Bushwalking is adventurous and a unique way to explore nature, but it also commonly lands you in situations where cellular network turns out to be useless.
This is precisely why experienced bushwalkers turn out to a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). It gives them the peace of mind that should they land in an emergency situation with no help, they can send an alert to the local emergency station that can help and rescue them.
With that said, let us review the 5 best Personal Locator Beacons for bushwalking.
Best Personal Locator Beacons for Bushwalking
Here are our bushwalking personal locator beacon reviews.
1. ACR PLB-400
This is one of the few PLB devices that’s truly functional as a real PLB, while not requiring any kind of subscriptions. In other words, it offers the most economical way to get the peace of mind you need when venturing into unknown lands while bushwalking.
It quickly and easily connects you to the local emergency service, and comes with global coverage despite there being no subscription. There’s also an LED and infrared strobe, which pretty much does the same job as the flashlight in an emergency radio. It isn’t the most durable but it sure will last many tough bushwalking trips.
You do have to register with NOAA to start using it in the US, but the registration is free and quick. This device comes with well-written, detailed instructions for registration.
- Real, functional PLB device that you can rely on
- No subscription required, most economical way to ensure safety in all situations
- Global coverage
- Fairly rugged body that can withstand some rough use
- You don’t get any advanced features that you do with the Garmin devices with a subscription
This is one of the rare few PLB devices on the market that manages to offer the best of both worlds in the form of some really advanced communication features and a great price coupled with flexible, inexpensive subscriptions.
There’s the emergency 24/7 SOS functionality, but there’s also a lot more. It’s a tiny and solidly-built device, for starters. It’s powered by a global two way satellite communication system, and also allows you to get a dedicated US text message number and email. It also offers the most convenient and inexpensive form of global messaging, that not only lets you stay in touch with anyone you want through text messages and emails anywhere on the planet, but with the flexibility of using the satellite network only when a cellular or Wi-Fi network isn’t available.
This translates to much lower costs for you as it only uses the expensive satellite communication when nothing else is available. There’s also the flexibility of deactivating your subscription when you don’t need it, helping you save quite a bit of money too.
- Best of both worlds in the form of advanced communication features and inexpensive subscriptions
- Priced surprisingly low for a PLB with such advanced features
- Tiny, super portable but extremely well-built
- Chooses the cheapest network to help you save money on satellite communication
- At this price it’s hard to find something to complain about anything given the great value for money this device offers.
The reason the Garmin InReach Mini may turn out to be an excellent PLB device to carry when bushwalking is because of its tiny but super rugged body. It’s extremely portable and would be easy to carry for you on your bush adventures.
However, do not let its tiny size fool you into thinking you would have to compromise on the functionality. In fact, it’s one of the most functional PLBs money can buy.
The Garmin InReach Mini comes with advanced features like not many other PLB devices out there. There’s a two way messaging system, ability to send messages and emails to anyone you want, an accurate GPS system and ability to send your location to any of your contacts, pairing with your smartphone and much more. There’s also an optional (paid feature) weather forecast which can be a nice substitute to a weather radio if you can’t carry both.
- Super compact but very durable
- Lots of advanced features
- Accurate GPS tracking and ability to share your location with your contacts
- Optional weather forecast
- Most of these advanced features require a subscription
Here’s something even more advanced for you, albeit something bigger in size and weight. However, if you’re someone that also wants to stay in tough with your family and friends when bushwalking into rough, remote areas where there’s no cell phone network availability, there aren’t many better options than the Garmin in Reach Explorer+.
There are all the advanced features that its mini version reviewed above offers, but there are also more features including a very interactive, large screen and a few different buttons linked to useful functions.
The 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage works great at offering you a seamless two way messaging system, and this device really makes it as easy to connect with your family and friends as a smartphone, a feature that makes it one of the best EPIRBs as well. A particular customer mentioned this device is worth its weight in gold for bush adventures, and we can’t agree more with them.
- One of the most advanced PLB devices on the market
- Allows you to easily connect with your family and friends using the Iridium global coverage
- Interactive screen with lots of information and quick-access features
- Great for bush adventures
- Subscription required
- Customer service has turned out to be a little disappointing for some users that had some issues
Here’s another compact and lightweight PLB device for you. And another one that doesn’t require a subscription.
So again, if you’re only looking for the most basic PLB feature of alerting the local emergency service when in need, then this device may turn out to be a great choice. The battery life is great, it comes with a bright strobe light, and boasts a 66 channel GPS receiver.
Customers mention how it’s super easy to carry, easy to activate and use, with the registration being simple with detailed instructions as well.
- Functional PLB device with no subscription requirement
- Great battery life
- Bright strobe light
- Compact, lightweight and easy to activate
- Not as durable as other tiny devices like the ZOLEO or Garmin Mini
Bushwalker Personal Locator Beacon Buying Guide
While PLBs are simply used as a source of emergency communication and to have the ability to seek help from a local emergency service when in an emergency situation, you do need to put some thought into why you’re buying a PLB.
For instance, as a bushwalker, the durability would be more important to you than someone that just likes to travel a lot. A rugged, well-built PLB will ensure that it doesn’t get damaged during an adventurous bushwalk.
The ability to connect with your family is an important factor to consider too. This is because it’s quite common to lose connection to your cellular network during bushwalking, and being able to connect with your family would be important for many users.
Some users may also be interested in getting accurate GPS locations and the ability to share them with their family, or perhaps even weather forecasts.