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R00kie
member (33)member
 
05/08/2021 10:49AM  
Alright this isn't a M.A.S.H. question. (I may be dating myself) I am looking at purchasing a personal locator beacon and would like to know what everyone uses, which features are must haves and which one are unnecessary. I am planning on using it for canoeing (obviously) and hiking. I may use it on some solo hunting trips out west too. Safety is the main concern as I do not need to chat endlessly while I am out seeking solitude. I am looking at purchasing a new unit and am expecting to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 - $600. This is a bigger investment and it seems like it is the type of equipment that only can be honestly reviewed by someone who has in the field experience. All tips and suggestions are appreciated. Thanks everyone.
 
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WIMike
distinguished member (239)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 11:19AM  
I can't say it's the best device available but I use a Garmin Inreach Explorer+. I use it to send "peace of mind" updates to my wife (I report safe in campsite/ location and any changes to my itinerary). I also get weather updates at least every other day. It has navigation features but I'm primarily a map/compass backed up by GPS person. The Earthmate app is wonderful when paired to the Garmin. Let's me use the larger screen of my phone for map reading and route finding. One feature I really like is the ability to send text messages to rescue personnel so if I ever do need help I can alert them to the nature of my emergency so they send the appropriate gear/personnel. As I said, there may be something that fits your needs better but I like my Inreach. Remember that there are subscription costs with these type devices.
 
05/08/2021 11:49AM  
If you are talking strictly the PLB's and not the 2-way satellite communicators, I have an ACR ResQlink 400.

It doesn't do anything but send an SOS signal to SARSAT. I have not used the SOS button. I had no trouble with the registration process or the self-test. The price was less than your budgeted amount.

If you want 2-way communication and other features like GPS, weather, etc. you will want something more than a pure PLB.
 
martian
distinguished member (110)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 11:54AM  
I've been running a Spot X the last three seasons without complaint. It allows for unlimited preprogrammed messages as well as 20 standard text messages a month depending on the plan you choose. It's pretty basic but it works where I travel. It doesn't offer the number of satellites the Garmin has but it is good for the US and Canada. I actually like the built in keyboard, a complaint for some. It's certainly worth a look. Enjoy the search.
 
MReid
distinguished member (292)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 01:09PM  
There has been lots of discussion on this site. Here are a couple:
link1

Link2
Link3
 
05/08/2021 02:40PM  
I have both an ACR ResQLink and a Garmin Inreach Mini.

I got the ACR a few years ago. With just one button, it does just one thing and it does it really well - call for help, and I think it does it more reliably than any other device. If that is all you need, this is a good option and cost the least (I think).

Last year I got a Garmin Inreach Mini. I do not do the regular check ins, but wanted to be able to get basic messages to rescuers on the nature of the problem if needed. Typing a message on just the Mini is slow and tedious, but possible, or you can pair it with your phone. Last fall I spent a week in the BWCA looking for a lost dog, and being able to send and receive messages from the person coordinating the search was invaluable. Typing messages on the phone was way, way easier, and I like the Earthmate software. While i had a compass with me, I liked using the my phone to track where I was when searching well off the portage - it really helped me know just where I was.

The Mini will now be my primary device, but I kept the ACR for times my Mini subscription is turned off but I want some level or protection.
 
Mocha
distinguished member(7432)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/08/2021 03:51PM  
Not to hijack but...was that dog ever found?
 
05/08/2021 04:35PM  
Mocha: "Not to hijack but...was that dog ever found?"

Yep!

I don’t think I commented at the time but what a great person Jaywalker to volunteer your personal time to help.

T
 
05/08/2021 04:37PM  
I only have experience with the inreach explorer. Has worked great. I pair it with my iPhone for messaging.


I assume a PLB would be cheaper.

T
 
dschult2
distinguished member (114)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 04:53PM  
+ 1 on the Garmin In reach Explorer +. I love it. While the screen is small I love that it has every North Americen topo map predownloaded. It's great that you can also go to their website and download a route yourself if you want to bushwack from lake to lake. Call me old fashioned but I also love that I can text my wife each night before bed. The weather updates are awsome as well. There is a new one out there called a Zoleo that you pair with your phone that has been getting great reviews but to be honest and I don't why but I want nothing to do with my cell phone when I'm out there.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/08/2021 06:24PM  
In the satellite communicator group, I found 5 manufacturers, some with multiple models. Email me and I'll share spreadsheet. Sorry, I couldn't link it.

Between Spot, Garmin, Bivystick, Zoleo, and Somewhere Global Hotspot, I am leaning towards the Zoleo, based on probably keeping it active year round. I like the Bivystick because of its service plan - no cost for months turned off. Not easy to compare service plans. I'm changing from Spot 2 because my wife wants regular 2-way communication. I may just go all the way and get a sat phone for her peace of mind.

 
WIMike
distinguished member (239)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 06:43PM  
billconner: "I may just go all the way and get a sat phone for her peace of mind.
"


Have you researched the sat phones/subscription plans and found one you like?
 
mschi772
distinguished member(659)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 07:41PM  
I recently chose a Somewear after narrowing choices down to that, Zoleo, and Bivy. Zoleo was eliminated because its service plans are a little pricier, and I don't plan to use it a ton. The Zoleo also doesn't do tracking, and there are some trips where I think it may be a good idea to allow someone to be able to monitor my postion and movement or lack thereof. Zoleo's plans aren't *that* much more expensive, and while it doesn't track, it has much better weather reporting which includes wind which can be super helpful for paddlers; it also has a little bit more functionality without a phone. I almost went with the Zoleo, and I won't be surprised to see it become very popular.

Bivy was eliminated because while it appears to be "pay-as-you-go" it isn't really. You buy credits, but if you don't keep your plan running, credits don't actually roll over, they expire. Since I only plan to activate for a month at a time here and there throughout the year, the Bivy wouldn't actually be any different that starting and stopping the Somewear's service, but the Somewear's base plan, which is plenty for me, is cheaper.

Spot wasn't a contender--too many stories of unreliable satellite network, the Spot X is clunky and bloated, and the Gen4's preset messages only is an extra turn-off--I don't plan to be texting conversations while out on a trip, but I with so many other products capable of allowing me to 2-way with SAR if I were to ever initiate an SOS, I wasn't about to deprive myself of the ability to communicate with my would-be rescuers.

Garmin's are too clunky in their interface for my liking, and they're less friendly for others to interface with as well in regards to messaging. Sure, you can use them, even the mini, without a phone, but I always have a phone with me to serve as an interface. The mini does allow a phone interface, but the value just isn't there compared to competitors imo, and I don't want to find myself or others frustrated with actually trying to deal with a suboptimal interface/experience.
 
05/08/2021 10:22PM  
Mocha: "Not to hijack but...was that dog ever found?"
The one I went looking for, Eden, was found. She made it all the way from Muskeg to Cherokee where a couple were able to capture her and re-unite her with her owners. Sadly a second one that was lost three weeks later on Snipe was not found. BeaV went up to look for that one, but ice came in and ended any hopes of further search.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member (434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/08/2021 10:45PM  
Phones are worthless when they’re cold, or after transmitting too much unless you can recharge in the field.

I have used a Garmin inReach SE since 2016 while hunting, skiing, snowshoeing and paddling, 99% of that solo. My wife approves of this message. :-)
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/09/2021 06:59AM  
WIMike: "billconner: "I may just go all the way and get a sat phone for her peace of mind.
"



Have you researched the sat phones/subscription plans and found one you like? "


Not much. I sense breakthroughs are coming. Read some reports if a starlink based phone. Encouraged by improved battery performance. I'll probably up my "research" when I have a longer trip upcoming.

Pretty decent review here.

One attractive feature if Zoleo besides lowest initial cost is its ability to use cell services and wifi if available, and those messages, etc., don't count against your service plan.
 
mschi772
distinguished member(659)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/09/2021 07:38AM  
billconner:"One attractive feature if Zoleo besides lowest initial cost is its ability to use cell services and wifi if available, and those messages, etc., don't count against your service plan."

For sure, Somewear also does this. Can't recall if Bivy does or not.
 
deepwater
member (34)member
 
05/09/2021 07:41AM  
I get a kick out of the fact that half of the market for GPS communication devices is married men and their wives. That's why I got mine.

I use the Garmin Inreach mini and love it. From what I could tell their satellite system is the best and most reliable. I don't care much about the user interface because how often do you actually use it? Maybe 1-3 times per day if you are sending messages.

 
Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(13829)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
05/09/2021 07:43AM  
I will still suggest you get a Garmin InReach Explorer + unit.

You said you don’t need to chat endlessly. Great who does? But my point is you have it “IF” you need it. You never know if texting or an email will save the day. Unless you get the top plan it will cost you $.50 a message after 40 messages so it kind of limits it anyway. There are free short messages you send, like all ok in camp. I plan on sending a message to our outfitter to pick us up with the tow boat at the end of our trip. Weather feature is another bonus for me during our trips. Helps plan the days traveling.

I use our Garmin InReach unit all the time when we travel around the USA in our camper. We go to many spots that have zero cell service and it’s a good way to stay in contact with my daughter and son in law. We have even used it to contact others in our group that also have a Garmin InReach to communicate with them.

If you are still set on just a PLB for rescue that I would suggest getting an ACR unit.
 
jdoutdoors
distinguished member (212)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/09/2021 04:47PM  
I bought a Garmin inReach 66i as I used their maps on my 64s in northern MN (which are decent but have some flaws like portage landings in the wrong area or missing portages entirely, and old closed campsites) and I wanted a satellite communicator for peace of mind for family. It has decent battery life and while the UI and processor are still slower than they have any right to be (and it's missing USB-C), given the steep price tag, it is still possibly the best current gen integrated device if you intend to use a GPS along with your satellite functionality (as opposed to running two separate devices better at each thing). While I don't use it for any messaging beyond status checks for family, the weather functionality gets a lot of use from me and even though it costs money to get forecasts, it's quite handy, with more info than the weather radio we usually used on our trips. Obviously the SOS feature is good to have too, but hopefully I never have to use it.

I did a review on the 66i last year (before I got any real field time with it, admittedly) and after something like 20(?) cumulative days of varied field use last year, I do think it is a good product with some flaws that, oh ho ho, give Garmin a reason to update it and charge you $600 again for it (better & faster OS, USB-C, swappable li-ion battery). I look forward to using it this year and am glad to have it around.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/09/2021 07:25PM  
deepwater: "I get a kick out of the fact that half of the market for GPS communication devices is married men and their wives. That's why I got mine.


I use the Garmin Inreach mini and love it. From what I could tell their satellite system is the best and most reliable. I don't care much about the user interface because how often do you actually use it? Maybe 1-3 times per day if you are sending messages.


"


They all use the same Iridium satellites except Spot, which uses and is owned by Globalstar.

Waiting for Starlink to enter this market.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/10/2021 06:02AM  
It looks like Zoleo is only one that assigns you a telephone number that you can give to people who you want to be able to contact you. It seems the others require you contact someone and only then can they reply. I'm pretty sure that's the Spot and Garmin way, cant gind mention of it at Bivystick or Somewhere.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member (434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/10/2021 08:14AM  
billconner: "It looks like Zoleo is only one that assigns you a telephone number that you can give to people who you want to be able to contact you. It seems the others require you contact someone and only then can they reply. I'm pretty sure that's the Spot and Garmin way, cant gind mention of it at Bivystick or Somewhere."

This is wrong with respect to the inReach devices. All that is required is to enable MapShare and allow messages to be sent by the page visitors. My wife uses this constantly to send me messages she generates:

MapShare Messaging

In order to send a message to an inReach user through their MapShare page, the owner of the inReach account must have enabled MapShare and set it up to allow visitors to message the device.

If you visit a MapShare page and are unable to send a message (indicated by Restricted Icon on the non-mobile site), let the inReach user know.

Sending a Message through an inReach User's MapShare Page
Visit the inReach user's MapShare page

Select Message from the left panel

In the Send Message window enter your email address or phone number, and a message

Select Send
The inReach will receive the message the next time it connects to the Iridium Network.

MapShare Messaging
 
R00kie
member (33)member
 
05/10/2021 02:00PM  
I will never get over how great a resource this forum is. I found my way here last year and am constantly blown away with the knowledge, experience, and willingness to help that is offered so freely. Thank all of you so much. I am strongly considering the in reach mini at this point.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/10/2021 05:30PM  
gravelroad: "billconner: "It looks like Zoleo is only one that assigns you a telephone number that you can give to people who you want to be able to contact you. It seems the others require you contact someone and only then can they reply. I'm pretty sure that's the Spot and Garmin way, cant gind mention of it at Bivystick or Somewhere."


This is wrong with respect to the inReach devices. All that is required is to enable MapShare and allow messages to be sent by the page visitors. My wife uses this constantly to send me messages she generates:


MapShare Messaging


In order to send a message to an inReach user through their MapShare page, the owner of the inReach account must have enabled MapShare and set it up to allow visitors to message the device.


If you visit a MapShare page and are unable to send a message (indicated by Restricted Icon on the non-mobile site), let the inReach user know.

Sending a Message through an inReach User's MapShare Page
Visit the inReach user's MapShare page

Select Message from the left panel

In the Send Message window enter your email address or phone number, and a message

Select Send
The inReach will receive the message the next time it connects to the Iridium Network.


MapShare Messaging "


So you don't have to contact them but you do have to authorize them and they have to access your map share page.
Hmmm. Doesn't sound as easy as sending and receiving text messages. Im glad it works for you.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7870)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/10/2021 06:23PM  
A published review.
 
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