406 MHz MicroPLB™ Type GXL Personal Locator Beacon
Microwave Monolithics Incorporated $698
As readers know, we are big believers in personal locator beacons (see the October 2003, December 2005, January 2007, and April 2008 issues of ÆGIS). We carry one when we are traveling in remote locations abroad, and find it comforting to know that if something goes wrong while traveling in remote areas someone will know about it within seconds of our deploying the beacon, and that search and rescue will be located.
We also carry it with us when we go camping, and even when we know we will be sufficiently far from a road (and a mobile phone signal) as to cause problems if we have an accident. As an example, if we were visiting a friend in the country, went for a walk in the countryside and broke an ankle, even a quarter of a mile from his house, it is not beyond conception that we wouldn’t be found. And if we are going on a long road trip we take it, on the off chance that we go off the road and nobody comes along to rescue us.
Our formerly-favorite PLB, the GX from Microwave Monolithics (see the April 2008 issue of ÆGIS), has gotten smaller and lighter and less expensive with their new GXL model. The GXL is 1.1” X 2.35” X 4.75” where the GX was 1.1” x 2.4” x 5.9”. The GXL weighs less than eight ounces where the GX was about 10 ounces. This is small enough and light enough to comfortably put in your pocket, as was the GX, and the price is now competitive with other 48 hour PLBs.
All of the features we liked in the GX have been retained in the GXL. These include the fact that each unit is burned in and tested throughout its temperature range, the DOT approved batteries, and the ability to update the internal almanac to compensate for satellite drift, and the fact that there is no warm-up, so that the initial burst goes out quickly and accurately.
Who should have a PLB? Anyone who travels abroad outside of major cities, or hikes, or camps, or skis, or climbs mountains, or drives in remote areas, or spends time out of urban areas. And if you are looking for a PLB, we recommend the GXL.