What Is The Best Personal Locator Beacon?

Are you in the market for a new personal locator beacon?

Personal locators enable remote hikers and wanderers to get the assistance they need in case they encounter trouble. These high-powered devices send out distress signals to authorities via satellite in times of emergency.

It's essential to invest in a locator that won't let you down, especially if you frequent remote or risky areas. The best personal locator beacons will be easy to use and effective at transmitting signals every time.

In this post, we'll look at the best personal locator beacons on the market at this time. You can't go wrong with any of these models!

1. ResQLink Personal Locator Beacons

ResQLink offers wanderers some of the most competitive personal locator beacons available. Both the ResQLink and ResQLink+ models are GPS enabled and permit users to connect immediately with Search and Rescue authorities in the US.

The ResQLink+ model does not require a subscription in order to be activated. This means that once you purchase the ResQLink+, you don't have to pay monthly or annual fees for it to function.

This model is competitive because it is buoyant, meaning that it is lightweight and able to float if necessary. It is also water-resistant, making it ideal for use in water-based adventures (such as piloting, boating, and backcountry exploring).

The ResQLink+ also has GPS and beacon self-testing capabilities. If you are unsure whether or not your device is transmitting a signal, simply press either button to check. Doing so does not send an alert to Search and Rescue teams but does provide confirmation that you are linked to the network.

The beauty of the ResQLink lies in its size. Weighing just over five ounces, this personal locator beacon can easily be slipped into a pocket or clipped to a backcountry backpack.

This beacon also has three levels of signaling capabilities: GPS positioning, homing capability, and 406 MHz signals. Users can take advantage of an LED strobe in case of emergencies. These beacons are made of high-impact UV resistant plastic.

Using the beacon to alert authorities is also straightforward. All you need to do is pull out the antennae, find an unobstructed patch of sky, and press the SOS button. Authorities should receive your signal within five minutes of sending, if not sooner.

The ResQLink models have been rigorously tested in the U.S., proving their ability to function in some of the most remote and dangerous areas of the world. It has a battery life of 30 hours and a five-year limited warranty.

They are also a cost-effective solution for frequent explorers. Most models are at least $240 and non-subscription based.

2. Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1

This easy to use, water-resistant personal locator beacon is ideal for land and water travelers. The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 is just three inches tall and two inches wide, making it a lightweight component of any extreme adventure.

This model has a seven-year battery life and a seven-year warranty. Its SOS button is easy to use and hidden under a spring-release plastic flap to prevent accidental activation.

Travelers love the GPS-enabled Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 for its three-alert system. Connect with Search and Rescue teams immediately using an LED strobe light, homing capability, and/or satellite communication.

To deploy the SOS signal, all you have to do is extend the antennae, release the spring-loaded plastic flap, and press the button.

The Ocean Signal is waterproof for up to 15 meters underwater and also floats in most any situation. It also does not require a subscription in order to use--once you purchase the RescueME PLB1, you have it for life.

While the Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 does not have two-way messaging capabilities like some of the other models on this list, it does have high reviews. It is also highly cost-effective, costing a little over $250 without the need for a subscription.

If you anticipate a water-based adventure and not needing a safety device that functions beyond signal transmission, the Ocean Signal is best for you.

3. Garmin inReach Explorer+

This personal locator beacon is essentially a satellite messenger, enabling users to send and receive messages via a smartphone interface. This is ideal for people who know they'll be traveling in regions without cell phone service and want the means to two-way text and communicate regardless.

The Garmin Explorer is powered by a lithium battery with a 100-hour lifespan. Its signal connects with the largest satellite network available, making it a highly reliable device for all wanderers.

Travelers will also appreciate the fully-functioning GPS and weather forecasting the Garmin Explorer offers. Additionally, the Garmin Explorer has an obvious SOS button, to be pressed in times of need.

This button is covered by scratch-resistant plastic, ensuring that users don't accidentally call for help. If you do need to press the button, it's easy to use--simply press and hold until the device indicates that your location has been sent to authorities.

The Garmin enables users to communicate with emergency authorities via text until help arrives. It also gives authorities updates on your location every minute.

It's also possible to send non-emergency messages to select and/or bulk contacts with the Garmin Explorer. This is a rare capability that other personal locator beacons simply do not have.

Of course, satellite phones can transmit non-emergency messages, but these can be costly, and may not deliver to email addresses (as the Garmin can).

The Garmin Explorer is quite expensive, clocking in at just over $400 at the moment. It can also be a bit heavy, weighing nearly half of a pound. Some users feel that the Garmin is quite complicated given its technical functionality.

Nonetheless, it's one of the highest rated models on the market and designed to impress. Given its two-way emergency messaging capacities, it's well worth the cost for extreme adventurers who know they'll be up against risk.

4. SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger

SPOT has won many awards in the past for its top-of-the-line personal safety devices. The Gen3 Satellite Messenger is just as award-worthy given its long battery life and sleek emergency performance.

The Gen3 Messenger is one of the lightest personal locator beacons available, weighing only four ounces! It is also extremely small, at 3.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide. Its lightness makes it a perfect addition to any intensive backpacking excursion.

This personal satellite messenger can operate in rugged conditions, including altitudes of up to 21,000 feet and temperatures between -20 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you anticipate traveling in extremely humid areas, you can take your Gen3 Messenger with you without fear. This satellite operates in up to 100% humidity. It is also dust-free and waterproof to an extent.

The Gen3 Satellite Messenger is powered by lithium batteries. Its energy lasts for twice as long as other SPOT models, and you can send up to 1250 messages using one set of SPOT batteries.

Perhaps the most useful and competitive quality of the Gen3 Messenger is its motion-sensor tracking. This means that it records your GPS location as you move and stop, saving power and eliminating duplicate records.

The SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger also enables you to send non-emergency check-ins to family and friends, although these are not customizable. Check-ins send contacts your GPS location and a pre-programmed message.

Gen3 users can also request non-emergency help on land.

This SPOT messenger does require a service subscription, but these are among the more affordable of personal locator beacons. Given its ease of use, multi-function messaging capabilities, and motion tracking, the Gen3 is ideal for most any extreme wanderer.

Things to Keep in Mind When Purchasing a Beacon

All of the personal locator beacons on this list are designed to give you the reliable help you need in case of an emergency. However, if you are new to the world of distress signals and personal safety devices, there are a few things to keep in mind as you research beacons.

1. Cheap Does Not Mean Effective

You may be looking to save some dollars on your personal safety device purchase. This is understandable, as a lot of backpacking and extreme sports equipment can be expensive.

However, when it comes to your safety, every penny you fork over is a penny well spent. It's essential to purchase a beacon for the right reasons, and not just because it is cheap.

What's more, cheaper models may not be as high of quality as higher-tier beacons. In many cases, cheaper beacons skimp on essentials or are constructed of a less weather-resistant material with lower shelf (battery) life.

Do your best to select your beacon not by virtue of its price tag but by virtue of what it can offer you and your adventuring goals.

2. Compare Multiple Models

Luckily, we've got most of this step covered for you in this post alone. It's critical to invest in a beacon that suits all of your needs, particularly if you regularly engage in high-risk wandering.

For this reason, compare multiple market models. Compare more than just price, too. Inspect beacon size and design, messaging capabilities, ease of operation, and durability. Also consider GPS compatibility, water-resistance, self-testing capabilities, and operating temperature.

It can be tough to make these comparisons just by looking at online images and reading product descriptions. Before you make a purchase from an online platform, be sure you've done your research beforehand.

Better yet, find a local provider in order to inspect models in person. Before you purchase a beacon, be sure to review any return policies. Some beacons are lease-only, meaning that their use is subscription based.

3. Inspect Customer Reviews

At the end of the day, the best personal locator beacon will save your life. It's essential to choose a beacon that functions as it should.

The best way to test out a beacon's functionality is to inspect customer reviews. Do your research thoroughly hear, reading through customer testimonials and comments.

Prioritize the beacons that have consistently high reviews, naturally. But also give extra weight to beacons with reviews that speak to their use.

For example: did a backpacker take a particular beacon on a journey and use it successfully in the midst of a snowstorm?

How well does the beacon function in times of severe weather? Is it easy to use and to hold? Does it accurately update location and communicate precisely with authorities? Avoid beacons with any reviews that mention malfunction.

4. Choose Durable

Your beacon needs to be as tough as you, if not tougher. Look for beacons constructed of highly durable, weather-resistant material--often UV resistant waterproof plastic.

Their SOS buttons should be easy to press but not easy to accidentally activate. The better beacons are comfortable to hold and grip, even in times of wet or freezing weather. Prioritize beacons powered by lithium batteries with longer lifespans.

Final Thoughts: The Best Personal Locator Beacon

Personal safety devices are essential for any travelers who expect to be navigating extreme landscapes without cell service. When searching for your next personal locator beacon, be sure to prioritize the models that are on this list.

Beacons like the Garmin Explorer and ResQLink are easy and effective to use with competitive emergency messaging abilities. These models are also designed to endure intense temperatures and weather situations.

If you're seeking a more simple, streamlined personal locator beacon, check out the Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1. The Ocean Signal is also ideal for explorers who know they'll encounter a lot of water.

Lastly, the SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger is an award-winning personal safety device that can sustain some of the most rugged conditions out there. If you are keen on non-emergency communication capabilities and motion tracking, the SPOT is best for you.

Be sure to make your purchase decision based off of beacon capabilities, rather than price. Finances can certainly be a factor in your decision, but don't let them be the only factor!

At Two Way Signal, we are here to help you navigate your next purchase of the radio equipment that you need, including personal locator beacons. Have a question? We have answers! Start a conversation with us today.

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