Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 4 5 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 114
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Gaperville, CO
    Posts
    3,750

    Personal Locator Beacons: Options besides SPOT?

    Time to invest in a PLB. Besides SPOT which requires a $200/year or $20/month subscription, any other options worth looking into?

    Don't need a ton of features. Just GPS location with an "I'm safe" button and a "Oh Fuck Me" button. Reasonable weight, size, battery life, durability and cost.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    tahoe de chingao
    Posts
    486
    ACR makes the ResQLink, which has similar features to a spot. Not sure about monthly pricing.

    My lady works in exceedingly isolated areas throughout the great basin and carries a Delorme inReach. She also uses it as a gps unit / digital map storage for her work, though. Wilderness guiding companies are also tending toward the delormes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Western MT
    Posts
    1,332
    Quote Originally Posted by sruffian View Post
    My lady works in exceedingly isolated areas throughout the great basin and carries a Delorme inReach. She also uses it as a gps unit / digital map storage for her work, though. Wilderness guiding companies are also tending toward the delormes.
    Fyi, the Inreach is now made by Garmin, not Delorme. My concern with the Delorme models would be the potential phasing out of future software upgrades.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    inReach has 2-way communication, cheaper plans and satellite network with better coverage vs. SPOT. See discussion on this thread. I have had the inReach SE for 4 years, using it on all multi-day trips and more serious day trips. It has been 100% reliable re sending and receiving messages.

    Re SE vs. Explorer, I prefer a stand alone GPSr, saving my inReach battery power if I were to get into a spot. I also fire up my inReach only to send messages (e.g., from camp each evening with a request for a weather report) and checking received messages, which adds up to roughly 1 hour per day, leaving me >85% battery life at the end of multi-day trips up to 9 days.

    ETA: Before the inReach I carried a PLB for several years. I very much prefer inReach 2-way communication. It's nice to get confirmation that my message was received, check in with home (or a bud if Honey is on the trip with me), get weather reports, advise my buds of my location if they plan to meet up, etc. inReach units now can communicate to each other.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Your Mom's House
    Posts
    6,357
    So there are two types of devices.

    First there's satellite messengers, which include SPOT and Delorme. They operate on private satellite networks, require a subscription, and can have a variety of messaging features.

    The other option is a PLB, which operates on a government network, uses a higher powered (ie, more reliable) signal, no subscription, and only have the "oh fuck me" button. No other communication and they cost a little more up front (less in the long run because no subscription).

    If you want a "I'm safe" button then you are looking at satellite messengers, not PLBs.

    Personally, I carry a PLB for two reasons. First if I actually need the "oh fuck me" button I want to be sending the strongest signal possible. Second, my experience with other friend's SPOT devices is that the "I'm safe" messages are not 100% reliable, and can actually cause more worry for the person waiting for the "I'm safe" message if you try to send it and it doesn't go through. In my limited experience with the Delorme it seems to be a little more reliable, but I'd still just rather have the most reliable shit-has-hit-the-fan device possible. (Edit: per Steve's post above it appears the inReach has mostly addressed these concerns.)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Numerous tests and field reports confirm that inReach is more reliable at getting messages out v. SPOT. I've sent and received hundreds of messages from and to my inReach SE and 100% have gone through. (I check and confirm after each trip.) I've heard and read about way too many SPOT messages not getting out.

    True that PLB transmitting signal strength is more powerful, although my experience is that inReach signal has been 100% effective in successfully sending signals. Also, when you're in a spot and push the SOS panic button, consider the utility of 2-way messaging to confirm receipt, continuing 2-way communication with SAR, option to move position during rescue if conditions indicate doing so, checking in with SAR re treatment of injury, etc., etc. Add those SOS situation benefits to the non-SOS utility of checking in, getting weather forecasts and confirming receipt of non-SOS messages. All these reasons are why I switched from PLB to inReach when it was time to send my PLB in for a new battery ($150 DIY, $200+ replacement by McMurdo).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Gaperville, CO
    Posts
    3,750
    Super helpful @adrenalated and DIYSteve.

    I suppose I don't really care about the I'm safe button as much as the "oh fuck" button. But as Steve and that other thread mention -- 2-way comms could be nice for use cases like campsite location among friends.

    Sounds like something of the inReach or PLB variety makes more sense than the SPOT in everything but the initial cost.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Zurich, Switzerland
    Posts
    318
    SPOT saved my brothers live - so I will not complain. BUT it has occurred a few days (out of lets assume 200) that his ok message was not making it all the way to us. So yes: SPOT works - but other options might be better. Also I would have eased a lot of troubled minds to get two-way-communication as everyone was ok but terribly stuck.

    So I guess the money is well spend if you are planning a certain type of adventure, but then maybe go the extra mile for optimal signal and 2 way communication. If it has to do with anything other than satellite check for the coverage everywhere you might go.

    Keep in mind that you can also just activate the service for the month you really need.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Quote Originally Posted by LeoK View Post
    Keep in mind that you can also just activate the service for the month you really need.
    Good point. inReach's Freedom Plan allows you to suspend service on a month-to-month basis or upgrade for a month to a more costly plan (i.e., more messages without per message cost). Freedom Plan costs $3/more per month ($15 vs. $12) at the Standard level. We signed up for the Freedom Plan (Standard) 3 years ago and I've never suspended it because I use it nearly every month. I once upgraded to Recreation Plan (see below) for a month when I did two 8-day high routes.

    inReach Standard Plan ($12/mo. or $15 w/Freedom option) includes unlimited preset messages plus 10 text messages per month, additional text messages cost 50 cents each. You can customize 3 preset message for each trip. My typical preset messages are:
    -- OK, checking in, weather forecast please
    -- OK but running late
    -- having issues but don't worry, will advise
    Honey or check-in bud have been good about responding to all my messages. The idea is that a "having issues" preset message will evoke a text and I can fill in details. For example, a few years ago I slipped on a high route in the North Cascades, breaking 2 ribs. I informed Honey of my malady. I managed to get out (with considerable pain).

    In 10+ years carrying a PLB or inReach, we've never pushed the SOS button. I hope we never need to do so.

    Recreation Plan ($25/$35) is same with 40 messages before per message charge. It doesn't save you much vs. Standard Plan + 30 extra text messages @ 50 cents each, and combined with the Freedom option it takes even more upgrades to pencil out. (I may move to full time Standard Plan @ $12/month.) Recreation Plan also includes tracking points and location pings for no extra cost, although I don't use those.

    Here is the inReach plan summary: https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inr...es-us-only.pdf

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Peaking in Chads Window
    Posts
    678
    Quote Originally Posted by doebedoe View Post
    Time to invest in a PLB. Besides SPOT which requires a $200/year or $20/month subscription, any other options worth looking into?

    Don't need a ton of features. Just GPS location with an "I'm safe" button and a "Oh Fuck Me" button. Reasonable weight, size, battery life, durability and cost.
    Give this article a spin. https://www.adventure-journal.com/20...cator-beacons/ I would rather have a "get me the fuck out of here" one.
    Using the Government based locator and skipping a "middle man" to relay a message.
    I trained my wife to know not to panic until I'm 4+ hours late from when I said I'd return.
    Still know she worries but doesn't need to text me every hour to have me tell her I'm fine.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    4,543
    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Fiedler View Post
    I trained my wife to know not to panic until I'm 4+ hours late from when I said I'd return.
    Still know she worries but doesn't need to text me every hour to have me tell her I'm fine.
    As Steve touched upon, this point is huge and was the selling point for the inReach for me, so let me turn your quote back to it:

    Details matter in the comms chain and being able to send notes back and forth is worth a lot. My wife is used to the idea of calling the sheriff if I'm not in touch by the next morning, but 2-way comms add so much more security and clarity. Not just for family but for S&R folks, too.

    For example:

    "Broken binding, unhurt, comfy in snow cave tonight, have food/fuel/h2o. Out late tomorrow"

    "Joe has busted foot, warm and stable, no S&R extract reqd but will be late, plz send WX fcst"

    "Thks for sending S&R, having trouble with bleeding and staying warm, plz advise that I'll be sheltering in a small cave N side of XYZ Spire elev 9643, Mark has fam band radio ch 4-20"

    My $.02
    PE, Mechanical Engineering
    University of Bridger Bowl Alumnus
    Alpental Creeper

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    [a] Van [down by the river]
    Posts
    1,235
    Quote Originally Posted by Norseman View Post
    As Steve touched upon, this point is huge and was the selling point for the inReach for me, so let me turn your quote back to it:

    Details matter in the comms chain and being able to send notes back and forth is worth a lot. My wife is used to the idea of calling the sheriff if I'm not in touch by the next morning, but 2-way comms add so much more security and clarity. Not just for family but for S&R folks, too.

    For example:

    "Broken binding, unhurt, comfy in snow cave tonight, have food/fuel/h2o. Out late tomorrow"

    "Joe has busted foot, warm and stable, no S&R extract reqd but will be late, plz send WX fcst"

    "Thks for sending S&R, having trouble with bleeding and staying warm, plz advise that I'll be sheltering in a small cave N side of XYZ Spire elev 9643, Mark has fam band radio ch 4-20"

    My $.02
    My main party has a few PLBs between us. Sort of cut out the emotional middle-(wo)man.

    If you haven't heard anything, I'm fine, if the government gives you a call, then be worried.

    The only thing inReach/Spot/etc give you is to give your loved ones peace of mind when things aren't going to plan. The end result is the same when compared to using a PLB, either help comes, or it doesn't.

    So then it's really just cost vs peace of mind (for them). I would assume for a good chunk of people on here, that is 100% worth it... and for all the single guys and girls on here who leave trip plans with a casual friend, it may or may not matter.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Moose, Iowa
    Posts
    5,840
    What if you are on a solo hike and blow a ligament. You have food, fuel, and shelter. You don't need a $$$ helicopter rescue that probably comes when you activate a PLB. More likely you just need a guy to walk you out, or a knee brace...Inreach.

    That is the reasoning that sold me on it. We have one coming for xmas. Plus being able to reassure the inlaws since they are worrying non outdoorsy people.




    Sent from my SM-G900R4 using Tapatalk

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Quote Originally Posted by kalisto View Post
    The only thing inReach/Spot/etc give you is to give your loved ones peace of mind when things aren't going to plan.
    Gotta disagree. See my list of SOS occurrence advantages in a prior post.

    The change of position in an SOS-emergency actually happened with a local SAR unit last summer. After the SOS, the party with the injured climber moved to a more sheltered/safer position, and their inReach permitted them to advise SAR of the move to a safer position and get confirmation that SAR was aware of their new position.

    inReach 2-way communication has been used to provide medical advice re stabilizing the injured person.

    SAR often makes a decision re rescue by heli vs. hiking, which can be a big deal in iffy weather. (See, e.g., the destroyed Navy helicopter W of Perfect Pass in the North Cascades.) An inReach allows SAR and the transmitting party to communicate re the condition of the injured person, information that can assist SAR in making the decision re means of rescue.

    Some emergencies can be handled short of an all out SOS-come save me ASAP! alert per assistance or advice from the outside without the need for a rescue.

    The ability to advise some in civilization that a party will be 2 or 3 days late can prevent a loved one or check-in bud from making an unnecessary call to SAR thus avoiding using SAR resources for a non-emergency. This is a big deal. Here in WA a pretty big slice of SAR missions are unnecessary, and all or most of them could have been avoided with an inReach.

    inReach also allows one to report a disabled vehicle in a place where there is no cell phone reception. This happened to a guy I know. His wife called the local 4x4 club to get his ass out.

    An inReach or SPOT could be used to report a fire or other issue that does not threaten the transmitting party.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    [a] Van [down by the river]
    Posts
    1,235
    Quote Originally Posted by DIYSteve View Post
    The ability to advise some in civilization that a party will be 2 or 3 days late can prevent a loved one or check-in bud from making an unnecessary call to SAR thus avoiding using SAR resources for a non-emergency. This is a big deal. Here in WA a pretty big slice of SAR missions are unnecessary, and all or most of them could have been avoided with an inReach.
    This goes back to peace of mind. If they fully trust that you can trigger the PLB, or someone in your party can trigger one of them when you're out, if you need help, then they shouldn't be making that call... but I agree, it is a big problem, even across the border.

    As for moving locations, SAR should be able to track the PLB, so if you move, they can track that.

    I also agree that as going out solo, that's a whole different story as you don't have people to potentially help you in an emergency scenario.

    The thing that DOES piss me off are the "I'm not in grave danger, but I still need help." Usually when I hear about these stories, they could have been avoided. Granted you can always armchair and say any emergency can be avoided, but I'm talking basic first aid skills and supplies, or tools, or whatever.

    I see more and more people going 'fast and light' and leaving what I would consider essential tools behind, only to get fucked over by some reason or another, then need help getting rescued. Usually not a life or death scenario (though after enough time it could have been I suppose).

    Regardless it's a full SAR deployment, or 2 volunteers hiking in to help you hobble out, you're still relying on help.

    I am happy that given technological advances, it's easier than ever to get help, but it annoys me that people look as that as an ACTUAL option if shit goes wrong... "oh I'll just call search and rescue." For me, that is the absolute last resort, and in that scenario, I'm pushing that big ass button.

    That all said, I agree that some emergencies can be handled short of all out SOS... that's what a radio is for. For those of you who travel in parties and don't have them, you really should get one.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Peaking in Chads Window
    Posts
    678
    Quote Originally Posted by DIYSteve View Post
    This is a big deal. Here in WA a pretty big slice of SAR missions are unnecessary, and all or most of them could have been avoided with an inReach.
    I went on a few of these calls back in my SAR days.

    So ...
    Get both :-D
    I would like the ability to let my wife know what's going on in the case of an accident. Let her know I'm ok. yadda yadda.
    I guess anything is better than being eaten by wolves because you hate technology.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Fort Fun / Rabbit Ears
    Posts
    1,119
    Just use an inReach while on river for 17 days in the Grand Canyon to communicate with my Wife every day who was eight months pregnant at the time. I can attest that the unit works awesome and the two way communication is spot on.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Posts
    681
    I own an ACR PLB, but plan to buy an InReach after seeing how well the InReach worked in a real world situation.

    This spring I witnessed someone take a long 500ft ish fall/slide on Mount Adams and was the first person to reach the guy. He had a probable broken arm and was very beat up. I debated activating my PLB. On one hand, we were still up high with significant hazard below. During the fall his crampons broke and he was going to have trouble safely moving with only one arm to use to self arrest. On the other hand, his condition did not seem to warrant a full on rescue. He could move, just very slowly. While I was debating the PLB activation, someone else came with an InReach. We activated the InReach and were soon texting with the Forest Service. They ended up sending a helicopter, so the end result was probably the same, but we found the two way communication very valuable. We did not want to be reliant on a helicopter, so we kept moving down. The two way communication was great and let us all stay updated on the plan.

    An added benefit is the two way communication saves loved ones a lot of stress. Had I activated my PLB, my parents would have gotten a call confirming that I was out in the mountains. Even though I was fine, they would not have received that information for many hours.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Quote Originally Posted by kalisto View Post
    This goes back to peace of mind. If they fully trust that you can trigger the PLB, or someone in your party can trigger one of them when you're out, if you need help, then they shouldn't be making that call...
    So, guy goes out for a 3-day trip with a PLB and doesn't show up 5 days later, you're saying that the wife should not call for a search on day 5? Should she ever make the call? A week later? A month later (body recovery)? Or should she just wait indefinitely? I'm not getting your logic here.

    Quote Originally Posted by kalisto View Post
    That all said, I agree that some emergencies can be handled short of all out SOS... that's what a radio is for.
    Satellite communication sometimes can be made where a radio communication will not get through, so nope, I'm not buying your claim that a radio > inReach. That doesn't make sense.

    Your comments re people relying on a device to save them and thus failing to carry emergency gear and/or being too quick to call for an SOS applies to radios, cell phones, PLBs and all sorts of communication devices. I've heard that argument before. It's very rare and when it does happen it's usually by cell phone, although there was one recent case of an unnecessary SOS rescue callout via -- wait for it -- PLB. You surely can't use that argument to support PLB vs. inReach vs. radio because all of them have the potential for abuse.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Fiedler View Post
    so ...
    Get both
    My party has carried an inReach and a PLB on a few trips. The guy who carried the PLB may have been skeptical re the effectiveness of a PLB. After he the opportunity to see evidence that 100% of our messages were getting through I never saw the PLB on subsequent trips.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Posts
    356
    @DIYSteve - thanks! Great info and very interesting.
    I've always carried a 2M ham radio. Not super light, but probably better than SMS'ing back and forth, provided you can get out. But some locations, like canyons etc - getting signal out is impossible. If you're up high, or even modestly high, you will hit a repeater unless you're truly somewhere BFE.

    [It can have some utility between parties in the BC too.]

    If I were to pick today, I'd probably get IR and 2m radio.
    If I had spot or PLB, I'd for-sure have the radio. But I might do without the 2m with in-reach.

    Anyway - thanks for info and your exp.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    [a] Van [down by the river]
    Posts
    1,235
    Quote Originally Posted by DIYSteve View Post
    So, guy goes out for a 3-day trip with a PLB and doesn't show up 5 days later, you're saying that the wife should not call for a search on day 5? Should she ever make the call? A week later? A month later (body recovery)? Or should she just wait indefinitely? I'm not getting your logic here.
    Poor choice to go out alone on a 3 day trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIYSteve View Post
    Your comments re people relying on a device to save them and thus failing to carry emergency gear and/or being too quick to call for an SOS applies to radios, cell phones, PLBs and all sorts of communication devices. I've heard that argument before. It's very rare and when it does happen it's usually by cell phone, although there was one recent case of an unnecessary SOS rescue callout via -- wait for it -- PLB. You surely can't use that argument to support PLB vs. inReach vs. radio because all of them have the potential for abuse.
    Happens a lot here, but we had ~100 SAR call-outs in 2016... most active in Canada, and wouldn't be surprised if it was the most active for any metropolis > a few million people. I've personally have had conversations and SEEN incidents where this is the mentality.

    Sorry for being slightly bitter towards adoption.

    As for the radios... Chances are SAR uses radios off some towers. Up in Canada, you are allowed to use any repeater towers if it's for emergency situations. I have those programmed in my radio for that exact purpose. Also means I can get weather forecasts and talk to everyone else in my group without having to yell...

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    2,852
    Quote Originally Posted by danadog View Post
    Just use an inReach while on river for 17 days in the Grand Canyon to communicate with my Wife every day who was eight months pregnant at the time. I can attest that the unit works awesome and the two way communication is spot on.
    The fact you've got a wife that didn't freak out cuz you were going on a 17 day river trip in her 8th month of pregnancy is pretty amazing.

    DIY's comment about radio is spot on. Mountains wreak havoc with most radio bands, including those used by USFS, and local law enforcement (at least down here in my area, don't know what's in use elsewhere). I can't remember the name of the outfit, but I used to rent a satphone when taking groups of kids into the mountains for outdoor ed. activities. With the cost of inReach a fraction of a sat phone, it seems like a pretty easy business model to rent those a weekend at a time, for anybody already in the gear rental business.
    "Judge me by the enemies I have made." -FDR

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Eburg
    Posts
    12,900
    Quote Originally Posted by kalisto View Post
    Poor choice to go out alone on a 3 day trip
    Yeah, we should all stay home and watch soap operas and post meaningless shit on TGR, right?

    Seriously, I've done lots of solo multi-day trips, and not a damn one of them was a poor choice. Imagine this: Several of my buds have done solo PCT and AT thru-hikes. Such derring do!

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Western MT
    Posts
    1,332
    Quote Originally Posted by kalisto View Post
    Poor choice to go out alone on a 3 day trip.
    pffffttt....

    Some would argue that backcountry skiing is a poor choice period due to the inherent risk. Nothing wrong with multi day solo trips as long as you're prepared, capable, and your significant other is okay with it, if applicable. And that's all the more reason to have more than one option regarding status updates as opposed to instigating professional rescue.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •