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Re: Epirb - is there a similar device for hiking?

My wife and I have been watching a lot of nature shows and watching Disasters at Sea. That lead us on a segue of people going hiking or backpacking without a map/compass and some form of GPS. We then started thinking if they made a Epirb device for hiking.

Do they make such a device for hiking/backpacking? What is it called?

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PLB -personal locator beacon.  Several modals are available. Very handy in real emergencies where assistance is needed, but one should always have an appropriate map in those much more common situations where one is just a little "confused"

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

One common xampl-  https://www.rei.com/product/140110/garmin-inreach-mini

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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Oh, wow, that little bitty one is expensive, but you can’t put a price tag on saving a life. While looking at the pictures and description, I noticed you could download maps into it. Does it have the capability to be used as a backup gps navigator? I also saw the garmin ireach explorer for $450 and thought that would be big enough to use as a backup gps device and accomplish the same end result as a locator beacon. I think if I were going to get one, the bigger one would be easier on the eyes, unless the small one is bigger than it seems.

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While PLB's, EPIRB's etc. are useful items, they are not the first and most important tools for outdoor safety.  The basics are still valid;

1) Know and follow safe procedures in the wild.  If you don't (and who doesn't, occasionally) be aware of the potential consequences.

2) Be in appropriate physical condition.  Know your limits.

3) Carry appropriate gear for your undertaking.  Almost always, pack a First Aid kit and the knowledge and skills to employ it.  Taking a good first aid class may be the most important single measure to protect yourself from harm.

4)Pay attention to weather conditions and forecasts.  Check for information about recent hazards.

Realize that in an emergency, help will not occur instantly.  It would be unusual for assistance to arrive within an hour; several hours is more likely and even longer response times by willing and competent groups are recorded.

In several situations, outside assistance is irrelevant.  Take a long fall off a cliff, or get caught in flood waters and we are dealing with a body recovery situation of less urgency.

Example:  My groups had been called to the scene of a routine accident, just upstream from a popular party spot in the Arizona desert.  While tending the victim, a flash flood came downstream, instantly killing eight people.  It was a week before we recovered all the bodies.  The original victim was successfully evacuated and several folks who were stranded, etc. were assisted.  

PLBs in that situation would have not affected the outcome one bit.  PLB's are useful, but they are not a panacea.

 

 

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

The Mini is lightweight and generally the better choice because of that.  The Explorer+  with its mapping can be a backup GPS navigator but it is is not a very good GPS navigator.  I would only consider it if you don't carry printed maps because you use your phone so that you have a backup to your phone.   The main reason people prefer the Explorer+  is it is slightly easier to compose custom messages 2D vs !D letter selection and in winter/cold/wet it is more reliable than using you connected phone to do that....Generally you would use your connected phone out of choice because it is much easier.

The Explorer+ does have a longer battery life which is better for an aggressive or impetuous day hiker where you might not bring a battery bank.  For backpacking you will almost certainly bring a battery bank and the Mini battery life is more than adequate for most situations.

InReach devices are messaging devices which require an active paid subscription to work so not the same as PLDs which usually just work once registered.  PLDs once triggered can also have more reliable continuous radio location and can act as a beacon...that may depend on the device.

Hi @Cdawley4 !

I really don't have any personal information or recommendations on this topic, but I just noticed this article  about PLB's on REI's Co-op Journal and thought it might be a good idea to include it on this thread.

https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/which-satellite-messenger-should-you-get

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

It would be worthwhile to bee aware of the status of cell phone coverage in the area in which you are hiking.  If you encounter difficulties and have coverage, you are in good shape and a PLB is just eextra weight.

I understand that now a days a good many rescue ops start with a cell phone call from the scene.  Iwould be interested in the views of currently active SAR folks on this.  Quite a change from the 'good old days."

 

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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@hikermor A good point. Your cell phone is your first line of defense. I don't know what SAR's recommends specifically but obviously it will be more efficient if you can talk directly to your potential rescuers since you can discuss options and get immediate first aid advice.  It is a reasonable assumption that SARs can call back to a cell phone number if there is service.

However if you call 911 from a cell phone you need to be prepared to give your location.  Unlike land lines, 911 support for cell phone location is very variable and there is a good chance you will connect to  a cell tower that is not in the same district as the SAR you need.

This reasonably current random article I found seems to give a current status although it probably deserves a deeper search to confirm its veracity.

https://www.safety.com/calling-911/

An InReach or similar sends a location with the SOS.  Probably a good idea to make a preset message so you can send your cell phone number easily.   If you both call 911 and trigger an InReach SOS make sure to tell the 911 dispatcher you did so to avoid duplicate incidents.

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You recall a true incident within Channel islands national Park a few years ago.  A hiker on Santa Cruz 5sland requested assistance during a dark and stormy night, giving his location.  Somehow the operator was confused and thought he was near Santa Cruz, the city, thereby directing his call to the wrong agency.   Eventually this was corrected and the Park Service sent a boat across the Channel with a team that hiked through a rainy night, finding the distressed hiker in a dry rock shelter with a nice fire.  He was more comfortable than his supposed rescuers....

I have heard of one case where the victim took a photo of the visible skyline and forwarded it, thereby allowing ID of his location.  My personal experience is that hikers in mountainous terrain often are blocked by cliffs or waterfalls.  They know about where they are, but don't know how to proceed....

My SAR experience came before cell phones became common.  I would have relished the opportunity to have any kind of discussion with a victim at, or during, an operation.

 

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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