In February 2017, Bob Wells (of CheapRVLiving.com) asked if I’d be willing to test out three PLB’s for him (Personal Locator Beacons) and I agreed. Bob and I both understand that one of our biggest fears about living this lifestyle is breaking down in a remote place or getting into an accident with no-one around to help. I have the same fear but have never let it stop me from going alone into remote places with my rig, or hiking off trail on my own. Accepting this request gave me the opportunity to test out these devices without any out-of-pocket expense to myself (at least for the first year). How could I refuse?
The three devices are the ACR ResQLink+, the inReach Explorer, and the SPOT. I was asked to test out these devices and then make a decision on which one I’d like to keep for my own use. This blog post covers a bit about each unit, and then I’ll share which one I chose to keep and why in part two.
The subscription choices and technology for these PLB’s can get very in-depth, so I’m including a link to additional information for each one so you can do your own research. If I were to cover every aspect of each one, this blog post would be twenty-pages long…and indeed there are some twenty-page long articles out there for you to read if you choose.
This Personal Locator Beacon should only be used in situations of grave and imminent danger, and only as a last resort when all means of self-rescue have been exhausted. It is purely an SOS device, and cannot be used to send or receive messages, check-in, or route finding. In January 2018 it cost about $269.00 to purchase, and can only be used once. After use, the 406 Survivor Club will replace it for free with a brand new beacon of equal or greater value. There is no annual or monthly service fee for using this device.
COSPAS-SARSAT is an international satellite system that provides distress alert and location data to assist Search and Rescue operations. It detects and locates the signals of beacons operating on 406 Megahertz (MHz). The position of the distress and other related information is forwarded to the appropriate Search and Rescue point of contact through the COSPAS-SARSAT mission control center network. The goal of the system is to support all organizations in the world with responsibility for SAR operations, whether at sea, in the air or on land. The COSPAS-SARSAT system provides distress alert and location data to rescue coordination centers for 406 MHz beacons activated anywhere in the world.
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In January 2018 this device cost around $150 to purchase (but can often be found on sale). An additional SPOT Service Plan is required for operation. $199.99 yearly subscription covers basic service and tracking (+ a $14.99 Network Maintenance Fee) you can also make monthly payments if you choose. For an additional $30.00 a year, you can add the SOV feature (Save Our Vehicle), which includes 5 tows or other types roadside service per year, no matter how remote you are (yes, dirt roads included) for up to 50 miles, this would bring the annual subscription up to $245.00. Spot Assist or Save Our Vehicle (click for terms and conditions) is offered through Nation Safe Drivers.
- Send SOS messages to emergency responders via GEOS
- Check-in and send custom messages
- Customize tracking rates to 2 1/2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes
- Motion-activated and continuous tracking options
- 100% satellite technology
- Add the Save Our Vehicle (SOV) Feature for just $30 a year extra
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A subscription plan is required to use the inReach device. Prices vary from $11.95 a month to $99.95 a month depending on your requirements, not including various additional fees. With this device, you can text family and friends back and forth (number of texts depends on your plan) and much more, but it’s not a satellite phone you can’t talk. Here are more details:
- You can do all of this from one rugged handheld device with 100% global coverage from Iridium
- Create waypoints, log your trip, find your way back, send/receive text messages or trigger an interactive SOS
- Pair with your mobile device (Apple® iOS, Android® or Kindle Fire®) via Bluetooth® and free Earthmate app to access topographic maps and U.S. NOAA charts
- Create or view a route, drop waypoints, see your detailed GPS tracks, and navigate with the on-screen map view; view route details such as distance and bearing to destination
- Plan your route online ahead of time and share it with family and friends to follow along and watch your progress
- Adjustable tracking intervals from 10 min. to 4 hrs. allow you to track your trip and share your location, including GPS coordinates, course elevation, and speed
- Equipped with a digital compass, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, and odometer; display trip time, max speed, moving average and trip distance while in the field
- Color screen and virtual keyboard with predictive text for standalone 2-way messaging
- Contract-free month-to-month plans or annual subscriptions available
- Waterproof/dustproof (IP67, standard submersion to 1m for 30 min.); impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock)
- 100 hrs. of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode with a clear view to the sky
- The DeLorme inReach Explorer comes with a wall charging adapter and USB cord for easy charging
Made in the USA
Here are some screenshots I took on my laptop of a couple of hikes I did using the inReach and using the online software by Garmin.
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Bob and I made several videos about these three devices, which you can watch here:
How Do I Get Help While Traveling Remote by Bob and Roxy
How to Get Help: SPOT, InReach, ACR ResQLink, PLB Reviewed by Bob and Roxy
Dense Forest & Slot Canyon Test of Spot and InReach by Bob and Roxy
I will be adding additional video links to this blog post as we create more, so check back often, or ring my bell on my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss any videos.
If you would like to purchase a SPOT or other PLB, please visit the Nomad Store.
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In part two I’ll be sharing which PLB I’ve chosen to keep and why. I hope you’ll sign up, share, like and comment,
Until next time, safe trails to you…
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature