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lonerock

Solo hiking wth a personal locator beacon ?

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lonerock    25
lonerock

I was curious how many people who do a lot of solo hiking or backpacking carry a personal locator beacon or similar device such as a SPOT for safety reasons. If not then why ?

Edited by lonerock
Wording

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seano    22
seano

I rarely hike with other people, and I don't carry one for a number of reasons:  (1) SPOT-style devices with a "check-in" ability create an expectation that I check in, and an opportunity for false SARs called by others.  (2) PLBs are expensive. (3) A PLB is only relevant in the rare situation that you are unable to self-rescue, conscious, able to survive until SAR reaches you (potentially overnight), and in a location with satellite reception (better than cell, but not ubiquitous). (4) PLBs encourage the expectation that you can push a button and a helicopter will show up to save you.

Plenty of people disagree, but for me, part of being in the wilderness is being out-of-touch and self-reliant.

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lonerock    25
lonerock
22 minutes ago, seano said:

I rarely hike with other people, and I don't carry one for a number of reasons:  (1) SPOT-style devices with a "check-in" ability create an expectation that I check in, and an opportunity for false SARs called by others.  (2) PLBs are expensive. (3) A PLB is only relevant in the rare situation that you are unable to self-rescue, conscious, able to survive until SAR reaches you (potentially overnight), and in a location with satellite reception (better than cell, but not ubiquitous). (4) PLBs encourage the expectation that you can push a button and a helicopter will show up to save you.

Plenty of people disagree, but for me, part of being in the wilderness is being out-of-touch and self-reliant.

Most of my hiking years have been prior to the arrival of things like cell phones, gps and PLB devices so it was just me and my map and compass. (Along with the other essentials) Most of my hikes (about 90%) and backpack trips (about 80%) have been solo until recently (met a mate who likes the outdoors as much as I  do).  I can understand your views concerning the downside to having a PLB  but if I  were still doing a lot of solo trips I  might be tempted to buy one. One I  saw weighs about 5.4 oz and costs about $250. I guess I  would view it as some insurance. Yes, they would only be useful if you were conscious and unable to make it back to your car. But if you were in that situation would you be spending your remaining  hours cursing the fact that you didn't spend $250 on a device thay could have saved your life ? The claim is that with a PLB device a rescue can be made in hours, sometimes within 2 or 3 hours. I think ,like with cell phones, some people would rely too much on them rather than using their brains in certain situations  but it also could be a life saver.

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Aaron    197
Aaron

I hike in with the inReach SE from Delorme:

https://www.rei.com/product/877499/delorme-inreach-explorer-satellite-messenger

(My review in Issue 10) Sean makes some good points. I think electronics interfering with the wilderness experience is something to be considered and varies from person to person - for me I haven't found it to be a problem, but I definitely use the off button to its fullest extent. (I write about this a little at the end of the review as well) I do inform all at home to not act on a lack of check-ins during the scheduled trip. Overall, though (and I previously had a SPOT) I've found these devices to be very reliable - but sometimes it can take a while to get a message out depending on terrain and weather. If you did need a rescue in a true emergency (or for that matter someone else does - it might not even be you or someone in your group) it will be a huge help and for the SAR team as well. But, rescue could indeed take a while and unfortunately these PLBs / service based devices with the SOS functionality can encourage some to push past their limits or the limits of their gear. We've had a couple situations here I can recall where a PLB or similar could have made the difference, and of course situations where it was present and did make a difference. 

I've found the inReach really useful even when not solo as well - with the 2-way communication we've even been able to head out on a few trips that would absolutely not have happened without the device, so IMO it's worth its weight in gold for that alone! :)

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toejam    74
toejam

The inReach seems more useful than a Spot, having hiked with people carrying both. 

I hike solo a lot and don't carry any such thing because I don't think I'll have an emergency that requires it (odds are in my favor), I don't want to pay them every month whether I use it or not, but mostly I'm trying to get away from everybody and want them to leave me alone.

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PaulGS    35
PaulGS

I always carry a PLB (McMurdo Fastfind 210) with me. I wouldn't be comfortable venturing into the backcountry without it and it makes my family happier too.  

Edited by PaulGS

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lonerock    25
lonerock

I guess if I  were going to get anything it would be a PLB since it's minimal electronics plus there's no monthly fee.  Its sole pupose is to send out an emergency signal  and thus would stay buried at the bottom of my pack unless I  was in a life or death situation. I agree that gadgets can distract from a wilderness experience if you let them. I turn off the phone and other fuctions off on my galaxy s5 and only use the gps function - mostly to mark unexplored areas for future reference. Even then, most of the time I  prefer to use a map and compass.

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John B    53
John B

I always carry an ACR rescue beacon--much more powerful and reliable signal than SPOT.  It does not require me to "check in"--only to yell for help if needed.  I believe I paid $280 for it two years ago.  I think that's a small price to pay for an increased level of safety--especially when one considers the amount one invests in other gear.

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lonerock    25
lonerock
1 hour ago, John B said:

I always carry an ACR rescue beacon--much more powerful and reliable signal than SPOT.  It does not require me to "check in"--only to yell for help if needed.  I believe I paid $280 for it two years ago.  I think that's a small price to pay for an increased level of safety--especially when one considers the amount one invests in other gear.

It looks like the ACR is the major brand to go with. It looks like they have several models but I  would probably go with the basic $250 one that weighs just 5.4 oz. I've recommended PLBs to friends, especially those with families, who venture out on long hikes. You're right, it's a small price for some insurance.

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Sobates    0
Sobates

I also carry an ACR beacon.  I hike in the backcountry where cell phone coverage is <35% and grizzlies are plentiful.  I hope I never use it but it is only the wise thing to do.  The peace of mind that it gives my wife (a non-hiker) and my family is the real reason for it.  In three years I will get a new battery install for the $100.  I've talked to a lot of rangers both in Yellowstone/Grand Teton and southern Utah and they wish everyone had one.  Particular in southern Utah where you can get really lost and un-findable (if that is a word) very easily going only a little ways off the trail. We insert the rescuers into danger the longer they have to look for someone.

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