Tag Archives: backpacking

ACR ResQLink+ PLB

ACR ResQLink+ Personal Locator Beacon

It was the height of summer 2015… OK, OK, I know, I’m UK-based and we barely get summers. Let’s call it a freak hot spell, then. I was out on one of my first hikes with Jen, in the Lake District, and we had made a fundamental error: on arriving at our set-off point we had looked at the glorious conditions and decided to take less with us in the daysacks than usual. *Oooops*.

The subsequent hike turned into something of an epic, in conditions that weren’t just glorious to look at but also uncomfortably hot to walk in! To complicate things further, as we neared the end of our walk, or what we thought was the end, it turned out that we’d miscalculated… missed a tiny path somewhere, and now we were on the wrong side of a mountain. I could spend the rest of this post explaining the hows, whys and wherefores but that isn’t really the point. The simple point here is that having hiked about 20 km in the heat with insufficient liquid in our packs, we were both dehydrated and literally still had a mountain to climb before we’d reach the car. And that’s “as the crow flies” – it wasn’t actually feasible simply to climb up and over the very steep, craggy peak in question.

The long and the short of it was that we were ok. In terms of fitness we could manage, but dealing with that last mountain was no fun at all. We were literally desperate to rehydrate by the time we did reach the car.

Did I feel that a PLB might have been useful on that day? The short answer is no – the situation we’d found ourselves in, and coped with, was not life-threatening.

Did I feel that my sense of immortality had diminished? Ohhh yes! Once that had been established in my head I started asking myself the question: “What if one of us had been injured?” Neither of us had been in any fit state to ‘run’ for help, and neither of us had had a mobile phone signal. Indeed, what if I’d been on my own, as is often the case, and something had happened then? Common sense suggested I should create a contingency plan for a worst-case scenario.

I started looking into the merits of Personal Locator Beacons. There are quite a few systems on the market, and one can choose whether to pay monthly for one or buy it outright. Personally, I never know how much disposable income I can expect from month to month, so the one-off purchase/no further payments option suited me down to the ground.

I wanted something lightweight that would work all over the globe, so I could continue to be reassured by it if I decided to do some hiking overseas (done, indeed. Five countries and counting!). The ResQLink+ PLB weighs in at 153 grammes (5.4 oz). I also wanted the device to be waterproof… and I soon discovered that the ACR ResQLink+ Personal Locator Beacon is not only waterproof, it’s also buoyant.

The ResQLink+ is the “World’s Smallest Buoyant 406 MHz GPS Personal Locator Beacon”. *SOLD*.

In haste I sent my cursor scooting towards the “Buy now” button, but the price suddenly caught my eye. Now, I am not a wealthy man and I do not have a strong heart when it comes to dealing with shocks. The price of this contraption put the fear of God into me and almost sent me into cardiac arrest. I checked the details – NOPE it definitely doesn’t play music, doesn’t get me up the hills quicker (except on a stretcher in a SAR helicopter). I can’t show it off to my friends – it’s just a box with a button you really don’t want to press, unless it’s the last thing you’re likely to do in this world.

So if I purchased it, I would have an expensive, buoyant, waterproof and colourful box I hoped never to have to use…

I clicked off the product page and recalculated my immortality rating. With no hiking planned for a week or two I figured I had time to mull things over… Before long the call came with a suggestion that we go on another big hike somewhere new.

Returning to the product page for the umpteenth time, in my heart of hearts I knew there was only one choice – I just wished it wasn’t so expensive.

However, the cost doesn’t make the item any more or less important. The cost just is what it is. Jen’s life and to a lesser extent mine are what are important to me. I took a deep breath and hit “Buy now”.

I cannot describe the peace of mind owning this palm-sized unit has brought to me in the last two years. I have since hiked across the UK, Northern Europe, the Faroe Islands and Iceland and my PLB has accompanied me (and Jen) everywhere. Never in my wildest nightmares had I envisaged ever pressing ‘the button’. But it happened this year on Crib Goch’s knife-edge ridge in North Wales where I witnessed a female climber fall. Without hesitation the button was pressed, an action that I would like to think expedited the subsequent rescue, which took place very quickly.

“So…” you might well ask, “…what happened when you pressed the button?”

A valid question indeed. Quite frankly, at the time I was unaware of the incredible response going on behind the scenes. I had no phone signal, yet my phone kept beeping with missed calls, voicemails and texts. An emergency response had been set in motion, and the first phone call would have been to me to ensure this was not a false alarm. While someone was making this call, rescue services (in this case Llanberis Mountain Rescue, HM Coastguard and the Welsh Air Ambulance) were being relayed information about my position; the beacon’s signal was being pinged across satellites and back down to emergency frequency listening stations. Since I couldn’t be reached, those I had entered on the registration forms as my next of kin – i.e. Jen and my parents – were receiving phone calls informing them that I had raised the alarm. For the duration of the rescue until my own safety had been established, my loved ones were kept updated on the progress of this ‘third party’ rescue.

At the scene, the emergency services arrived quickly and were incredibly professional; whilst medics assessed the casualty another member of the crew established that the activated beacon was in fact mine, and that I was OK, before zooming off into the middle distance (Bangor hospital) with the fallen climber. The next day I telephoned the Coastguard to see whether the beacon had been helpful to them (given that it was in my name, not the casualty’s!). I was assured that the PLB had been really worthwhile in their handling of the emergency.

Once the dust settled after the intensity of that harrowing day on the ridge, I felt somewhat at a loss knowing that my pack no longer contained what I’d come to think of as an essential piece of kit. I wondered whether I could afford another PLB unit to provide peace of mind in the future for me and Jen who were temporarily without it. I decided to get in touch with the manufacturer, ACR, and they told me of their guarantee: if someone uses the ResQLink+ PLB in a genuine lifesaving situation, then ACR, once they have corroborated the incident with the relevant authorities, will replace the unit with a new or better product free of charge.

I am delighted to have just received my new Personal Locator Beacon this week.

Is the beacon a worthwhile investment? Well, if you are considering whether or not to invest in a Personal Locator Beacon I suggest asking the one simple question “What is your life worth?”

I rest my case.

If you would like to know more about ACR’s ResQLink+ Personal Locator Beacon why not check it out using the following Amazon link…

This post was edited by the lovely Jennifer Lyon whose travel blog can be found by clicking here.

Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…