Personal Locator Beacons

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 Bojo 18 Nov 2021

Does anyone have a PLB? I understand there are two types - one is solely for emergency location and alerting rescue services as opposed to the type that allows two way communication. I understand that for the latter you have to pay a subscription. I'm just mulling whether either are worth the outlay of circa £300.

If anyone has one I'd be interested in recommendations.


 Ceiriog Chris 18 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

I've got one I bought for se kayaking, hopefully I'll never have to use it though, a Rescue Me, same again cost £300, 

 ScraggyGoat 18 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

Swings and round abouts:

PLB (GPS enabled) transmits a satellite distress signal 406MHz and a differing frequency homing signal/distress signal (which is the beacon part that can be homed in on by Rescue helicopters and lifeboats (and also picked up and reported by commercial airliners).  Long life battery always ready, will have to do a gps fix from ‘cold’ so the initial location can be inaccurate but is refined through time (the coastguard needs to update MRT as it’s improved ; another story).  Can’t communicate the nature of distress.  Modern ones are very hard to set off accidentally.  Once a helicopter gets into the area it will be picking up the homing signal and know for certain an activated unit is in the vicinity. Modern units now give confirmation that the distress signal has been picked up. One off cost. If you end up rapidly unconscious it’s if no use.

SENDs Satellite emergency notification devices such as SPOT are NOT strictly PLBs as they lack the beacon homing element. Many act as trackers so the gps fix will be more accurate at initial activation of emergency signal as gps already running. Allows two way coms of varying complexity which means for some units you can communicate the nature of distress which can be very useful. Since battery is used all the time need to be mindful of power levels and charging. When helicopter gets into area it just has the grid ref and no secondary confirmation of distress and beacon homing element. High up front and continuing costs.

If no one is tracking you at home, you have no potential underlying health issues (diabetes, epilepsy, heart condition) and you just want to call  help a PLB is the cheapest option.  If you play on the sea a PLB is also a good bet.

if you want people at home to know where you are and are ok, or if you have a pre existing medical condition that increases the chance of rapid incapacity then a tracking SEND though long term might be more expensive, would be the more suitable option. For example I can think of one incident where two teams were trying to get to a hypoglycaemic / hypothermic diabetic whom made a mobile voice call for help, but was no longer ‘with it’ and was wandering around, it didn’t have a good outcome. In that situation if he’s had a tracking SEND things may have turned out differently.

Neither is fail safe, I’ve known Sends fail to pass critical messages for over an hour and I’ve known PLB first fixes to be Km’s wrong and the Coastguard has failed on rare occasions to act on both (you’ll find enquiries online).

If you are in a party and suffer a life critical emergency (life, limb, sight (and risk of losing thumbs - consider as a limb)) set off PLB/SEND (assuming you have no mobile signal at accident site) to get the ball rolling and send someone up the hill or down the valley to get voice coms established via mobile. Obviously if the Send has a two way function and you receive acknowledgement; no need.

Since I play on the sea I have a true PLB. But when I get old and frail if still walking the hills alone I’ll get a SEND, so that at least my body isn’t green by the time I’m found……should I have just keeled over with my boots on.

Post edited at 11:38
 deepsoup 18 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

I have the same one as Ceiriog Chris - also known as an 'Ocean Signal PLB1', also bought for sea kayaking.  It's very small and robust.  (Small enough that it doesn't float, which is sometimes a selling point for its rivals - doesn't matter to me because it's tethered in a buoyancy aid pocket on the water, and obviously doesn't matter on land.)

It cost £200 when I bought mine, they seem to be going for £260 now.

I don't walk in remote places often enough that I'd buy one for that, but have put it in my rucksack once or twice to take it with me for a walk.  (Given that I've already got the thing, seems like it would be daft not to.)

Post edited at 11:18
 rogerwebb 18 Nov 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

One further issue. With a plb, and for the distress message on a tracker, you need to be conscious and able to reach it to operate it.

The tracker function at least gives people a clue however incapacitated you are. 

 99ster 18 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

If you decide that a PLB isn't for you, then a Garmin inReach is the thing to look at:

 DaveHK 18 Nov 2021
In reply to rogerwebb:

> The tracker function at least gives people a clue however incapacitated you are. 

Seem to remember you telling me that could be a problem for climbers as the time you were on a route would basically look like not moving?

 rogerwebb 18 Nov 2021
In reply to DaveHK:

> Seem to remember you telling me that could be a problem for climbers as the time you were on a route would basically look like not moving?

Yes you do need an educated spotter. And give them a realistic time estimate for the route. If you don't appear to have moved for 6 hours on Cha No there might be an issue whereas on Shelterstone best wait a bit.

 Bojo 18 Nov 2021
In reply to All:

Thamks to all for replies and info Might look further at the Garmin ones.

 supersteve 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

Personally I carry a PLB. Bought it for kayak fishing at sea, but now it's in my pack for walking, climbing and skiing. 6 year battery life so I don't have to do anything with it until that needs replacing (although there is a test function, which I've tried), and it's nice to know where ever I am I can get a distress signal out if required. Importantly, not just for me, but also if I found another injured person or similar. 

 markk 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

Does anyone know anything about BiviSticks?

I've no direct experience of them (used SPOT for 15+ yrs, more recently SPOTX), but I have seen a couple of reviews that suggest they may be a good alternative to inReach or SPOT.

 johnnymac 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

I have a Garmin inreach as often in the hills alone, I debated whether to get the mini or the Explorer and opted for the Explorer on the basis of combining GPS in a single unit.

With hindsight a mistake, while the text functionality is better, I only ever use the preset messages and the Explorer screen/map is very limited/pretty much useless - I should have bought a mini and saved some weight.

Post edited at 09:36
 Spready 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Bojo:

I have been looking at options for the last few months.. 
I have heard that the Zoleo is coming to the UK early next year and that looks to be a pretty good piece of kit for the price and functions..

I currently have a Garmin GPSmap 66S and one of the options is an upgrade to the 66i as it has the tracking and SOS function built in.. (Only one piece of kit to charge!)

After a recent slip and fall descending down next to Piers Ghyll and with no cellphone signal... having something like this is now high on my agenda!

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