Personal locator Beacons (PLBs) –simple and commonly ignored devices that can make a difference between life and death!
The leading PLB models are specifically designed to transmit distress calls to the relevant authorities in a fast, efficient and reliable manner (Source).
Now that you are searching for the best personal Locator Beacon, you probably are aware of its importance; especially when you are traveling. You can keep it in your pocket or in an external pocket of your external frame backpack for easy access when needed.
One problem, though –there are many makes and models of PLBs to choose from today.
When shopping for these devices, you need to compare such aspects as the satellite network and type of device. As you will learn later in this guide, it is advisable to buy a unit that has the features you need.
This will mainly depend on the environment you will be using the gadget. Below is a review of five top rated personal locator beacons today.
Best Personal Locator Beacons
1. ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406 Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon – Best Overall
If you are like many other Americans looking for the bets PLB, you probably are looking for a compact and lightweight device. The ACR ResQLink+ PLB-375 PLB is currently one of the smallest PLB devices across the globe. Measuring about 4.5 inches, this gadget is smaller than many cell phones. As such, you will not have any problems fitting it into your pocket. While it is a small unit, it is a very powerful emergency transmission system.
In this regard, it is a full-powered, GPS-enabled rescue PLB that was specifically designed for water-borne sportsmen, pilots and boaters. The device is packed with 3 levels of integrated signal technology and GPS positioning. Additionally, it features a 121.5 MHz homing capability. This being the case, the unit can accurately and quickly relay your current position to a global network of satellites. This makes search and rescue a lot easier.
For the purpose of night rescues, the PLB is equipped with a strobe light to improve visibility. You will also be able to send distress calls while in extreme conditions with this gadget. All you need to do is deploy the antenna and the turn the beacon on.
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- Pre-programmed with US country codes
- Does not require a subscription to work
- Small and portable
- Features GPS mapping
- Usable in poor network conditions
- Features an antenna
- Offers 121.5 MHz homing capability
- Its battery is certified for 6 years
- Equipped with a probe light
- Easy for the antenna to pop out accidentally
2. DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker – The PLB that Can Send Text Messages
What if you had a satellite communicator that could send text messages as well as distress call signals? If you are looking for such a device, the DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker will come in handy. In this regard, this device allows you to send up to 160 characters of text. This makes it possible for you to send your GPS coordinates to email addresses or cell numbers. The inReach technology used on this gadget will also notify you when your messages are received.
This technology also allows you to tether your PLB to iOS or Android devices to send and receive messages. However, it is also possible to send and receive messages on its screen. Whenever you are in an emergency situation, you can easily trigger the SOS messaging feature on this PLB and get help soonest possible. Additionally, this gadget boasts of a two-way, GEOS text conversation. Again, it is the inReach feature that will notify you when your SOS message is received.
As opposed to many other PLBs within this range, the DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker will keep you informed of the rescue progress. For instance, it will let you know the ETA of the rescue team. This device relies on the Iridium satellite network that happens to have a global reach.
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- Powered by Iridium
- Supports SOS messaging
- Has an Earthmate App for Android and iOS devices
- Features an Explore Web Portal
- Features adjustable tracking intervals
- Allows you to send up to 10 characters of text messages
- Can send messages to cell numbers and email addresses
- Has a global coverage
- Features a color screen
- Equipped with a predictive, virtual keyboard
3. Bushnell GPS BackTrack Personal Locator – The Most Affordable PLB
Are you afraid of getting lost while travelling? Get the Bushnell GPS BackTrack Personal Locator to prevent this. Featuring a personal location finder, you can now mark your location. If you get lost, you may use the BackTrack feature of this device to get back to your saved location.
With this device, you do not need to call anyone to get you when you are lost. The innovative BackTrack personal locator by the manufacturer is designed to get you home safe and sound.
You will also find the gadget itself pretty easy to use. It basically depicts an attractive two-button design. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, this unit uses GPS technology to get your home. For instance, you can mark the location of your car or a campsite. If you happen to forget the location of the saved item, you should just select the stored location from your Bushnell personal locator. The device will then display the directions to the saved location for you to follow.
What’s more, this device allows you to store up to 3 different locations. This device will come in handy when you have parked your car or bike in a crowded parking lot. Powered by 2 AAA batteries, the lightweight locator is weather-resistant.
This beamer may work great at night as well if you carry an XT808 Tactical Flashlight. It will make it easier to send SOS signals to focusing a beam into a precise spot for a long distance.
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- It is weather resistant
- Features BackTrack personal locator
- Can save up to 3 locations
- Feature a compact and lightweight design
- It is efficient on batteries
- Comes with a lanyard
- Features a SiRF star III, high-sensitivity GPS receiver
- Equipped with a self calibrating digital compass
- It will route you the long way round, in most cases
4. SPOT 3 Satellite GPS Messenger – The Best Motion-Activated GPS Tracking PLB
Going on an adventurous trip? Stay safe with the SPOT 3 Satellite GPS massager. Not only does this massager notify your friends and family members that you are okay, it can also send out emergency SOS messages in a fast and reliable manner. All you need to do is push the emergency button whenever you are in an emergency situation. Following the initial SOS message, the device will be activated by your subsequent motion.
As such, it will keep sending tracking updates of your location as long as you are moving. When you are in non life-threatening situations, the device allows you to send personalized messages. Additionally, the device has a personal tracker that is powered by SPOT Inc.
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- Can send personalized messages
- Features personal tracker
- Powered by SPOT Inc
- Features Spot Casting
- Allows for motion tracking
- Extended battery life
- Features GPS tracking
- Requires a yearly subscription to work
5. McMurdo Fast Find 220 PLB – Solid Performance & Waterproof
If you are concerned about the looks of your gadgets, you should try the rugged appeal of this PLB. To begin with, this hand-held personal locator beacon is waterproof. This makes it perfect for use in watery environments. The GPS-enabled locator uses a strong 406 MHz signal to send your distress call to the nearest satellite.
You will love the fact that this gadget does not require a subscription for it to work. The unit is also one of the best performance Personal locator beacons today, with regards to battery life. In this regard, the lithium power cell used on this PLB has a 6-year storage life and can support up to 24 hours of continuous use.
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- Pre-programmed for US country code
- Does not require subscription to work
- Has an anti-tamper seal on its ON button
- Features an SOS flashing light
- Equipped with a secondary 121.5 MHz homing transmitter
- The anti-tamper seal is rather hard to break when in emergency situations
Thing You Must Know Before Buying a Personal Locator Beacon
Owing to their importance, an increasing number of Americans today are buying the best Personal Locator Beacons (PLB). These gadgets allow you to directly transmit distress signals to the authorities.
This is mostly done through a network of military services, commonly referred to as COSPAS-SARSAT. As their popularity continues to increase, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to choose the best beacon.
If you are looking for the right personal locator beacons today, these are some of the things that you need to consider:
1. PLB Networks
What networks does your PLB device support? Better still, do you even know what networks are available for these devices? For these devices, cell phone networks will not be enough; they require something that will span the network. The various PLB gadgets available today are programmed to use different networks. In this regard, these are the two main PLB Networks you should consider:
Globalstar and Iridium
This is a satellites network that is owned by private companies and is usually availed to consumers at comparatively high rates. The Globalstar network has satellites across the globe, except in the remote parts of Africa and on the poles. If you are going to be in any of the areas without this coverage, you should avoid PBBs that solely rely on the network, such as some SPOT devices.
Iridium satellite network, on the other hand, has more coverage than Globalstar. As such, you can get Iridium coverage while on the poles. However, the network still has spotty coverage in several places.
COSPAS and SARSAT
These are satellite networks that are controlled by the military. As compared to the networks discussed above, these are much more comprehensive and have a global coverage. Such networks are used to control naval and marine locators (EPIRBs and PLBs. However, device access to this network may be restricted.
2. Type of Device
Having decided which network to go for, the next step would be to choose the most appropriate device type, in accordance to your needs. While personal locator beacons are the generic term for these devices, there are a few variants that you need to understand. To make the right decision, here are the main device types that you should consider:
Personal locator beacon devices are the gadgets that send out 2 signals whenever you press the emergency button. One of the signals will beam to the satellite directly above you. This allows the satellite to trace your location and send it to the rescuers.
The other signal is a radio signal that will transmit to the rescuers as they come closer to your location. The benefit of such devices is that they do not require any subscription to work. They are also known to be some of the most accurate and effective emergency locator gadgets today.
These mainly rely on satellites controlled by the for-profit companies. Once the companies get the messages, they communicate with rescuers near you for them to address your emergency situation. As compared to the PLB devices, Spot messengers allow for thorough communication. However, signals for these devices are weaker in many places.
3. Additional Features
Just as is the case with many other gadgets today; the more the helpful features a PLB has, the better. While some of the features available in some of the PLBs today may not be useful, you need to ensure that you get the best value for your money. In this regard, here are some of the additional features that you should take into account:
- LED Strobe – Though commonly found in EPIRBs, the leading PLB brands include it in their devices today.
- Operating Temperature – depending on where you will be using the device, you should get one with a temperature range suitable for the environment. However, the wider the range, the better.
- Floatation and Water Resistance – If you will be using your PLB device in water, you should get one that is water-resistant. In this regard, water-resistance and floatation are important features that can save your life.
This aspect is usually expressed in IPX rating. For instance IPX0 means that the device is not water-resistant. IPX1 means that the device is resistant to vertical drops. The maximum rating is IPX8, which implies that the unit is water-resistant more than 3 feet below water.
Ready To Buy The Best Personal Locator Beacon?
Are you looking for a device that can reliably transmit distress calls and your location in real-time during an emergency? You should consider buying the best personal locator beacon today.
While most of the PLBs reviewed in this guide feature a simple and lightweight design, they are very fast and efficient at what they do.
Whether you are looking for a pair-subscription or free network option, this guide will help you buy a top rated personal locator beacon device.