Emergency Essentials – Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)

In my previous post on Emergency Essentials for the lightweight backpacker, I recommended the ACR 3995.3 FIREFLY 3 STROBE.

While the flashing strobe can easily be seen by would be rescuers — especially those searching by air — the ACR – Aquafix Personal Locator Beacon with Internal GPS may be the best friend a lightweight backpacker ever had. Especially, if you insist on traveling in the wilderness alone. The ACR was cheapest among those I looked at with some running close to $700.

If you don’t think this is a valuable wilderness tool, consider this commentary by Doug Ritter of Equipped.com on the death of of Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger, Jeff Christensen:

“As is common these days, he was on a solo patrol in the remote and rugged area of a national park, doing what rangers have always done, taking care of us and our natural heritage. When he didn’t return as expected, a full press search and rescue operation was begun. His body was found seven days later, with initial reports indicating that he died from injuries sustained in a fall. He would have been located and perhaps saved if he had a PLB Read more

If that doesn’t convince you, read Angels in the Wilderness: The True Story of One Woman’s Survival Against All Odds and her near brush with death while out hiking alone.

The way the beacon works: you turn it on and your signal is relayed by satellite to a computer center where your device and name are registered. When you trigger it, you’ll be calling for help and help will be able to find your exact location. But you need to register with NOAA to make it work.

In a move aimed at making it much easier for 406 MHz distress beacon owners to register and update the registration of their beacons, NOAA’s Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) Program’s online 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database became operational on August 22, 2003. Here’s the link to NOAA’s PBL registration page.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

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