Few days ago I updated the registration info with NOAA for my personal locator beacon. Thankfully, I’ve never used it. But every time I pack it, I wonder what it would take. Friend of mine had to use the SOS function on his inReach a couple years ago when a fellow rider on a desert moto trip went over the handlebars at 40 mph and punctured a lung. Last spring in the middle of nowhere, Utah, while trundling along off-road in an SUV I thought I’d be in a similar situation when I encountered a rider on the ground, his bike in the dirt, gear smeared across a two-track like a bomb went off. I grabbed my inReach Mini as I got out of the truck to offer help. We righted his rig, he shook off the butterflies, and sent me on my way.
That’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to using my inReach or my PLB. I carry both often when solo in the backcountry, by the way. The PLB operates on a stronger frequency than my inReach and uses a global military satellite network as opposed to the inReach’s commercial sat system. The PLB is also a turn it on and wait kinda deal with no messaging capability. I figure if I fall down into a cave or something, I can turn the PLB on and pitch it into the clear, maybe keep the inReach nearby as a backup.
Anyway, while registering my beacon I did what I always do when I test the batteries and signals of my sat tools. I wonder what it would take to actually call for SOS. A broken ankle? But what if I could hobble out? Being hopelessly lost? Sometimes I fear the embarrassment would overrule my desire for rescue. Get wet somewhere deep in a cold backcountry environment, with hypothermia setting in? Running out of water in the desert? The mind reels, but I always wonder just what it would take to think it’s now or never, and to press that red button.
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Photo: Justin Housman