I have been hiking for several decades and never thought to see if there were any Emergency Beacons for Hiking, but this summer I was hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park and I saw a hiker with an emergency locator on his backpack. I had to stop and ask him what it was and why he had it. He told me that it helps his family to know where he is and if he needs help when out hiking by himself.
Whether we are hiking alone or with a group, an Emergency Beacon for Hiking should be the first piece of gear that gets added to our pack.
My Journey Begins
Meeting the hiker this summer with the emergency beacon was a wake up call and also the start of my journey to find out more about these locator beacons.
I soon discovered that locator beacons really began with the military in the 1950s and became more widely used in the 1970s by marine shipping and commercial and general aviation.
More recently, the U.S. Congress in 1972, mandated that all aircraft shall carry an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on board. This was the beginning of SARSAT.
Hiking Emergency Beacon – Course 101
There are two basic type of emergency locators for (land) outdoor adventures. There are the Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) and the Emergency Satellite Messengers (ESMs). Satellite messengers have become more popular recently due to the additional features they provide over the PLBs, however, this also comes with a cost. Satellite Messengers have a much shorter battery life, in days, versus years for a PLB. The primary reason for the difference in battery life is due to PLBs not using their battery until it is activated, in a life saving emergency.
One easy way to be clear about the primary differences between a PLB and a Satellite Messenger is that a PLB, typically can only send an SOS message out and cannot receive or send other messages. Once the PLB is activated, there is no way to call of the search and rescue (SAR) teams.
Refer to Which Locator Beacon is Right for Me for more information on these.
Well, its time for me to make a decision. I have gathered a lot of information in the last few weeks about Hiking Emergency Beacons and as I love getting outdoors in Colorado, I need to invest in one of these emergency locators.
I would like to tell you that I already know what one I will be purchasing, but this is a challenging decision as I want to make sure the battery will last for longer backpacking trips, and if I have to use my cell phone to sync, will it also have enough power to last.
I am actually leaning toward a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) as my priority is to be located and rescued if a life is at stake and I am not worried about communicating with family and friends while in the great outdoors. One of the primary reasons I go hiking is to get away from everyone and everything so having a PLB and the peace of mind it brings may be enough for me.
And or course, we can’t for get the cost involved. That will impact my decision as well.
Next time, I will tell you if I bought a PLB or Satellite Messenger and exactly which one. I’ll be taking it out on the trail and will have firsthand experience with it, but hopefully not an emergency.
Return to Home Page