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If you’re an avid hiker, camper, or outdoor explorer, chances are you’ve encountered a fellow adventurer carrying a personal beacon. These compact location tracking and communication devices can be your lifeline when you’re off the grid, helping you track your group, stay connected and send out an emergency signal if you need help right away.
What Is a Personal Beacon?
A personal beacon is a small device that tracks your location when you are off the grid. It allows you to send a distress signal via satellite communication in order to alter the proper authorities with your location. Personal beacons can be used when you’re in the wild, or when you are operating a plane or boat. In addition to being able to locate you, personal beacons can also be used to send text messages in areas that don’t typically get cell service, because they are satellite communication devices.
Do You Need a Personal Beacon?
Personal beacons are a must-have safety tool if you typically engage in activities that take you off the grid and make communicating in conventional ways difficult. If you are going somewhere where you’d bring a first aid kit or any other survival gear, it’s a smart idea to bring a personal beacon as well. They can make all the difference in getting you help if you ever find yourself lost or in an emergency situation.
What Are the Best Personal Beacons?
As you search for the best personal beacon, it’s important to take your budget into account as well as the personal beacon’s overall durability and battery life. Since personal beacons are designed to be your aid in an emergency situation, robust battery life is extremely important. Most personal beacons are compatible with both Android and IOS, but it’s important to confirm that the personal beacon you’re interested in is compatible with the type of phone you use before you make the purchase.
1. ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
Nothing says peace of mind like a 200-hour battery life. That’s what you get from this personal beacon, which is designed to put your safety first. It lets you check in to alert others that you are okay and, for more serious situations, it has an SOS alert function that is monitored 24/7 by the company’s dispatching partner.
We also love this personal beacon because it’s built to withstand the elements: it’s shock-resistant, dust-and-water-resistant, and it can operate in temperatures as low as -4°F to as high as 131°F.
2. Spot Gen4 Tracking Portable Communicator
For an affordable option that still has the necessary safety features, opt for this portable beacon. In addition to having a built-in SOS alert that will immediately facilitate a search and rescue mission for you, this device also lets you send text messages and emails. Plus, it has a tracking feature that automatically saves your location as you go.
Your loved ones and colleagues can see where you are on a map (you’ll have to sign-up for a program called SPOT My Globalstar but it’s totally worth it).
This beacon has a three-hour battery life, which gets you enough juice to send more than 1000 check-in and custom messages. It functions in extreme temperatures and altitudes, too.
3. Garmin 010-01879-00 InReach Mini
A personal beacon is often an investment, but it is a worthy one. This handheld beacon lets you access downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, and color aerial imagery in addition to offering you traditional safety features like the SOS signal alert.
You can even opt to receive an optional inReach weather forecast service. Navigation sensors include your GPS satellite reference and a three-axis compass. Its 90-hour battery life gives you excellent coverage, too.
4. goTenna Mesh Off-Grid SMS GPS Device
This set of personal beacons is perfect for you and your hiking partner. In addition to allowing you to communicate with emergency services or with people who are concerned about your whereabouts, these personal beacons can also let you and your partner communicate with each other if you become separated, so long as you are within a four-mile radius. The goTenna app also offers you free online maps. The app and the beacons are compatible with Android and IOS phones for your convenience. Plus, they have 24-hour battery life.