Why You Should Always Carry A PLB

Wandering deep into the unknown, surrounded by nothing but the finest from mother nature bestows a feeling of adventure and excitement. When the sounds of everyday life slip away, all that’s left is peace and solace.

Exploring the depths of the wild, far from society, is something we will never cease to pursue. But something we know can be extremely dangerous. The wild is just that, wild. It cannot be tamed or predicted and requires our full attention. Not even the most experienced adventurers can predict and prevent every unwanted circumstance. 

For this reason, a PLB (personal locator beacon) is an essential part of our hiking packing list every time we set foot on an adventure that leads us away from immediate help. These handy little emergency beacons are small, lightweight, and can increase your chance of survival considerably. 

You may still be wondering; what is a PLB and why should you carry one? How do they increase your chances of survival when everything turns pear-shaped? We have teamed up with GME to introduce their new GPS PLB – MT610G and to provide you with all the knowledge you need to make your decision on whether you should carry a personal locator beacon. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase of a product we recommend through one of our links, we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you! This helps to support our blog and enables us to continue providing you with helpful tips and exciting adventures, so thank you 🙂

Admiring the view with a PLB of a cloud inversion at St Patricks Head in St Helens Tasmania

What Is A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)?

PLB stands for Personal Locator Beacon, other forms of beacons are the Emergency Position Indicating Beacon (EPIRB) or the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). An EPIRB is primarily used for maritime, however, it can also be used for air or land. An ELT is used for air only, where it is fitted to aircraft. And a PLB can be used for land, air, or maritime.

While you can most certainly use an EPIRB just as well as a PLB for land activities, an EPIRB is designed for maritime. The main difference being that an EPIRB is generally registered to a boat, whereas a PLB is registered to an individual. For this reason, I will be concentrating this post on the PLB. 

Basically, a PLB is an emergency beacon that, once activated, sends a signal to search and rescue agencies, alerting them of your location and the fact you’re in dire need of their help. They are generally lightweight, compact, and can fit easily in your pack or clip onto the shoulder straps. 

How Does A PLB Work?

Once a PLB is activated, the beacon transmits a distress signal that is received by the international search and rescue satellite system – COSPAS SARSAT. The satellite then notifies the nearest ground station and, through a series of connections, the Rescue Coordination Centre responsible for the specific region will be notified and begin organising a response.

A personal locator beacon can be activated anywhere in the world, including air and sea, though some countries have specific rules regarding emergency devices that should be researched before setting off in that country. 

If your beacon is registered, this helps authorities discover who you are and call your emergency contact to gather as much information as they can to aid in their rescue mission. You can upload your trip intentions onto the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) website to provide extra assistance in your rescue. 

unoacking a PLB and setting it up for use at sunrise on St Patricks Head in Tasmania
unoacking a PLB and setting it up for use at sunrise on St Patricks Head in Tasmania

When Should You Activate A PLB?

Choosing when to activate your PLB is a personal situation, however, it is important to note that this device is for use in extreme situations only. Situations where you’ve no reception or radio to call authorities and where the outcome of your situation will cause imminent harm or death. 

Some circumstances where you would activate an emergency beacon:

  • If you’re lost with little hope of finding your way out
  • If you or part of your group have broken an arm or a leg and cannot make it to safety without causing more harm to themselves or the group
  • A severe medical situation that cannot be treated with your first aid supplies
  • Any injury that is escalating and could become severely worse without immediate attention
  • If any member of your group becomes unconscious

This is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons to activate your personal locator beacon, it is merely a guide to understand the severity necessary to warrant the use of one. However, each and every person has a different degree of distress they can handle and if you fear for your safety, activate your PLB – that is what they’re for after all! 

What Happens If I Accidentally Set Off A PLB?

If you accidentally set off a PLB, or any other emergency beacon, switch it off immediately and call the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) on 1800 641 792. You won’t be penalised for accidental activation. 

Hiking past Cube Rock at Sunset overlooking Little Blue Lake in Tasmania

When Should I Carry A PLB?

Personally, I carry a PLB every time I know reception may be scarce, when I’m setting off into the wilderness hiking for more than a day, or if I’m embarking on an adventure with higher consequence.

Having a PLB with me provides a higher sense of security and allows me to enjoy my time outdoors without the added stress of being stranded in a dangerous situation. While I will only undertake adventures within my ability, there is often no way of foreseeing unpredictable circumstances. These are the times when a PLB could be the difference between life and death – sorry to put it so morbidly!

Choosing whether to buy a personal locator beacon depends on the activities you undertake and where these activities lead you. If you stick quite close to town, rarely finding yourself out of reception or far from help, a PLB may not be necessary. However, if you find yourself in the depths of nature where reception is sparse, a PLB could save your life if you find yourself in grave danger. 

While a personal locator beacon isn’t cheap, they are an investment I will always make. Countless situations with devastating outcomes could have been avoided if those people were carrying an emergency beacon. You can never predict every outcome and the weather – especially in the mountains – can change in an instant.

Hiking the Southern side of Cradle Mountain along the overland track towards Scott Kilvert Hut

How Much Does A PLB Cost?

The price of a PLB can vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as the manufacturer, model type and features. You should expect to pay anywhere between $300 – $800, keeping in mind that the most expensive emergency beacon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best PLB for your circumstance.

Through our experience, lower cost Personal Locator Beacon’s are great and perform all of the necessary functions for emergency situations without hurting too much financially. These are more than enough unless you expect to be endeavouring in extreme circumstances where more than basic features are needed.

Disregarding the cost of a PLB, the most important factors to consider when deciding on which PLB to buy are listed below.

How To Choose A Personal Locator Beacon

When deciding which PLB to buy, there are a few key factors to be aware of: 

  • Is it equipped with GPS tracking?
  • The length of Battery life
  • The length of warranty
  • Is it equipped with a 121.5MHz homing transmitter?
  • Is it COSPAS SARSAT certified?
  • Transmission time (they should last for at least 24 hours in sub zero conditions)
  • Is it waterproof and buoyant?
  • Price

The main brands that you can purchase a PLB from in Australia are GME, Ocean Signal, and ACR. 

placing the GME personal locator beacon in my hiking pack on a sunrise hike in Tasmania

MT610G Personal Locator Beacon – GME

The brand new PLB from GME launched in November 2021 and is packed full of features. It has a new compact and lightweight design that is buoyant and waterproof in up to 10m of saltwater for one hour. The bright yellow design features a ‘Non-Hazmat’ battery pack, allowing for ease of travel – though it’s best to check with airlines before embarking on a flight as each has its own rules regarding batteries.

The PLB comes with instructions on how to use it on the back, and offers a stress-free design that would be very difficult to accidentally activate! 


  • 7 year battery life
  • Buoyant and waterproof up to 10m in salt water for one hour
  • 6 year warranty
  • 121.5MHz Homing Transmitter
  • COSPAS SARSAT certified
  • GPS receiver with 72 channels
  • Non-Hazmat lithium battery
  • At least 24 hour transmission time in -20 degrees celsius – longer at warmer temperatures
  • Zero warm up time once activated
  • High intensity white LED light that provides 20 flashes a minute
  • Australian made

Weight and Dimensions

  • 160g
  • 88mm (h) x 66mm (w) x 36mm (d)


$379 AUD

*prices may vary


  • Highest amount of GPS channels
  • Only Australian brand
  • Good battery life


  • Slightly heavier than the other two options

Shop at Blue Bottle Marine for the GME MT610G PLB

GME personal locator beacon PLB

Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1

The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1 is the lightest of the pack, weighing in at just 116g. Its super lightweight and compact body can be stashed anywhere and the spring-loaded flap covering the activation button will give peace of mind from accidental activation.

This well-known personal locator beacon can be purchased from various outdoor stores in Australia.


  • 7 year battery life
  • Waterproof up to 15m for one hour
  • Floatation pouch
  • Limited 7 year warranty
  • COSPAS SARSAT certified
  • GPS receiver with 66 channels
  • High intensity strobe
  • Lithium Manganese Dioxide Battery
  • 24+ hours of transmission time
  • 121.5MHz Homing Transmitter

Weight and Dimensions

  • 116g
  • 77mm (h) x 51 mm (w) x 32.5mm (d)


$385 AUD

*prices may vary


  • Very small and lightweight
  • Warranty covers battery life
  • Best waterproof properties


  • Less GPS channels
  • Testing instructions have been known to be confusing

Shop at Amazon for the Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1

Ocean Signal Rescueme emergency locator beacon PLB

ACR ResQLink 400 PLB

The ACR ResQLink 400 PLB is a sturdy companion to take with you on any adventure. The slim design can be stored anywhere and the ‘Non-Hazmat’ battery offers ease of transport. The activation button is hidden by the antenna which lifts up to activate. 

*ACR has another PLB – the ACR ResQLink View – which has all the same features with the additional digital display that shows GPS coordinates and live beacon status. This PLB retails for $429 AUD.


  • 5 year battery life
  • Buoyant and waterproof up to 5m for one hour, 10m for 10 minutes
  • 5 year warranty
  • Non-Hazmat lithium battery
  • COSPAS SARSAT certified
  • Includes GPS
  • 121.5MHz Homing capabilities
  • 24+ hours of transmission time
  • Strobe and infrared strobe for visibility

Weight and Dimensions

  • 148g
  • 52mm (w) x 38mm (d) x 115mm (h)


$350 AUD

*prices may vary


  • Battery allows for transit
  • Lightweight


  • Shortest battery life
  • Least waterproof
ResQLink emergency locator beacon PLB

Whichever PLB you choose, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of peace of mind. Of course, I am not encouraging you to embark on adventures outside of your abilities just because you’ve packed a PLB. I am simply encouraging you to be safe and give yourself the best chance of survival in any situation. 

We own the GME MT610G and while we haven’t used it – and hopefully never have to – it is very simple to register and use and the sturdy case provided gives us a higher sense of security to know that our GME PLB will be in great condition for years to come.