard it from scratches, impact, and environmental elements such as dust and moisture.
Avoid Dropping or Impact: Be cautious with your PLB and avoid dropping it or subjecting it to rough handling. A sudden impact may damage the internal components and compromise their performance.
Avoid Exposure to Extreme Temperatures: Keep your PLB away from extreme temperatures, as extreme heat and cold can negatively affect the device’s battery life and overall functionality.
Keep the PLB Clean and Dry
Cleaning: Regularly clean the exterior of your PLB using a soft, damp cloth. Avoid using chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the surface.
Dry Completely: After cleaning, ensure the PLB is completely dry before storing it. Moisture can lead to internal damage and corrosion.
Store Your PLB Properly
Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Store PLB in a cool, dry place when unused. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or areas with high humidity, as these conditions can harm the device’s performance.
Remove Batteries During Long-Term Storage: If you plan to store the PLB for an extended period, remove the batteries to prevent potential leaks and damage. Store the PLB and batteries separately in a safe place.
Regular Software Updates
Stay up-to-date with the manufacturer’s software updates for your PLB model. These updates often include performance enhancements, bug fixes, and improved functionality, ensuring your PLB operates optimally.
Handle the Antenna Carefully
The antenna is a critical part of your PLB’s performance. Handle it with care, and avoid damaging it. A damaged antenna may result in weakened signal transmission and reception.
Be Mindful of Expiration Dates
PLBs have a limited lifespan, and their batteries typically expire after a certain period. Check the expiration dates of your PLB’s battery and other components, and replace them as needed to maintain peak performance.
Register and Update Your PLB Information
Ensure that your PLB is registered with the appropriate authorities and that your contact information is up-to-date. In case of an emergency, this information is crucial for rescuers to reach your emergency contacts and coordinate the rescue operation effectively.
Familiarize Yourself with Proper Usage
Know how to use your PLB effectively in case of an emergency. Familiarize yourself with its activation process and the different types of distress signals it can transmit. Proper usage during emergencies can make a significant difference in the efficiency of the rescue operation.
Seek Professional Maintenance
If you encounter any issues with your PLB or suspect a malfunction, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Instead, contact the manufacturer or a certified service center for professional maintenance and repairs.
Review Local Regulations
Familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding PLB usage, registration requirements, and signal protocols. Adhering to these regulations ensures responsible usage and enhances the effectiveness of rescue operations.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Are personal locator beacons worth it?
Personal locator beacons are worth it for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, adventurers, and travelers. They provide a reliable and essential emergency communication tool, ensuring safety and peace of mind in remote or risky situations.
What is the downside of a personal locator beacon?
The main downside of personal locator beacons is their one-way communication. They can send distress signals but cannot receive messages, limiting interaction with rescuers or the outside world during emergencies.
What is better than beacons?
Satellite communicators with two-way messaging capabilities, like Garmin inReach devices, offer more functionality than one-way beacons. They allow communication with rescue authorities and loved ones, making them more versatile for travelers.
What is the life of a PLB battery?
Personal locator beacon batteries generally last around 5 to 7 years, depending on the device and usage. Regular battery checks and replacements ensure the PLB’s reliability during emergencies.