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Thread: What's a good locator beacon?

  1. #1
    Member MindlessMariachi's Avatar
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    What's a good locator beacon?

    Hi

    Can anyone comment on what sort of personal locator beacon to get?

    The SPOTs are much cheaper than the ARCs. Is it worth the difference in price? I'm handy with a map and compass, and I don't care about letting my friends track my progress from their offices while I'm on a hike, so I don't need a lot of bells and whistles. I pretty much hope to never have to use this thing - just something to have in a real time-is-of-the-essence emergency. Any thoughts?

    Mariachi

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    A PLB (personal locator beacon) is designed to do what you ask. The satellite systems that pick up the signal and dispatch centers are run by governments. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLB for more info. Some models: http://www.rei.com/search?query=PLB

    Doug

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    Member MindlessMariachi's Avatar
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    i guess my question was whether or not it's worth the price difference to get a true plb vs. a "SPOT" product. SPOTs seem to get mixed reviews.

    http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3870414

  4. #4
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    A PLB (personal locator beacon) is designed to do what you ask. [/url]

    Doug
    Hey Mindless -

    I agree with Doug. I know the SPOT's have saved several lives in the Sierra in the past few years, and not just the owner's life. One incident comes to mind of a hiker near Langley (the 14er just south of Whitney) who came upon a individual with acute AMS, and activated his own SPOT. A helo was able to evacuate the individual in time to save his life.

    They're not toys.

    Kevin

  5. #5
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindlessMariachi View Post
    i guess my question was whether or not it's worth the price difference to get a true plb vs. a "SPOT" product. SPOTs seem to get mixed reviews.
    I just looked at the manuals (SPOT, ACR PLB, McMurdo PLB).

    My guess is that the PLBs are more reliable than SPOT, both in the sense that the hardware is more robust and that, if triggered, the message is more likely to get out to the satellites (and then to the rescue authorities).

    This is solely from reading the manuals--I don't own any of the above.

    PLBs are a light-weight version of the EPIRB (boats) and ELT (aircraft) rescue beacons. Both have been around for a number of years.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-13-2010 at 12:07 AM.

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    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    This thread from winter of '08-'09 covers the ground pretty well on this subject.
    sardog1

    "! kjre Bymann gakk ei stjur og stiv,
    men kom her up og kjenn eit annat Liv!
    kom hit, kom hit, og ver ei daud og lat!
    kom kjenn, hot d'er, som heiter Svevn og Mat,
    og Drykk og Trste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

    -- Aasmund O. Vinje, "Til Fjells!"

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    Member MindlessMariachi's Avatar
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    ah, thanks - I figured this had been covered before. I read internet reviews until my eyes glazed over last nite. The Spot gets pretty mixed reviews. The 406 Mhz PLBs get much better reviews, though they cost more. Maybe there's a used one around?
    Anyway, a device like this seems like it's not only something that could help the person carrying it, but anyone/anything else out there - you never know when you're going to round a bend and come upon someone who just had a heart attack.

  8. #8
    Member MindlessMariachi's Avatar
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    OK - last post and i'll stop pestering all the informed folks on this board, but some PLBs go for about $250 (e.g., the McMurdo) but others cost more than $500. Any idea why the price differential?
    OK, now I'll just shut up and go look at some at a store.

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    I don't have either. But you may want to read this review on equipped to survive. They also have reviews and a lot of discussion about the Spot.

    http://www.equipped.com/McMurdoNewFastFind.htm

    I would personally tend to go for the lightest and smallest option that works, since you are carrying 99.9% of the time (and not using it).

  10. #10
    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    After the Little Bear incident, I would not carry a SPOT. If I'm going to be lugging around an expensive brick "just in case" I want to be quite sure it will actually work "just in case."

    Also, when comparing costs, don't forget the SPOT has a subscription fee.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindlessMariachi View Post
    OK - last post and i'll stop pestering all the informed folks on this board, but some PLBs go for about $250 (e.g., the McMurdo) but others cost more than $500. Any idea why the price differential?
    OK, now I'll just shut up and go look at some at a store.
    A closer comparison is the ACR Sarlink View 406 vs the ACR Sarlink 406. The View model has better displays and costs US$100 more (REI prices).

    There are some extra features in the more expensive units. Or maybe market competition hasn't caught up to the suppliers yet.

    The manuals are available online.

    EDIT: the review in michaelb's link explains that the McMurdo Fast Find models 200/210 use lower-power electronics which reduces the size of the battery. This could account for at least part of the cost savings.


    A comment:
    Several of the units have blinking light user interfaces, which require you to memorize the blink sequences or carry the manual (or at least an info card) with you. These are devices that you can't really practice using* and in an emergency remembering the sequences or reading the manual can be difficult. The more intuitive the interface, the better. Perhaps the better interfaces are worth the extra cost.

    * The number of test runs is limited to preserve the batteries.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-13-2010 at 11:23 AM.

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