Anyone who’s into remote outdoor adventuring should consider getting a locator beacon. This is the kind of simple device that can make a huge difference in a life or death situation. With its help, you will be able to get direct access to rescue personnel if things get out of control in your backcountry travels. It’s best to never have to rely on it, but investing in this tool will give you great peace of mind.
Adventurers have different styles and it’s not surprising to find out that their needs vary as well. To help you choose the best locator beacon for your budget and requirements, we’ve created a list of the best products designed for efficient backcountry communication. There are two main types of rescue devices – personal locator beacons and satellite messengers. The latter is a more recent invention which accomplishes the same purpose and has a few extra communication features. It’s also important to mention that satellite messengers will require subscription fees which isn’t the case for personal locator beacons.
The most powerful and reliable devices for communication when you’re in isolated areas have been assembled here. These locator beacons and satellite messengers have been individually reviewed for your convenience. The primary factor that played a role in the creation of this list was the overall value for the money. Take a close look at what these safety devices can do. You might also be interested in our articles about the best tactical backpack and the best tactical pants.
1. ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+
Before checking out any other option, take a quick look at the ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+. This is a powerful personal locator beacon designed to have a small footprint and reliable durability. The beacon has great buoyancy features and seems to be well suited for a wide range of outdoor activities from hunting to hiking and more. If you run into a dangerous situation, this device is very effective at sending your location to rescue satellites.
There are no subscription fees to use with this locator beacon. Thanks to the ResQLink+ technology, your position will be quickly transmitted with accuracy to the rescue satellites. A nice bonus feature is the strobe light which gives you the ability to enhance your visibility for night rescues. This is a buoyant tool which means it will float in the water if you’re lost at sea. That can be convenient to know for some extra peace of mind.
Built in the USA to the highest standards of quality, the ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ promises a safe experience for anyone adventuring in remote areas. It activates in a reliable manner regardless of the outside conditions. Precise and dependable, this model is worth the investment if you need a high-quality buoyant locator beacon.
2. Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communicator
One of the best satellite communicator to help you in an emergency is the Garmin inReach Explorer+. By paying the subscription fee you can get complete coverage from virtually anywhere in the world. There’s a 24/7 rescue monitoring center ready to assist you. All you have to do is trigger an SOS. This device has other interesting abilities as well.
It can be used for tracking your location and sending it to your family or friends to give them some peace of mind. This communicator is capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions considering its IPX7 water rating. As for the energy source, this model relies on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Other useful goodies for your travels are the preloaded maps with GPS routing as well as the ability to access barometric and altitude information.
Thanks to the ability to pair it with mobile devices via its dedicated app, you will be able to access even more information such as NOAA charts. Considering the extensive satellite coverage and the navigation and communication features, it’s safe to say that Garmin did a solid job with the inReach Explorer+. This is the kind of portable device that you should always pack in your off-grid adventures.
3. ACR 2880 ResQLink Locator Beacon
The ACR 2880 ResQLink is a powerful locator beacon which comes at a very attractive cost considering its features. This PLB device arrives pre-programmed for US users, but you can register it in any country you prefer. This model has been extensively tested to ensure maximum reliability in the event of a backcountry emergency.
The main strength of this locator beacon is its compact and lightweight design. As it weighs only 4.6oz, this little device will always be easy to carry even if you’re loaded with other gear. There are no subscription fees required to relay your location to rescue centers. Thanks to the addition of a 66-channel GPS, this beacon will show rescuers your precise location within 100 meters. Those who live in the US will be glad to know that rescue personnel will find out about your emergency in a matter of minutes.
As there are included built-in tests, the device can be checked beforehand to ensure correct functioning. In a typical scenario, you can expect the battery to last for 30 hours, and that’s assuming constant operation. Considering the value for the cost, the ACR 2880 ResQLink is recommended for its reliability, construction, and overall features.
4. DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Communicator
If you want to stay safe in your backcountry adventures, having a reliable satellite communicator is crucial to be able to contact the civilization if things go wrong. An affordable unit to consider is the inReach SE model made by DeLorme. Some of its highlights are the global coverage, interactive SOS communications, and complex tracking functions to visualize your traveling on the map.
You can do many things with the help of this little device. The main advantage is the ability to send and receive texts to any cell number or email address. Your message contains the coordinates of your location and you will also receive a confirmation to give you some peace of mind that your text arrived at its destination. The device relies on the vast satellite network Iridium which ensures that in a life or death situation you won’t have to face delay or coverage problems.
In the event of an emergency, you will be able to trigger an SOS and communicate your problem with GEOS which monitors and coordinates rescue missions. There’s no need to panic as they will announce you an ETA so you only need to be patient and wait for the rescue team. This is a fairly simple device to use. Perhaps not everyone will appreciate the extra features such as trip tracking and sharing, but it’s worth to consider given the value for the money.
5. McMurdo Fast Find 220 PLB
A personal beacon locator needs to be simple to use and reliable in any situation. One model that appears to check all the boxes for a high-quality PLB device is the McMurdo Fast Find 220. This unit comes pre-programmed to function in the US and has been proven to work even in the toughest conditions in some of the most remote locations on the planet.
This handheld locator beacon is designed to be rugged and waterproof without feeling bulky. The construction is sturdy and reliable, but keep in mind that this is not a buoyant unit. When a distress call is initiated, the GPS inside will attempt to find your precise position and transmit it to orbiting satellites using a strong 406MHz signal. In terms of battery life, you can count on this locator beacon to last for at least a full day of non-stop operation.
When in storage, the battery shouldn’t have any problems to operate even after a few years. Even so, it’s strongly recommended to perform a simple functionality test to make sure everything works correctly. The last thing you’d want is for the locator beacon to fail to send the distress signal when you truly need help. All in all, the McMurdo Fast Find 220 is a convenient, compact, and efficient tool that can save your life one day.
6. ACR GlobalFix Pro 2844
ACR is the leading force in the world of locator beacons. Their GlobalFix Pro 2844 is a device specifically created to indicate your position to a dedicated network of rescue satellites. Heading offshore or traveling in isolated places will no longer keep everyone stressed as you will be able to get help if you unexpectedly encounter a survival situation.
While the device is designed to conserve energy as much as possible, it’s still recommended to perform a quick self-test for the internal circuitry and power to feel confident when you go traveling in remote areas. This unit is more specifically geared towards boat emergencies, so as a consequence it’s built to face tough marine conditions. The beacon is small and intuitive to use, delivering reliable EPIRB performance.
You can count on its performance no matter how extreme the conditions outside become. It’s engineered to deliver your position with accuracy as fast as possible. Taking into account the rugged construction, efficient performance, and reliable testing ability, it seems clear enough that the ACR GlobalFix Pro 2844 is an ideal locator beacon for any situation.
7. ACR AquaLink View PLB
The last handheld locator beacon that we’ll take a look at comes once again from ACR. This is the AquaLink View PLB which has been designed to handle accidental overboard falling thanks to its special buoyant construction. With the help of its three levels of signaling such as GPS, 406 MHz, and 121.5 MHz capabilities, this rescue device shouldn’t be left out when you go adventuring in the backcountry.
The reason why this model is very reliable in an emergency is that it doesn’t just tell rescuers your current position, it also offers essential information about you. This could be useful to understand the context of your travel and find a quicker solution to your distress. The tool comes equipped with a LED strobe light which acts as a helpful guide aside from the relaying the GPS coordinates.
On the screen, you will be able to check out all the relevant info such as instructions, transmission bursts, and remaining battery life. The digital display is also helpful when you wish to test the beacon’s functionality. Simple and intuitive visuals guide you through this process. Overall, the ACR AquaLink View offers the best available technologies for successful rescues. It’s simple to operate and performs just as expected.