Emergency Radio Reviews

These emergency radio reviews, which may be better known as Personal Locator Beacon Reviews or Satellite Messenger Reviews are a summary of the device and the typical best uses for it but remember that the services and initial price may only be part of the what is needed for your decision-making process. The subscription costs and coverage areas are just as important, especially if you are on a budget.

This will not be a recommendation for the best product to buy due to the wide variety of options available and the individual’s needs which will not always point to the number one product for every situation and person. The following emergency radio reviews are an overall all detailed view of the product so you can decide what will work best for you.

Garmin inReach Explorer+Garmin inReach Explorer+

The Garmin inReach Explorer may be the all around top performer, as long as price, size, weight and battery life are not your primary concern. The Explorer+ provides you with emergency SOS service but will also give you 2-way non-emergency messaging, location sharing plus navigation. This really does provide the most safety and convenience options in one device.

The Explorer+ is a satellite communicator with maps and sensors. It’s a rugged communicator with 2-way messaging and includes an interactive SOS system that reaches out to a rescue monitoring center. You can track and share your location with family, friends and even social media. Pair the Explorer+ to a compatible mobile device and gain access to downloadable topo maps for navigation. There are also preloaded DeLorme topo maps with onscreen GPS routing plus a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer. You can sign up for an optional inReach weather forecast service that provides detailed updates directly to your device.

You can access flexible satellite airtime plans with an active satellite subscription plan. The subscription plans come in monthly or annual plans.

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ may be the best device for nearly comprehensive communication with family, friends and rescue crews when you are out of cell service. The Explorer+ may be the right choice for you if you want more navigational services and a longer battery life over the Garmin inReach Mini.

Pro’s

  • 2-way messaging service
  • Great smartphone app
  • Navigation
  • Proven global network

Con’s

  • Size and weight
  • Expensive initial purchase
  • Shorter battery life than Personal Locator Devices (PLBs)

Bottom Line

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is a great option if you want the peace of mind of being able to contact emergency services, friends and family plus have the luxuries of navigation, location tracking and a host of other convenient services.Garmin inReach Mini

Garmin inReach Mini

The Garmin inReach Mini may be the best option for you if you like many of the services the Garmin inReach Explorer+ offers without the built-in navigational services. The Mini is much smaller and lighter but it also has a lower batter life. The inReach Mini is a great lightweight rugged option that also allows you to send pre-programmed messages, along with custom messages with unlimited text messaging, which may save you money in the long run.

The Mini is a lightweight and compact satellite communicator. It has 2-way text messaging via the global iridium satellite network. Trigger an interactive SOS to rescue services via a 24/7 rescue monitoring center. Access downloadable maps and aerial imagery via the Earthmate app with compatible devices. Optional inReach weather forecasts area available directly to your device with a subscription service. Internal, rechargeable lithium battery provides up to 90 hours of battery life in the 10-minute tracking mode.

The inReach Mini is smaller and lighter than the inReach Explorer+ coming in at 4″ tall by 2″ wide and weighing only 3.5 oz. The GPS based location tracking will also allow your family, friends and even social media to keep track of your location when in the field.

The Garmin inReach Mini may be the best satellite messenger overall, with the exception that it doesn’t have navigational capabilities, however, many outdoor enthusiasts use the navigation capabilities of their smartphones and do not need this service on their Mini. The inReach Mini provides the peace of mind of 2-way text messaging plus the SOS rescue services option for life-saving events in a lightweight and compact device that may be the right choice for you.

Pro’s

  • Size and weight
  • 2-way messaging service
  • Navigation
  • Proven global network

Con’s

  • Texting on device is slow
  • Expensive initial purchase but less than the Garmin inReach Explorer+
  • Shorter battery life than Personal Locator Devices (PLBs)

Bottom Line

The Garmin inReach Mini is a great option if you want the peace of mind of being able to contact emergency services, friends and family without the size and weight of the larger emergency locator devices.

SPOT X

SPOT X

The SPOT X has a built-in compass with programmable waypoints with 2-way messaging but the really nice thing about the SPOT X is the built in keyboard which allows for much quicker and easier messaging than other on-screen messaging devices. It also provides you with a unique U.S. cell phone number so your family and friends can message you directly from their cell phones.

The SPOT X provides direct communication with search and rescue services in-case of life threatening emergencies. This direct communication can be invaluable when it comes to guiding the search teams to your location and to alert them to exact situation they should be prepared for. You can load 14 predefined messages to make communicating with friends and family much easier.

Select from 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minute tracking intervals for friends and family to follow you on your adventure. Be aware that the smaller the interval tracking time, the lower your battery life will be. The SPOT X also has a built-in compass and programmable waypoints to help you navigate, even without the navigation options offered by other devices. Also, the keyboard is illuminated and the battery will last for 10 days in the continuous 10-minute tracking mode.

The SPOT X is the only device that will send texts independently without needing to be synced to a smartphone or use a slow onscreen keyboard. It makes sending custom texts easy and effortless. The unique U.S. cell phone number will make sending messages to rescue teams, friends and family to explain your emergency and receive confirmation.

Pro’s

  • 2-way messaging service
  • On-device keyboard
  • Unique U.S. cell phone number

Con’s

  • Bulky and heavy
  • No smartphone interface

Bottom Line

The advantage the SPOT X has over its competitors is the built-in key board and unique U.S. cell phone number that really will be an advantage if you need to communicate more information to your friends, family and rescue teams in a life threatening emergency.

SPOT Gen3

SPOT Gen3

The SPOT Gen3 is a critical life saving emergency locator that can send and SOS distress call and three pre-programmed messages only. This is classified as a satellite messenger but it is not far off from having the same function as a Portable Locator Beacon (PLB). The advantage to the Gen3 is its size, weight and significantly reduced cost. The SPOT Gen 3 does come with monthly and yearly service plans.

The SPOT Gen3 gives you a critical, life-saving line of communication when traveling outside of cell service coverage. The Gen3 lets family and friends know you’re okay, or if the worst should happen, sends a message to emergency responders and gives them your GPS location. This is a rugged, pocket sized device that should be a part of your essential gear.

The SPOT Gen3 allows you to change the tracking rate from 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minute intervals. its motion activated and a vibration sensor tells SPOT when you are moving and when you are stopped, which conserves battery power. Additional batteries could be carried with you plus rechargeable batteries are always a great idea.

There are 10 predetermined messages that can be sent with the push of a button plus your waypoints are stored in your SPOT account for later reference.

The SPOT Gen3 is a lightweight and compact device that is basically for emergencies only. It has no navigation capabilities and is limited on its outgoing communication, and remember, it can only send out-going messages. its’s significantly less expensive than other satellite messengers, however, as stated earlier, this is basically a PLB for emergencies only.

Pro’s

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Good rental options
  • Low initial purchase cost

Con’s

  • No 2-way communication
  • No smartphone interface
  • No navigation services

Bottom Line

The SPOT Gen3 is basically a ramped up Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which gives you the option to send out 10 pre-programmed messages. If you want a lightweight PLB with some basic messages you can send home than this really may be the device for you.

Somewear Global Hotspot

Somewear Global Hotspot

The Somewear Global Hotspot is a small, lightweight satellite messenger but requires your smartphone to be synced in order to use it. I normally don’t want to add my opinion to early into a review but I have personally had my smartphone die on me on hiking trips after two days, depending on how much I use it or if I put it in save power mode. This has been an issue for me that I want to make sure you are aware of. You may want to invest in a Portable Charger to take on your trip.

The Somewear Global Hotspot enables any smartphone to have satellite connectivity, giving you the reliable coverage needed to explore in style. The iridium satellite network offers 100% global coverage in an ultralight, compact form that easily fits into your pocket or on your pack. With your smartphone synced, you can easily text family and friends, give them tracking information and receive weather forecasts.

Somewear is partnered with GEOS Worldwide to offer 24/7 SOS monitoring services with every satellite data subscription.

The Somewear Global Hotspot is one of the smallest emergency devices with 2-wya communication, but this requires your smartphone to work. On the bright side, the subscription plans are not as expensive.

Pro’s

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Less expensive subscription options
  • Proven satellite and dispatch networks

Con’s

  • You must have your smartphone synced for this device to work

Bottom Line

The Somewear Global Hotspot is a lightweight, compact and convenient option, as long as you have a smartphone and don’t lose power. Saying that, this could be a great option for someone but I personally won’t have this in my pack.

Bivystick

Bivystick

The Bivystick is a newcomer to the emergency locator market and has been on the scene since 2018. its’s heavy and cumbersome and requires your smartphone to use but it has a slick design and those of you who like Bivy Apps, will love how this works.

The Bivystick has 2-way communication and can send or receive text messages anywhere in the world. If you have a view of the sky, you can communicate. You can share your location via text message, Facebook or Twitter. Your friends and family will rest easier when you share your progress and location on detailed topo maps.

There are no contracts or annual fees so your budget will feel better after your initial purchase.

When things don’t go as planned, the Bivystick will get you in contact with emergency services using GEOS with 24/7 monitoring. You can communicate directly with rescue teams to provide them the much-needed information to reach you and give you the medical attention you need.

The Bivystick may end up shaking the market up with its integration with your smartphone and Bivy apps. We’ll have to wait and see but keep an eye on this one as it may change the way we keep in touch in emergencies in the future.

Pro’s

  • Reliable network
  • Solid construction
  • Bivy apps

Con’s

  • Large and heavy
  • You must have your smartphone together with the Bivystick for it to work

Bottom Line

The Bivystick may soon shake up the market, but for now, its size, weight and need for your smartphone may keep its popularity to a minimum.

Go Tenna MeshGo Tenna Mesh

The Go Tenna Mesh is more suited for festival or concert goers. Two or more devices can be synced and communicate directly to each other but the range is limited to about 4 miles, unless there are other Go Tenna Mesh users in the area and then the ranges may be increased. The emergency coverage is more limited than the other devices mentioned here so keep this in mind if you think the Go Tenna Mesh is right for you.

The Go Tenna Mesh is a sleek, lightweight device that pairs with your smartphone, and keeps your group connected when venturing off grid. You can send text and GPS locations without cell or wifi. It works with and iOS or Android smartphone and it typically has a 4-mile point-to-point range. The Mesh networking enables privately relayed messages.

Stay connected in remote areas, share GPS locations and send for help if you get into trouble. You can avoid costly international plans by using Go Tenna to stay in touch with other travelers. Go Tenna will work great when local networks are overloaded with large groups of people wanting to communicate at places like concerts, festivals and sporting events.

The Go Tenna Mesh has a network unlike anything else in this review. This is a great device for two or more users in a large crowd if communicating in an area 4 miles or less. It would be great for festivals, concerts and sporting events but would also be helpful when traveling with a group or with family.

Pro’s

  • Light and compact
  • Customizable communication network

Con’s

  • Limited coverage area
  • Limits to securing emergency assistance

Bottom Line

This device is better used at sporting events, festivals, and concerts than a remote hiking or backpacking trip deep into the wilderness. The Go Tenna Mesh may not belong with these other emergency locators but it should make you think about other situations where it would work better and should be considered for keeping in touch with friends and family.

Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1

Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1

The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 has earned one of the top spots among PLBs in that it has a proven network of satellites that summons help in life saving emergencies only. its’s lightweight and compact and is a valuable tool to have in your pack if the worst should happen.

The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 is the worlds smallest PLB. its’s waterproof to 15m and has no subscription cost. its’s linked to emergency services via satellite and has fast accurate positioning. It includes a high intensity (1 candela) strobe light with an easily deployed antenna and a 7-year battery life. The extended battery life is due to the battery not being used until activated.

The RescueME has a homing beacon to aid in your location by search and rescue teams. Whether you are on land or see, the RescueME PLB1 provides the reassurance that global emergency services can be alerted by the press of a button.

The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 is a compact, affordable “help me” button that can fit in your pocket or on your pack. It has a reliable and proven system for rescue calls and operations. It’s important to equip yourself with some kind of emergency beacon whether you are hiking in the wild or traveling around the world in unfamiliar territory.

Pro’s

  • Light and compact
  • Reasonable initial purchase price with no subscription
  • Reliable and proven global network

Con’s

  • No non-emergency messaging

Bottom Line

This is a great, potentially life saving piece of equipment that is lightweight, compact, fits in your pocket or on your pack and should be part of everyone’s essential gear. It may only be a 1-way emergency transmitter, but it is the best at what it does.

ACR ResQlink View

 

ACR ResQlink View

The ACR ResQlink View is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) for 1-way outgoing SOS or emergency distress call only. It may not have a lot of extra services or the ability to receive incoming messages but what it does, it does well and has a long track record of saving lives.

The ACR ResQlink View is small but tough. This PLB is a buoyant, GPS enabled rescue beacon that is suited for outdoor adventures of all sizes. Whether you want to boat, hunt, hike or cycle, this should be part of your essential gear.

The ResQlink View will display your location in an emergency to a reliable system of satellites for the first responders. its’s buoyant, has an LED strobe light, has a self test function and 66 channel GPS.

The ACR ResQlink View is a compact, full-functional personal locator beacon from a long-standing company that uses the COSPAS/SARSAT communication network and protocol. The explicit function of the ResQlink is to send a distress SOS transmission.

Pro’s

  • COSPAS/SARSAT’s reliability and long track record
  • No annual subscription
  • Simple operation
  • Free battery replacement if used

Con’s

  • Larger and heavier than its closest competitor

Bottom Line

This is a great Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that is simple and easy to use, manufactured by a long-standing company with a long track record of responding to and saving lives.

ACR Aqualink View

ACR Aqualink View

The ACR Aqualink View is a PLB and is a cousin to the ACR ResQlink View. They provide similar functions but its primary function, other that an emergency SOS distress beacon may be for boaters or mariners.

The ACR Aqualink View is a personal locator beacon that you can head offshore with confidence of the handheld locator beacon. Its digital display provides all the important information about the beacon’s functions, including GPS positioning and transmission bursts. Plus, its buoyant design means that if it falls overboard, it will float.

Have the peace of mind knowing that if an emergency should occur, this personal emergency beacon will quickly relay your position to satellite networks, and reduce search and rescue time.

The ACR ResQlink View is a compact, full-functional personal locator beacon from a long-standing company that uses the COSPAS/SARSAT communication network and protocol. The explicit function of the ResQlink is to send a distress SOS transmission.

Pro’s

  • COSPAS/SARSAT’s reliability and long track record
  • No annual subscription
  • Simple operation
  • Free battery replacement if used

Con’s

  • Larger and heavier than its closest competitor

Bottom Line

This is a great Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that is simple and easy to use, manufactured by a long-standing company with a long track record of responding to and saving lives.

Need Additional Information? Checkout this Article “Which Locator Beacon is Right for Me?”

Need Additional Batteries, Rechargeable Batteries or a Portable Charger? Check These Out in Accessories.

If you would like additional information, go to my HELP ME CHOOSE page, leave a COMMENT BELOW or send me an EMAIL.

 

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28 thoughts on “Emergency Radio Reviews”

  1. Thank you for this article and all the research you put into it! I have been considering a skiing/snowboarding trip to Sweden or Norway. The bad thing is, I only speak English. I have a few questions.
    1. For the devices that require sync with a cellphone; what happens if the battery in your phone dies? Having a dead phone is bad enough, but if the location device needs it, what happens then?
    2. One of the things that has me somewhat paranoid; what if there is an avalanche and I’m buried under the snow. Sorry to bring up something so unlikely, but it would be comforting to know.
    3. Okay, this question seems so weird to ask, but what if I happen to bring along a dog? I just wonder if there is a device I could attach to his harness that would work if he disappeared? Obviously, it wouldn’t be one that requires cell phone usage.
    Okay, those are my questions. I hope they’re not too far-fetched. Thanks in advance for your help!

    Reply
  2. I like the fact that you reviewed sever products but I’ll like to ask which product you best recommend because they all look so good to me and i wouldn’t want to purchase what isn’t quality. I love the article, its really nice to surf through, as soon as I get an answer from you, I’ll get one because I’m planning on going on a vacation in one of Africa’s rain Forrest and I think the emergency radio will be very useful for me and others. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Jones. You’re right, there are many great ones to choose from.

      The one I would recommend for you in Africa’s rain forest is the Garmin inReach Explorer+.
      https://hikingemergencybeacon.com/garmin-inreach-explorer/

      Not only does it have global, pole to pole coverage, it also has the SOS function, Navigation, 2-way messaging and weather forecasts.

      The only thing I will caution you about is that the heavy foliage from the tress can restrict your view of the skies at times which could impact your satellite connection. You will still have connection most of the time  but you may want to take advantage of clearings and vistas to make sure you are pinging the satellites. 

      I would still make sure I had the Explorer on a trip like this because you will surely be out of cell coverage. One person left me a comment this last week that she was on a safari and their bus got stuck after a rain storm and they had no way to call for help as they were outside of cell coverage.

      You know what they say…don’t leave home without it.

      Let me know how you like the Explorer after you take it on your trip.

      Rick

      Reply
  3. I can remember when I was a small child a friend of mine had a walkie talkie set, how amazed and jealous I was at the time but at least he would let me have a go, it seemed unbelievable that we could talk to each other over these little hand held radios, even though the distance was limited I found them fascinating, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the first mobile phones came onto the market, and the early ones wasn’t exactly what you would call mobile, you had to carry around a battery which was as big if not bigger than a car battery, however, technology has really come on leaps and bounds since then we now have the high tech emergency radio devices using satellite technology and your post here gives all the information anyone would ever need when it come to choosing which one to buy, these devices really do save lives so they are very good value and well worth the money, thank you for sharing.      

    Reply
    • Hey Russ. It is funny thinking back to the past when we only had rotary phones, never wore a helmet and the seat belt was tucked down in between the seats. The other thing is to think how affordable these have gotten. I know that some of these will still cost some good money, but the costs have really come down on technology like this.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

      Rick

      Reply
  4. Hi Rick great review! Personally I am no expert in either hiking or emergency radios, but to me the most important aspects of an emergency radio are battery life and coverage. A dead radio is a useless radio, when it comes to life and death situations a fully functioning radio is so critical, and since a lot of these have shorter battery life than personal locators, I think it’s never a bad idea to invest in some reliable power banks or external power sources to go with the radio. 

    Also you mentioned some radios have smartphone integration, my question is why do we want to pair our phone with the radio? I mean if we are hiking, it’ll be some place remote or without phone reception, so what’s the point of have a phone interface? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Tim. I couldn’t agree with you more on the battery issue. This is something to keep in mind and depending on if you only take day hikes or if you go on multiple night backpacking trips, will give you an idea of the type of emergency locator beacon you should buy.

      About your question with syncing the smartphone; the smart phone isn’t accessing cellular data when synced, your phone is using the satellite data and information coming from the satellite messenger? Does that make sense?

      Please leave me additional questions if you have any more.

      Rick

      Reply

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