PLB's or Spot

auscraft

Henry Arthur Readford
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Hi All

I wanted to review and show a little bit of the way I select an item of equipment for my kit.
In todays world of Bushcraft owning a PLB or similar devices are becoming more prominent even with mobile phone technology improving these safety devices will not go out of fashion and may even become mandatory similar to boating enthusiasts EPIRB's.

Now even though I have hired these things in the past for certain occasions I have never had to use one, so please take note this is only how I selected one with the info I could obtain from verbal and media recommendations and advise.

First of all let me say even though there are a few models available within several Brands my final run down came into 3 model 3 brands. Below you will find links to 3 sites giving the basic run downs of each device and they will also have links to the other models in the line ups. More brands are out there.
SPOT http://www.ja-gps.com.au/SPOT/spot-gen-3/
ACR http://www.ryda.com.au/ACR-ResQLink-406-GPS-PLB-with-Flotation-Pouch-p/plbacr2880.htm
GME http://www.gme.net.au/products/emergency-beacons/plbs/MT410G

Factors I wanted from the product.
Worldwide use
GPS function
Long battery life
Quick warm up
Water resistant/proof
buoyant
digital 406MHz
Multi channel
High Visibility
Fool proof with safe guards.

Before attempting to buy this device I read peoples comments, suggestions and thoughts about these devices here on this forum first. I then started to research the net to what was available both in Australia and here locally to me (being away from all capitals this did play a big part). By the time this was over I had 3 brands I wanted to find out more about the 3 brands listed above without any thoughts of models. So out I went locating dealers of the products, Only 1 dealer stocked more than 1 brand so his info did play an importance. I did need to find a few dealers because most people surprising did not know anything about the products they sell.

Unit prices I found SPOT to be the cheapest Unit only (hidden Costs) next was GME and finally the ACR model. To be fair the SPOT does offer extra features but none of which were big tag items for me. Taking out the extra feature all 3 brands line up well against each other as units alone, but the extra cost to SPOT failed to impress me for several reasons I have other devices that offered the same if not more than SPOT ,sorry even without other devices the Yearly fees for SPOT I just could not justify.

SPOT being nobbled at the gates left two, the GME and ACR. Let me say these two were at the one retailer first seen and mentioned above. These two devices in many ways look the same but the wording in the descriptions do tell a different story Read carefully. This is were the knowledge of the product does come into play and the assistance in proving it , and I believe this was done for me even making contact with company by the retailer for me.

To cut this short I will tell you what I got and why, But if you have questions please ask and I will attempt to answer briefly.
What did I get ? I got the GME ACCUSATO PLB MT410G.
Why? for the following reasons.
Australian made the only one of the 3.
it had a safety reset ability which the others could not say they did.
Bright strobe light in case you fell unconscious.
7 year battery life. other only 5
has 50 channel digit +16 older channels. the same
One of cost with easy online registration .
self testing could be done easy .
it is waterproof exceeds IP67
GPS signal the fastest of the 3
and was the only buoyant one I looked at Fresh and salt water
The one biggest problem was weight but the high vis and high impact casing dos need to be considered.

I hope I covered it all if not ask questions and I will update the post with answers.
I will add this entire process took months to complete looking at all makes and models that I could find locally.

The last thing I wanted to add was my reasoning to why NOW do I want to own one for every occasion.
That is easily explained because of recent accident and major health issue that came from that incident, Believe me I am not unfamiliar to accidents , injuries or the likes but this did take me for 6 6ers in a row
 
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Tas

Ray Mears
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Thanks for the review Aus , it is an important decision to make when purchasing something of this nature, seems funny to spend so much time , then funds on something that you hope not to ever use but there is a peace of mind knowing you can be located in an emergency , not only the owner of the device but I guess there is always a chance of coming across others in the bush who might need emergency assistance .
 

Thrud

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A very useful part of snakebite kit as well, for solo bushwalkers.
 

swampy99

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Can it be used internationaly? This was a reason I looked at the spot as the insurance can cover the cost of a private rescue.
 

Ol Grumpy

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Please pardon my ignorance here, but if I understand the brochure correctly, the G Model will give you a GPS position? Or does it broadcast your current GPS position at set intervals?- in a non emergency manner... ( like spot tracker)
I'm just trying to understand the difference in the two models?
Also, I take it that you have no means of getting communication out- except by setting off the beacon, which is when you are in a dire situation, lost or at great risk?
My understanding is that the Spot offers more 'channels' of communication, but at considerable extra expense? Aside from the ongoing subscription cost of Spot, are there other considerations that you would take into account?
Sorry if that's fuddled, I'm typing as I think....
 
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Wentworth

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Good writeup auscraft.
The Spot uses a satellite constellation that is considered inferior to that used by PLB's.
Coupled with the fact that when you hit the Emergency button on a spot, it contacts Spot, who then contacts the emergency cervices in your country, which seems like an unnecessary third party. There have been numerous cases of emergency Spot signals not getting through. Which is why if you're using it as a "save my life" kind of thing, it makes more sense to go for the PLB.
 

Radar

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Coupled with the fact that when you hit the Emergency button on a spot, it contacts Spot, who then contacts the emergency cervices in your country, which seems like an unnecessary third party. There have been numerous cases of emergency Spot signals not getting through. Which is why if you're using it as a "save my life" kind of thing, it makes more sense to go for the PLB.
+1 to this.
I have both a Spot (gen 2), and a PLB (MT410G) - I carry them both. The spot is primarily used for tracking as a reassurance device for the other half back home (allows me to go on my adventures).
Although the SPOT does have the ability to send SOS, and even custom messages which can be handy eg. "Need assistance/pickup at this location, not emergency or life threatening" or, just sending a daily "All good, camping here".
I have had occasions where SPOT messages haven't gone out due to low battery or thick canopy - which is why I carry the PLB for emergencies.
 

darren

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Nice review mate. I went with the GME with gps mainly because its monitoring is provided by the Government not a private company. I also do have a sat phone i occasionally take.

Also i have trained my kids on how to deploy the PLB and start the sat phone and have regular practices, we do a lot of remote travel and if we were to have a spill one of them may be the only one able to use them.
 
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auscraft

Henry Arthur Readford
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Swampy yes it can be used internationally.

Darren the sat phone was the other big thing I had as a better solution to the SPOT. And teaching all the family how to use is great idea in fact the best idea.

Ol Grumpy The GPS sends a GPS location and the GME sends in the shortest/quickest time frame. Also as far as getting comms out a Sat phone is far more helpful as you can actually get real time talk or even text. SPOT limits the real time comms. What I did not like about SPOT was the easily knocked buttons that may get accidently bumped and the battery life as Wentworth mentions for a life threatening issue.
The PLB battery is longer lasting when activated and both models I mentioned have a good strobe light IMHO the GME looked brighter and also 360 deg view.

A device like this the hardest thing to do a review on is Does it work ? until such time as you need it you can't tell. This is why research is so important, Another thing I noticed was the GME here in Oz seemed to be the most hired PLB around and has a proven history but please look into it for yourselves.
I have no affiliation with any of the companies above.

I will add in my search for info only the GME unit if it was set off at home of registration would the emergency centre even try to see if it was genuine. this may only be coincident the may too but no definite answer was given to me.
 
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TheWander

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Hi Guy

I think sometimes there is some confusion of what PBL and EPIRB do.

PLB and EPIRB
PLBs are personal locating beacons – they are pocket sized.
EPIRBs are emergency position indicating beacons – they must float to conform to regulations.

"State and Territory Marine authorities regulations are now in force. All boats proceeding more than 2nms outside partially smooth waters, are required to carry an EPIRB that meets the Australian/New Zealand Standard 4280.1 (deals specifically with EPIRBs). EPIRBs are required to operate for a minimum of 48 hours, and float upright with antenna clear of the water, when deployed. EPIRBs are designed to operate most effectively, when activated and deployed in the water. Please note that a PLB (see separately) does not conform, and will not be accepted by regulators, as satisfying the Standard 4280.1. PLBs can of course, be carried on vessels as additional safety devices for personal use. This may be particularly helpful in man-overboard situations."

PLBs sold in Australia are required to meet AS/NZS 4280.2 and must operate for a minimum of 24 hours. They can be used on land, in the air, and on water. Although they are required to float, PLBs don’t have to confirm to EPIRB regulations. In a marine environment, a survivor would need to ensure the beacon antenna is supported clear of the water, so that it can operate effectively.
Quote from GME.

PLBs will not be accepted by the regulators as EPIRBs for the purpose of the emergency beacon regulations. The intent is that boats must be fitted with EPIRBs that meet Part 1 of the Standard 4280. Owners and crews are encouraged however, to carry PLBs in addition to the boat's EPIRB, where conditions and activities may lead to man overboard situations. Also alerts from 406 MHz distress beacons may be received and processed by geo-stationary satellites and passed to Rescue Coordination Centre within minutes. If the beacon has GPS capability then a very accurate position may be transmitted with the alert. Non-GPS beacons require detection by a Polar-orbiting satellite before a position can be obtained. From the AMSA site.

The other issue that has come to the attention of the RCC is problems with GME particularly the GME MT400, GME MT401, GME MT406G, GME MT401FF, GME MT403/G and GME MT403FF/FG models, the link below provides the information regarding these systems as of the 4 Nov 2013.

http://www.gme.net.au/public/pdf/brochures/epirb safety alert.pdf

Hope this helps

Cheers TheWander
 
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Tas

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So the sat phone meets all requirements ? Real time talk , text ( both emergency and non emergency , and acts as a location ing device ?
And can be tested regularly I.E text the wife or phone . Can it be Synced to the computer to be tracked by the wife ( not good in some circumstances) what's the battery life like and as apprised to spot what are the extra costs like ?

Sorry for all the questions but it sounds like the ideal option in my head but I haven't checked them out .I mean in Micks case if he was out of normal range and had a sat phone he could of rang His wife still rather than set off a plb if he considered walking out was not an option .
 
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darren

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So the sat phone meets all requirements ? Real time talk , text ( both emergency and non emergency , and acts as a location ing device ?
And can be tested regularly I.E text the wife or phone . Can it be Synced to the computer to be tracked by the wife ( not good in some circumstances) what's the battery life like and as apprised to spot what are the extra costs like ?

Sorry for all the questions but it sounds like the ideal option in my head but I haven't checked them out .I mean in Micks case if he was out of normal range and had a sat phone he could of rang His wife still rather than set off a plb if he considered walking out was not an option .

A sat phone is just a phone and most of them are like a 10 year old mobile. They can’t act as a locating device, that’s still up to you to provide accurate information. My view is a PLB is a last resort, my life or my family’s life is directly threatened device. Not a I’m broken down, i have a sore foot type of thing and that’s how i differentiate between the two. I do believe they work together as part of a package and complement each other well.
Until i had the responsibility of being a father and then the responsibility of protecting my family i didn’t worry about either but my views changed as my situation did.
Also to everyone make sure you register your PLB
Hope that helps
 

TheWander

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Hi Tas

True, the difference is sat phone are expensive and you will still need a source of power to recharge them. The expense comes from the plans not the equipment see the link but make sure you are sitting down

https://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/coverage-networks/satellite/#tab-access-plans

For example, for every thing that you want could cost you anywhere up to $5000 plus calls charges like $1.18 for 30 seconds.

EPRIB a lot less expensive and easier to use and carry and no power problems.

Hope it helps

TheWander
 

darren

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A little tip for sat phones, this is a post i made on another forum

I purchased the complete kit as pictured on ebay for just over $900 direct from the USA which at the time was about half of what you payed over here.
The phone itself is very similar to mobile phones of the early 90’s with a basic LCD screen and limited page options. There is no cursor option when texting and you have to scroll through everything letter by letter. The phone searches and connects to the satellite very quickly and indicates when it has. This is important when people who are not familiar with the phone are using it in the case of an emergency. The longest it has taken to connect is about 10 minutes. Talking is very straight forward but you have to remember you are on an international call and there is a slight delay so if you are the type that can say 100 words without a breath you may overlap a little in your conversation.



I have trained the girls in its operation because if there is an accident they may be the ones to use it to call for help
There are a number of plans and payment methods but I will share mine. As the phone is only there for use in an emergency it may spend most of its life in the car unused. Based on this I saw it as pointless to sign up for a monthly post paid satellite plan as they are quite expensive. After much searching and consultation I did the following,
• I signed up for the cheapest normal Telstra post paid plan and attached that to the phone bill
• I enabled global roaming
• I simply fitted the SIM and the phone connected to the network.
• Its important you block premium services or Telstra will send you texts every few days and try to charge you for them
The things you need to watch out for with this are the calls are expensive (about $2.50 a min I think) and if someone calls you it still will be charged to your bill as well. To get around this if you are using the phone to let people know that your are ok you can TXT to save money. Also be aware that Telstra have no knowlage of this and will not help you in any way.
If you are travelling remote it’s a good idea to find someone you can trust and organise a time window you txt them every day. That way when they don’t hear from you they can start putting steps in place. The hard thing may be finding someone you can trust…
I hope this info has been helpful

I'm sorry this has digressed from the topic of you original post Auscraft.
 
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TheWander

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Thank Darren

Very sound advice, have to admit got to love Telstra though.

I think the main point of these systems, sat phone, EPRIB, SPOT, PLB is that you have some security in the knowledge that if something goes wrong you will be able to let someone know, each has their flaws and positives, it is just a case of what best services your needs.

Cheers TheWander
 
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auscraft

Henry Arthur Readford
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Darren actually you just explained my Comms gear to enhance the PLB or vise versa
 
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That's a great price SimonM, $50 cheaper than most
 

Tas

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Thanks darren and TW for the explanation , I think I'll update the bull roarer now and get a plb .
 
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