Never Get Lost Again With The Best Emergency Locator Beacons Around

A lot of unexpected incidents can unfold if you’re away from civilization. The chances of injuring yourself while you’re backcountry camping and hiking in the Pacific Northwest are relatively minimal but you won’t see it coming. That’s why you should always be prepared and the best way to do so is to keep an Emergency Locator Beacon, more commonly known as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), with you.

These devices are perfect for an emergency and can truly save someone’s life if you learn enough about them and know how to use them properly.


Definition of a Personal Locator Beacon

These radio-like devices allow you to contact the authorities in case you need any help. You’ll be able to send a direct S.O.S.signal if there’s a life-threatening situation or if you’re lost and can’t find your way back.

It’s relatively small and easy to use which means that you can take it with you on every trip. The PLB has experienced an impressive rise in popularity since its introduction back in 2002. 

Make sure you differentiate it from the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) which is mainly similar but made for maritime use (More on that below).


How Does It Work?

First of all, you should know that several countries have military satellites dispatched around the globe known as COSPAS-SARSAT. These are “Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking” satellites and your emergency signal will reach the authorities through them.

The PLB has a relatively high power and transmits over a specified frequency. Rescue teams from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and NOAA are always listening and ready to head out whenever they receive a distress call.


Where Can You Use the Emergency Locator Beacon?

It’s really important to know where you can use your PLB since not all models are the same and they definitely don’t just work in any location. Some devices are made for specific countries for example and you won’t be able to benefit from them if you weren’t in that location.

On the other hand, you can take the beacon with you if you’re going out to sea. However, this item is designed for land use, it will continue to operate normally if you’re on a boat but, in this case, the EPIRB is much more effective. The latter is equipped with distinctive features making it the best choice for maritime use.


Difference between EPIRB and PLB

As previously mentioned, the EPIRB is strictly designed to be used out at sea which means that it’s mainly waterproof and buoyant. The PLB however, can do the same but lacks helpful features that could come in handy if there’s an emergency on a ship. 

Apart from that, these 2 devices are almost identical in terms of functioning since they use the same frequency to contact the same help centers. With that said, if you prefer land activities such as camping and hiking but go on a fishing trip every now and then, the PLB is your go-to option. EPIRB is better if all your adventures are at sea.


Important Features in a Personal Locator Beacon

As you can imagine, there are several features that should exist in a PLB in order to make it as useful as possible. These criteria are particularly important since they can help save a life in some cases.



Most of the time you won’t be using the PLB but that doesn’t mean that it’s not consuming battery power! In addition, not all models offer you the ability to change the battery once it’s depleted which means that you’re going to have to buy a new device.
The beacon also drains power when it’s sending the emergency signal so you’d want one that’s going to last until you’re rescued.


Instead of waiting for the rescue team to determine your position, the GPS feature will give them your exact coordinates so they can arrive at your location as soon as possible. This may not sound like a big deal but, in most cases, the faster the response, the better.

Temperature Limit

You have to make sure that your device will properly work no matter where you might be. Whether it’s in the middle of a desert or on a mountain peak, the PLB should not be affected by outside temperature no matter how extreme it may get.

Waterproofing & Buoyancy

You might as well buy a waterproof model that floats when dropped in the water. Not just for your sea outings but also if you happen to be crossing a river during a hike. As you might know there’s a rating scale for this feature, try to aim for the high end just as you would with a waterproof two-way radio

Testing Capability

It’s important to be able to test the PLB before going out on an adventure; you don’t want something bad to happen and discover that you have a defective device! Be careful though, you can only do it a handful of times since it consumes battery power and therefore shortens the product’s lifecycle (As explained earlier).

Strobe Light

You can usually find this in an EPIRB but strobes are being added to modern PLB models since they can also be really helpful on land.


Two-Way Signal Reviews The Best Emergency Locator Beacons

Now that you know everything important about the PLB, it’s time to discover the best picks of 2019.


McMurdo Fast Find 220 PLB

There are two versions of the Fast Find 220, one strictly for the US market and another one for worldwide use. This is a popular model since it’s relatively user-friendly and be used by almost anyone.

Pros of the McMurdo Fast Find 220

  • Amazing Battery: you should know that you can change the battery once it’s depleted but more it takes a few years for that to happen.
  • Really User-friendly: setting up the device is really easy and you can use it in 3 simple steps.
  • Testing Capability: you can also perform a few tests to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
  • Durable and Lightweight: you won’t feel it in your bag, it’s small and light yet strongly built. You won’t have to worry about it if you’re out in nature.
  • Direct Link: the authorities will directly receive your signal which means no third-parties can get in the way and slow you down.
  • Free Usage: you don’t have to register an account or pay a subscription fee.
  • Exact Location: the combination of GPS and homing transmitter means that the rescue team will know exactly where you are.
  • Additional Features: this PLB is completely waterproof and even includes a light that can help rescuers find you.

Cons of the McMurdo Fast Find 220

The only downside to this rather perfect product is the fact that you can’t send any messages and you’re only allowed to use it if there’s an actual emergency.

ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406 Personal Locator Beacon

One of the biggest names in terms of brand and model. The ResQLink+ 406 is, in some sense, the most complete PLB. Great for first-time and experienced users.

Pros of the ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406

  • Totally Free: you won’t have to pay any subscription fees and you can’t create an account without paying a single dollar.
  • 1 Step Launch: all you have to do is turn the device on and press a button if there’s an emergency.
  • Honesty Reward: if it turns out that you rightfully called for help using this device, the company will give you a new one, for free!
  • Buoyant: you can take this PLB on boat with you since it’ll float if dropped in the water.
  • Worldwide Use: the same version can be used in any country around the world. Contact a customer service representative if it’s necessary.

Cons of the ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406

Contrary to the first beacon on this list, this one is relatively large but that shouldn’t cause a serious issue.

ACR 2880 ResQLink PLB-375 Personal Locator Beacon

This model is generally similar to the previous one but differs in terms of size. The ACR 2880 ResQLink is a really popular pick among the customers.

Pros of the ACR 2880 ResQLink PLB-375

  • Perfect Size and Weight: you can carry this device with ease and it’s really light when compared to the product above.
  • Upgradeable Subscription: you can use this PLB for free and you won’t even be subject to recurrent fees. However, you can get additional features if you choose to upgrade your account.
  • Completely Waterproof: the beacon will continue to function properly even if it was dropped in water.
  • Protective Case: this will not only toughen up the item but it’ll ensure that you don’t turn it on by accident.

Cons of the ACR 2880 ResQLink PLB-375

You should remember that waterproof doesn’t mean buoyant so be careful if you’re using the PLB on a boat or while crossing a river.

ACR ResQLink Non-Buoyant PLB

Another product from ACR and this one doesn’t float either. The ResQLink includes numerous important features that can truly make a difference in a life or death situation.

Pros of the ACR ResQLink

  • Pinpoint Accuracy: it has three levels of integrated signal technology including GPS positioning, 406 MHz signal, and 121.5 MHz homing capability. You will never be lost again!
  • Easy Registration: this mandatory process is relatively simple.
  • Small and Light: similar to the previous product, this device is especially compact and lightweight.
  • Strobe Light: this feature is built-in and allows the rescue team to visually locate you.
  • International Use: this PLB is usually designed for use inside the USA however, you can contact ACR and let them know that you will be using it elsewhere. That way, they will program it for you.

Cons of the ACR ResQLink

Changing the battery can be a bit of a hassle and it’s rather expensive when compared to other models.



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