I recently bought a personal locator beacon (PLB) to make sure I have a way to call for help when the shit hits the proverbial fan.
What got me thinking …
While hiking the Kumano Kodo in Japan in 2016, I encountered several signs warning for local snakes. At that moment I realised I did not know what to do if I got bitten. Bind it probably. But then … try and contact local authorities and wait? Drop my gear and get to the nearest village as soon as possible? And what to do if things would be even worse? There were quite some moments on the trail where I did not have any cellphone coverage …
As I spend the vast majority of my hikes and long runs alone and love trails that do not have too many tourists, I spend quite some time on my own. With no one there, you are literally left on your own when something goes wrong, whether it is an injury, animal bite or attack or -as I almost recently did while hiking the Laugavegur trail in Iceland– if you get lost in a snow storm.
So, I set out to find ways to have a fallback option if the sh*t hits the proverbial fan.
Several options I considered:
- My phone: I quickly discarded this option as too often on remote trails, there is no cell phone coverage. Also, phones run out of battery, are dropped and broken, so … no, let’s not depend on that.
- Garmin inreach+: Then I considered the Garmin InReach line of products. A combination of satellite messenger and Handheld GPS. I love Garmin and their products and I was looking for a Handheld GPS, so this would be a perfect combination. However, while browsing through reviews it became quite clear that the Handheld GPS functions were not that impressive. With that in mind, close to 500 euros (+ monthly subscription to be able to text) became quite a steep price. I will probably reconsider when Garmin will release new versions in the future, but for now: no.
- Spot Satellite Messenger: I then looked into the Spot Satellite Messenger. However, too many reviews talked about flaky connections and not being able to connect in remote areas.
- ACR ResQLink: Finally, I looked into the ACR ResQLink personal locator beacon. It lacks satellite messenger capabilities but seems to be the most durable and reliable of all devices mentioned.
What I settled on … a personal locator beacon (PLB)
So I settled for the ACR ResQLink personal locator beacon.
Just make sure you decide between the ResQLink (non-buoyant – normal hiking, dry land) and ResQLink+ (buoyant – floating, mainly for watersports) and that you buy that can be registered on your country (each country has different ways to register).
Hopefully, I won’t be needing it soon.