Best Personal Locator Beacon Reviews

Updated June 1, 2020

Any outdoor lover that spends time off the grid should have a personal locator beacon. When you are hiking or camping in an area without cell phone service, it’s important that you have a way to signal for help in the event of an emergency. Locator beacons are small devices that use GPS to pinpoint your location.

They are only meant to be used in the event of an emergency, and when they are triggered, they will send a signal to an emergency response team. It’s important to choose the best PLB for your outdoor needs, so we have compiled these personal emergency beacon reviews to help you while shopping.

Best Personal Locator Beacons

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1 ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406 Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon ACR PLB-375 Personal Locator Beacon
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2 Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator
Best Overall
Garmin inReach Explorer+ Personal Locator Beacon
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3 McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator Beacon McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator Beacon
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4 ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon (1)
Best For Higher Budgets
ACR Pro 406 2844 Personal Locator Beacon
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5 Ocean Signal RescueMe Personal Locator Beacon Ocean Signal RescueMe Personal Locator Beacon
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6 Bushnell Bear Grylls BackTrack Personal GPS Tracking Device
Best For Low Budgets
Bushnell Bear Grylls BackTrack Personal Locator Beacon
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7 Garmin_DeLorme inReach SE Satelite Tracker Garmin DeLorme inReach Personal Locator Beacon
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1. ACR PLB-375 Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This device has a signal of 406 MHz and uses multi-layered, 66 channel GPS.
  • It is very compact, at 4.5 inches, and weighs 6.2 ounces. 
  • It comes with a strobe light for night rescues. 
  • The battery has a typical shelf life of up to 11 years.

If you’re looking for a simple but reliable personal locator device for your next trip, this is a great option. It is very small and lightweight, so it won’t weigh you down while you’re backpacking. It is designed for a one-time emergency use, and can be deployed very quickly in two simple steps. 

When you purchase the device, you will need to register it with NOAA. Because NOAA is a government agency, the GPS is extremely accurate, even more so than devices that use private satellite companies. The battery has an 11 year shelf life, although it will wear down faster if you test it frequently. If you do need to use this PLB for a real search and rescue operation, ACR will replace the battery for you.

Specifications

Battery Life:
6 to 11+ years
Warranty:
5 years

Pros

  • The small, lightweight design is convenient to carry around.
  • In the unlikely event that you do need to use this locator beacon, ACR will replace the battery for free.
  • It is very simple to use, all you need to do is pull out the antenna and turn it on and responders will have your location in minutes.
  • Since you need to register the device with NOAA, the GPS is extremely accurate.

Cons

  • This locator does not have a screen or any messaging capabilities.

2. Garmin inReach Explorer+ Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • Garmin’s Iridium satellite coverage enables you to text from anywhere in the world.
  • An automatic SOS feature can send your location to a global search and rescue team that is available 24/7. 
  • The Explorer+ provides access to topographical maps, weather information, and GPS routing to help you gather more information about your environment. 
  • This device has a powerful rechargeable lithium battery which can last for 30 days in power saving mode.
Best Overall
Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator

This is another one of the best satellite communicator options from the Garmin brand. It is a very robust satellite communicator with a durable design and a lengthy battery life. It uses Iridium satellite coverage to enable you to send and receive text messages anywhere in the world. 

You can use bluetooth to pair this satellite messenger with your computer or your smartphone, so you can text even when you don’t have cell service. This device also has the 24/7 SOS feature, which you can use to send your location to a search and rescue team as needed. 

The Explorer+ has a design that is lightweight and sleek, but has a relatively large screen that is bright and easy to read. This means that the device is a good one to use on its own if you can’t connect to a separate computer or phone. 

This device comes with Garmin’s free Earthmate app, which you can use to browse and download a wide range of maps as well as charts from NOAA. The Explorer+ also comes preloaded with helpful weather and navigational features, including a digital compass, GPS routing, a barometric altimeter, and an accelerometer. It also has a number of topographical maps preloaded onto the device.

Specifications

Range:
Global satellite coverage with unlimited range
Channels:
n/a, uses satellite connectivity
IP Rating:
IPX7
Battery Type:
Rechargeable lithium ion battery
Battery Life:
100 hours in default mode, 30 days in power save mode
Warranty:
1 year

Pros

  • The Explorer+ has a wide range of navigational features built in to help you stay safe and informed on your travels.
  • A reliable satellite network makes it easy to communicate with your loved ones and share your location, no matter where you are.
  • This device has a durable design that is highly waterproof and has a long battery life, suitable for rugged outdoor conditions.
  • Large, bright screen is easy to use if you choose not to connect to your personal smartphone.

Cons

  • The satellite coverage requires separate subscription.
  • After turning the device on, you will need to wait a short period of time for it to sync your GPS location.

3. McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This device uses Galileo GNSS internal GPS systems and connects to satellites run by NOAA.
  • It has a 406 MHz signal, with a 121.5 MHz homing signal to ensure that first responders can find you. 
  • It uses 7 lithium ion batteries, which last for at least 5 years. 
  • An LED SOS light is available to help first responders find you.

This personal locator beacon from McMurdo has a very small, lightweight design that’s easy to carry in your pocket or in a backpack. It has a powerful 406 MHz signal that uses a Galileo internal GPS reciever to communicate with highly accurate government-run satellite systems.

The design is very ergonomic and activates by extending the antenna and pressing a button. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 meters, so it is a good option for anyone who frequently travels outside in wet areas. The battery has a shelf life of at least 5 years, and once the battery is activated, it lasts for 24 hours or more to ensure that response teams get your location. It also has a bright LED SOS signal light if you need it.

Specifications

Battery Type:
Lithium ion
Battery Life:
5 years

Pros

  • This beacon has a very accurate GPS system, pinpointing your location within 62 meters.
  • This device is waterproof and very durable, so it can stand up to the elements.
  • The battery lasts for 24 hours or more once activate to ensure that first responders can find you.
  • It has an ergonomic design that is easy to operate, even for those with minimal experience with technology.

Cons

  • The shelf life isn’t as long as many comparable locator beacons.

4. ACR Pro 406 2844 Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This device has a 121.5 MHz homing beacon and uses NOAA satellites to find your location.
  • The battery has a shelf life of at least 5 years and lasts for 48 hours when activated. 
  • This beacon can be submerged in up to 10 meters of water for up to 10 minutes. 
  • It is made from high-impact polycarbonate that can resist UV damage.
Best For Higher Budgets
ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon (1)

ACR is one of the most trusted brands for personal locator beacons, and this one is no exception. This is a heavy-duty rescue beacon that is ideal for anyone who wants a step up from the smaller pocket sized models. It contains a highly accurate government-registered GPS that can pick up your location with 100 meter accuracy. The battery lasts for at least 5 years at a time and broadcasts your signal for as long as 48 hours when activated. 

This device is very durable, with a polycarbonate case that can handle impact and is UV resistant. It also is waterproof and floats upright. It can operate in temperatures ranging from -4 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.  It has a self check function so you can make sure that the battery is still working. It also has a strobe light to help responders find you in low lighting.

Specifications

Pros

  • This locator beacon is very durable and can handle exposure to water, light, and a wide range of temperatures.
  • It has a very long battery life, broadcasting your signal for 48 hours after activation.
  • The GPS is very accurate, pinpointing your location within 100 meters.
  • It has a strobe light function for emergency use.

Cons

  • This device is larger and heavier than many other locator beacons.
  • NOAA registration is required and can be somewhat time-consuming.

5. Ocean Signal RescueMe Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This marine-friendly device is waterproof up to 15 meters and comes with a flotation pouch. 
  • It has a 7 year battery life and an operational life of at least 24 hours. 
  • The GPS connects to the Cospas Sarsat system via NOAA. 
  • It has a strobe light with 1 candela of brightness.

This robust personal transponder is designed for marine use. It is fully waterproof and comes with a flotation pouch to prevent it from sinking if it accidentally falls in the water. It has a battery life of 7 years and has an excellent 7 year warranty to match. Once the battery has been activated, it lasts for at least 24 hours. 

The 66 channel GPS receiver must be registered with NOAA and connects with their satellite network for accurate location data in an emergency. A 121.5 MHz homing beacon helps the rescue team pinpoint your location. It comes with a strobe light for emergencies.

Specifications

Battery Life:
7 years
Warranty:
7 years

Pros

  • This device has excellent waterproofing and a floating case to ensure it won’t sink.
  • It has a small, lightweight design that easily fits in a pocket.
  • The battery’s lifespan is excellent, at approximately 7 years, and has a warranty to match.
  • It doesn’t require a subscription and is very easy to register online.

Cons

  • If you have the device for 7 years without using it, you’ll need to send it in for battery replacement - you can’t replace the battery on your own.

6. Bushnell Bear Grylls BackTrack Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This GPS tracker records your location coordinates, altitude, and temperature. 
  • It records your trip data for up to 48 hours. 
  • After a trip, you can upload your location data to your computer and share it via social media or email. 
  • This device has a greyscale LCD screen that displays the location data, battery life, and time.
Best For Low Budgets
Bushnell Bear Grylls BackTrack Personal GPS Tracking Device

This device is a good option for anyone who wants to keep track of their own location on their adventures and map out their routes. It does not have an emergency SOS signal, but does use an LCD screen to show you your location and keep track of important data. It can collect and store up to 5 different locations on a trip, and then you can upload these locations to your computer to create a map of your trip. You can also share your location data via social media or email. 

Throughout your trip, it records the time you were at each location, the temperature, the altitude, and your latitude and longitude coordinates. This device can record trip data for up to 48 hours. It is also lightly weather resistant, so it can handle changes in temperature and exposure to some precipitation.

Specifications

Battery Type:
AAA
Warranty:
1 year

Pros

  • This device can help you find your way back to previous locations and create map routes.
  • It has a small, compact design and can attach to a keychain.
  • The data is easy to upload to your computer via USB, and works with both Windows and Mac devices.
  • This device is easy to use and does not require a satellite subscription.

Cons

  • This device does not have an emergency SOS signal.
  • Some users report inaccuracies in temperature data.

7. Garmin DeLorme inReach Personal Locator Beacon

Highlights
  • This GPS tracker records your location at designated intervals, which you can then opt to share with friends or family. 
  • An SOS button will send your location to GEOS, a global search and rescue agency. 
  • It has a color LCD screen with a virtual keyboard and large, ergonomic buttons. 
  • It can send and receive 160-character text messages.

This satellite tracker offers a number of advanced features to keep you safe and connected during your outdoor trip. It has an SOS button that will send your location to GEOS, a global search and rescue agency that uses the Iridium satellite network. However, it also allows you to send your location to family and friends, and the device will automatically record your location at customized intervals ranging from 10 minutes to 4 hours. 

This emergency GPS tracker can also send text messages, so you can keep in touch with your loved ones even without cell service. The bright color screen and large buttons makes texting very easy. To use the GPS and messaging features, you will need an Iridium satellite subscription. You can also download a wide range of topographical maps from NOAA if you would like even more navigational assistance.

Specifications

Battery Type:
Lithium polymer

Pros

  • This device has a very bright LCD screen with color that’s easy to read.
  • The messaging capability allows you to stay in touch with friends and family anywhere in the world.
  • You can customize the location tracking intervals to suit your needs.
  • The SOS button can help get you to safety in an emergency and is very easy to use.

Cons

  • This GPS tracker is slightly larger than many other models, so it won’t fit easily into a pocket.
  • It requires a satellite service subscription, which can be expensive.

Personal Locator Beacon Buying Guide

Important Features

When choosing a personal locator beacon, there are a number of important features to take into consideration. Since this is an emergency device, you’ll need to be completely confident in its ability to transmit your location during a crisis. Here are some of the most important features to take into consideration when choosing a personal locator beacon.  

GPS Technology

All personal locators use GPS technology to track your movements. It’s extremely important that your GPS technology be as accurate as possible. 

Some locator beacons use government satellite networks to track your location, which are the most secure. You will need to register your device with the government to get access to the coverage. There are also some devices that rely on commercial satellite networks. The two most common are Globalstar and Iridium. Iridium has slightly more coverage in extremely remote areas. 

Battery Life

Another key factor to take into consideration is the battery life of the device. It’s crucial that the locator beacon can stay powered on long enough for rescue teams to find you. Most simple personal locators won’t use the battery until they are activated in an emergency situation. Ideally, the battery should last for 24 hours or more. If you are using a standalone PLB, you will need to get a replacement battery after the first use. 

Types

There are two different types of emergency GPS locator devices to consider. Both have their advantages and disadvantages – it just depends on the type of outdoor activity you are participating in and your personal preferences. 

Personal Locator Beacons

Personal locator beacons are very simple but effective devices. They are designed to be used once in an emergency. When they are activated, they immediately send your location to search and rescue teams. These devices do not require a subscription to a satellite network, but they may need to be registered with the government. 

SEND 

SEND devices are more complex than personal locator beacons. These devices have an emergency SOS button, which will send your location to a search and rescue agency if you need help. However, they also leverage satellite networks like Iridium and Globalstar to allow you to send text messages to your loved ones. These usually require a monthly subscription in order to use. 

Which One To Choose? 

If you travel outdoors often and want to be able to keep loved ones informed about where you are, a SEND device can be very useful. However, if your main concern is purely about safety, a personal locator beacon may be a better option. They are more affordable in the long run, and their GPS tracking is often marginally more accurate. 

Applications

There are a number of different reasons why you might want to use a personal locator beacon. You never know when an emergency might happen, and it’s always best to be prepared. 

Emergency Beacon For Hikers

A hiking beacon is a must for anyone who regularly explores backcountry trails. With no cell phone service, it’s crucial that you still have a way to communicate any need for help should it arise. No matter how prepared you are, weather and wildlife are very unpredictable and could end up interfering with your plans. 

Emergency GPS

There are many other scenarios where you could benefit from having rescue beacons. If you live in a remote area or frequently travel to one for work, keeping SOS beacons in your bag or your vehicle can give you peace of mind.

Our Verdict

A personal locator beacon is a must-have for anyone that spends an extensive amount of time outdoors. These devices have saved the lives of backcountry campers around the world, and could potentially save your life in an emergency. The devices that we have recommended here are some of the best on the market and will help you feel more confident as you explore the great outdoors.