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Re: SOS backcountry device without subscription

I just purchased a Garmin Inreach-mini.  I hike and ski alone in the backcounty, I know the terrain I hike and ski.  What I wanted is a device that has an SOS, in case something unforeseen happens (fires, phsycial emergencies, etc).  I found out that the SOS function on the Garmin device requires a subscription, is there a device that is solely used for emergency notification?

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Yes, PLBs (personal locator beacons) generally don't requrire a subsciption although there may be a registration or activation fee. They don't have a satellite messanger feature but just broadcast a general location specific SOS using one more radio systems. They often have a fixed life battery of 5 years or so.  Some are more oriented for on water use although can be use terrestrially. ACR is a well known brand. Other types are for more local avalanche location intended for immediate location by similarly equipped ski buddies.

Seems REI are not currenlty stocking PLBs although they did have them recently.

For most purposes, satellite messangers like InReach are more generally useful and have additional functions.  Most allow you to suspend your subscription for months you don't need the service depending what plan you use. There may be a minimum period.

Zoleo has a three month initial subscription before you can cancel or suspend.

Suspending costs $4 per month but you have access to all of your data and no fee to reactivate. Canceling is free but costs $20 to reactivate. If you cancel, you can’t keep your SMS number. 

I looked at the ACR too to avoid the subscription but ended up with a sat cam device so I could check in with my wife (or give her a heads up when I’ll be at a trail head). 

If I recall correctly - and no guarantee that I do - the battery replacement on the ACR was about $150 and must be sent in for them to do it. 

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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You can also suspend your Garmin subscription when you aren't using it.  Still means playing for it when you are using it but a) includes the messaging function (I've found this to be very handy) and you've already paid for the device.  Just my 2 cents 🙂

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks to all respondents.  @nathanu@Dad_Aint_Hip@OldGuyot One additiional question, since Garmin customer service is not responsive.

According to Garmin site "Enrollment in Freedom plans is subject to a $34.95 annual fee. The least expensive plan is $14.95 per month.  A Freedom plan's minimum term is 30 days. Service can be suspended 1 month at a time at no charge. Selected plan auto-renews monthly unless user changes account selections in the Garmin Explore portal."

I just want to check that I pay a one time annual fee of $34.95 (not recurring when I suspend the subscription).  Then there is a minimum one month plan of $14.95 (recurring every time I reinstate).  So if I wonder about 6 times a year the maximum cost is $34.95 plus $14.95 times 6 for a total of about $125.  

I should check out ACR.

Thank you again.

 

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This is where it's really easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of the contract details.

For me, it came down to the fact that, although the Garmin base plan is $5 a month cheaper than Zoleo, I enjoy having 25 included texts (which I likely won't use up) versus the included 10 from Garmin that I likely would use up.

Plus - and I hate admitting this - now that I am in my 50s and have the eyesight of a guy in his 50s, I like that Zoleo uses an app on my iPhone because it's easier for me to read than the smaller monochrome screen on the InReach Mini (check-in messages and SOS calls are still done directly on the device).

BTW, last week Zoleo announced an additional service of tracking. For $6 a month added to your current subscription, you and your contacts can follow your progress along on a map. I've not signed up for this yet and likely won't. I have a premium Gaia subscription so I use that for tracking my own progress. My wife just wants me to use the check-in feature when I hit camp and wouldn't follow my progress on an app (I am, for now, doing overnights and weekends). Once I start hitting longer treks (a week or longer), I'll probably add that feature to my monthly subscription.

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@kcheraziYes that seems basically right. At some point there is a break even to an annual plan. 

A trick to minimise the cost is to suspend it for the next month the day after you reactivate it.  Then unsuspend immediately before your next month's trips or sooner if you have a trip that overlaps the month end. That way you delay any month until you actually need it.  Garmin let's you start a month at any time but it is a prepaid month so you can only suspend starting at the end of that period.

 

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FWIW, the other reason I didn't go with a regular PLB was mentioned by @hikermor - the ability to communicate with SAR. I can answer their questions, provide vitals if needed, identify landscape features to help locate me, or inform them of nearby hazards...  They're trying to save my butt so anything I can do to help them help me is a good thing.

A PLB just says "I need help, come get me"

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@kcherazi as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I did much less reading of the fine print when I got my In-Reach.  I had an "event" on a solo backpacking trip and, after that, my only option for future backpacking adventures was to have some reliable way to call for help.  The In-Reach mini was lightweight, relatively easy to figure out and a pricepoint that I was comfortable with so I jumped.  At first, I was planning to only turn it on when I was going to use it but I typically try to do at least one overnight each month (except for really cold months), so I've basically just left the subscription active.  I did suspend it for a couple of months (January and February, I believe), and I don't recall any hidden or surprise fees for those months.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Just a word from a SAR geezer- in the old days when I was active, we routinely responded to vague situations, not knowing circumstances, or indeed, if there was an actual emergency or just someone a trifle late.

Today with cell phones and gadgets like the InReach, it is totally different.  If you ever need the capabilities of these devices in communicating your problem and your location, resolution of your difficulty will e advanced by hours, if not days.  The money expended on your subscription will shrink to insignificance.

Still, leave information of your plans with someone responsible when you embark....

 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.