As rewarding as hiking adventures in the backcountry can be, they come with risks. The coastal wilderness and environs around the offshore can be largely unpredictable. It is, therefore, important that you don’t go on such adventures without an emergency beacon.
An emergency beacon is handy in hunting, sailing, or hiking adventures. It gives you that sense of security to reach even where your phone’s signal is limited. In a dire emergency, it can come in as a lifesaver. We will therefore be showing you some of the best emergency beacons available.
Best Hiking Emergency Beacon & Buying Guide
We will be reviewing eight of the best emergency beacons available that you can readily use for your hiking activities.
They come with satellite messengers that will help you communicate with your family and friends in locations without a phone signal.
1. Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini Portable Personal Locator Beacon
The STI GL300 locator beacon is handy to help you keep track of a child, an elderly or a spouse’s location. It could also help your loved ones keep track of your journey and location as you go on your hiking adventures.
It features satellite technology and motion-activated tracking. This helps the device keep track of movement accurately and delivers the location to you in real-time. This locator gives you updates as frequently as every 5 seconds. It also comprises a geofencing feature that sends you an email or a text once the person you are tracking moves.
This Spy Tec locator beacon is a lightweight and compact device that does not weigh you down. So, for outdoor expeditions like backpacking and hiking, you can trust that it won’t add unnecessary weight. You can access the tracking reports of this beacon from any device. This beacon also does not produce unnecessary loud sounds.
The battery life of the beacon is two weeks, but it could last longer depending on its usage. You can keep track of the charge level from the tracking website. Activating and cancelling a subscription for this beacon is free.
- GPS technology.
- Motion-activated tracking.
- Compact and lightweight.
- No loud sounds.
- Long battery life.
2. Standard Horizon HX870 VHF Personal Locator Beacon
This VHF marine radio is a very effective emergency device for hiking, particularly in water-dominated areas. It comes with some amazing features, but it still is quite affordable. With its solid and durable construction, you can be certain that this emergency beacon can go the mile with you.
This VHF marine device has a digital selective calling (DSC) capability. In an emergency, you can push the device’s red button, which will send a distress signal with your location to those keeping track of your movements. The built-in GPS feature can determine your position accurately.
You can also make position requests for your buddies that you are hiking with. You could even decide to send your position to a specific person. This beacon is also a communication device that allows individual and group calls.
The noise cancellation feature of this beacon ensures that your voice is as clear as possible. The compass, waypoints, and route’s function are features that aid in navigation. This beacon also comes with an intuitive interface and a large screen, making it easy to use.
- DSC calling and GPS capability.
- Intuitive and easy-to-use interface.
- Waterproofing abilities.
- Clear voice transmission.
3. ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ Personal Locator Beacon
The ACR personal locator beacon is a great emergency device that will come in handy when you are going for hiking adventures in water-dominated areas. It could come in as insurance or a form of last resort if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation and need immediate rescue.
This beacon is waterproof, and it floats. It also comes in top-rated because of its size, ease of registration, and price. This device features GPS positioning, a 406 MHz signal, and a 121.5 MHz homing signal. Using this device, you can be certain that it will readily call for help in a worldwide location of search and rescue satellites.
The GPS feature helps rescue you to within 100 meters of your location. It also features a probe light that makes it easy for you to access at night. You do not have to worry about this beacon’s weight as it is incredibly lightweight and compact. You can easily have it on you all the time.
This beacon requires some simple manual activation, though. All you have to do is deploy the antenna and press the ON button. It also comes with built-in tests for internal electronics and GPS features. You will have to register this device once you acquire it.
- Long battery shelf life.
- Waterproof and buoyant.
- Compact and lightweight.
- GPS enabled.
4. SPOT 3 Satellite GPS Messenger Personal Locator Beacon
SPOT satellite trackers have been quite useful for many hiking enthusiasts. When you go for hiking adventures without cell service, you can be sure that having a SPOT beacon can ensure you stay connected.
This beacon is a tough and pocket-friendly device you can easily take on your motorcycle, hiking adventures, or even backcountry sojourn. It helps your family and friends keep track of your location using satellites and GPS features. It comes with an SOS button that you can press in an emergency. It will send signals to emergency responders.
This SPOT 3 beacon offers improved performance, motion-activated tracking, and battery life. However, you will need to choose a level of tracking and tracking intervals. You can also work around the beacon to send signals when you are moving and stopping. This device requires a yearly subscription.
- Precise GPS tracking.
- Motion-activated tracking.
- Good battery life.
- Strong and compact device.
5. Garmin inReach Explore + Handheld Personal Locator Beacon
This Garmin personal locator beacon is a very versatile hiking beacon. It can be used for planning, navigation, location tracking, and as a sharing device. This beacon is rugged, lightweight, and loaded with many features. It is very good for all your wilderness hiking endeavours.
This Garmin beacon features a highly sensitive GPS, a GLONASS receiver, and a quad-helix antenna. It receives satellite location quickly and identifies your precise location even in the oddest of places, like under a heavy tree cover or deep canyons. This beacon features the TOPO map of the US alongside a Birdseye satellite imagery subscription for access to more maps.
This beacon also has a barometric altimeter to aid navigation during hiking activities. With this Garmin emergency beacon, you can create, save and share your adventure’s waypoints, routes, and tracks with your family and friends.
The Bluetooth and ANT+ wireless connectivity help this beacon function as a health and activity tracker. It is a very rugged and durable device. Yet it is still very lightweight. This beacon uses two AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery pack to have a battery setup that can last up to 16 hours. It also comes with a sunlight-readable colour screen.
- GPS and GLONASS receiver for excellent reception.
- Bluetooth and ANT+ wireless connectivity to aid its health and activity features.
- Preloaded with high-quality topographical maps.
- Comes with a barometric altimeter for ease of navigation
6. SPOT Satellite and Personal Locator Beacon
This SPOT beacon can be handy as a simple device to track and share your location with your family and friends. It can let them follow your progress. You can also readily make a distress call if you need help urgently. This SPOT beacon is ready to fulfil all your needs as you go hiking.
This SPOT satellite beacon has GPS technology to track and share your location. The OK feature helps you tell your loved ones and hiking companions that you are safe and not in any dangerous situation. However, it also has a help button that you can press in a non-life-threatening situation.
If you feel that your situation is very dire and needs urgent rescue or help, this SPOT’s beacon comes with a 911 setting that you can press for life-threatening challenges. It is an emergency GPS locator, sending your distress message and GPS location to the GEO emergency centre. GEOS will then help you reach the appropriate agency and your emergency contact.
This beacon is very rugged and comes with a very well-constructed frame. It is compact, lightweight, and easy for you to carry around. The interface of this beacon is simple and very easy to use. It always performs a self-diagnostic test whenever you turn it on so you can know if it is still in good condition.
- It has good GPS tracking abilities.
- 911 setting that helps you locate the GEOS resource centre.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Easy to use interface.
- An OK feature that helps your loved ones know you are in good condition.
7. ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 Personal Locator Beacon
This ACR personal locator beacon is handy when hiking around marine areas. It serves as some security even in the most treacherous sea environment. Once you are in an emergency, this beacon turns on automatically once it comes in contact with water. It might, however, require manual deployment.
Once you activate it, this beacon sends 406 MHz and 121.5 MHz homing signals. The GPS feature helps the search and rescue team precisely know your location. The beacon is usually broadcast for 48 hours on one charge. The strobe helps attract the rescuer’s attention so they can locate you faster.
This is a highly rated emergency beacon because of its construction and design features. It also comes with a self-test feature that helps you ascertain if the beacon is still functioning properly. Many people who have used this ACR beacon found it a lifesaver.
This ACR beacon requires a subscription. However, it saves you the burden of recurring subscription fees. The battery must be replaced five years after the beacon has been placed into service.
- Strobe for visibility.
- GPS feature for ease in tracking.
- Long broadcast duration.
- Powerful transmitter.
8. Garmin inReach Mini GPS Satellite Personal Locator Beacon
This Garmin Mini Beacon is a pocket-friendly device you can take along for your hiking adventures to stay in touch with your companions and for safety. You send and receive messages and share your location with those you are hiking with.
In an emergency, the Mini feature helps you send an SOS to the GEOS resource centre. The GEOS centre will help you reach the necessary emergency centre. The good thing about this beacon is that you can readily receive delivery information and updates about the rescue team.
This beacon also features a digital compass, trip planning, and weather forecast services. You can connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth and Earth Map for even greater compatibility and convenience.
This beacon is tough, water-resistant, and outdoor-resistant. This means that it can handle outdoor elements conveniently.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Built-in GPS tracking.
- Two-way messaging features.
- Water and impact-resistant abilities.
What To Consider Before Buying an Emergency Beacon for Hiking?
During emergencies, when time is of the essence, having a reliable emergency beacon can be a lifeline, enabling search and rescue teams to locate and assist you quickly. However, not all emergency beacons are created equal, and selecting the right one can make a significant difference in your safety and peace of mind.
1. Device Type
Several emergency beacons are available on the market, each with features and limitations. The two primary types are satellite-based beacons and radio-frequency-based beacons. Satellite-based beacons rely on global positioning system (GPS) technology to transmit distress signals, while radio-frequency beacons use local search and rescue frequencies.
Satellite-based beacons typically offer greater coverage and reliability, making them a preferred choice for remote hiking locations.
2. Coverage and Reliability
When venturing into remote areas with limited or no cellular network coverage, selecting an emergency beacon with reliable global coverage is vital. Satellite-based beacons utilizing systems like COSPAS-SARSAT offer global coverage and can transmit distress signals to search and rescue authorities regardless of your location.
Ensure that the beacon you choose is compatible with the local search and rescue systems in the region you plan to hike.
3. Activation and Alerting Mechanism
Consider the ease of activating the emergency beacon during a critical situation. Look for a device that offers a simple and intuitive activation process, ensuring it can be quickly triggered even in high-stress situations. Some beacons feature single-button activation, while others may require multiple steps for activation, such as flipping covers or entering codes.
Additionally, pay attention to the alerting mechanism, such as built-in lights or audible alarms, to confirm that rescuers can locate you easily.
4. Battery Life and Replacement
The battery life of your emergency beacon is of utmost importance, as it determines how long you can rely on the device in an emergency. Evaluate the battery life specifications provided by the manufacturer, keeping in mind that these can vary based on the beacon type and usage patterns.
Some beacons have replaceable batteries, while others are rechargeable. If you opt for a rechargeable model, consider how you can access power to recharge the device during multi-day hikes or off-grid scenarios.
5. Durability and Water Resistance
Hiking often involves exposure to challenging environments, including extreme weather conditions and rugged terrain. Ensure that your emergency beacon is built to withstand these conditions. Look for a beacon with a rugged design and a high IP (Ingress Protection) rating, indicating its ability to resist water, dust, and impacts.
A waterproof or water-resistant beacon is crucial, as hiking may involve river crossings or unexpected rain showers.
6. Size and Portability
When choosing an emergency beacon for hiking, consider its size and portability. Opt for a compact, lightweight device that can be easily carried in your backpack or attached to your gear without causing discomfort or hindering your mobility.
A smaller beacon will be less burdensome during your hike and will not add unnecessary weight to your load.
Are Hiking Emergency Beacons Waterproof and Durable?
Yes, hiking emergency beacons are designed to be waterproof and durable to withstand various outdoor conditions. Most reputable hiking emergency beacons are built to meet specific industry standards for ruggedness and water resistance. They are typically constructed with robust materials and reinforced casing to protect against impact, moisture, and extreme temperatures. Some models may have an IPX7 or IPX8 rating, indicating their ability to withstand submersion in water for a specific depth and duration.
It’s important to note that while hiking emergency beacons are designed to be durable and waterproof, they still require proper care and handling. It’s recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for usage and maintenance, such as avoiding excessive impacts or exposure to extreme conditions. Regular inspection and testing of the beacon’s waterproofing seals are also advisable to ensure continued effectiveness.
When choosing a hiking emergency beacon, it’s essential to consider the product’s specifications and customer reviews regarding its durability and waterproof capabilities.
Can I use Hiking Emergency Beacon Internationally?
Yes, most hiking emergency beacons can be used internationally. However, it’s important to check the specifications and compatibility of the specific beacon you’re interested in. Many hiking emergency beacons operate on satellite networks such as GPS or Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which have global coverage. This means that as long as you have a clear line of sight to the satellites, you should be able to use the beacon anywhere in the world.
Just familiarize yourself with any local regulations or requirements for emergency beacon usage in the country you’re visiting.
Choosing the best hiking emergency beacon is crucial for any outdoor enthusiast. It can mean the difference between safety and vulnerability in emergencies. By considering important factors such as satellite network coverage, battery life, durability, and additional features like messaging capabilities, you can find the perfect beacon to suit your needs.
Don’t forget to prioritize waterproof and rugged designs to ensure reliable performance in harsh conditions. While investing in a hiking emergency beacon may come with some subscription fees, the peace of mind it brings is invaluable. So, make an informed decision, stay prepared, and enjoy your hiking adventures with the confidence that help is just a button away.