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#184167 - 03/29/14 03:38 PM Personal Locator Beacon: model choice?
swammie Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/09
Posts: 52
Loc: ca
I did not find results when I searched, so here goes: I'm trying to decide on a form of Personal Locator Beacon. The choice is down to:


  • DeLORME inReachSE
  • Spot Gen3
  • ResQLink PLB


I'm leaning toward the DeLORME inReachSE for use individually and for Boy Scout groups. I find the basic SOS function, tracking and texting almost essential for group use. DeLORME also has a plan that runs month-to-month instead of a whole year commitment. That could save some $$ if not used and allows you to move up/down the different subscription plans as needed w/o fees.

Does anyone have feedback from any of those or other devices? How about use in Scout troops or other hiking groups?

My motivation is to supplement cell phone use and coverage to provide an emergency link to Search & Rescue groups and other support groups and persons. I'm able to be here today (since March 22, 2014 and counting!) only because we had cell phone coverage, but I'm often in wilderness areas without signal. I figure that even a single life saved will be worth a lifetime of use of a PLB.

Thanks in advance,

Doug

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#184171 - 03/29/14 08:30 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: swammie]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Actually, only one of these qualifies as a true PLB--the last one. Unlike the others, it uses the Dept. of Defense satellite network and distress calls go directly to the Coast Guard (with which you register the PLB).

The other two are communication devices that use private satellite networks. If you "push the button" your call will go to that private company and then be forwarded to the area SAR. There have been incidents in which this has resulted in delays. While they do have an emergency function, basically they are devices to reassure your friends/family that you haven't fallen off a cliff or been eaten by bears.

With all three, if you "push the button," your contact person(s) will be called first to make sure that's you in the area from which the call is coming and to find out additional info such as itinerary, gear, etc--info you should have left with your contact person.

The DeLorme gadget will allow you to send and receive brief text messages, which the others don't. This could be very useful if there is an emergency because you can have 2-way communication with the SAR folks, let them know the nature of the emergency and possibly receive some first aid directions. The SPOT sends only a few preset messages and can't receive any, so it has no 2-way communication. The PLB just sends the emergency signal. Neither the SPOT nor a PLB can tell you whether or not the signal went through, although the PLB is far more reliable because of the satellite network it uses.

I plan to keep my PLB (McMurdo Fast Find) unless someone (like my son for when I have his kids with me) decides to purchase the DeLorme so we can send the parents text messages.

I suspect that for the anxious parents of your Scouts, the DeLorme might be the best, since it's the only one of the three with 2-way communication. Of course you may find once you're out there that the anxious parents are the last ones you want to hear from!

Most of the places I backpack have no cell phone coverage even at the trailhead, so I leave my cell phone turned off and hidden in the car.

There's obviously a story behind all this ("March 22.")! Do you care to share or would you rather not?

I suspect you'll find more on these gadgets in the "Backcountry Health and Safety" section. It's sort of a tossup as to which section is more appropriate!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#184174 - 03/29/14 11:43 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: swammie]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2801
Loc: NorCal
Have used the Delorme-SPOT combo and the InReach and definitely prefer the second. The satellite system has better coverage and the two-way communication is a real boon for checking in, as well as seeking information.

Having never had an emergency with either I can't comment on that feature/service but again, the InReach clearly has better coverage.

An actual PLB has no cost other than the initial purchase price but of course, isn't used for anything other than an emergency. Am rather displeased at the battery change policy on these, which seems absurd.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#184183 - 03/30/14 05:52 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: Rick_D]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
By the time a PLB is 5 years old and needs a battery change, it is technologically outdated anyway. That was certainly true when I was three years into my first PLB--the McMurdo was half the weight, so I got it and donated the first PLB (ACR) to a Scout troop.

As mentioned, I'm considering the DeLorme if I can convince my son #3 to subsidize it since I take his kids out several times a year. I still have 2 years on the McMurdo battery, so there is no rush!

While the DeLorme doesn't yet do what I predicted, do a song and dance routine to keep us entertained while waiting for rescue, the 2-way communication with SAR (so SAR knows what to expect and you know they're coming!) is a far more useful technological advance!


Edited by OregonMouse (03/30/14 05:54 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#184190 - 03/30/14 11:05 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: OregonMouse]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I have a McMurdo - I had an ACS before that - (after 5 years I replaced it with a McMurdo Ranger).

It really depends what you want. I know that in north america, both will get you help. The non-plb variety can allow you to send messages to home. but it has a subscription fee, and may or may not work everywhere.

The PLB works everywhere on the planet - but you're not gonna use it to send a note home. You only press the button when you're in danger of life or limb. For me, I travel enough, and do enough things in crazy places, that I prefer a "real" plb.

But to put that in context, I *don't take* my plb on popular trails. I know that for me (I'm canadian) my call for pressing the button will go to the DND SAR HQ in trenton ontario, and I'm in alberta - I don't expect help for 24 to 48 hours from pressing the button.

When I'm on places like West Coast Trail, Skyline, or frankly, on the JMT this summer, when I have other people with me, I don't bother - the fact is one of us could hike to help quicker than we can expect help from a PLB.

When I go out solo, or into the middle of nowhere, off a popular trail and days away from somewhere there's likely to be someone - then I take the PLB. If you normally hike things like
the former, IMO, you're probably better with something like the SPOT, so you can message back home and if necessary they call
on your behalf if necessary.

_________________________
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#184197 - 03/31/14 10:03 AM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: OregonMouse]
swammie Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/09
Posts: 52
Loc: ca
DeLORME gadget it is. The two-way communication ability seals the deal. We'll allow other Boy Scout units to use it for a small donation, so that'll take care of the subscription fees. You can opt out any month you don't foresee a need and/or change your plan at will for 30 day minimum commitments. Some plans allow unlimited texting, so I'll let other units make that decision.

My "March 22" event was a heart attack on the trail. I'm not old enough, I don't have a family history and my eating habits don't warrant it, but it happened. Luckily I'd made an effort to get to the peak which allowed for a cell phone call to 911 by the Scouts I'd had along for a training hike. The Sheriff's helicopter buzzed us and dropped a couple of EMTs. I was pulled out with a Traverse Rescue Stretcher and whisked off to the local hospital. One-heart-stent-later and I'm good to go.

I'd made an effort to insure that my scouts were up on their orienteering. The EMT and 911 operator were all impressed with their ability to communicate their exact location and first aid skills.

We're on track for their 50 Miler in Tahoe this August. And I'm on track to do much more than that!

Doug

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#184200 - 03/31/14 12:44 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: swammie]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2801
Loc: NorCal
Wow, harrowing experience! Very glad to know it turned out so well and especially that the boys' training gave them the confidence and ability to manage so well.

Tend to emphasize the system's ability to keep my family from unnecessary anxiety back home, but your experience documents the actual value better than I ever could.

Catch you on the trail.
_________________________
--Rick

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#184204 - 03/31/14 02:46 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: Rick_D]
swammie Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/09
Posts: 52
Loc: ca
And since they're modern scouts, they all had smartphones and recorded the event. I edited out the selfies and farting. I suppose they were thrilled that I had finally allowed the use of electronics at a scout event!

Here's the extraction part:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJOnbIVlMqM



Edited by swammie (03/31/14 03:35 PM)

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#184208 - 03/31/14 04:44 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: swammie]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Wow, scary! I'm glad you're doing OK--I presume you're carefully following doctor's orders for your rehab!

That's something I need to think about, too, now that I'm in my 78th year! I have taught the two older grandkids how to deploy the PLB, just in case! I need to give them more training, though. While I have WFA certification, that won't help much if I'm down for the count! Personally, I'd just as soon be allowed to go, but the 12 and 14 year old need to learn to cope with the ensuing panic!

Kudos to your Scouts--and your training of them--for coping so well with the emergency! And I sure see why you want that Delorme along!


Edited by OregonMouse (03/31/14 04:46 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#184368 - 04/08/14 03:44 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: swammie]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Definitely congratulations on training your scouts. I would hope my scouts could perform as admirably, but I have my doubts.

Last summer, our troop did a quick 2 night, 15 miler. It was a through hike with a different drop off and pick up. The plan was for me to call the ride when we were at a certain peak (one that I had gotten reception from before....and it is line of sight from the nearest town). When we finally got to the top, my phone battery was dead, and so were all the other leaders' cell phones. Luckily one of the older scouts had a cell phone with battery power. Ever since then, I carry the battery outside of the phone, if I expect to use it.
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#184369 - 04/08/14 04:27 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: finallyME]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
If you leave the cell phone on when it's out of range, it will use up the battery really fast trying to find reception! Best is to keep the cell phone turned off altogether. If you must use the other functions on a smart phone, then keep it in airplane mode when its on and keep it turned off as much as possible.

I just have an el cheapo standard phone (all I want it for is to make and receive phone calls, nothing else), so I don't even take it with me--it stays turned off, locked, hidden in the car. Most of the places I go, I lose reception while driving to the trailhead.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#188748 - 01/27/15 01:28 AM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: OregonMouse]
HikingGeek Offline
member

Registered: 01/24/15
Posts: 125
Any updates? Did you end up buying the Delorme and do you like it?

I looked at the SPOT and Delorme last year and had decided the Delorme was a better fit for my needs.

http://www.hikinggeek.com/2014/06/24/choosing-gear-delorme-inreach-explorer-vs-spot/
_________________________
HikingGeek.com - trip reports, gear reviews and trail info.

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#188758 - 01/27/15 03:36 PM Re: Personal Locator Beacon: model choice? [Re: HikingGeek]
AdventureMyk Offline
member

Registered: 06/16/14
Posts: 127
Loc: Knoxville, TN
I'm not sure either do much good. I know of two people who were on motorcycles and had wrecks. Both triggered Spot and after hours in one case and an overnight in the other, not one sign anyone was coming to help. They literally crawled back out when unable to ride. If you are going to count on something, count on your own survival skills and then hope the gadget might work in the background.

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