Personal Locator Beacon Recommendations?

Miya

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Thread starter #1
Hello Again!!

I am looking at purchasing a PLB to help my family and friends relax and lecture me LESS.

I think I will be going with Garmin.
My mom would appreciate a message since I never have service and I like a GPS feature, because even though I bring maps, I don't know how to use a compass yet. :p

Everyone on here always has such helpful advice, I wanted to see if anyone else has a Garmin and your thoughts? Or does anyone recommend anything else?

Thanks in advance!
 

Perry

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#2
If you can afford it I would highly recommend the Garmin InReach Explorer. Has most of the capabilities of any GPS unit, weather, plus texting . The texting support is a huge plus for staying in touch with the home base. Also has text to Garmin’s SAR Center.


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#3
I have a Delorme InReach (now owned by Garmin) from a couple years ago, not sure if they have changed much. My wife likes it because I can let her know if my plans have changed and she can send me a message if there is a home emergency.

Just to be clear, the InReach and Spot are not PLBs. Those work with different satellites and only can call for help, they don't have tracking or messaging or anything else, just call in an emergency.
 

LarryBoy

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#4
PLB also have better satellite coverage than the Spot network. Not a huge deal if you're in the lower 48 but if you go up to AK, spot will be less reliable
 
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#5
Also worth mentioning, Spot and InReach use different satellites, the InReach supposedly is good in upper latitudes (Alaska,...) while the Spot is not. I've also read reports of Spots having problems in canyons.
 
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#6
I've also read reports of Spots having problems in canyons.
Anything using satellites will have problems in a canyon that blocks your view of the sky. That said, I've been using a SPOT for over 10 years now and have never had an issue with a message not going through...and I use it just about every weekend.
 

slc_dan

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#7
Spot user for 9 years now. The yearly contract isn't ideal, but very worth it to me. I appreciate that I can't text with it, part of a wilderness experience for me is not being able to communicate with the outside world.
 

Perry

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#8
Spot user for 9 years now. The yearly contract isn't ideal, but very worth it to me. I appreciate that I can't text with it, part of a wilderness experience for me is not being able to communicate with the outside world.
I agree with your desire to be off grid when in the back country. However, I would want to know if there was a medical or other emergency at home so I might be able to exit early. Its bad enough that I go off and leave my family to enjoy the outdoors but I don't know if i could live with the guilt of not being there at a critical time. With the text communication that is at least possible. With a PLB, no dice.
 
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#9
Another happy InReach user. Only downside is the subscription cost, but if you find yourself often driving around areas w/o cell coverage (we do) it's nice to have on hand for that as well as backcountry adventures. I carry it in the jeep when it's not in my backpack.

You can turn the service/subscription on and off as needed, but as I recall that can start to add up pretty quickly to where leaving the thing on doesn't cost a whole lot more unless you're only going out a few times a year or something.
 

Miya

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Thread starter #11
Spot user for 9 years now. The yearly contract isn't ideal, but very worth it to me. I appreciate that I can't text with it, part of a wilderness experience for me is not being able to communicate with the outside world.
I feel ya, normally I just leave my phone in the car, because I lose GPS signal and even though it is unlikely I will be able to text, I don't want to. Hah

I am sure your family worries, but I think being a female can make it even worse. I have heard it all, even "Well at least find a boyfriend to go with you" *eye roll*.

But I love my folks, and this will help them. Also, I like the thought that if I die, my body (or what is left) can be found. That way my family and friends can have closure.
 
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#12
I have used my SPOT from all kinds of places (Alaska Range, Brooks Range, SE coast, Prince William Sound, North Slope, etc) in Alaska and have had no issues with it. I like it's simplicity and as @slc_dan stated, I appreciate that it allows some disconnect from the world. I may end up transferring to some other option that allows 2 way communication in the near future for that benefit, but I do like my SPOT.
 

Miya

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Thread starter #14
I have used my SPOT from all kinds of places (Alaska Range, Brooks Range, SE coast, Prince William Sound, North Slope, etc) in Alaska and have had no issues with it. I like it's simplicity and as @slc_dan stated, I appreciate that it allows some disconnect from the world. I may end up transferring to some other option that allows 2 way communication in the near future for that benefit, but I do like my SPOT.
SPOT was my original plan, now the loved ones demand a message at bed to know I am alive.
 

Miya

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Now I am more confused than ever! LOL
I am going shopping Saturday, so since I didn't hear any, "Don't buy this, it blew up in my pack" etc., I will see what feels right. :)
 

Nick

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#18
Another happy Spot user. I tried an InReach and hated just about everything about it. Being able to receive messages is seriously not usually a good thing, IMO.
 
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#19
I thought about this a lot and ended up with this analysis:
  • I don't like the cost of the service plans
  • spotty or garbled messages to spouse may well do more harm than good
So I bought one of these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005E1OU1A/?tag=backcountrypo-20
Luckily I have not had the opportunity to test it.
@regehr I've looked into getting that same one. I like the one time fee vs the subscription based ones. I can totally understand people wanting the spot or inreach that can send messages. For me personally, I don't feel like I need messaging. But that could change one day when I have more family at home.
 
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#20
I think the biggest potential problem with a PLB is there is no way to leave "breadcrumbs" along the way. When I hike with the Delorme, I "ping' my wife with a "everything is fine" message a couple times a day. That message automatically includes my location (pretty sure that Spot allows the same thing). That at least narrows down where to find my body (alive or dead) if something goes wrong, like falling off a cliff. With a PLB, no one knows where you are unless you are able to push a button. Just something to think about.
 

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