Owning a quality personal locator beacon can mean life or death when it comes to survival situations. We have provided a list of what we consider the best personal locator beacons and why we recommend them. You never truly know what will happen when traveling or being out in the wilderness. Because of this, it’s always important to be on the safe side and bring a device that will allow you to alert rescue services if you need to be found.
Before purchasing a product like this, the most important thing is to know what you want to get from it. Do you want to be able to communicate with friends and family or do you only need the ability to send an SOS message? How important are size and weight to you? Before spending a chunk of change on one of these items, make sure you have a clear idea of exactly what you want out of your personal locator beacon.
Top 10 Best Personal Locator Beacons
1. Ocean Signal RescueMe
One of the more simple products on this list is the Ocean Signal RescueMe. You cannot use this device to let your family know you are safe or see the weather forecast but it does its job well. You can easily press the button with one hand in case you are restricted and it will send a signal to the coordination center that will then contact the closest rescue services.
One downside to this product is that it will not float on its own. It does come with a flotation pouch so if you are traveling in the water you need to remember to attach it to the pouch.
A positive of this product is that it will send an SOS message no matter where you are in the world. Because of the coordination center and its ability to connect with the closest rescue services near you, you never need to worry about it not working outside the United States. With incredible 7-year battery life, this is one of the most reliable of its kind.
One of the most important parts of purchasing a personal locator beacon is knowing what you need. Every device on the market is going to give you different technologies and uses. Before buying this one, or any, make sure you know what you want to be able to do with it.
- 24+ hr operational life
- LED strobe
- Item Weight: 4.09 oz
- Human Interface Input: Buttons
Sample Customer Review…Very compact, fits my needs completely. Registration online was super easy.Read more reviews at Amazon
2. Garmin inReach Mini
On the top of this list is the Garmin inReach Mini. This personal locator beacon has a unique text messaging technology that allows you to communicate with emergency services in times of need. It uses a 100% global Iridium network which you have access to through a paid subscription, which allows for two-way text messaging in case of emergencies.
All of this technology comes in a super small, compact device that is waterproof and lightweight. You are able to access downloadable maps, aerial imagery, weather forecasts, and much more. Because of all these features and the different things you can access with this device, it’s perfect for people who are planners and want to know extra information when out in the wild.
Powered with batteries, some people are unhappy with the battery life because it tends to be shorter than some others on the market. The price point is also fairly high so it’s not accessible to people on a budget. But because of all the unique and advanced technologies that come with this device, people think the price point is reasonable for everything you get.
- Batteries included
- Screen Size: 1.27 in
- Human Interface Input: Buttons
- Display Type: Sunlight-readable, monochrome, transflective memory-in pixel (MIP)
- Item Dimensions: 2 x 1.3 x 3.9 in
- Connectivity Technology: Bluetooth and ANT+
- Map Type: Satellite
- Battery Life: 90 hours
Sample Customer Review…For the amount of peace of mind that this offers, it’s a bargain for the price. It pairs seamlessly with my phone and overall worked flawlessly. Sending times for messages were generally less than 5 minutes, though occasionally it was longer. It only needs a small clear view of the sky, and it even worked within my tent. The battery will last about 4 days of constant use without tracking points. It’s very easy to use, and the ability to pair it with your phone and use your phone to do everything makes using the unit that much easier. This is one of the most valuable pieces of gear that I have.Read more reviews at Amazon
3. ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
Easy to use and simply designed, this Satellite Communicator is a fairly new product on the market but that doesn’t mean it’s any less put together. The device itself has an SOS button that you can use but customized text communication requires a phone and the app.
With the app, you are able to send text messages just like regular text conversations. But a unique and stand-out technology advancement this product has is the ability to have one text chain continue throughout different connectivity types. This is great for people who will be traveling in and out of signal.
You can send an “I’m OK” message from the app or the device itself in case you want someone to know that you are alive and well. The product is lightweight and small enough to travel with easily. It’s comparable to other similar items on the market in regards to durability and simplicity. It’s not the most advanced of its kind, but it does provide a lot of good qualities that people find important. One of those qualities is the battery, which is about 200 hours for this product!
- Batteries included
- Voice Command: Buttons
- Item Dimensions: 3.58 x 2.6 x 1.06 in
- Connectivity Technology: Bluetooth
- Map Type: Satellite, Australia, North America
- Battery Life: 200 hours
- Control Method: App
Sample Customer Review…Just got my Zoleo and so far it works like a charm! It only took a few minutes to set up. I do a lot of solo ultra-light backpacking and for me, weight was a big consideration. At 5 oz, the Zoleo is small, very small, like a bar of soap. It also feels super solid too, like I could drop-kick it down a mountain without any worries (but I won’t). Another big consideration for me was the price. With Zoleo, I’m able to activate and deactivate my subscription as needed, so I’m only paying for the months that I’m using it. When I’m not using it, it only costs me $4 bucks per month to maintain my dedicated phone number and email address. The device also chooses the least expensive communication channel, i.e. cellular or satellite, depending on where I’m at in my travels. This way I can send and receive text messages seamlessly using my phone, without having to pay for expensive satellite messages all the time. I also like having a phone number and email address, so my family and friends (really just my mother) have a simple way to contact me whenever I forget to tell them where I’m going or if I made it back!Read more reviews at Amazon
4. McMurdo Fast Find 220
If you want a super simple personal locator beacon, this might just be perfect for you. It’s small and compact enough to bring with you easily and can quickly alert rescue services in case of emergencies. It features a bright LED light that can help get you found if you get stuck in the dark. This light can be helpful in multiple different situations so it’s a great addition to any personal locator beacon.
This item does contain a lithium battery that cannot be brought onto airplanes. It’s important that you are aware of this potential problem before you book a flight and pack the Fast Find 220. You would be forced to ship this item to your destination if you wish to have it at a location where you need to fly to.
The battery life is also only about 24 hours, so be prepared in case of emergencies. It does not rely on subscription purchases which is a major upside for some people. Despite some of the downsides, Fast Find does its job. It can quickly and accurately bring rescue services to you in case you need them, and that’s what matters most at the end of the day.
- Batteries Included
- Screen Size: 1 in
- Display Type: LED
- Item Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 3 in
- Map Type: Oceania
Sample Customer Review…I’ve had mine for 8 years now. Per the manufacturer’s instructions, I sent it to a Florida service center for a battery change and functionality test at the five-year point. NOAA registration is simple, and knowing that the beacon is registered with a government agency instead of some subscription commercial service gives me additional peace of mind. The unit is solidly built, packs easily in a hip belt or pocket, and the weight is not noticeable. I backpack, hike, kayak, camp, etc. solo most of the time, and it’s good to know there’s a lifeline available if I need it. Also, if you live up north and are subject to driving on icy roads, it’s a good thing to keep in your glove box in the event you slide off into a deep ditch where no one can find you.Read more reviews at Amazon
5. ACR 2880 ResQ Link
Using this personal locator beacon is easy and quick for times of emergency and is pre-programmed for the United States. You can bring this product outside of the US, but it comes programmed to call the US authorities.
This device is battery-operated and has a battery life of about 30 hours. If you are heading out for a long trip, make sure to bring extra batteries just in case. It’s smaller than the average cell phone and is lightweight so you can throw it in your backpack and carry it anywhere without even noticing it’s there. The size and weight make it great for backpackers and hikers who are looking to conserve weight.
Using three levels of signal technology, the ACR 2880 RexQ Link is able to accurately locate your position and lead rescuers to you. You don’t need to worry about this device not working as it has been tested in some of the United State’s most treacherous conditions. It’s waterproof and has a built-in strobe light which is yet another feature of this product that makes it easier for rescuers to find you quicker.
There’s a reason why this device is so high up on the list, it checks pretty much every box when it comes to what you need out of a personal locator beacon. One of the only main downsides is that the price is a little high. But because it provides so much safety and excellent technology, many people find it worth the price tag.
- Batteries included
- Human Interface Input: Buttons
- Item Dimensions: 3.9 x 1.3 x 1.9 in
- Map Type: Worldwide, North America
- Battery Life:30 hours
Sample Customer Review…Excellent quality, hopefully, I never have to use it. This sort of device will greatly increase your odds of being found. ACR devices directly communicate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite network which is a government branch, so you will get a faster response than something like SPOT which uses a privately ran network ($$) and center that processes signals and forwards them to the government. When you use your device NOAA will get a ping with your location and individual id number, which will bring up your information (given you register it) that they will forward it to the closest search and rescue coordinator.Read more reviews at Amazon
6. Spot 3 Satellite GPS
One excellent feature of this personal locator beacon is the ability to contact your loved ones instead of the emergency services. If you are in a situation where you don’t think you need the actual search and rescue people to come to find you, you’re able to send a message to your loved ones and let them know where you are.
But if you are in an actual emergency, you can easily contact the authorities and let them know you need help. The emergency message should reach them in just a few minutes. Like others on this list, this device is lightweight and small enough to fit into almost any pack or pocket. It’s great for backpackers or hikers who are trying to preserve weight.
Even though this product doesn’t allow for two-way messaging, it still gives you the ability to contact loved ones or emergency authorities. It’s less expensive than some other options out there while still providing a range of great technologies.
One other feature this product offers is the ability to save your location and allow contacts to track you using google maps. If you’re looking for a less expensive personal locator beacon that still gives you some incredible abilities, this is one of the best options.
- Color: Orange
- Batteries included
- Human Interface Input: Buttons
- Item Dimensions: 2.56 x 1 x 3.43 in
- Map Type: Satellite
Sample Customer Review…Received yesterday. Works exactly as described. Only took me an hour to enroll, set it all up on the website, and run my first checks. Took it on a long hike this morning and was able to track my route, share my track with others, and send a “check-in” from the trail. The unit was in a zipper pocket of my coat (which is not recommended because it needs to see the sky) and it still worked. Very satisfied and know this will really be helpful while in the backcountry this summer. It’s everything I hoped for.Read more reviews at Amazon
7. Bivystick Blue
This product works great to send SOS messages and even to communicate with family or friends. Although not as technologically advanced as two-way text models, this device can send simple “I’m OK,” messages to people if the connection with your smartphone has been lost for whatever reason.
But when used in conjunction with your smartphone, you can send all the text messages you want, no matter how complex. The Bivystick uses a subscription process like some others which can be a pain for certain people.
Weighing in at only 100 grams, this personal locator beacon is one of the smallest of its kind. You can bring it with you anywhere without even noticing you have it. No product is perfect and that’s why you need to know what features are most important for you and your safety. Some people really prefer two-way text capabilities no matter what, but others don’t need them as much. If you want a simple and super small device that will call for help in times of need, this is just as good as any.
- Batteries included
- Item Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.75 x 0.8 in
- Map Type: North and South America
- Weight: 100g
Sample Customer Review…Great little addition to my pack for mountain biking, hiking, and skiing. I live in Santa Fe, NM at 7K’ and lose cell service almost the second I hit the mountains here. I often ride/hike/ski alone and picked up the Bivystick as a precautionary measure and to be able to communicate with my wife, and it works great. Even if I’m just running late, it’s great to be able to get a message to her and let her know what’s happening so she’s not left worrying. I’ve never had an issue getting a message to her, and I’ve become a big believer in carrying a device like this for any ‘worst case scenario’ you may encounter and the Bivy data plan makes it simple, easy, and convenient. Highly recommended.Read more reviews at Amazon
8. PrimeTracking LLC Personal GPS
If you are on a budget, you should look into this. This device gives you real-time tracking so your family and friends can keep watch of you at any time. If you get into an emergency situation, you can easily press the SOS button, and rescue services will be on their way.
It definitely is not as advanced as other options on the market, but it works great for parents or caregivers who are looking after their children and want to make sure they are safe. Easy to use and compact, you will barely even notice it’s there.
You will need to purchase a subscription but you can actually see how fast someone is going and if they go past their desired location. With tons of tracking features, it’s a favorite amongst parents or people looking after elderly individuals. You can update the information every ten seconds which gives you real-time coverage of someone’s whereabouts.
- Special Feature: Instant SOS button
- Connectivity Technology: 4G LTE Cat-M1
- Wireless Communication Technology: Ethernet
- Color: Black
- Map Type: North America
Sample Customer Review…The first device I received was defective. I sent out an email not expecting much as it was Easter Sunday. To my surprise, I received a response almost immediately along with a phone call from the company. They took care of the problem and had me up and running in less than 3 days. This is by far the best customer service experience I have ever had on Amazon. The new tracker works perfectly as advertised. I use these trackers for work and this one is great. The precise location and long-lasting battery. The few tech questions I had were answered immediately and competently. I can’t say enough good things about the excellent customer service I have received from this seller. If you’re looking for a GPS tracker, stop looking and buy this one. You won’t be disappointed.Read more reviews at Amazon
9. goTenna Mesh
goTenna Mesh is a communication device that allows you to pair with your smartphone in order to send out messages, GPS locations, and an SOS, even if no service is available. As well, Mesh uses radio transmitters to connect with other nearby transmitters within a 4-mile radius.
As the transmitters “hop” from one transmitter to the next, a network of Mesh users will be able to communicate wirelessly, relaying information back and forth. In order to fully benefit from the goTenna mesh device, there must be a relatively high number of users to continue a secure network over vast distances.
- Two off-grid SMS and GPS devices that pair with both Android and IOS phones
- Send messages such as texts and GPS location information without cell service
- 24-hour battery
- Batteries come with purchase
- Measurements: 4.2 x 1.3 x 0.9 in
- Sold in pairs
- Charging cables included
Sample Customer Review…Great product and super light! I brought these on a quick weekend road trip to Canada with a couple of friends. We were able to message/stay in touch without having to worry about roaming charges. It was also a lot of fun to send location pins from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls over to the US side– “Where are you?” *gets location* “Canada.” It really helped us keep tabs on where everyone was. Really excited to take them out on a larger adventure! They’re also incredibly easy to use and set up– the app has a very clear, step by step, account creation. I already got another pair for my Mom to use when she travels. Truly a mighty little device!Read more reviews at Amazon
10. Garmin InReach Explorer
If the Garmin InReach Mini isn’t enough, try out the Garmin InReach Explorer. This satellite communicator not only has two-way messaging, tracking and sharing of location, SOS, GPS, and the ability to pair with your phone via Bluetooth, it also includes navigation and maps!
Keep in mind there are two InReach models-the Explorer(pictured above) and the SE+(which lacks additions Explorer possesses).
- Batteries included
- Screen size: 2.3 in
- Display type: 200 x 265 pixels
- Item dimensions: 1.5 x2.7 x 6.5 in
- Connects with Bluetooth
- Battery life: 30 hours
- Map type: North America
Sample Customer Review…If you need the ability to summon help or text from anywhere, get this device. I’ve used it in multiple countries with no issues. I often ride an ATV in the backcountry, and having the ability to let my wife know I’m okay and going to be late is great. I also liked the idea that I could use the SOS feature to summon help if needed. I seem to have a tendency to get myself into “situations.” I always wondered what exactly would happen if the SOS button was pressed. 2 months into owning this device, I found out. While riding with no cell coverage, I came across another ATV rider who was having a heart attack in the middle of the trail. Miles from cell coverage, I reached out and pressed the SOS. Within a minute, the emergency operator was texting me that my SOS had been received. I was able to communicate the nature of the emergency to the dispatcher and receive confirmation that help was in route. Knowing that help was on the way puts your mind at ease vs a SPOT, where you have no clue if your distress signal has been received. Within 20 mins, police, firefighters, ambulance, and fish and wildlife were on the scene. I’m not sure you can put a price on summoning help anywhere in the world. Yes, the device is expensive, and yes you have to sign up for a service plan. But if you are like me, and frequently out of cell range, this is a life-saving tool. I never leave home without it.Read more reviews at Amazon
Buying Guide: Things to Consider When Purchasing a Personal Locator Beacon
Whether on land or water, mountains or canyons, Arctic, or the Sahara Desert, when traveling these notoriously beautiful and must-see locations, one must consider investing in their own personal locator beacon to prevent or provide help to danger and harm. Naturally, depending on where your adventure takes you, it is crucial to pinpoint what will work best for your individual needs.
This is a very important factor to consider, does your personal locator beacon require you to register? This can mean life or death in certain situations. If registered (U.S. directed), the odds of finding you in distress whether you are lost or injured are in your favor. When registering your device with NOAA also known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you would be providing your personal information such as name and address as well as health records, for example, asthma. When and if you register, which is highly recommended, know how long your registration lasts, does your registration apply outside the U.S, and so on and so forth.
The features that your personal locator beacon comes with is super significant when deciding to purchase the right one. What features are you interested in always having with you? Is it GPS for when you cannot find your way? Does it provide messaging to get in contact with your family and what kind of messaging, 2-way? Does it include an LED strobe to make you visible? Is it water-resistant? Does it provide weather alerts? As shown, there are many features to ponder.
Battery life and how long it lasts can be a great determiner in deciding what personal locator beacon you want to buy. Take into consideration where you will be going, how long that journey will be, how often you will be using it, whether you possess a charger and other related inquiries. Depending on which locator you choose, the battery life will correspond with that said brand.
Now, to know which personal locator beacon is best for you or if you even want to purchase one, in the end, your personal risk is what matters. When on whatever excursion you take, it is imperative that you know who is attending this trip. Are you going solo where risks of injury from falls and wildlife are higher? Are you traveling in isolated areas where no one is likely to wander by? Or are you adventuring with other people? What about common, well-known, even touristy premises? Remember your individual needs.
Now that you are more aware of the specifics your needs will require when exploring the world, purchasing your own best personal locator beacon could not be easier, and with that, happy trails!
After reviewing our top choices for the best personal locator beacons, we hope you found that some of our choices have piqued your interest. It’s always important to know what you want to get out of your product and what elements are the highest on your list of wants. Once you realize what you need and after you have gone over this list, you’ll be well informed and confident in purchasing your own device.
- Best Hiking Cameras
- Best Water Shoes for Hiking
- Best Hiking Watches for Every Budget
- Best Hiking Shirts
- Best Lightweight Hiking Skirts for Thru-Hiking
- Best Ultralight Backpacking Headlamps
- Best Hiking Hat
- Best Hiking Knife
- Best Hiking Boots Under 100 Dollars
- Best Lightweight Hiking Shorts for Thru-Hiking
- Best Ultralight Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Gaiters
Written by Courtney Ludwig and Tori Walz.