Epirb vs spot tracker

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 13:53
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Epirb vs spot tracker. Does any members have thoughts or experience with either of these two items.

Thanks in advance.
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Reply By: GarryR - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:13

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:13
hi there justawandering - do you mean a PLB and not an epirb.. PLB (personal locating beacon) used for land based travel where as an epirb is much larger in construction as it is a floatation emergency beacon used majority of the time on water. I use a GME brand PLB, as my personal preference, as it is small as in it is pocket size and easy to carry in your bag whilst away from the vechile. I cannot comment on the Spot as I have had no dealings with it but there are others that could fill you in. I purchased my PLB for around the $300- dollar mark with a battery life of 7years according to the manufacturer. Would not go anywhere without it. The cook even puts in her backpack when cross country sking even though there is reasonable mobile reception. hope that was some sought of help GarryR
yep I also failed to say that I carry a sat phone and radio equipment that I require. The kids can follow my treks on a daily basis through a trekking log stating my position regulary. they will always know my last position, and with that knowledge they should find me within a reasonable radius from that point even
if I have not set off a beacon or not. As Stephen L stated "Be Prepared" quoted from Baden Powell founder of the Scouting Movement
location - Warragul -Victoria
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Reply By: Duncanm - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:33

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:33
Empir/Plb does not have an ongoing yrly fee
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Reply By: Notso - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:33

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:33
The Brother In Law and his son did a 600 kilometre walk and he had a spot tracker. We followed his movement the whole way.. It also had the ability for him to send short text messages such as "all OK", etc.

We found it very easy to monitor their movements.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:52

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 14:52
That's the beauty of spot / spot 2, trackability for home, and simple messages.
An annual cost applies, and maybe in some cases a Sat phone could be a more effective option.

PLB is more of a full on emergency tool, and after initial purchase, has no ongoing cost for (usually) up to 10 years.
I have a PLB, the KTI SA2G, best value I could find (and still same price) from Arnolds Boat Shop
$25 / year peace of mind for a decade.
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Reply By: Kevin S - Life Member (QLD) - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 15:04

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 15:04
We have a Spot2 and have used it for about 5 years. These are the reasons that I like it.

1. We send a message to family members at the end of each day so that they know where we are and that we are OK. It has facilities to send messages by text or email. The email advice includes a link to the map position. About 6 or 7 people know where we are as a result.
2. Spot2 has a lesser emergency button to indicate non life threatening issues such as break down where urgency is not involved.
3. The emergency or SOS button not only sends a message to Australian Search and Rescue via their sister service in USA, it also sends the message to my contacts. That means that my son will know that we have an emergency as soon or sooner than the authorities and he will be on the phone to them instantly.

So the whole arrangement allows us a high degree of certainty that we will be looked after in an emergency.

I think that is far superior to a single message from a PLB that no one else knows about.

As an aside, our eldest daughter is involved in training nurses in India. She receives an email each day and is often teaching when the email comes through so she chicks on the link and shows the class where her parents are that day. They are fascinated. The idea of a caravan towed by a car is not main stream in India.


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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 15:09

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 15:09
Point 3. is a good feature I didn't know of.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 14:13

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 14:13
There is a higher degree of certainty your emergency will be detected if using a PLB versus a Spot Tracker. I discussed this in a response below, but essentially...

The power output of a PLB is far greater than a Spot Tracker and secondly, PLBs operate on the 406MHz frequency whilst Spot on a 1.6GHz. This means PLBs have a much higher chance of penetrating things between it and the satellites with the benefit of a higher power output.

You want to ensure your emergency call is heard!

And whilst you can (only) pre-program a notification to your contacts that is sent when activating S.O.S on Spot, once a PLB activation is detected the first thing authorities will do is endeavour to communicate with the emergency contacts that you are required to list when registering a PLB device. But whichever device is used, authorities will not know the nature of the emergency only there has been an urgent call for assistance.

Noting, Spot outsources monitoring of devices to GEOS International, a private organisation that liaises with Government Rescue agencies.

On balance, a PLB in an emergency would be my choice of device as it will elicit a very specific response from the outsett, but there are merits for both, depending on what your main requirement is, so my comments are made in that context...

Cheers, Baz

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 14:19

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 14:19
Good to know more about the 2 types of devices.

I am happy with the KTI plb, our planning is suffice (so far with 25 years or so of bushwalks etc under the belt) to either make it under our own resources, or need a full blown rescue in those very rare uncontrollable circumstances.

So far, so good, though I do remember luck in a couple of cases.

Thanks for the extra info Baz.
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Reply By: garrycol - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 16:15

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 16:15
It is not a vs argument or an either all argument - PLB is the ultimate failsafe when all else fails - set and wait.

Spot, SatPhone, UHF fulfill a different function - yes they can call in an emergency etc but whether they are failsafe is up to the individual to decide.

To my way of thinking when travelling a PLB should be carried on the person and then also have your non failsafe method of communication for everything else.

Also there must be a 100 threads on this very topic over the past few months so have a look at some of them.

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Reply By: Justawandering - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 16:54

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 16:54
Thank you all for your help we will be ringing around tomorrow. Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 17:19

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 17:19
Hi Justawandering

They both compliment each other and it is a good idea to have both if you can and in real terms, they are very cheap life insurance.

The PLB is only used for life threatening situations, and once activated, the unit is no longer serviceable and a new unit must be purchased, but is the minimum safety item to carry.

The Spot on the other hand requires a yearly activation fee and will send those that you link to the divise Lat and Long coordinates at a minimum of every 10 minutes, so they can track you in real time. If you have to activate the SOS button, it will send out the same information as the PLB, but with the added bonus that you can also press the SOS button again to turn it off, and continue to still use the Spot.

It also has a couple of extra handy features that lets your family and friends who that you are ok.

Any item that you buy as a way of letting those in the know you need help are or should be, In any vehicle that heads away from mobile phone coverage.

Stick to the old Scouts Moto...."Be prepared" for the unexpected it it will give you peace of mind and also to your family.


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Follow Up By: GarryR - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 15:41

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 15:41
Gidday Stephen, were you in the movement of Scouting. I know where you are coming from with the quote frmo Baden Powell, being an ex- youth member and former CSL and SL. for many years.
location - Warragul -Victoria
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 23:26

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 23:26
Hi Garry

Yes like you went up through the ranks, and in return was leader in charge for many years, and Akela.


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Reply By: Hoyks - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 19:01

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 19:01
Yes, the SPOT II has its advantages, but disadvantages too.

The down side of the SPOT in my opinion is that it is monitored by a 3rd party (GEOS Rescue Coordination Center) in the USA via a satellite network. They call you and your nominated phone numbers and then notify the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). The other is that the SPOT only sends a signal to the satellite that provides your GPS co-ordinates that is then forwarded to the rescuers. It uses batteries that will need to be replaced or keep thing on an external power lead, it also has an annual subscription.

The up side is that your family or Mrs at home can track your progress when out of mobile phone coverage and see you are at an outback pub, rather than in a ditch 1/2 way there. It has the "OK" button, the "Its All Gone To Custard and Could Do With Some Help, But I'm OK" button and the SOS button, so you can escalate the level of help required.
They will also leave a 'bread crumb trail', so if you do fall off the face of the earth or are unable to push the SOS button, then those watching from home can see where you were, so have some idea where to start searching. For that reason a lot of my motor bike riding mates have them.
Based on the way it is meant to be used, the SPOT will be on the dash in plain view and easily accessed/activated. Relatively cheap to buy.

PLB cons; You have to be physically able to push the button to turn it on, so no good if you can't get to it. Because it is a one trick pony, more likely to be buried in the glove box and therefore not easy to find/access/deploy/activate in an emergency and absolutely no help if no one knows it is there.
Doesn't give you the option of those at home tracking your ramblings, so they can't guess where you were heading.

Pros: You push the button, the signal goes to a satellite and then AMSA. Not only do the new ones transmit your GPS location, they can also be picked up by aircraft and allows the rescue helicopter to use it as a homing beacon so they can fly straight to you. Will work for 24hrs (minimum) and no batteries to service. More expensive, but no ongoing costs, so probably cheaper in the long run.
Definitely the preferred option In case of emergency.

I have had mates use both, both were out in the desert and a long way from anywhere. One had a SPOT II, one a PLB, both had to wait several hours and both got a ride with the RFDS. Would one have got rescuers there faster than the other? Its hard to say, 10 or 20 minutes saved was probably insignificant when looking at the travel times.

Personally, I'd like both, the SPOT would be nice to have, but if betting my life on it I would get the PLB and mount it somewhere obvious in the vehicle.. or in the pouch on my PFD.
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Follow Up By: Hoyks - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 19:06

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 19:06
I'm also told that SPOT is also more affected by steep hills and tree canopy, but anything that has to get GPS reception and then get a signal to those same satellites is going to struggle.

High ground and clear skies are your friend here.
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 10:02

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 10:02
How do you think the PLB gets its position?
Both use satellites!
Anything that relies on satellites will struggle in some circumstances, particularly in hilly country when you are in a steep sided valleys. In those cases HF is often more successful.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 11:25

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 11:25

A couple of things to consider here…

Firstly, whilst both use satellites, a 406MHz beacon uses 5 watts of power, versus Spot which uses substantially less, depending on requirements this should be an important consideration when comparing the capability of these devices.

The other consideration is frequency.

The rule of thumb is the lower the frequency the easier it is for a signal to be received. Spot uses the 1.6GHz frequency which is four times higher than a 406MHz beacon, meaning the lower frequency device (PLB) has a much better chance of penetrating things in between it and the satellites.

So this is another factor to take into account when deliberating the merits of each device.

In my view both devices have strengths and weaknesses, but neither is mutually exclusive. But without doubt, if you are looking for a response to an emergency that is tried, proven and efficient than the 406MHz beacon is the better choice. Both in terms of ability to “connect” with the satellites, and secondly the response employed when an emergency activation is made.

If you want something that provides access to an emergency response, but your requirement also includes communicating and providing tracking information, than a Spot device might be more appropriate, but also might include a consideration of other communication devices such as HF Radio and Satphones.

I use a Spot Tracker primarily for providing tracking information to family and friends via EO Track Me. But can say from personal use in close-quartered walking expeditions is that it is heavily affected via terrain and vegetation and I would never rely on it to get me the emergency response that a PLB will give if I ever find myself in a position to call for external assistance.

All food for thought,
Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 21:15

Sunday, Jan 08, 2017 at 21:15
In addition to information from this thread I suggest you contact the AMSA as they have plenty of information they can give you to assist in making a choice.

Bear in mind, PLBs and Spot Tracker both provide emergency notification, but a PLB (406 Beacon) is what you want if in dire straits.

It uses a dedicated satellite system among other things, and you can also register trips you are doing via an upload to the AMSA. If your beacon goes off the first thing they will do is look at your profile to see if you are travelling, and whether the beacon activation corresponds to the area in which you indicate you are travelling in.

I have both, Spot Tracker because family and friends can track our journey, and a PLB for when I really need assistance.

The activation of a Locator Beacon (PLB) invokes a very specific response from the authorities which has been mandated and well understood by all who use it, and those who implement the service. And this occurs no matter where in the world it is activated.

There is absolutely no ambiguity – activate the beacon, it will be detected by a satellite, your position will be established and the response process commences immediately. And the response follows a very specific pathway, escalating over time until a result is achieved.

Cheers, Baz - The Landy
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Reply By: Iza B - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 07:08

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 07:08
Small trap with the Spot is that you must cancel the subscription and not just let the subscription run out. Bushwalking friend let subscription run out. Fine print says you must opt out or automatic recharge cost. Debt collectors turned up on friend's doorstep demanding three years of subscription costs.

Two old blokes I know carry a Spot while bushwalking and are on strict instructions from family to send the "I'm OK" message four times a day or they will call out rescue.

Traveling outback roads or poking around in the tinny in inland waters, I carry a PLB.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 08:26

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 08:26
A lot seem to use this for walks, letting people follow progress etc, charity walks and the likes use them quite often.
Some have the plotting all day, but the battery comment in a post above makes me think they must have support people / vehicles to recharge, or perhaps solar if they are using a cart.

Me, I couldn't justify using one in that case on our walks, the KTI PLB will suffice if we ever have a need for emergency assistance.
Our families know our groups capabilities, planning, contingency options etc, so no worries there with issues, apart form the odd few weeks away without contact.

Of course different with the 4WDn trips, but again with a cost for the spot, you can probably pay just a little more perhaps and have a sat phone, with even better flexibility.
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Reply By: Member - shane r1 - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 09:01

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 09:01
Hi all
On the spot battery longevity.
I used my spot on a two week motorbike trip , with recommended lithium batteries in it, it lasted and was still going on the same batteries later. So not to much problem with keeping it powered up. Couple sets of extra batteries on board is no problem
AnswerID: 607381

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 09:19

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 09:19
Get a PLB and a Sat phone. Sat plans are similar to SPOT, you can send messages "Im ok", even call loved ones or emergency services, spare parts dealers, even VKS 737 if there is an issue.

I think SPOT tracking is infrequent ( several hourly?) unless you pay more. I may be wrong. There are lots of extras in the billing. Check it out.

To me, SPOT is neither as good as a PLB at one end, or a Sat phone at the other end.

Track your movements with EO or a phone tracker that works off line then uploads to a website when it gets reception. It doesn't really matter where you are unless you have an issue, that's when you reach for the PLB AND the sat phone.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 10:24

Monday, Jan 09, 2017 at 10:24
I'm with you Boobook.

We carry a PLB and a satphone. Have discarded the HF radio and now have a 'satphone' membership with VKS737.
That should satisfy 'emergencies', both medical and vehicle failure.

The SPOT benefit of tracking is of no value to us. Our family do not need constant reassurance of our well-being but if they did it could come as an SMS from the satphone.

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