Given the enormous size of our great brown land and the vast distances between population centres, there are times the outdoor enthusiast or weekend camper will head out into new areas to find solace or to simply just get away for a few days, often beyond mobile phone range.
An essential piece of equipment often overlooked are Personal Locator Beacons or PLBs. PLBs are devices that will allow you, via satellite, to transmit your location to the search and rescue authorities in the case of an emergency.
To ensure you and your family are safe while adventuring outdoors, we will show you the best PLBs on the market in Australia so you can make the best decision when purchasing this potentially lifesaving device.
Spot Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger
Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1
ACR ResQLink 400 PLB
Global Satellite Communicator
$15.35 per month
$32-80 per month
68 x 24 x 88 mm
51 x 33 x 77 mm
52 x 38 x 12 mm
66 x 91 x 27 mm
High impact UV resistant Plastic
Impact, dust and water-resistant @ 2m depth for 30 mins
Submersible to 15 Metres for 1 Hour
5m for 1 hour, 10m for 10 min
Dust & Water Resistant - Up to a depth of 1.5 m for up to 30 minutes
4 x AAA Lithium included
Lithium Manganese Dioxide
Non-hazmat Lithium batteries
Rechargeable internal Lithium-Ion
0.142 kg with batteries
With 100% view of sky - SOS: 13 days | Tracking @ 60 minute intervals 24hrs/day: 52 Days
Best PLBs Australia
Spot Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger
The SPOT Gen4 may not be the best Personal Locator Beacon on the market, but it has been proven to work effectively over the years and is the best value when it comes to price. The Gen4 is the latest version and is a small upgrade on SPOT’s Gen3.
The Gen4 is a great device for occasional use as it can be used for long periods with replaceable batteries. It is very rugged and the water and impact resistance will ensure you carry the Gen4 with you for years.
It has multiple modes so you can send an SOS easily or you can program it to send an update of your location periodically. It even has a help function so you can let your friends know you need help in a non-life-threatening situation without the need to alert search and rescue.
Some of these functions are limited however and only transmits one way. Another consideration is that the Gen4 uses the GlobalStar satellites that are, surprisingly, not exactly global. This means it is worth checking it covers the areas you are headed to before you go.
This product is best for those on a budget, those who like to adventure occasionally and only need to use their PLB for emergency use, not general communication.
Most customer reviews are very positive as when used correctly the Gen4 does exactly what it says it does – save lives. When compared to other products on this list, however, it does not have the functionality of other models, but given its price point – the Gen4 is the best valued PLB you can buy.
Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1
Easiest to use
The Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1 is a simple and one of the best Personal Locator Beacons you can buy. It has a singular purpose – to send an SOS and update your position anywhere in the world and for that purpose – it's the gold standard.
It was designed and built with this in mind, giving this PLB a rugged and solid exterior with simple and well-made communications inside. Its satellite coverage is one of the main selling points as you can be fishing off Hobart or camping out in the middle of the country and have the same extensive coverage.
The only downside is the lack of any other communication capability. It can’t connect to messaging networks, WIFI or phone reception making this PLB a one use only type of device. That being said, this PLB is suitable for almost anyone who regularly heads out into the unknown and only needs to communicate when disaster happens.
Customer reviews across the internet praise this as one of the best PLBs ever, however for a very similar price, you can also purchase other PLBs with similar coverage but the ability to message as well.
If you feel you don’t need these functions and want the ability to push a button and receive help anywhere in the country – then this is the PLB for you.
ACR ResQLink 400 PLB
Best for infrequent use
The ACR ResQLink 400 PLB is another PLB that uses worldwide satellite rescue systems allowing for maximum coverage just about anywhere you would want to adventure out into.
It is very similar to the Ocean Signal RescueMe and while neither would be considered the absolute best Personal Locator Beacons – they both are as solid as they come with simplicity in saving lives.
The ACR ResQlink is a little on the heavier side in comparison but does not require annual subscriptions to use, meaning that if this is used infrequently you won't have to scramble to check your status before heading out.
The main downside and this is by design – is the lack of a messaging service. While the best PLB may offer messaging, this PLB is simple, effective and with one button push, you can alert the world that you are in trouble and require assistance.
Customer reviews for this PLB are all very positive and are on par with other emergency only beacons, with the only negative based around its heavier weight than other devices.
It is easy to use, reliable PLB that you really can't go wrong in buying and using when you head outdoors and is best suited for hikers or campers who really like to get off the beaten track.
ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator
Best for those who like to stay in touch
The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator is close to being one of the best PLBs on the market today. It is easy to use, easy to set up and has a range of subscription options depending on how often and how long you like to head out into the bush.
The ZOLEO is a new product range and does not have the history and proven capabilities of other models over the years, but its ability to communicate seamlessly across multiple satellites, mobile networks and WIFI gives this PLB a significant
edge over its competitors.
The only main downside of this device is that you require a phone or laptop to connect and use for messaging back and forth, making this more suitable for campers who can recharge their electronics.
Customer reviews are very positive and this PLB, especially the messaging function that other beacons lack. Though it's heavier, if you are a camper, or don't mind hiking with a heavier load this aspect doesn't seem to matter too much as it's outweighed by its other functions.
If you like the ability to communicate back to the world regularly then this is definitely the best PLB for you.
What To Look For When Buying A Personal Locator Beacon
Not all PLBs are created equal as different systems cover Australia and its surrounding waters. The most comprehensive satellite networks are the COSPAS / SARSAT that are only used for emergencies world-wide and cover almost the entire globe.
The GlobeStar system is a US-based satellite network that is used more for satellite phones and commercial use and does not have the same coverage as the COSPAS / SARSAT networks.
Other considerations are if your PLB connects to mobile phone networks or even WIFI. If you have a device that is capable of messaging then this would be a big consideration, if not then it’s more about which satellite system provides you with
the best coverage.
While there is not a huge deal of difference between the PLBs reviewed here, if you are an avid hiker or trekker then every gram can be important.
For campers or even sailors – this is less of a consideration if the PLB remains in vehicles.
This is an important consideration when choosing the right PLB for you. A PLB with the messaging functions might entice you to use it more often and then drain the battery for example.
Some PLBs come with replaceable batteries that mitigate this issue, while others have different settings such as; being on all the time, turning on periodically, only being used when an SOS is needed.
Campers and hikers obviously have different needs in this regard too, so it's best to determine what your needs are and choose the best battery life/charging options for you.
Closely related to battery life, this is the time a PLB can continuously transmit your SOS. All the PLBs here can transmit for a minimum of 24 hours. If you feel you are so far away from civilization you may need more time than this for a rescue, you should consider the time these PLBs will transmit for.
All modern PLBs have some form of water resistance or even waterproofing, however, if you like to head out on the water a lot or into rainy wet environments then this may be something you should consider too.
Personal Locator Beacon FAQ
What is the difference between PLBs and EPIRBs?
PLB stands for Personal Locator Beacon and is designed for use by an individual across any environment. They always have a GPS and an emergency signal as a minimum and are lightweight by design.
EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and are used primarily for vessels at sea. EPIRBs are larger than PLBs and must be registered to a boat or ship.
How do PLBs work?
PLBs all have GPS built into them so when turned on, they know where they are at all times. In the case of an emergency, you push the emergency button and the PLB will start to transmit your location and a distress message (you can tailor the message in your subscription options). Emergency services will receive your distress signal and mobilise to find you.
Can you change the battery in a PLB?
Not all PLBs are designed the same. Some you can easily change AAA batteries, others have an internal battery that must be charged.
How long do batteries last?
Again each PLB is different. Batteries should last a minimum of 24 hours on emergency transmit. Different functions like tracking or messaging frequently can also reduce battery time.
PLBs are an essential piece of equipment for those that love to head right out into the far reaches of Australia. While not everyone uses them, if you are faced with an emergency far from civilization – a decent PLB could save your life.
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Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.