After a lot of thought, I’ve bought a Personal Locator Beacon. PLB’s are simple devices which alert the rescue services if you need rescue and evacuation. There are no bells and whistles. It simply sends a signal to the relevant SAR centre and they alert rescue teams. There’s a short explanation here.
The rescueME PLB1 is probably the smallest and lightest PLB on the market, weighing 113g on my scales. Battery life is seven years. It has self test functions to make sure it’s working without alerting SAR. To call help, it simply requires extending the aerial and pressing one button. It sends a signal for about 24hrs and SAR can home in on it. There’s a sturdy flap to prevent you pressing the help button accidentally. More details can be found here.
The beauty of a PLB is that it has no subscription, although it is a one shot use and you have to send it back to the manufacturer for a new battery after use. I looked at SPOT and Delorme, but decided that they were too sophisticated for my purposes. I’m not bothered about tracking and communication when I’m out in the wilds, but like the idea of a safety net if I break a leg and there’s no mobile signal. A PLB is ideal for Scotland, for instance.
The PLB1 comes with a soft case, a lanyard and a clip housing. I’ll probably just put it in a rucksack pocket and hope I never have to use it. If you’re a kayaker, the PLB1 doesn’t float so you’d probably want to consider some alternatives. For backpackers it looks an ideal unit, compact and lightweight.
In the UK, you are obliged to register your beacon with the Epirb Registry, which you can do either on the paper form provided or, as I did, online. It’s a simple and painless process that took a couple of minutes. If you backpack on your own in remote areas with no phone coverage, it’s a no brainer. Mine cost £179.