How To Choose The Best Personal Locator Beacon?

A personal locator beacon uses satellites to send a distress signal with your exact coordinates to a local search and rescue organization.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors whether hiking, camping or fishing, having a personal locator beacon ensures you can get help quickly if you get lost or experience some sort of trouble.

In this guide, we recommend the best personal locator beacons in the UK, and give you tips on how to choose the right one for your outdoor adventures.

How a Personal Locator Beacon Works

When you activate a personal locator beacon (PLB) by extending the antenna and pressing the activation button, the PLB sends out an emergency beacon on the official international distress frequency 406 MHz.

This signal is received by a satellite in space and relayed to a local search and rescue organization or authority along with your exact coordinates. The local authority uses the information they have on file to organize a search and rescue.

That’s why it is essential that you register your PLB in your country of residence. It makes search & rescue much faster.

In addition to the 406 MHz signal, most PLBs will also send out a secondary homing signal in the 121.5 MHz frequency to further narrow down your position.

Note: Though they work on the same principle, PLBs are different from EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) devices. EPIRBs are designed for marine applications, while ELTs are specifically for aircraft. PLBs, on the other hand, are meant for use by individuals on land, air or water.

What To Look For In A Personal Locator Beacon


If you live in the UK, make sure you get a PLB that’s pre-programmed for registration in the UK. If you don’t live in the UK, request for a PLB that can be registered in your home country.

In the UK, you’ll need to register with the UK Beacon Registry. The easiest way to do this is online.

Once you register your 406 MHz PLB in the UK, you can use it anywhere in the world.

Type of Signal

All modern PLBs transmit a 406 MHz signal. It’s essential that you confirm a particular PLB uses this signal.

Older PLBs transmitted in the 121.5 MHz frequency, which is no longer monitored by satellites.

Many modern PLBs still have the 121.5 MHz frequency. But it’s used as a secondary homing signal to help search and rescue pinpoint your exact location.

But the primary emergency signal should be in the 406 MHz frequency.

Can It Be Used On Water?

Check whether the PLB is rated for use in marine environments. This is important if you often go fishing or boating far out into the sea.

What determines whether a PLB can be used on water is whether it can float. PLBs suitable for marine use are encased in a buoyant pouch that keeps the device afloat and transmitting in case of an emergency.

Note that unlike some EPIRBs that will automatically transmit an emergency signal, a marine PLB still has to be manually activated. But once it’s on, it’ll stay afloat and keep transmitting even if it falls in water.

Built-In Light Beacon

You could make a smokey fire to help search and rescue find you once they come searching, or you could get a PLB with a built-in visual beacon.

Some PLBs incorporate powerful lights on the device that flash to attract the attention of search and rescue.

Battery Life

All personal locator beacons can transmit a signal continuously for at least 24 hours. But some PLBs have a higher capacity battery and can stay on for longer, giving rescuers more time to find you.

If your adventures often take you far away from civilization, get a PLB with a bigger battery.

Another thing to check is the battery shelf life. This is how long the battery remains in a good condition when the PLB has never been activated. It ranges from 4-6 years. After this period, you must replace the battery.


Finally, check if the PLB you want to get as a display or not. Having a display is not a must – the PLB will still transmit an emergency signal.

But having a display keeps you updated on what’s happening, and can help you stay calm when you get lost or stranded.

PLBs with a display show the current beacon status, your GPS coordinates (handy if you can contact someone), and remaining battery life.

Personal Locator Beacons: Top 5 Reviews

1. McMurdo FastFind 220 Personal Locator Beacon

The McMurdo FastFind 220 is the best PLB for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who works in remote areas. It can be used on land, air or water (it comes with a buoyant PVC pouch).

It comes pre-programmed for registration in the UK. One you receive it, it’s easy to register it online on the UK beacon registry.

The McMurdo FastFind 220 has three types of beacons. The main one is a 406 MHz signal that sends out a distress call and kickstarts the search and rescue process.

Once search and rescue have been deployed, the FastFind 220 emits a 121.5 MHz signal to help them home in on your location, making rescue easier and quicker.

In addition, the McMurdo FastFind 220 comes with a bright LED signal light plus an SOS flashing light.

The FastFind 220 will stay active for up to 24 hours once you’ve activated it. The battery is good for up to 6 years, unless you activate the emergency signal. In that case, you have to replace the battery immediately after you are safe.

Another feature we love is the self-test function. It allows you to check whether the PLB is working normally.

What we like about it:

  • Two signals for faster rescue.
  • Built-in light beacon.
  • Self-test feature.
  • Can be used on water.

2. ACR ResQLink PLB-400 Buoyant GPS Personal Locator

The  ACR ResQLink PLB-400 is another good choice if you want a PLB you can use on land, air or water.

It is programmed for UK registration, so all you need to do is go online and register it in the UK Beacon Registry service.

What we like most about the ResQLink PLB-400 is how versatile it is when it comes to portability. It comes with a multifunction clip system that allows you to strap it onto yourself, on a backpack, or even your parachute.

The ResQLink PLB-400 is waterproof and buoyant. So it’s safe to use on a boat or when kayaking or paddleboarding.

That said, we do not recommend it for serious marine adventures or work. For that, we highly recommend an EPIRB, which is designed primarily for marine applications.

Similar to other PLBs, the ResQLink PLB-400 uses a combination of 406 MHz and 121.5 MHz signaling to direct search and rescue to your position. It also includes an LED and infrared strobe light.

Once you activate the PLB-400, the battery powers it for 24 hours. In a standby state, the battery has a shelf life of 5 years.

What we like about it:

  • 406 MHz and 121.5 MHz signals, plus a light beacon.
  • Suitable for land and marine use
  • Self-test function.
  • Easy to carry around.

3. ACR ResQLink View

If you want a PLB with a display, get the ACR ResQLink View. Note that it’s more expensive than the ResQLink PLB-400 without a display.

The small display on the ACR ResQLink View shows the live beacon status plus your GPS coordinates.

Another advantage of the ACR ResQLink View over the PLB-400 is battery life. The ACR ResQLink View can transmit continuously for up to 28 hours, four hours more than the PLB-400.

Other than that, the two models are pretty similar. The ACR ResQLink View transmits both 406 and 121.5 MHz signals. The first is the primary distress signal and the second is a homing signal to guide search and rescue.

It also has an LED and IR strobe light.

The ACR ResQLink View can be used in different kinds of environments including land and water. It’s buoyant, so it’ll float and continue transmitting even if it falls in water.

What we like about it:

  • Includes display.
  • Longer battery life.
  • Suitable for land and marine activities.
  • Includes two signals and one light beacon.

4. EBTOOLS GPS Marine Beacon Personal Locator

The EBTOOLS GPS Personal Locator is the most expensive of our picks. While it’s not an APIRB, it’s designed for serious marine applications.

It is highly waterproof, has excellent buoyancy, and can work in temperatures as low as -20C.

The EBTOOLS PLB is also suitable for use on land.

Once you activate the PLB, it sends out a primary 406 MHz distress signal as well as a 121.5 MHz homing signal. It also includes a strobe light.

The battery keeps the device active for at least 24 hours, and has a shelf life of 8 years, longer than any PLB we’ve encountered.

The EBTOOLS PLB comes with a display that shows the beacon status as well as your GPS coordinates.

What we like about it:

  • Suitable for land and marine use.
  • Includes display.
  • Long battery shelf life.
  • Self-test function.

5. Ocean Signal EDF1 rescueME Electronic Distress Flare

If you are on a budget and can’t afford a GPS personal locator beacon, the Ocean Signal EDF1 rescueME electronic distress flare is a cheaper alternative. It’s also safer than traditional incendiary flares, and you can use it more than once.

The EDF1 doesn’t have any GPS capabilities and will not send out signals. It is essentially an advanced light beacon with 360-degrees extra-bright LED lights to attract attention from any side. You can use it on its own or in addition to a GPS device such as a PLB.

You can switch between four operation modes depending on the kind of signaling you want. The lights are designed to be highly visible from land (7-mile range) as well as air.

The battery is good for up to 6 hours of operation. Notably, it maintains the lights at full strength throughout the battery life. You will not experience any dim lights.

The Ocean Signal EDF1 is designed to withstand the rough outdoors. It’s rugged and waterproof up to 10 meters. So it’s great for a wide range of land and water activities including hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing.

What we like about it:

  • Cheaper than a GPS PLB.
  • Specialized light design ensures high visibility from land and air.
  • Long battery life.
  • Rugged and waterproof.

Leave a Reply