Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)

Message posted by Tom on December 03, 2007 at 18:26:57 PST:

The SPOT unit has some neat features, but it is dependent upon the Gobalstar sat phone system, which isn't known for reliability. It does offer some really great tracking capabilities (at additional cost) that would work out well on extended backcountry trips to let the normal folks know where you are. A Pacific Crest Trail hike, or the like. I've attached a link to a review of the SPOT unit (good website, BTW)

I've found a more reliable and robust solution to be a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). The latest ones weigh in at just 10 oz, and $550 will get you a GPS equipped unit. What that means that a little over 4 minutes after the unit is activated, the GPS coordinates for the unit are received in NOAA's Suitland, Maryland facility from NOAA's geosynchronous satellites. The data is then routed to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, VA, and they will start calling the phone numbers registered with the activated unit. Unless the phone calls discern it's a false alarm, rescue efforts will be immediately launched. This could be easily less than an hour after the beacon is set off.

A few important notes.....It's much more reliable than a sat phone, it costs nothing (other than the initial cost to buy a unit....your tax dollars at work) and even it something happens to the unit, within the first 4 minutes it's already relayed your GPS position within an area the size of a football field.

A PLB certainly would have saved James Kim's life last winter. He and his family would have been rescued the day after they got stuck in the snow. I don't do backcountry travel without one anymore. Cheap insurance for life-threatening situations. I hope to never use it.

For reasons I don't really understand, PLB's aren't in the mainstream consciousness. But they are sold through a number of outlets, including REI. You can save a hundred bucks or more buying a larger unit or non-GPS equipped unit, but I think the GPS locating is worth the extra dollars.

Attached link: Review of SPOT Satellite Messenger

In Reply to: Re: TIPS FOR TRAVEL IN THE AREA posted by Hank on December 03, 2007 at 17:36:00 PST:


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