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GPS or other emergency becon?


Original Post
Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

Hey all, I'm considering the value/need for a GPS beacon (something like a DeLorme).  Places I travel to for climbing are generally in SoCal and include some trips to Bishop/Mammoth.  I haven't had any close calls but I'm wondering if I should be prepared in case someone in my group does get injured.  What are you carrying? What are the options out there?

So far I know about the DeLorme, Spot, and Garmin Inreach.

I can't imagine I will need the service portion for communication as I am usually in cell service at the beginning and end of the day but while out, lets say JTree, I would like to be able to reach SAR if something should go south. But I do like the idea of being able to add on the communication bit if I need it for a backpacking trip, for my family's piece of mind.

claty · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 10

If you're only planning on using it for true emergencies, you should also consider an ACR ResQLink, which doesn't require a subscription and is nonprofit. The version that has 2 way communication is only available to military and law enforcement, but the civilian version can send a one-way distress signal like Spot. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65

I bought a Spot last year in prep for a solo trip into a very remote area with no cell service. I selected the Spot based on:

cost - remember to factor in any subscription service

size/weight - seemed about the best in that regard

ability to send a message other than "rescue me!" - while being able to text would be a nice addition, I found the "All is OK" message adequate and not really worth the upcharge for devices/services that allow texting. The "I'm OK but stranded because of vehicle breakdown" provided useful peace-of-mind, knowing that I could send a help message to a list of friends without invoking an SAR response.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 185

delorme is now owned by garmin, so youre basically looking at 2 options. although claty's suggestion might be best for you.

my experience:I have only used the inreach which tethers to my phone and allows for text messaging, sos and for people to following my location when tracking is activated. its worked great for me in numerous trips away from the family and cellphone reception. never needed to use SOS but glad i can. 

but as mentioned, this option may be too spendy if youre not doing multi day trips into the backcountry and want to be able to communicate with your family during that time.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Jim Fox · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 50

I got a Garmin Inreach Explorer+ for Christmas (Basically an improved Delorme). 

I'm getting older and sometimes venture out into the wilderness by myself, frequently out of cell phone range. I doubt I will use the GPS that much but good to mark the trailhead/car location in case I get lost. Got it mostly in case of emergencies and also so I can text my wife so she knows I haven't killed my fool self skiing and backpacking alone...

Pros:. Well made. Easy to use. Two way texting with confirmation (SPOT apparently doesn't confirm messages are sent?). 

Cons: A bit heavy/bulky. GPS is OK but not the best (I got it mainly for the messaging and have good GPS apps on my phone). Pretty expensive and requires a monthly subscription fee. 


claty · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 10

SPOT does not confirm messages are sent. My SAR team got called out for a lost backcountry skier who activated his SPOT. he had it set up to notify his parents and the emergency call center. Since he didn't know if we were coming to get him or not, he kept pressing the SOS button, which meant his parents kept calling the Sheriff's office to ask what was going on. If you activate your SPOT don't keep pushing the button if it's going to freak out your parents! 


in that case it was useful to see the guy was on the move, so we had a reasonably good idea that he was just lost and not hurt. But generally, if you're lost try to stay put. My least favorite game is when people play hide and seek with us when we're out looking for them. 

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 5

Only two worth considering IMO.

The ACR is probably the best as a pure oh-shit-button. More powerful signal. What most people seem to think is the more robust satellite network. It's fairly compact. No subscription.

The Explorer + has a built in GPS (saves you from carrying a separate one which I otherwise would, phones suck) and also send/receive satellite text messaging (cheaper than a sat phone). Bigger, more expensive, and you need a subscription. 

Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5

I had an ACR ResQLink, and now have a Garmin InReach.   Each has their own characteristics, e.g ResQLink is emergency (one way) communication, Spot and InReach are two way via satellite-based texting. Basically, the ResQLink is like dialing 911 with no additional information. The Spot and InReach provide two way satellite texting with rescuers and/or family/friends, and they may provide additional services for additional charge (e.g. weather reports). The ResQlink is a one-time purchase with no subscription fee (batteries last 6 years, and then need to be replaced by the manufacturer). Spot and InReach use different satellite arrays (Spot uses Globalstar, InReach uses Iridium). The two way devices are more expensive ($250 or so for a ResQlink, up to $400-450 or so for the InReach), and require a subscription, either monthly or annually.  My basic monthly fee is about $13.

The main differences between the two types is that one (ResQlink) is for emergency only (call in the troops), and the others allow two way communication, e.g. check ins with family, as well as additional information to rescuers once they're contacted.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 322

Just reiterating what everybody has said above. The most practical options are the ACR and the inReach. The ACR is a great one way emergency button, and that’s about it. The inReach does not have as powerful of an emmiter, but does have 2 way communication and tracking. I’m my opinion, you are going to carry a GPS anyways, the inReach is a fantastic upgrade. 

The last option is the Iridium Extreme sat phone. It has SOS, tracking, texting, and calling. It also has plenty of pay as you go service plans, and can be cheaper than the inReach in that sense. Most serious expeditions use this for communication. 

I have the ACR, inReach, and Iridium Extreme. They are all solid products. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
claty wrote:

SPOT does not confirm messages are sent. 

It's not a hard confirmation, but you can tell if the message was sent by learning what the flashing lights on the device are telling you.

in that case it was useful to see the guy was on the move, so we had a reasonably good idea that he was just lost and not hurt. But generally, if you're lost try to stay put. My least favorite game is when people play hide and seek with us when we're out looking for them. 

+1

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

Don't bother with the SPOT, for the cost you are better off with a DeLorme.  I had a SPOT and have a DeLorme.

The lack of two way communication is a HUGE deal in an actual emergency.  You really don't have any way to know if your SOS was even received.

And it sure does make a difference being able to communicate your circumstances, i.e. LOC, MOI, etc.  And for responders to communicate with you.

A real benefit to the DeLorme has absolutely nothing to do with emergencies: you can text any cell or email account and they can message you. 

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

And as far as most people and their needs.....  

You are probably far better off spending the $$ on more advanced first aid training first and improving your risk assessment, rigging and movement skills if you will most likely have or be very close to cell service.

I live in Wyoming and can't count the number of times I have run across parties or a person who is in way over their heads in some pretty hard and remote country.  But they have emergency gear, and LOTS of it!  (and those damn bear bells)  Point being a SPOT or DeLorme won't save you from bad judgment.  An experienced and reasonable party creates its own safety.

In a truly remote location, it is good to keep in mind if you have a really urgent medical situation that the best case scenario response wise is hours.  This is especially true if the weather/darkness grounds aviation.

Chris Charron · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 5

I just bought a Garmin Inreach Explore. It does the most things (2 way communication and GPS mapping).

There were the older model Delorme inreach explore at cabellas in Portland last weekend on sale for $250, that seems like a great deal with good functionality.

If you really want to nerd out: a Baifung portable ham radio can be used with a cellphone to send text messages over the radio. Add in a repeater in your vehicle at a trailhead and you can get pretty good range out of it.

Greg R · · Durango CO · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

I was on a  grand canyon trip when someone was seriously injured. The ability to communicate back and forth with helicopter pilot to discuss landing zone saved us a lot of time, and probably saved his life. We had an inreach and sat phone, the sat phone was useless because we kept losing connection due to canyon walls. The Inreach text was delivered intact when satellite connected for even a few seconds. On another occasion I reached a remote peak and we were suddenly engulfed in smoke from a wild fire. We could not see the fire and had no idea which direction was safe to travel. A quick email to my wife and her web search confirmed we could safely descend back to our vehicle. The ability to receive texts on the inreach is a really great feature. With Garmin freedom plan you no longer need the annual contract but can choose service in 30 day increments  that start any day of your choosing. 

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

This is where im coming from and my biggest concern is this: Im starting to learn trad and will be going out to JTree a lot before summer gets here.  If I get injured bad enough where I cant make it out to my car I will need to get ahold of SAR some how.  Cell phones do zero good (other than take pics) in JTree.  


I think I'm between the DeLorme and the ARC.


ColdFinger, you make a good point. I will likely be taking an advanced First Aid class this summer especially if I like my trad experiences.

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55
Daniel T wrote:

This is where im coming from and my biggest concern is this: Im starting to learn trad and will be going out to JTree a lot before summer gets here.  If I get injured bad enough where I cant make it out to my car I will need to get ahold of SAR some how.  Cell phones do zero good (other than take pics) in JTree.  


Well.....  How about you maybe be a bit more reasonable in your planning and get your feet wet with trad in areas that are not way remote???

Find a good partner/posse to learn with THEN decide if you want to be leading sportier trad lines in remote settings.

It is a good idea to start with leading routes that are relatively easy and straightforward to protect. Wear a helmet.  

You can gain a TON a valuable experience seconding more involved and difficult routes without a huge amount of risk.

Focus on SKILLS!

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,146

I carry one of these: https://www.mcmurdogroup.com/mcmurdo-products/mcmurdo-fastfind-220/ As long as one can activate it, it works. 

What one should do before looking at all the options is do a needs analysis. I my case I was just worried about the nonfatal ah shit. As others have noted they want a to be able to communicate in some form.


dave custer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 880

One big advantage of the satellite text messaging is that you can get up-to-date weather forecasts from your buddies who are stuck at home surfing the internet. Not a big deal for day trips or weekend, but pretty useful for longer trips in the backcountry.


Fleetwood Matt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 630

I have a Garmin InReach and like it.  The non-emergency sat texting has come in handy on several occasions.  I leave it in my camelbak and know that I can head out biking or exploring with my little kids pretty far out there without having to totally epic solo.  My wife hasn't had to come bail me out yet but it's probably a matter of time. NOTA BENE:  As a member of our local rescue team, I can say that we have had to respond to several ghost emercency calls from people who accidentally sent an SOS sometime without knowing it. They feel like boneheads when we track them down and they open their packs to find an emitting SOS beacon and say "aw, shucks". 

Jim Fox · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 50
Fleetwood Matt wrote:  As a member of our local rescue team, I can say that we have had to respond to several ghost emercency calls from people who accidentally sent an SOS sometime without knowing it. They feel like boneheads when we track them down and they open their packs to find an emitting SOS beacon and say "aw, shucks". 

It helps to be smarter than your equipment, LOL

Plus, it would be difficult to activate the SOS function accidentally on the InReach

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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