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5 Best Personal Locator Beacons for Off-Road & Backcountry Adventures

5 Best Personal Locator Beacons for Off-Road & Backcountry Adventures

Do you ever wonder who will find you if something goes wrong when you’re off-roading, boating, or hiking off the beaten path? A personal locator beacon (PLB) is an essential tool to keep you safe and connected even when you’re out of cell service range. 

One of these portable devices is a small investment for safety. You could have a health emergency, vehicle breakdown, or get lost on your adventures. A personal locator beacon can help save your life. 

Ready to learn more? Keep reading. We’ll cover exactly what these devices do and which are the best options on the market. 

What Is a Personal Locator Beacon?

It is a device that sends out an S.O.S. alert via a global satellite system. The portable, handheld device sends the signal on 406 MHz, the same frequency as emergency locator transmitters. So if you’re lost in a forest, for example, you can activate it for someone to find you. 

RV SAFETY: Do Personal Locator Beacons save your bacon? How PLBs can save your life

The Benefits of Personal Locator Beacons for Off-Roading & Backcountry

Carrying a PLB with you while off-roading or backcountry adventuring has significant safety benefits. Whether you’re exploring alone or with others, the ability for emergency personnel to find you when needed is critical.

Anything can go wrong when you’re miles from a medical facility if you have an accident or health emergency. The beacon will pinpoint your location for rescue agencies to get to you quickly. 

Mechanical breakdowns or technology failures are another consideration when off-roading. A personal locator beacon can help a tow truck get to you when you’re without cell service. The benefits outweigh the absence of having a lifesaving locator beacon with you.

They work in remote areas worldwide, and the battery will last for years. While you can’t send messages or cancel an S.O.S. call on a locator beacon, they have stronger signals than a satellite messenger.

Man hiking using a personal locator beacon.
Don’t rely on unreliable cell service when hiking or off-roading.

How Much Do Personal Locator Beacons Cost?

The average PLB is around $300. But they range from $200 to $500. Some do require an additional subscription fee for certain features. Subscriptions can run from $10 to $50 per month.

Man holding a garmin personal locator beacon
Personal locator beacons can be lifesavers for any adventurist.

Do I Need a Subscription to Use a Personal Locator Beacon?

Not all beacons require a subscription. However, you may need a subscription for models that offer upgraded features such as messaging. Subscription fees are typically on an annual basis.

Pro Tip: Improve your internet connection while on the go with these tips on How To Get Reliable RV Internet On The Move.

5 Best Personal Locator Beacons for Off-Road & Backcountry Adventures

We’ve narrowed down the best ones on the market to five that complement off-road adventures. Let’s check them out.

About: The ACR ResQLink View Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon comes with a GPS and battery life of approximately two hours. An S.O.S. signal goes to search and rescue agencies using the 406 MHz distress signal with the 121.5 MHz homing signals when you activate the device.

In addition, a bright LED and infrared strobe light provide visual indications to rescuers. It comes with a belt clip, oral inflation tube clip, straps, and lanyards for easy carrying. 

Subscription Needed: No subscription is required. However, you can add on messaging using the optional 406Link, which requires a subscription.

Price: $364.95

ACR ResQLink View - Buoyant Personal Locator...
  • Once activated, an SOS distress signal with GPS position is sent...
  • Small, rugged, lightweight personal locator beacon that is...
  • Send pre-canned non-emergency self test and GPS test messages to...
Woman hiking solo in the mountains.
Stay connected while on the go with a personal locator beacon.

2. Garmin InReach Mini Compact Satellite Communicator

About: Garmin’s InReach Mini Compact Satellite Communicator enables two-way text messaging and S.O.S. alerts. Its Bluetooth feature also allows you to download maps, U.S. NOAA charts, and aerial imagery with the free Garmin Earthmate app on your phone. The battery life is 90 hours. 

The Garmin InReach is considered by many as the gold standard when it comes to personal locator beacons and simple satellite communications. We’ve heard that it is incredibly reliable.

Subscription Needed: Yes, a satellite subscription is required.

Price: $349.99

Garmin 010-01879-00 InReach Mini, Lightweight and...
  • Small, rugged, lightweight satellite communicator enables 2 way...
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue...
  • Access downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery...

3. ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

About: The Zoleo Satellite Communicator personal locator beacon has 200 hours of lithium-ion battery life. It’s GPS location-aware and Iridium satellite-based.

You can link the device with the free ZOLEO app on your phone for messaging. The ZOLEO device also has a dedicated U.S. SMS phone number and email address so you can share it with your friends and family to remain accessible when off-grid. 

Subscription Needed: Yes, a subscription is required.

Price: $199.99

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator – Two-Way Global...
Hiking kit flatlay
Add a personal locator beacon to your adventure tool kit!

Pro Tip: Your furry friend can help you carry your personal locator beacon with one of these 7 Best Dog Hiking Backpacks for Saddle Bag Packing Their Gear.

About: The ACR ResQLink 400 SOS Personal Locator Beacon has the 406 MHz emergency distress signal. It also has LED and infrared strobe lights to help rescuers see when approaching your location. In addition, the 400 SOS has global coverage, and the battery runs for about 24 hours after it’s activated.

Subscription Needed: No subscription is required.

Price: $314.95

ACR ResQLink 400 - SOS Personal Locator Beacon...
  • No Subscription Required
  • 406 MHz Emergency Distress Signal / Homing signal
  • LED Strobe and Infrared Strobe

5. RescueME PLB1 Personal Locator Beacon

About: The RescueME PLB1 Personal Locator Beacon’s battery has a 24-hour operational life. The battery will last approximately seven years and comes with a seven-year warranty.

The beacon has a 66 channel GPS receiver and a mounting clip, and it comes with a flotation pouch. In addition, it has a bright strobe light.

Subscription Needed: No subscription is required.

Price: $304.95

Best Personal Locator Beacon PLB or EPIRB - Better than Garmin Inreach, Spot or AIS

Is a Personal Locator Beacon Worth It?

A personal locator beacon can help save your life in certain situations. We highly recommend one of these devices if you’ll be off-roading, hiking, camping, or boondocking away from amenities and cell service.

Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. It is an inexpensive and lightweight option to contact rescue agencies when needed.

Will you buy one for your off-road adventures? Drop a comment below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Dale Holland

Monday 23rd of May 2022

Great article; knew about the ERIB's when I had a boat on the Puget Sound. Now that we overland throughout the AZ and UT areas, this would be a great addition for our Turtleback Adventures! Thanks

Mortons on the Move

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Thank you! It's definitely not a bad idea to carry one when overlanding.