My thoughts on the ACR Resqlink Personal Locator Beacon 1 year in

1 year Review of the ACR Resqlink Personal Locator Beacon

Most places I backpack do not have cell phone service.  Thus, for a true emergency I needed a way to call out for rescue.  My options included:

  1. Chancing it with nothing (like I have been for years).   This is a viable option for those living in places where everything is covered by cell phones or whom don’t want any contact with the outside world when backpacking.  This was me for many years.  A friend I grew up with, died in the back country and changed my mind on this option.  On a winter trip I once crashed through some ice and got my legs stuck in freezing ass cold water with my snowshoes on.  The risks are real.  The cost is free… or is it?
  2. Personal Locator Beacon.  The battery lasts for 5 years and has the capability of sending a strong signal in an emergency.  It cost $260 for me, and you will eventually need to pay for a replacement battery years down the line.  The signal beamed to space satellites is the strongest of any of the other beacons.  Contrary to popular belief, it can send brief custom messages to contacts to tell them you’re ok.  I send my “ok” message off once I’ve reached camp in the evening.  This service is normally extra but was free for the first year for me as part of a rebate.  For some reason this is not heavily advertised and I think it really sweetens the deal on this beacon.  ACR would do well to promote this capability better.  After this month it’ll cost me $40 per year to be able to send “ok” messages to my partner (or any other custom message).  However, they can’t send anything back to me.  That is fine.  I don’t go backpacking to text people.  This coming year I’ll be declining the option to send outgoing messages and just have the PLB for emergency situations.
  3. SPOT: You must pay service fees which weren’t worth it to me.  This device also tracks you, giving you GPS tracks if you wish.  My phone can give me GPS tracks for free. You can also text messages to loved ones. However the cost for the SPOT is $149.99 plus a $199.99 yearly subscription fee. LMAO, no way am I paying for that.
  4. Satellite Phone: Ridiculous costs right now, LOL no way!  This is also super overkill for my needs.
  5. Garmin InReach: This is a really versatile $400 device that I really don’t need, but is a 2nd place choice for me.  It can send AND receive messages, is a GPS unit, and can be used to fetch help in an emergency.  It requires a subscription however that starts at $12 per month up to $80, depending on what you need.  My phone can act as a GPS and for significantly less money I can use the PLB as my “oh shit” button.
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With antenna deployed.  Ink pen for scale.

As you can see, my goal here is really to only have an “oh shit” button for an honest to god emergency in places with no cell service.  In that situation I want help to be notified immediately, and the ACR PLB has the strongest signal ensuring successful notification to the proper authorities.  Examples of emergency being: surviving an animal attack, bad fall, serious illness or injury, UNABLE TO SELF RESCUE or coming upon another backpacker in need.

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I don’t need two way communication, my phone already has GPS navigation, and the overall cost of the ACR Resqlink PLB is lower, especially over time.  I don’t need to chat with others while in the back country, I prefer solitude and a break from the modern world and electronics.  I feel it is by far the best fit for my needs, and luckily have not had to use it in an emergency :).

You can see that a cell phone with a couple of free apps can really duplicate some of the functions in these devices.  With time, I think we’ll see a shrinking market for these products.

I keep it mounted to my shoulder strap in a waterproof pocket that attaches with clips.  It’s the one on the right.  The pouch is made by Mountain Laurel Designs and bought it at a nice discount on the BPL gear trade forum.  It’s peace of mind 🙂

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