I’ve been out of the military for a long, long time now. However, I still remember many of the things that were taught to me back then. Those Drill Sergeants, bless their hearts, really knew how to drive home the lessons they were teaching us. Looking back over the years, I can see they were teaching us lessons that would save our lives in combat. I can still remember our map reading and compass orientation course, and the drill sergeant told us “a good soldier never gets lost, they just get disoriented.” At the time, I wasn’t sure what that actually meant, I mean, “lost” is “lost” isn’t it – no matter what you might call it? And, map reading was a very important skill to learn, not just for a means of finding you way back to the base camp, but for calling in artillery on an enemy position, if needed.
I love the outdoors, and don’t get out there as much as I’d like to these days. However, I’m happy to say, I’ve never been lost – not in the wilderness, nor in the big city. I have an uncanny sense of direction – always have. However, I’ve run across some hunters, who were “misoriented” and couldn’t remember where they parked their vehicles or where their hunting camp was located. Before heading out to go hunting, in terrain that I’m not familiar with, I’ll take the time to study a topo map of the area – all the various road in the area, as well as sources of water, too. It’s just good sense, to have an idea of where you’re going in the wilderness – and the big cities. I don’t know how many people I’ve run across, who can’t even read a compass, and if they can read a compass, they haven’t set it for the declination in the area they’re in. When my girls were younger, I taught them how to use a map and compass, and how to learn which direction was north, south, east or west, too.
Many people die each year, because they lost their sense of direction and get lost in the wilderness. Also, boaters who might have a problem out on the ocean or a large lake, can get lost, and they have no means of finding their way back home. Here in Oregon, we have several people each year die while attempting to climb Mount Hood. It looks like an easy mountain to scale, but it’s not. And, more often than not, those who get killed climbing Mount Hood are “experienced” climber – they take unnecessary risks – where an amateur won’t take those same risks. Climbers get caught in snow storms – and they can’t get rescued because no one knows exactly where they are at. Sad!
Today I’m reviewing the Rescue Me PLB1 (Personal Locator Beacon) from Datrex. Now, a lot of people think I’m pretty smart – while that may be true, I’m just not smart all the time. It took me a while to put two and two together, to come up with four – Datrex makes those tasty life boat rations. And, for the life of me, I don’t know why most folks consider these survival rations just for use on boats. My wife and I carry them in our emergency boxes in our SUVs – so they are good for helping your survive on land and sea.
Datrex was kind enough to send me one of their PLB1 units for testing – well, I didn’t actually want to test it, and have the local sheriff’s department Search And Rescue (SAR) team coming knocking on my door, when I activated the PLB1. They also sent me a dummy unit to play with, and the entire set-up is so very simple to operate, no practice is needed! A quick run down on the specs of the PLB1 are in order. The PLB1 is the world’s smallest Personal Locator Beacon – it’s 30% smaller than other similar units. It has a 7-year battery life, with a 7-year warranty – the longest in the industry, and it provides fast and accurate positioning information to a SAR team. Best of all, unlike other similar units, there is NO subscription fee. Other places may charge you by the month, or by the year, to have a subscription – which means, once you purchase one of their units, you can’t use it, unless you’ve paid the fee – which can get expensive over the years.
The PLB1 operates on the COSPAS/SARAT System which uses two satellites to provide distress alert and location data to SAR authorities. The GEOSR system can provide immediate alerting within the coverage of the receiving satellite. To put it simply is to say, once you activate your PLB1, the distress signal goes out immediately and help will be on the way to you. And, needless to say, you only activate the PLB1 in a dire emergency – not when you can’t find your way home from the local McDonald’s restaurant!
The unit only weighs 4-ounces, and is 3″x2″x1.3″ and it safely fits inside inflatable life jackets, small pockets on trousers, on a belt or strap – just about any place. The PLB1 also comes with all the accessories you need, flotation belt pouch, snap in clip with universal mounting strap and high tensile lanyard. Of course, you can stuff it in your backpack, too, or even a shirt pocket.
Now pay attention here, this is the “complicated” method for operating the PLB1 in an emergency. Pull out the retractable antenna, push button down for one second to activate the unit, and………well, that’s it! Can’t be easier to operate if you ask me. And, one nice thing about the PLB1 is, the retractable antenna – you can roll it back up into the unit – much like a tape measure. Other units have to be returned to the factory to have their antennas replaced – and they charge you for it, too. Datrex recommends that, if you have used the unit, that you should replace the small battery – just in case. I mean, the battery is good for 7-years, but it’s just smart to replace the battery if you’ve activated the unit.
The PLB1 is waterproof, per se, down to 15-feet so they recommend that once you activate the unit, you keep it above the water – if you’re out to sea. And, ensure that the antenna is held vertically while operating the unit. The unit will send out a signal for at least 24-hours, and there is also a small strobe light that will start flashing to indicate that the unit is activated. The high brightness, low profile strobe light has 1 candela – it is bright and can be seen from quite a distance, especially at night – aiding the SAR in finding your location, once they get close to you.
Now, in order to use your PLB1 properly, you are required by law to register it – there is no fee for this – just a simple form you can fill out – that’s supplied with each unit – or you can do it on-line. The SAR would like to know who they’re looking for and can also alert family that you’ve activated the unit, too. Oh, one other thing, once you press the button to activate the unit, it takes about 50-seconds before the unit actually starts sending out a signal – in case you hit the button by mistake. Good idea. The PLB1 will operate in temps from -4 degrees, up to 131-degrees.
I know a lot of Survivalist or Preppers, have the idea of heading to the mountains, when the SHTF – and I wish them well, and hope they have pre-positioned supplies there. Many folks just want to disappear off the grid, which is harder to do than they think. I’ve had times in my own life, where I just wanted to “go” and disappear – and not be found. However, what if you were out on a boat, and the engine quit on you, or you’re out hunting, and something happens to you – you get lost, or break a leg? These are situation where you will want to be found. And, cell phones don’t work every place – here in Oregon, where I live, we have quite a few areas in our state where you can’t get a signal to use your cell phone.
My youngest daughter is in the US Army right now, however, by the time this review appears in print, she’ll be out. She has a plan to fly down to New Zealand, and she wants to trek 2,000 miles across that country. Quite a feat, and one I wouldn’t willingly want to do, and she plans on doing it alone, too – ever wonder why dads have so many gray hairs? Enough said! Well, I told my youngest daughter that she will get a PLB1 and take it with her on her trek. This will give me quite a bit of peace of mind – knowing that, if something happens along the trek, she can just push a button, and help will be coming her way. I can’t think of a better endorsement, than wanting my little girl, to carry a PLB1 with her when she’s on that long trek. It probably won’t stop the few remaining hairs from turning gray, but it might slow them down on my head.
If you’re a hunter, boater, hiker or even in the military, having a PLB1 with you is a great idea if you ask me. the PLB1 can be purchased directly from Datrex, at the web address given above, or from any of their retail walk-in stores, for $369 – you might think the price is a bit high – I don’t! What is your life worth, or the life of your loved ones? When you can’t help yourself – for whatever reason, the PLB1 can direct help to your location. To me, I don’t think you can put a price tag on this! And, if my youngest daughter doesn’t purchase a PLB1 for her 2,000 mile trek, then I’ll purchase one for her – that’s how strongly I feel about having this means of being rescued. If you spend any amount of time in the outdoors – especially hiking, camping or hunting – you absolutely must have a PLB1 with you – it can make the difference between life and death! – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
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