Outdoor Retailer: Personal locator beacons in the backcountry

8:35 p.m. on February 8, 2010 (EST)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Outdoor Retailer: Personal locator beacons in the backcountry"

Currently, there are two main locators available to the backcountry traveler: the ACR 406 series and various SPOT devices. While ACR and SPOT share some capabilities (like new, non-emergency messaging functions), the ACR and SPOT units operate under significantly different paradigms, as discussed in my SPOT gear test article. ACR SARLink 406 View ACR's 406MHz personal locator beacons (PLB's) use ...

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2010/02/08/outdoor-retailer-locators.html

11:32 a.m. on February 9, 2010 (EST)
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"Personally, I have reservations about the proliferation of "social networking" invading the wilderness. Texting, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, e-mail, and other forms of communications are rampant and increasing all around us (like it or not). It is one thing to have those capabilities in the city, another thing entirely to bring them into the backcountry."

Hard to say it better than that. We need to fight "market demand" with philosophical principles. Not a fair fight by any stretch of the imagination, but it is good to make some noise on something this important.

11:05 p.m. on February 10, 2010 (EST)
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Cleric

The post was about locator beacons, not about communications devices. I have been called both good things and bad things because I do not carry any electronics besides a GPSR. Communications devices are not an invasion unless you are camped so close to someone as to hear them on their cell phone or to read their text messages, so while I may agree that I prefer not to take them, I do not see how the word "invading" is very meaningful, either to the topic or to my wilderness experience.

Just wondering whre yer coming from and why you care, its not boom boxes afterall.

Jim S

11:52 a.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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The "texting" functions of the ACR and SPOT described are one-way, and hence more like writing a blog that is transmitted "in the blind". You do not know whether the message has actually been relayed, since there is no ACK function and no way of receiving a response (except the SAR team arriving to bail you out).

However, that said, the line between these devices, which were originally designed as emergency-only devices, are getting awfully close to the satphone function. Some friends of mine who do long-distance "unsupported" adventure travel (example is Hannah McKeand) use the digital service of Iridium to send and receive status reports, weather updates, etc along the way (more efficient and a lot cheaper than the voice link). If you look at her Gallery, the 2006 Antarctic expedition, 3rd row 4th image, you will see me. While I feel that use of such communications links in extreme conditions and where the individual or small group is isolated literally days from any aid in case of emergency, is justified, the big problem is that it is turning the wilderness experience into an extension of the urban environment, where everyone has to be "connected" 24/7. The people like Hannah are not connected 24/7, but only for a couple minutes a day to relay information to their sponsors. Most of the 24 hours is completely alone. The radios have been known to fail, so that they are out of communication for days or weeks. They are not dependent on the com links. The direction for the "average Joe" heading into the woods, on the other hand, is a continuous video and audio link - nowhere close to a wilderness experience.

By the way, Jim, I am headed back to Alpine Lake (probably all the way to Duck Lake) this weekend. Wish you could join me again.

12:46 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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You cannot stop the march of technology, nor would you necessarily want to. The availability of devices to make difficult what was once impossible is a gain in my experience. The battle of ideology will always be an academic one, and enjoying remote wilderness will always be about how much of yourself you put into it, not about how easy it is to extract wonder out of it. Those who arrive with comm-link in hand may not be respecting their situation. Of course, they may also simply be keeping loved once back home in-the-loop and aware of their safety and security. That, also, is gain.

1:09 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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Bill

the last time I was up there a huge fire was sweeping through the area. My heart was broken seeing 300 foot flames in my favorite camping area, we hiked north over the ridge instead and looked down on it. My favorite spot is the granite ledges above the lake on the north east corner, I'll be interested in how it fared. Have a great trip, wish I could join you.

Jim S

1:10 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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Are digital cameras also a bad thing in wilderness? They sure let us relive our experiences and make us want to protect that country all the more.

Jim S

1:21 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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Are digital cameras also a bad thing in wilderness? They sure let us relive our experiences and make us want to protect that country all the more.

For some of us, the camera is an essential.

1:42 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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I'm required to use a bear canister. (FED)

I'm required to pack out what I bring in. (LNT)

I'm required to wear a helmet when I am not seated with a seat belt when on wheels or skis. (STATE)

I'm required to carry a SPOT on extended solo outings. (SPOUSE)

The former for the bear's sake; the LNT for your sake; the helmet so that they can find some of the messy pieces in one convenient package; the SPOT for the insurance to be filed promptly.

Lots of different requirements, some we take for granted and others for the good of all. I think my wife would like that I wear a locator anklet when in civilization so she knows if dinner will be late, and for peace of mind (if I remember to push the 'Hi Mom' button often enough) and to track progress or for a pickup/delivery. My kids think the Google map thing is really cool. There is a heated discussion that I really do go slowly and if I really am not near cardiac arrest. The default if I forget or the unit goes dead, is that I am ok. Just like before.

I am sure that inexpensive two way remote conversations are not far in the future.

I like that they have secured the 'send the cavalry' button somewhat. However, when you need to push it, it probably should be as available and unambiguous as possible. For my peace of mind when things are about to get really expensive, it would be nice to have a 'Gotcha' return signal. To cut down on the things I have to remember to bring along, it would also like the idea of an included SAR standard local frequency beacon to be used to help find and dig me out of the snow, or when they get close they know to look on THAT side of the wall. I'd either use the local frequency full time when playing in the snow with others, or it would come on automatically when I hit the 911 button.

Good summary Bill, tnx.

3:11 p.m. on February 11, 2010 (EST)
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You have to wear a helmet skiing? Cross country too? What state do you live in?

On the other hand, I love my downhill helmet and often wear it cross country skiing anyway cause it keeps my head warm, doesn't interfere with my vision, and what the heck, I might hit a tree in the back country.

Jim S

December 18, 2014
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