Best Personal Locator Beacons (GPS Tracker )
Adventurous trips into the backcountry hillsides and the water are rewarding with ample fun and adventure, but are not devoid of risks. The offshore environment that stays aloof from modern civilization is unpredictable. It definitely mandates packing some safety gear and taking adequate precautions to mitigate the risks.
Hikers, fishers, bikers, and kayakers need to pack lots of safety gears with them depending on the sport they indulge in. One common safety gear for all of them is a personal locator beacon or in short, the PLB.
Irrespective of the sport, having an emergency locator or a satellite messenger renders the sense of security and freedom for the adventurist. They work perfectly even in those places where cell phone signals cannot intrude and reassure the loved ones back home. They work as lifesavers at the time of emergencies and help the person enjoy their adventures better.
We have listed some of the best personal locator beacons here including satellite messengers. These devices help in connective with family during all the trips and are potential lifesavers in many absurd situations.
The 6 Best Personal Locator Beacons – 
- Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini Portable Real Time Personal and Vehicle GPS Tracker
- Standard Horizon HX870 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS
- ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406 Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon
- Garmin inReach Explorer+, GPS Navigation
- DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker
- Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger
Best Personal Locator Beacons (GPS Tracker )
Best Personal Locator Beacon Reviews
- Measurements: 9 x 1.5 x 2.7 inches
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Tracks vehicles, assets and people
- Tracks maps real time
- No activation and cancellation fees
- Geo fencing
The Spy Tec STI portable real-time tracker helps in real-time location tracking of people, assets and vehicles. The device monitors people with excellent accuracy irrespective of their location and gives real-time updates with the user. It is possible to watch the movement of spouse, kids, and elders in the family with this tracking system. Expensive vehicles, property, and other assets are safe from thefts with this exceptional tracking device.
Its compact size helps it to carry anywhere, it is possible to attach the device with a belt or insert in the backpack as well. It is possible not just to track but also know the exact location with Google Maps. There is no activation or cancellation fee and all these exceptional facilities are available for just $25 a month.
It is possible to track the location using a mobile set, computer or tablet and notifications are delivered via text or email to the prescribed contact. The geofence function of the tracker helps in setting up a perimeter on the map and notifies when the target enters or leaves the place. It can store tracking information for a year along with the summary of the report.
- Measurements: 9.5 x 3.5 x 7.5 inches
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Power: 1800 mAh Lithium ion battery
- Handheld VHF with internal GPS
- Digital selective calling
- Waterproof device
The standard floating 6W handheld VHF is an external tracking system with a built-in internal GPS. The device features 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery and 110 volt AC and 12 volt DC current. Its alkaline battery tray charges the device quickly within a few hours.
The device helps with tracking people and assets within a specific location range. The tracker features digital selective calling technology with a separate receiver for receiving DSC calls. It has excellent waterproof body and indeed floats in water. There are options to cancel the noise function at both transmit and receiving audio.
The tracker features a complete dot matrix display with the ability to preset the device up to 10 favorite channels. There is a provision to connect the tracker directly to the computer with its USB data port. Apart from tracking people, it also features NOAA weather channels and renders alert on adverse weather.
Its emergency strobe light expands its functionality from mere tracking. The police department and the rescue team use them predominantly. Its 7.4 volt Lithium ion battery of 1.8 Amperes is able to hold charge for long time duration.
- Measurements: 6 x 1.9 x 4.5 inches
- Weight: 5.4 ounce
- 406 MHz distress signal
- GPS receiver
- LED strobe light
- 5 years warranty
- No subscription fee
The ACR PLB 375 personal locator is the smallest beacon known till date and is lightweight, at only 5.4 ounce. Its length is just 4.5 inches and can be secured easily fit in the pocket or a small bag. It is small, mighty and powerful that a smart phone.
This is also a rescue beacon that has GPS to track boaters, water borne sportsman and even pilots. The device has three levels of integrated signaling namely GPS, 406 MHz signal and a 121.5 MHz home tracking system. It has a built in strobe light that offers excellent visibility during rescues in the night time. The best part of the device is that, it activates easily, just by deploying the antenna and pressing the ON button.
Its GPS channel is very powerful and is able to guide rescuers within 100 meters of the position. It is also possible to routinely test the working of the GPS and the internal electronics with just the push of a button. It is lightweight, small and features a simple battery, making it eligible for shipping internationally. Its powerful battery comes for 6 years straight without replacement and the device has the maximum shelf life of 11 years. The product has a five years warranty as well.
- Measurement: 1.5 x 2.7 x 6.5 inches
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Iridium satellite coverage
- Tracks and shares location with family and friends
- Pairs with other mobiles using Earth mate apps
- Preloaded with TOPO maps.
The Garmin inReach Explorer with GPS navigation is a complete Iridium satellite coverage tracker with two ways text messaging enabled from any location. It connects with a 24/7 interactive search and rescue monitoring center. It also helps in sharing the tracked information with family and friends instantly.
The tracker can pair with mobiles using a free app, which makes downloading maps, charts and aerial color image instantly. The device is preloaded with TOPO maps, GPS routing, built-in digital compass, accelerometer and a barometric altimeter.
The tracker ensures that no one gets out of reach with this inReach explorer. These communicators are for all outdoor enthusiasts to wants to explore the backcountry roads and water ways for fun and adventure. The device is been predominantly for hikers, kayakers and mountain bikers as it helps in sharing location, navigates, promotes communication in all terrains be it land, water or sky.
- Measurement: 4 x 1 x 5.8 inches
- Weight: 7 ounces
- Global SOS and coverage
- Sending and receiving messages anywhere
- Adjustable tracking intervals
The DeLorme in Reach satellite tracker is the most affordable satellite communicator that allows sending and receiving messages across the world. It is able to send 160 characters long text messages with GPS co-ordinates to a number of emails and mobile numbers across the world. It is possible to communicate with messages either on the device or by pairing with any iOS or android device.
The device trigger SOS emergency and communicate via two way conversation along with the location through a 24/7 monitoring center. The device also communicates the time of arrival of help to the user assuring complete peace of mind, even during crisis situation.
Its powerful Iridium satellite communication system helps with global reach within minutes along with two way communication. It is possible to adjust the intervals of tracking from 10 mins to as long as four hours. This helps to track the complete trip, to share the location, speed and even elevation with GPS coordinates. The device also features a colored monitor with virtual keyword for flawless performance.
- Measurements: 6 x 1 x 3.4 inches
- Weight: 4 ounces
- Sends SOS emergency messages
- Custom messages
- Tracks location automatically
The SPOT 3 GPS messenger is a lifesaving line of communication system when travelling in adventurous boundaries. They send critical information about the user’s safety and whereabouts with the family and friends. When worst situations occur, the device sends emergency responders from the GPS location of the user with just a single button push. It is lightweight, easy to carry and fits in the pockets of the user.
This search and rescue tool sends SOS emergency messages with the exact GPS location to the close contacts. It lets them know the wellbeing of the user with the help of a pre-programmed message. It also spots SOV messages from friends and asks for professional help from mentors or professional organizations. A service agreement is mandatory to use the gadget for personal use.
Choosing The Best Personal Locator Beacon
Most of the PLBs are bought with the intention of never having to use it. But the user has to buy them after careful considerations so as to rely on it at the time of distress. The beacon should be able to release the signal accurately and quickly to attract attention of the rescue team. Other important factors to consider before buying a PLB are as follows,
- Type of the locator
- Type of battery
- Operating temperature
- LED strobe
- Water resistance
Type of The Locator:
There are two distinct types of personal locator Beacons, namely personal emergency beacons and satellite messenger. Personal messengers are those that attract immediate help at the time of life threatening events. The high power personal beacons transmit a distress signal from anywhere. They need registrations form the relevant government bodies.
Satellite messengers communicate through satellite signals and help to transmit signals and share messages with family members and also the rescue team. They also help to share the journey progress and location with the family members. They send two ways SOS messages to trigger immediate rescue response. These devices rely on satellite networks such as Iridium and do not emit strong distress signals. It is important to buy a satellite subscription for their use.
Type of Battery:
Personal locator devices are completely battery power. The quality and life of battery is an important consideration for optimal functioning of the locator. Users have to check how long the battery can stand while transmission and also the shelf life of the batteries. Most of them feature lithium ion batteries.
The batteries stay dormant, until the device activates and have an average shelf life of 5 years. When the batteries are at the end of their shelf life, or if they have been activated, then the user has to return them to the manufacturer for replacement.
Another important aspect to consider with the battery is its duration, how long will it power the transmission after triggering a distress call. The beacon will keep emitting the signal as long as its battery is operational. They will emit signals for help at least 24 hours before the battery dies.
Most of the locations for adventures have extremes of temperature and thus the device should be able to function perfectly in all temperature ranges. Most of the PLBs for recreational purposes feature two batteries that can transmit signals for at least 24 hours at -20 degree temperatures. High quality devices have heavy duty batteries that emit signals for 24 hours even at -40°F.
The most important things during emergency rescue is emitting signal and to make oneself visible for the rescuers. Some of the ways to enhance visibility for the rescue team is to create visual and audible signals through signal mirrors, whistle etc. But a Locator with LED lights is the best signal for the rescue team to reach one’s vicinity.
Those using personal locator beacons during their water adventures have to choose a device that operates under water and has the ability to float as well. There are special emergency indicating radio locators specific for Sea and water bodies. PLB with additional floatation case are of both on land and in water. Even locators used on land for hiking, can come with contact with water, and thus water resistance is an essential feature in all locators. The level of water resistance in the locator is expressed in terms of IPX rating. More the rating, greater is the ability of the device is stay active even with water exposure.
Working Mechanism of a Personal Locator Beacon:
PLBs are life savers in many adventurous trips that are full of uncertainties. In the event of distress, they trigger an emergency call with a simple push button. Successful transmission best happens in an open view of the sky. After activation, the device sends signals to satellites such as COSPAS and SARSAT. These are a network of military satellites under the operation of countries such as Canada, France, the United States, and Russia.
After receiving signals, these satellites transmit them to the communication centers in the ground. These base center forwards the call details, location and the personal information offered at the time of registration to the rescue team and the family members. The signals that transmit from the beacons allow rescue personnel to locate the precise location of the individual to within 500 meters or even less.
Some of the personal locators are able to send two way communications, and thus the user is able to track the status of the rescue. It is also possible to text back and forth with the help of its Geos. For efficient functioning of this system, it is important to register the beacon with the relevant authorities in the respective countries. In the United States, it is important to register the device with the NOAA SARSAT database.
Registration is free and the datum of the user to these concerned authorities is kept safe and secure. The information is shared only with the rescue team at the time of emergencies and if the PLB is activated. After activation, the NOAA assigns a unique identification number to each of the PLBs. The beacon transmits this UIN to the Satellites. If the beacon is a satellite messenger, it is a must to register it for activation. It also requires purchasing a paid service subscription as well.
At instances of accidentally triggering a false alarm, the false alert should be stopped immediately by pressing the emergency button for five seconds. The rescue coordination center should be informed of the accidental activation as well to cancel the alert. If the user fails to notify the authority it might attract severe penalty too. It is thus important to preserve these devices from kids as well.
Emergency beacons were redistricted for military, police and other commercial bodies for decades. Of late, they are been made available for individuals as well. As this technology is accessible for common man as well now, we can explore the backcountry locations at ease without any fear of distress.
These personal locator beacons perform exceptionally well even in locations where cell phone signals cannot intrude. A personal emergency beacon is similar to an insurance policy when taking up high risk adventurous endeavors. It also helps the enthusiasts connect with their families throughout the trip and also with the rescue team when need arises.
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