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Dragon

What PLB do you use, if you use one

I've been looking into PLBs since the majority of the backpacking that I do is by myself and I was curious if any one else uses a PLB, and if so what PLB they prefer. I have read several reviews states that the Spot GPS unit is expensive and their customer service is horrible, not to mention that most PLBs are more feature rich then the spot. I do know that there are some members of this community that do use the Spot unit and I am curious about their personal experiences with the Spot and Spot2 products.
Hikin_Jim

Re: What PLB do you use, if you use one

Dragon wrote:
I've been looking into PLBs since the majority of the backpacking that I do is by myself and I was curious if any one else uses a PLB, and if so what PLB they prefer. I have read several reviews states that the Spot GPS unit is expensive and their customer service is horrible, not to mention that most PLBs are more feature rich then the spot. I do know that there are some members of this community that do use the Spot unit and I am curious about their personal experiences with the Spot and Spot2 products.
I'm using an ACR AquaFix. It's an older, heavier model, but it was state of art when I bought it a few years ago.

PLB's generally do NOT have as many features as a SPOT, but PLB's are generally more reliable.  PLB's usually don't have messaging capability (although some of the high end newer ones now do).

SPOT uses sat phone technology to send GPS coordinates to a commercial satellite.  If you can't get a GPS lock wherever you are, you're effectively unlocatable.

PLB's send an encoded signal with GPS coordinates, but if your unit can't get a GPS lock, your possition can can still be determined via Doppler effect of your radio beacon.  In addition, PLB's have a secondary homing beacon that SAR units, CAP, USCG, etc. can home in on.

HJ
mattmaxon

I have used both spot units.

I'll concede the Spot tech support is non-existent

But the units work and I consider them inexpensive when you consider the consequences of being in trouble and not being able to ask for help.

What is your life worth?

Mis-use of these units are rampant. The SAR community isn't setup to deal with the volume of calls. Most people who self-rescued in the past are now just hitting 911. These where obviously non-life threatening

Most ,if not all SAR teams are mostly volunteers. Yeah they get free training etc. But they don't get paid to respond.

Using them as intended as "I'm gonna die if I don't get help" they are great... No equal... don't leave the trailhead without it.

Doesn't matter if you are alone or not, in a life threatening situation time is of the essence. Someone hiking out with a plea for help will take hours if not days, a rescue initiated and extraction will take many many hours.
John G

I have a ACR MircroFix that fortunately I have not had to use. I recently bought DeLorme's inReach. It uses the Iridium satellite system to send text messages. It also connects to an Android phone via bluetooth. It also has an SOS mode. Company has great support. It requires a minimum subscription of $9.95 a month to use. I do mostly solo hiking and it soothes my wife's concern of "What if something happens."
Hikin_Jim

mattmaxon wrote:
Mis-use of these units are rampant. The SAR community isn't setup to deal with the volume of calls. Most people who self-rescued in the past are now just hitting 911. These where obviously non-life threatening.
That's my greatest fear:  SAR community burn out.

If calling for help is too easy, people may just do that.  With PLB's there's a potential $100,000 fine for mis-use.  Dunno if that'll deter people or not.

I guess we have to see how things play out over time.

HJ
Tim

I have a McMurdo FastFind PLB. I got it a several years ago for around $200. At the time, it was smallest, least expensive PLB with GPS you could get--two of my top priorities. Doug from Equipped.org tested it extensively and it gave it good marks. That was good enough for me!

The reason why I didn't get a SPOT is because I heard of some performance problems and I hate paying a subscription. I just want to pay once and be done with it. Over the long run, the SPOT was going to cost a lot more than a PLB. I admit the two-way communication is nice, but that requires a subscription. Also, if you have the tracking service on, you have to have your SPOT out and turned on. A lot of people probably lose their SPOTs because it's hanging outside their packs. With a PLB, it's turned off and just stowed in my emergency pack.

But if you can afford it, getting a two-way unit (whether it's a SPOT or a two-way PLB) would be a nice choice.

I've only come close once to almost needing to use a SPOT-like device. I was hiking from Baldy to Iron Mtn and back. I got sick and was delayed in getting back. I knew I could get back, but I thought I might have to bivy for the night and if I did my family would have called SAR. In this case, a two-way device would have been nice to send a message that I was ok and would only be delayed. But I ended up just heading out of there as fast as I could and reporting in before midnight.

I also carry my PLB in my car on road trips where I might be in remote locations without cell coverage and I could get stranded. Of course, I would only use it in a life threatening situation, but it's pretty cool to have this little beacon that will work almost anywhere on the planet. Still, even with a PLB, you take normal precautions and try to never be in a situation where you have to use it because if it gets that bad, you might be dead before SAR gets to you.
atomicoyote

Still using this as my PLB:



Used in once in the early 1990s when I got all bass-ackwards confused and off trail between Mammoth and Yosemite.  Someone shouted back, I located them, got re-orientated, and got going in the proper direction again.

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