Sunday, November 10, 2013

Personal Locator Beacon

I have never travelled with a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), but I decided I'd carry one for the PCT. PLBs have two main function on such a trail. They have an SOS button which immediately informs the local Search and Rescue teams of your location and need of assistance, and most also have some other, non-emergency, contact options.

Before doing my little research on the matter, I only knew about the Spot devices, and also heard that DeLorme have their own offering on the matter. Most devices are not very cheap, and they also require some monthly subscription for their services, priced at different tiers for different available options.

Besides the differences in prices and options, another problem with those devices is reliability. The ones that offer the daily "OK" message can't assure the message passes through, which might cause unneeded stress at the home team, just because a message or two just failed to get through. If you plan on using such a device, make sure to let everyone know that missed messages are no cause for alarm generally. I still think it might be hard for someone at home, who is used to getting a daily "OK" message, suddenly to stop getting them for several days.

So, after reading a good feature and price comparison on different devices on OutdoorGearLab, I discovered the ResQlink 406 - This device is not the cheapest of the bunch, but it has no monthly subscription fees and no option for sending any kinds of messages other than an SOS - A simple device, with one task, which it does well. The article also states that its transmission power is much higher than the power of the Spot and DeLorme options, so that means that in a case of an emergency, pressing that SOS button will have a much higher chance of actually working well.

I looked around where I can buy such a device. Amazon does not send over to Israel, and I would expect REI and BackCountry might also have an overly expensive shipment to Israel, if any, so I was thinking about getting it sent to the Trail Angels in San Diego. I did enquire at an Israeli company that rents such devices to travellers, and found out they offer a similar device called the Fast Find 210 - it also just offers the SOS option, no messages/satellite data or anything like that, but it does it well (Including the high power transmission signal like the ResQlink). I will probably rent this device at a really great price, and carry it in my backpack the whole trip, without needing it once.