Discover what is the best personal locator beacon, with our reviews of the best personal locator beacons on the market
We spent just over 72 hours testing over 50 models of the Personal Locator Beacons currently on the market to narrow this number down to the best personal locator beacons out there (in our opinion, anyway!).
After testing, we’ve concluded that the best personal locator beacon is the ACR Resqlink+ PLB, as it’s both waterproof and buoyant, is accurate within 100 meters and has a compact build.
We also came up with 6 other PLBs that performed exceptionally well compared to their competitors, based on factors such as price, accuracy, ease of use, portability and range of special features .
The GME Accusat MT410G GPS PLB gained top points as far as performance and reliability goes, although it is the most expensive personal locator beacon that we tested and there are cheaper options available that do a decent job.
Check out our price comparison table for an overview of price and other key features, and our in depth reviews for more info on each of our top 7 of the best personal locator beacons.
ACR Aqualink PLB Review – 100%
While it may not be as small and as compact as the ACR Resqlink, it is equally as powerful and provides an accurate GPS signal of your location.
We liked the LED strobe light which blinks to help guide a rescue team to your location, which we feel is actually a really important feature for additional safety!
There’s also the fact that the ACR aqualink is buoyant, which is more than we can say for the ACR Resqlink non-buoyant (not be be confused with the aforementioned ACR Resqlink+.PLB, which is, in fact buoyant!)
One drawback of this particular model is the fact that, while it can be registered in any country, the signal will be received first by the UK satellites, which makes it less efficient if you’re using it outside of the UK.
Ocean Signal RescueME PLB 1 Review – 100%
The first thing that we noticed about the Ocean Signal RescueME is its compact design.
At 7.6x 5.1x 3.2 cm it can easily fit into your hands, pockets and bags, and it is also the most lightweight PLB that we tested, so great if you’re looking for the least cumbersome option.
This PLB is waterproof and also comes with a buoyant case that allows it to float on water.
However, there is a downside to using the Ocean Signal. Some countries around Europe don’t allow for PLB registration, which means that, similar to the ACR Aqualink, the initial point of contact will be in the UK, which isn’t ideal for use abroad.
ACR ResQlink Non-Buoyant PLB Review – 92%
One of the striking features of the Resqlink Non-Buoyant is how small it is.
Weighing in at just 4.6 ounces and only 3.9 inches in length, you can easily put the PLB in any part of your backpack or pocket.
Another advantage to this model is its ability to accurately and quickly send in your location without the need to use satellites to interpret the signal.
This is thanks to the 3-level integrated signal technology which includes a GPS positioning, a highly powerful 406 Hz signal as well as a 121 Hz homing capacity.
However, like the Mcmurdo Fast Find Ranger, its major downside likes in the fact it’s not buoyant so if it falls into water, it will sink straight to the bottom! So not the best option for water adventures, but even with hiking you’d have to be careful around lakes and rivers etc.
Also, if you want to register in a different country, keep in mind that countries such as Belgium, Germany and Spain don’t allow PLB registration.
GME MT410G GPS PLB Review – 91%
The manufacturer specification suggests the GME comes with a 7-year battery shelf life.
We obviously can’t approve or disprove this (come back and check for an update in 7 years!), but this is an excellent feature as it’s important the device can be relied upon and is also a cost-saver.
Like the ACR Aqualink, we liked that it featured a LED light to help guide a search and rescue to your exact position, while another great feature is the GPS accuracy, which is similar to ACR Resqlink offering an accuracy of 100 meters.
The GME also has a compact design which makes it easy to carry, and let’s not forget to point out that it’s waterproof as well.
However, while it’s a great quality PLB, the GME is the most expensive product in our top 7 and could be beyond reach of most people.
McMurdo FastFind 220 PLB Review – 90%
The first test we subjected the McMurdo 220 to was a water test, and we found that it did an excellent job at keeping the water out.
We also like this one because it’s also easy to carry in your hands and pockets, and the 6-year battery life this model offers.
Once you press the distress button, the PLB will continuously send signals for a period of no less than 24 hours, which allows a decent period of time for a rescue teams to reach you.
Again, it’s preprogrammed for registration in the UK.
so all initial contact will be with the UK authorities, slowing the recuse process down if you’re in another country.
McMurdo FastFind Ranger PLB Review – 90%
One of the things that was instantly apparent with this PLB is how easy it was to hold with your hands as well as put inside the pocket, which makes it convenient to carry which is a bonus as you want to keep things light and simple when you’re out and about on adventures.
We like that the McMurdo Fast Find Ranger doesn’t come with any subscriptions, which means the distress signal will be sent automatically to search and rescue authorities.
We also liked the flashing SOS light which would be incredibly handy during the dark hours to help find your exact location.
You can also program this device for other countries thanks to its no charge reprogramming service (a bonus compared to other models), although it can’t be reprogrammed in Germany or Spain.
Also, while being waterproof, this PLB isn’t buoyant, so if it does happen to fall into a river, you’ll have to fish it out quickly or watch it sink to the bottom!
ACR Resqlink + PLB Review – 80%
This PLB performed similarly to the ACR Aqualink in terms of buoyancy; it floats well and proved to be entirely waterproof.
We also liked how small and compact it was weighing 4.6 ounces and only 3.9 inches in length, making it easy to carry around.
In terms of performance, we found this model to be both powerful and accurate as a result of its 3-level integrated signal technology.
The GPS positioning is accurate to around 100 meters, which is pretty good!
One other feature we really like is the strobe light, which flashes in the dark to help pinpoint the actual location of an individual.
One thing that we didn’t rate was the fact that it needs open space to transmit a decent signal, which isn’t ideal if you’re were trekking through caves and canyons!
Frequently asked questions
What Is a Personal Locator Beacon?
Also known as a PLB, this is a device that enables a person to send information on their location to the local authorities in event of an emergency only.
In response, the authorities are able to deploy search and rescue teams to find and retrieve the person.
It’s often a requirement by law to register your PLB once you buy it.
Personal locator beacons are useful in environments that are remote where there is little or no phone signal, and are often used for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, biking and canyoning etc.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Personal Locator Beacon?
In case you’re in the great outdoors and you happen to be in a location that has no phone signal, a PLB will be able to send a signal to rescue centers and submit your current location and rescue teams can then be dispatched.
A PLB will keep sending information for a minimum of 24 hours which provides rescuers ample time to track you down.
However, they also come with some drawbacks.
The battery could run after sending the signal which means that rescuers only have a limited time span to find you.
What Should I Look for When Choosing a Personal Locator Beacon?
The first thing to look is GPS compatibility; this is the device’s ability to send out your exact coordinates as opposed to waiting for the satellite to do that, which will only waste precious time.
Self-test is a good feature as it allows you to test beforehand whether the device is working as it should.
However, keep in mind that this can also drain a lot of the battery so should only be done a few times over the life of the PLB.
Check the battery life. This can be divided into two parts.
Firstly, how long the PLB charge will last when the equipment is not in use, and secondly, how long the battery will last when transmitting the signal. Both durations should be as long as possible.
Operating temperature is an important feature to look at as you may find the need to use the PLB in remote areas with extreme and harsh temperatures.
Performance in water is also an important factor.
A lot of PLBs have the ability to float in water as well as be water resistant in case you’re using them in or near a watery environment, but some models don’t offer these features so check this out before you buy.
What’s the Approximate Price Range of a Good Personal Locator Beacon?
A good PLB will normally range between £150 to £400, but around the £200-250 mark is the average.
Do You Need to have the Internet to Use an Emergency Beacon?
No, you don’t. Personal locator beacons work by sending a distress signal at 406 HZ.
This is the frequency used internationally for emergency signals and is picked up by military satellites in the United States, Russia, France and Canada.
Collectively the satellites are known as COSPAS-SARSAT otherwise known as Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking.
These satellite signals are continuously being monitored by the military who will then launch a search and rescue operation.
What is a Resqlink Personal Locator Beacon?
The Resqlink is a buoyant personal locator beacon that is smaller than the regular sized PLBs.
It weighs just 5.4 ounces and is only 4.5 inches in length, although it is highly powerful and able to send signals at 406HZ.
It’s also GPS enabled which allows it to accurately pinpoint your exact location and is also able to perform in extreme temperatures.
Take a look at the ACR Resqlink + PLB or read our review for more info.
What Are the Monthly Costs Involved in Using a PLB?
There are no monthly costs involved in using a personal locator beacon.
The main expense lies in the purchase of the unit.
Registering the beacon with a local rescue authority is generally free.