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EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Rescue Beacon) - 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?

12 Replies

Given all of the expressed interest and great information in this thread, we wanted to share this newly released Expert Advice article, Best Satellite Communicators & Personal Locator Beacons

@Cdawley4 - it might be a good resource to read through while looking into different available options!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I have an inReach SE by Delorme that I've been carrying for about 7 years and it still works fine.  It's probably time for a new one since the instructions on the back are almost wiped off so no one but myself would know how to operate it.  Certain family and friends can login and see my tracking pings every hour which is nice on long or remote hikes in the big mountains. It has a two-way messaging feature but it appears to be clunky at best. Obviously a cell phone is best option but unreliable in many situations: down in canyons or remote valleys and even many peaks cannot get cell service. My inReach SE was an expensive initial purchase and requires about a $10/month service fee but it's basically like paying insurance. You hope you don't ever need it but carry it just in case. 

The best advice is always hike with at least one other person; carry the "10 essentials"; carry a first aid kit; carry a flashlight; plan your route beforehand using satellite images (sometimes there are trail forks not listed on maps); bring an electronic tracking device (I carry a dedicated Garmin GPS and my cellphone w/ 2 apps); be aware of sunset times; carry a loud whistle & small mirror; and carry a PLB for life-threatening emergencies. 

I've been hiking for about 10 years now and have never triggered my SOS PLB.  Whether to trigger the SOS has come up twice, both times my friends and I were hiking off-trail in rugged canyons and ran into insurmountable obstacles (the bottom of a 12' dry waterfall that we couldn't climb and a 20' cliff that we couldn't descend).  One had us eventually spending hours bushwhacking in the darkness trying to find alternate routes out of a canyon and we discussed triggering it but we knew that we could stop and wait for daylight if we had to because we weren't in danger. The other one basically had us retracing our entire off-trail route in reverse in the dark and one of our friends wanted us to trigger the SOS but again, we knew we could stop and wait for daylight because no one was injured and we weren't in real danger. The best thing to do is stop moving, don't panic, and discuss the situation. 

Below are a few things I always carry in my day pack and backpacking pack in case of emergencies other than a PLB.


  • Cell phone with apps and maps (and a phone charger)
  • Compass and map
  • Signal mirror
  • Flashlight & headlamp
  • 2-way radio (walkie talkie)
  • Pen, paper, & sharpie
  • Green laser signal 
  • Two small hand held flares
    • One flare for daytime use (orange smoke - similar to what's used on boats)
    • One for night time use (flares - similar to what's used on boats)