10 Best Locator Beacons | March 2017

Whatever kind of adventure you're planning next, make sure you take advantage of the latest in emergency technology to stay safe. These locator beacons are small enough to not add to your burden yet will get you the help you need quickly and reliably whether you are up a mountain, deep in the forest or out to sea. Skip to the best locator beacon on Amazon.
10 Best Locator Beacons | March 2017

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Set off on your next expedition knowing you're not off the radar with the safety essential SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger, which features tracking, help assistance, custom messaging, and SOS at the push of a button. You can even remotely check-in and send messages.
When emergency befalls you the Fast Find 220 Personal Locator beacon will have you rescued in no time by transmitting a unique ID and current GPS coordinates that help guarantee your retrieval. It's bright yellow and easily seen.
Be reassured when diving, kayaking, or just out for a surf with the Ocean Signal RescueME, which features an easily retractable antenna, a bright strobe light, and a unique mounting clip operable with a single hand.
The small and mighty ACR ResQLink Plus 406 provides an instantaneous lifeline for outdoor enthusiasts, all but assuring prompt and reliable assistance even if you should run afoul of trouble in remote environs.
  • buoyant and fall-resistant
  • typical performance of 30 hours
  • built-in led strobe
Brand ACR
Model PLB-375
Weight 7.2 ounces
Navigate your way in to your destination, find your way back, and share your journey later with the rugged handheld DeLorme InReach Explorer Satellite Communicator, which offers 100% global coverage from Iridium.
  • digital compass and barometric altimeter
  • send and receive 160-character text msgs
  • communicate 24/7 with a rescue center
Brand Delorme
Model AG-008727-201
Weight 14.9 ounces
The McMurdo Smartfind S20 assures accuracy of location information with its built-in high precision GPS receiver, which updates every 60 seconds to ensure speedy recovery. Strap it to a pack or use its lanyard around your neck.
  • flashing led aids location at night
  • 7-year battery storage life
  • activated by sliding off the safety tab
Brand McMurdo
Model 98-001-002A
Weight 9.6 ounces
Have peace of mind with the Wireless Concepts MicroPLB GXL, which gives you quality, reliability, and durability in a user-friendly, compact design. It is waterproof, temperature resistant, and dust proof.
  • battery approved for carry-on luggage
  • easily activates under extreme condition
  • uses an internal gps receiver
Brand Wireless Concepts, Inc.
Model GXL
Weight 14.9 ounces
With the digital display of the ACR Aqualink 2884 LAT/LON, operating instructions, transmission bursts, and battery power are clearly visible at all times. This life saver comes with a five year warranty for additional peace of mind.
  • step-by-step self testing available
  • non-hazmat battery
  • 121.5 mhz homing capability
Brand ACR
Model 2884
Weight 1.3 pounds
Send and receive messages anywhere in the world with the BriarTek Cerberus Two-Way Satellite Messaging and GPS Tracking System, which uses satellite and Bluetooth technology to keep you connected on your next adventure.
  • set personal tracking intervals
  • compatible with ios or android devices
  • patented alerting technology
Brand BriarTek
Model CL-ORG-P
Weight 16 ounces
Head offshore with confidence with the ACR Aqualink 2882 Personal Locator, a device featuring three levels of integrated signal technology that quickly and accurately relay your position. It has been field tested by the US Military.
  • send messages and gps location maps
  • broadcasts a unique registered distress
  • compact size to fit in pack or pocket
Brand ACR
Model 2882
Weight pending

What Personal Locator Beacons Do

The majority of personal locator beacons, often referred to as PLBs, have three main signaling functions; satellite, local homing, and visible strobe. Each of these signaling methods serves a specific purpose to make it easier for search and rescue teams to locate you.

A PLB's satellite signal is broadcast at 406 MHz to a number of satellites circling the Earth, much in the same way GPS units send location data. Once a PLB is activated, it sends a distress signal to the satellite, which is then transmitted to search and rescue teams (SAR). The distress signal can identify the locator beacon's position down to a 100 square meter radius. From the time a PLB is activated, it takes about three minutes for the search and rescue team network to receive communication.

Personal locator beacons should be registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This allows SAR teams to see vital information about the owner of the device, including their name, address, and contact information. Registering a PLB is especially important because this alerts SAR teams to who they are looking for, and also allows them to contact a friend or family member regarding any medical conditions that they must be aware of.

The local homing beacon of a PLB is designed to help rescuers hone in on your exact location as they get closer to your position. This can be very helpful when rescues are taking place at night or in other situations where visibility is limited. The secondary beacon makes the rescuing stage of a search and rescue much easier. If a rescue team only knew the location down to a 100 square meter radius, it could still be quite difficult to locate somebody on a dark night.

A PLB's strobe light is the final safety feature. These are exceptionally powerful strobe lights that can be seen up to five miles away. Not only will this give professional SAR teams visual confirmation of your location as they approach, it will also increase the chances of a nearby person noticing your predicament and coming to your aid.

Locator Beacons Are Proven To Save Lives

There are numerous stories of personal locator beacons being used to save lives in all types of situations from hiking to boating. One example can be seen when looking at what happened to two boaters off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida. Just before midnight on September 21st, 2010, Ebby Luz, a small fishing boat, started taking on water. Being 8 miles offshore in the dead of night, the crew knew they were in trouble. They activated their PLBs ,and within minutes the U.S. Coast Guard was notified.

Their boat, the Ebby Luz sunk soon after the PLBs were activated, but luckily the two crewmen were wearing personal flotation devices. A SAR helicopter arrived on the scene quickly and, despite it being pitch black and floating aimlessly in the water, the SAR team was able to locate the men and pull them to safety.

This is not an unusual story. A brief search online pulls up information on a number of people rescued due to personal locator beacons. In 2015, 250 people were saved because they had a device which utilized the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system. SARSAT was first launched in 1982, and just a couple of days after the system went live, a downed aircraft was rescued, immediately reaffirming the need for such a system. Since its inception, over 7,000 people have been saved in the U.S. alone.

Over 30,000 people worldwide have been saved because of the COSPAS-SARSAT, which is an internationally recognized configuration of satellites, ground stations, and beacons designed for search and rescue. It was created as a collaboration between the U.S., Russia, Canada, and France, and declared operational in 1985.

How To Choose A Personal Locator Beacon

The most important features are a personal locator beacon are the previously mentioned signaling functions, but there are a number of other features that can make one device more useful for your needs than others. For just about anybody, a device with a long battery life is going to be a good choice. Some PLBs may only have a 20 hour battery life once activated, while others may run for up to 72 hours.

PLBs are only required to have a local homing beacon and a satellite location system. This means that some devices may not have a strobe feature. We recommend that people buy PLBs which have a strobe function as it increases your chances of being found and rescued.

Those who are planning on using a PLB in a marine environment should purchase one that floats if dropped in the water. Those who will be carrying a PLB in cold, snowy climates can benefit from one that is easily operated while wearing gloves. Everybody should purchase a model that can be operated with one hand, as this allows you to keep the other hand free if needed.

Some models feature a display screen to show remaining battery power, usage tips, and make self-testing the device easier. Purchasing one with a display screen is a good choice if you have the extra funds to spare, but it is not a necessity for being rescued. It's best to purchase a device that has a long warranty period, and some companies even offer to replace your PLB if you are forced to activate it for a rescue.

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Last updated: 03/29/2017 | Authorship Information