Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Satellite Emergency Notification Devices
I finally got around to getting a Garmin inReach Mini a couple days ago and tried it out on a section of the PCT north of Kennedy Meadows. It worked great. (Of course, I didin't try the SOS button so technically I don't know if that feature works! LOL) I have it paired with my smartphone and so I can see detailed maps and send messages and all sorts of cool stuff. Although I've gotten by without one of these for years many people I know have urged me to get one. The first time I saw one of these devices was on a hike with MojaveGeek. He had a Spot. Since then I think all of these devices have added lots of features.

Most of the hikes I do are outside of cell service zones and so I've been taking a "risk" I suppose for years. Of course, having grown up before cell phones became available I never really thought of it that way since that was the only way of going out into the wilderness prior to cell phones. It would be interesting to hear about what different people use and how many people still go out without one of these devices. Also did I make a mistake going with the inReach? I know there are various opinions on which one of these devices is the best. As for the monthly service fee I went with the basic service level which has a cost of $12/month.

I'm still using a Garmin Foretrex along with the inReach since the Foretrex fits nicely on my wrist so I can see mileage, elevation, time of day, and time of sunset at a glance. I may upgrade to a ForeRunner at some point, but those things are a little pricey! Big Grin
For years I have been carrying a 406 MHz PLB. Here is the model I have now:


I think this model has now been discontinued. Which is fine.  The battery is due for replacement next year.  But this is my third PLB and I have never replaced the battery in one of these. I instead buy a new, smaller unit.  

The first one of these I owned was huge compared to the ones available now. And it did not have on-board GPS.
I've been carrying a McMurdo FastFind (personal locator beacon) as well. When the battery expired a couple of years ago, I shipped it off to these guys for a new battery:

I recall reading that the "help" signal was more reliable than a Spot, and I didn't mind the higher up front cost since it didn't come with a subscription fee. The downside, of course, is that there is no texting, calling, or check in buttons on it. It's basically an emergency-only paperweight that sits unused in my backpack, and I hope it stays that way.
I'm in the "how many people still go out without one of these devices" group. I've always carried multiple paper maps (and often two copies of the same TOPO printout, since I have had maps blow out of my hands on a windy day!), and I almost always tell someone where I'm going and when I expect to be back. I've never used a GPS device of any sort. But I have been thinking I probably should get some sort of Spot/inReach device though...
Link to my DV trip reports, and map of named places in DV (official and unofficial):
When I had a few trips to really wild places with my son on which my wife didn't come, she wanted me to get a Spot, which I did, and used it for years, never emergency though. A few years ago I switched to an InReach and I very much like it. Came with spending more time solo once my son was old enough to have summer jobs and such. I always leave word at home as to where I'm going (and if I head out in a rental, I send home a photo of the car with plates visible for emergency) but with the three kinds of "free" messages I can send we have a convention whereby I can indicate for example that I am NOT starting from the planned trailhead but somewhere else. I try to send a few "OK" messages now and then to just narrow down the search radius in case SAR comes looking for me. Canned messages include "turn around, lunch spot" and "Running late but doing fine" Every now and then I've taken advantage of the ability to send an arbitrary text (pair to the phone app to type it) and I think that would be awesome in a real SOS situation. I make a point of always having it on my person, even if I drop my pack for a summit sprint. It is no substitute for being well prepared and self-reliant, and there are plenty of emergency situations where a solo hiker may be incapacitated and unable to call for help, but it is a bit of extra insurance. Oh you can get a highly localized weather forecast which can be useful if you're out camping in the boonies for more than a day or two. I have found that very helpful when trying to evaluate iffy weather situations.
Being a senior citizen, I have never owned a PLB. Though I think it a great idea for the serious hiker/back country traveller, I have gotten along just fine without them. Now that I’m a senior now, and not getting out as much as I’d like, I cannot justify the cost of the unit and subscription.

I the old days, I’d plan an itinerary, and my wife would get a copy. I’d stick to my itinerary. At all points that I knew there was cellular service, I’d call home to let my wife know I was OK. Even two decades ago, I have been surprised at places I got cell service. And I find there are less gaps nowadays. And even when there was not enough signal to get a call out, texts always did. Having reliable and maintained vehicles helped in my case. And being conservative in taking risks when alone helped as well. 

I have a now old Garmin eTrex basic GPS unit. I use it in conjunction with my onboard navigation in my 4Runner.

[Image: daw89446-albums-4running-picture58538-9d...e74c0.jpeg]

[Image: daw89446-albums-4running-picture58539-70...243d3.jpeg]

The above two images were taken here, last summer when I took my 90 year old Mom on a day outing. This is where we had lunch, which we brought with us from a sub sandwich shop.

It pairs well with my old Toshiba laptop, running Windows Vista, and National Geographic TOPO! map software with California, Nevada and Utah mapsets. Great for input waypoints, as well as downloading tracks. When on the road and trail, I keep it in this screen. I’ve also used it to guide me in days past when I didn’t have map based navigation units or onboard navigation. I generally print out maps from TOPO!, plus there is a copy of the Nevada and Idaho Benchmark atlases in the seatback pockets.

Nowadays, due to my wife’s disabilities and my having to pay for the sins of my youth and work related injuries, my serious offroading and hiking days are over. The most active off road and on foot I am is during hunting season. And I still give my wife my itinerary. And stick to it.
~When You Live in Nevada, "just down the road" is anywhere in the line of sight within the curvature of the earth.
I picked up and started using a Garmin inReach Explorer a few years ago. I pay the annual fee of $24.95 for the Freedom Plan, and then throughout the year I turn the service on in one month's increments for around $16 when needed. This works out really well because I tend to pack my trips into the spring and fall, so on average I only pay for about three months a year and fit multiple trips into that time frame.

My usage for the device revolves solely around messaging / communication. I have extensive mapping (Topo Maps!!!) on my iPhone, along with paper maps, though I have played around with the GPS on the inReach and it's also fantastic (so it serves as a third backup).

Actually, I also use the inReach for weather reports now that I think about it. Another great feature when on extended backpacking or backcountry trips.

For messaging you can setup 3 preset messages in the device and use these an unlimited amount of times at no charge. Before each trip I pick who I want my info to go to and program these messages: 1) Camping here for the night. Everything is groovy.; 2) This is my current location. Everything is gravy.; 3) Run into some sort of trouble here. Please contact closest Ranger / Sheriff and send them to this location to help me. Will send more info when I can.

Pretty straightforward. During the middle of the day I'll shoot a message #2 to my pre-selected contacts, and at the end of the day shoot #1 to everyone. My hope is that if I run into trouble and become incapacitated, multiple people will have a last known spot for me within 12 hours of my "incident."

One final thing that has made this device & purchase even more worthwhile, is that I now lend it out to good friends when they're going out on backcountry expeditions. Definitely getting my money's worth and it allows my friends to get weird out there, knowing that I'm back in town monitoring their location and able to provide support if needed.
Taco, do you think your option #3 (ask friends for help) is better than hitting the SOS button? I figure with the SOS I am more likely to get contact from the responding agency, as the inreach response center can give them my contact info. That comm capacity is a lot of why I upgraded from the Spot. I figure if I need to ask for help it would be helpful for the responders to know my situation, e.g. whether I am stable for the night if needed, conscious and helpful (waving tarps or clothing for aerial searches) etc.

So I figure I'd hit SOS and then send messages directly to my wife with info so she knows what's up. I figure it might be hard for her to figure out how to invoke local help, and she's usually 2 or 3 time zones away, so there could be some disconnects in there.

The one that I ponder over is the rattlesnake bite. I think getting bit means pretty much mandatory turn around, but not all bites envenomate. Probably I would chill out and evaluate, and either hike out on my own or call for help, depending on my condition. But I would probably text home even if I did not call for help.

Once my brother noticed that a number of "I'm here" messages came from the same location (a car camp base camp) and he was worried I was injured and immobilized. We straightened that one out.

I also wear a Garmin watch (it was a retirement gift; my co-workers knew me well!) so when I'm out I actually have 4 GPS capable devices Smile
Hey Mojave!

Yeah, that Option #3 is an odd choice and kind of just takes up space as I use #1 and #2 all the time, and couldn't come up with a more useful #3.

My understanding has always been that the SOS button is a last (and expensive) resort – I'm assuming all hands on deck NPS / Sheriff response to a situation I don't expect to be able to provide further updates from due to incident / injury. For me, the SOS button is the last thing I do before I slip into unconsciousness or bleed out or god only knows what. Basically, send the choppah!

Option #3 on the other hand would be a situation in the backcountry where I've run into something or someone that isn't right, is going to need help, but I need to do some problem solving first before we get more details out. But while I'm working on those details lets get the ball rolling and send help out now to what isn't a catastrophic situation.

I've had two experiences on Saline Valley Road where Option #3 was my first reaction, versus an SOS. Once heading out South Pass on the way to Lone Pine my dad and I ran into an overturned old VW van in the middle of the road. And ... there's a small, naked child standing in the middle of the road staring at us. First thoughts were dark thoughts, but wasn't sure if calling a $50,000 helicopter ride was 100% necessary (but let's definitely get the sheriff out here now). Thankfully the father who was driving the van, and both his children, were safe and unhurt once we got everything sorted out. That was a very, very long day.

The other time was heading north on Saline Valley Road and we ran into two hikers on the side of the road that were absolutely beat down near the salt marsh before the road to the springs. They'd been stuck up high in the Inyo for around a week after getting snowed in and injured on what was supposed to be a two or three nighter to some cabins that the grandfather knew pretty well. The grandfather had blown his knee out I think and it took them days to get down and back to the road. They didn't have supplies for more than three days so they weren't doing super great. So, once again, I wanted the sheriff immediately sent out to support them, but please don't send a Search & Rescue helicopter because no one wants to pay for that.

Phew! Long story time!
I really like the idea of Option #3. I can see using that for vehicle breakdowns, etc. I agree, I see the SOS button for immediate life threatening issues.

As I get older, and my health took a nose dive this year, I need to look much more seriously into getting some kind of alerting device. My first line of defense s not going along, but even that still could require outside assistance. I am very interested in this conversation.

David Bricker / SYR
DV Rat.  Live upstate NY, play Death Valley, retiring to Hawaii. '95 Cherokee, barely.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)