The 5 Best Personal Locator Beacons

Personal Locator Beacons

Personal locator beacons (PLBs) are designed to be used in emergency situations to alert authorities in your area to your exact location so search and rescue teams can be deployed to assist you (Source).

They are generally one-use devices, though they can be tested to ensure their batteries haven't expired. It's essential, and often required by law, to register your beacon once you receive it (Source).

Many buyers employ them in remote locations where they can't receive cell-phone signals. 

This is because it enables search and rescue teams access to your personal information, family contacts, travel plans, all of which facilitates emergency response (Source).

How They Compare


The ACR ResQLink, McMurdo Fast Find, and Ocean Signal Rescue are all specifically designed for water environments, though they can function on land, as well.

The Bushnell Bear Grylls locator doesn't actually contact emergency services. It's useful, for example, if you're out camping and want to track your starting point prior to taking a hike so you don't get lost.

All of these options don't require a monthly or annual fee except for the Spot Personal Tracker, which does require buying a service plan. Mainly because it has a range of extra contact features. 

Besides its ability to emit distress signals, the Spot has a 4 different communication features.

One that alerts 911 to an emergency, another that pings your contacts for help with your exact location, another that checks in with your contacts letting them know you're safe, and a track progress function that enables loved to track your progress on Google Map/Earth.

Our Top Pick: The ACR ResQLink

  • The floating ACR ResQLink is advertised as the smallest beacon on the market.
  • At 5.4 oz, it's certainly lightweight - and at 4.5", it's smaller than your cell phone, in fact.
  • This GPS-enabled rescue beacon is particularly useful for pilots, boaters, and water-faring outdoorsmen.
  • It has 3 levels of integrated signal technology, a robust 406 MHz signal, a 121.5 MHz homing capacity, and GPS positioning.
  • In a nutshell, it's designed to accurately and quickly pings your position to an international network of search and rescue satellites.
  • An integrated strobe light helps during night rescues.
  • The way it works, once the antenna is deployed, you press the on button, and rescuers will be alerted to your whereabouts within 100 meters of your location.
  • In the United States, search and rescue are on average alerted within 5 minutes.
  • Another handy feature- it has testing buttons so you can rest assured it's functional.

Personal Locator Beacons Compared

View Walmart PricesPersonal Locator BeaconOur RatingPrice ($)Subscription?Emergency Transmission?
ACR Beacon SmallThe ACR ResQLink Buoyant PLB4.5$$NoYes
Mcmurdo SmallThe McMurdo Fast Find PLB4.2$$NoYes
The SPOT Personal Tracker3.8$$YesYes
The Bushnell BackTrack Personal Locator3.7$NoNo
The Ocean Signal Rescue PLB4.5$$$NoYes

Best Personal Locator Beacon For 2017

ACR Beacon Large

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

This personal locator beacon offered by ACR is a good option if you are looking for a US coded ResQLink+ PLB.Users love the functionality of this item, but some do complain about certain design flaws.

This product is the world’s smallest PLB. It features three levels of integrated signal technology – GPS positioning, a powerful 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing capability.This item seems like a good choice if you’re looking for a PLB with a powerful GPS positioning that can guide rescuers to within 100 meters or less of your position.

The general user consensus concerning the ACR PLB-375 is that it is a wonderful insurance for hikers and campers that go into the wilderness for long periods of time. Many users state that this product is small, well designed and easy to operate and that it makes the users feel safe in the wild. As one online reviewer shares, if you use this device in an actual emergency (life threatening or imminent danger) the company will replace the device for free.

However, some buyers complain about the antennae which keeps popping out of its spring clip and getting in the way, saying that this makes the PLB hard to wear. One downside, as one purchaser points out, is that this is a one-use item. Once you use it, you have to send it back to the manufacturer to replace the battery.

ACR ResQLink Video Demo

Pros

  • Wonderful insurances for hikers and campers
  • Small, well designed and easy to operate
  • If used in an actual emergency the company will replace the device for free

Cons

  • Some buyers complain about the antennae which keeps popping out of its spring clip
  • Complaints regarding the fact that this is a one-use item (the battery is not user-replaceable)
Mcmurdo Beacon Large

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

This personal locator beacon offered by McMurdo is a solid option if you are looking for a GPS-enabled rescue beacon. Users love the performance of this product, but one does complain about a serious design flaw.

This product is a PLB that transmits on both 406MHz satellite signal and 121.5MHz homing beacon. it features a 6-year battery. Another good feature is that it can float. This220 PLB might be a solid choice for adventurous people who go to the back country often.

In general, users have a favorable opinion of the McMurdo Fast Find PLB.What they praise is that it comes in a nice tight package, as well as that it is convenient. Therefore, as the users conclude, this product gives you some peace of mind if you go off the beaten track by yourself.

However, one buyer complains about the cap that he couldn’t take off and use the device when he was in an emergency.

Video Demo Of The McMurdo Fast Find

Pros

  • Compact
  • Convenient
  • Gives you some peace of mind if you go off the beaten track alone

Cons

  • One buyer complains about the cap that he couldn't take off when he was in an emergency

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

This personal tracker offered by SPOT Inc. is a good option for those who want to stay safe on adventurous trips.Users love the product for being a life-saver, but some do complain about the lack of customization.

This product features the Spot Checking function that alerts friends and family of your precise location. Another feature is the Spot Casting function which lets friends and family follow your progress in real time. The device works by sending your GPS coordinates and distress message to Emergency Response Center. If you want a PLB with a satellite technology that works around the world,this might be a solid option.

In general, users have a positive opinion of the SPOT Inc.personal tracker and they agree that it is a great life-saver which works as advertised. As they say, it fits great in a pack or on your belt. One buyer shares that he experienced no problem broadcasting the signal with the device through the fiberglass hardtop of this boat.

Even though it is said to function very well as a tracker, purchasers agree that it is not the perfect choice if you desire more options like customized texts, emails or phone calls.One buyer states that the tree coverage affects the signal significantly.

Examining The Spot Gen3

Pros

  • A great life saver
  • Works as advertised
  • Fits great in a pack or on your belt
  • No problem broadcasting the signal through the fiberglass hardtop of a boat

Cons

  • Complaints about not being able to customize texts, emails or phone calls
  • One buyer states that the tree coverage greatly affects the signal

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

If you are looking for an affordable personal locator, you might want to consider this personal locator and digital compass offered by Bushnell. Users like the simplicity and effectiveness of this device, but do complain about its inaccuracy.

This product is a compact personal locator with intuitive 2-button design and ergonomic shape. It features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and self-calibrating digital compass. It stores up to 3 locations and can return you to your car, home base or anywhere else. It comes in two colors: black/green and orange/black. This weather-resistant device could be a solid choice if you’re looking for a personal locator and digital compass combo.

In general, buyers have a positive opinion of the Bushnell personal locator and digital compass. They state that it is simple and effective, if you understand its limitations. Most of them agree that it is a great GPS locator for finding your way back to the car or home. One happy purchaser shares that it is a very useful device which he has tested a lot over the past couple of years. As he says, it isn’t precise to the foot, but it sure gets the job done.

However,many buyers complain about its inaccuracy. Another frequent complaint is that the device often routes you the long way around.

Examining The Bushnell

Pros

  • Simple and effective
  • Very useful
  • Great locator for finding your way back to the car or home
  • Not precise to the foot, but gets the job done
  • Available in two colors

Cons

  • Many buyers complain about its inaccuracy
  • Frequent complaint regarding the fact that the device often routes you the long way around

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

If you are looking for a PLB that you can use when out on the sea or in the wild, you might want to consider this device offered by Ocean Signal. Users love its size and performances, and so far have no complaints.

This product allowing you to alert global emergency services of your location, whether on the land or at the sea. It comes with a flotation case which is great if you use it in a marine environment. If you are looking for a cost-effective GPS enabled emergency beacon that requires no monthly or annual subscription, this satellite enabled notification device might be a good option.

In general, users are very happy with the Ocean Signal PLB. What they like in particular is that it is small and thus easily fits in a pocket or pack without any significant weight. All in all, they agree that it performs as specified and is highly useful when hiking or sailing.

So far, purchasers have no complaints about the product.

Unboxing The Ocean Signal

Pros

  • Small
  • Fits in a pocket or pack without any significant weight
  • Performs as specified
  • Highly useful when hiking or sailing

Cons

  • So far, purchasers have no complaints about the product

What Are Buyers Saying?


The ACR

The first personal locator beacon we examined is manufactured by ACR- it's the ResQLink. When you buy this particular option, it arrives programs with US country codes- this means that while it will work internationally, the primary authority that will be alerted in an emergency is actually the US Coast Guard agency that the beacon is registered with.

You can actually contact the manufacturer prior to purchase if you want it to be configured and registered with a different country. It's essential that you register your beacon- in many countries, this is actually a legal requirement because once it's activated this information is crucial for search and rescue teams to be able to locate you.

A satellite-enabled a notification device, this option doesn't require recurring payments in the form of annual or monthly subscriptions to function. It only weighs 5.4 ounces, floats, and is marketed as one of the smallest personal locator beacons you can buy- easily fitting in your pocket. It's marketed towards pilots, boaters and people who enjoy water sports.

The way it works, whenever it is activated it employs GPS positioning and signal technology to relay your exact position to search and rescue satellites. The battery itself is engineered and should last for six years and they say has an 11-year shelf life.

  • One buyer tells us that he uses this option tied to his life vest- this means that if he ends up overboard in the water he'll be able to activate it.
  • Buyers also say that the unit is designed to be activated once and then you'll have to service it- obviously intended only for emergency use.
  • One hiker tells us that it needs to be registered with NOAA. Buyers are careful to warn that it needs to be activated only in emergency situations.
  • One reviewer says that the company will replace your beacon if it's employed in a life or death situation. Indeed, besides just in ocean-faring situations, buyers are also campers and hikers that voyage deep into the wilderness for extended trips.
  • Another buyer tells us that his family enjoys adventure travel and praises the beacon for providing them some peace of mind when traveling in remote locations.
  • All you have to do to activate it, he tells us, is flip up the antenna and then turn the device on.
  • Another buyer actually had the opportunity to use it- he activated the signal after his boat capsized in the ocean, the Coast Guard contacted his wife within several minutes to verify that he indeed was actually out on the waters, and a helicopter was quickly dispatched.

The McMurdo

The second personal locator beacon we examined is the McMurdo. This option that has a six-year battery life and ships with a pouch. This is another no-fee option that can only be used in emergency situations.

Buyers say you're able to test it so you can be assured it's in good working order and that the battery is alive and doesn't need to be serviced by the company.

The Spot

The third beacon we examined is the Spot Personal Tracker- it's marketed towards buyers on adventure trips and it does require the purchase of a service plan. This device is a little bit different than the previous two- it enables you to allow family members and other contacts the ability to track your location in non-emergency settings.

Indeed, it provides a line of communication whether you are looking for emergency assistance or just letting family and friends know where you are as you travel outdoors every 10 minutes.

When activated in an emergency situation, a distress message is automatically transmitted with your exact GPS coordinates to the international emergency response center- this is done every five minutes and includes your personal information and location.

The responders can be the Coast Guard, local police, the highway patrol, the consulate or another emergency response search and rescue team. It is designed to work in the continental United States, North Eastern Asia, Northern Africa, areas of South America, Australia, Mexico and Europe.

  • One buyer who was on a adventure travel in Canada used it to enable his family to track his progress using Google earth in conjunction with this personal tracking beacon.
  • One buyer says that when he was hiking in an area with dense tree coverage, the trail he was on obscured the signal.
  • Another buyer was provided this beacon by his company because the employees frequently travel to remote areas around the world that do not have cell phone coverage.

The Bushnell

The fourth option we examined is the Bear Grylls Bushnell edition personal locator and digital compass. It's marketed as a personal navigation device with just two buttons that's designed to store three locations. It's important to note that this unit only records locations, it doesn't actually contact emergency services. The way one buyer uses it, whenever they are out camping and he wants to explore the surrounding area, he uses this personal tracker to record his starting location to ensure that he is able to return to it no problem.

The Ocean Signal

The last personal locating beacon we examined is provided by Ocean Signal. The way it works, once the emergency button is pressed, your coordinates are relayed to emergency services as an SOS.

The signal will be continuously transmitted for up to 24 hours. It's marketed as a land or sea compatible device with global emergency services equipped to assist you in the event of an unexpected calamity. This option doesn't require an annual or monthly subscription and arrives pre-programmed with US country codes.

As well, it is waterproof, comes equipped with a retractable antenna, 66 channel GPS receiver, and a strobe light. A palm-sized option, buyers say it's easy to activate, though it is essential that it is registered before you begin using it.

  • Buyers say that there are many stories in the news of lost travelers or drivers that ended up taking a wrong turn becoming a lost in the wilderness and tragically dying when all they needed was one of these personal locator beacons to alert the authorities to their location.
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: