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The Case for PLBs

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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:16 am

overheadx2 wrote:Because SAR has to look for dumb ashes that use them poorly? How about the hours SAR spends looking for folks that didn't have them? I garranted more hours are spent scouring the sierras for people without emergency beacons than those with them. More importantly, the new models can text and let help know what the emergency is and how desperate it is.

I couldn't imagine being at miter basin or any other spot easily accessed by helicopter with an emergency with help is literally 1 hour away and not being able to contact them. I hate to think how many of the recent deaths in the sierras could have been averted by a simple push of a button or a text.


Probably not too many deaths could have been averted. If you fall off Whitney you're dead before anyone gets there.

I can guarantee that SAR has NOT looked for many who have gone missing in the Sierra. SAR will not look for you if there is no good information to start with - a point last seen, confirmation that you probably went into the wilderness, a permit, a campsite paid for near the trailhead, a car sitting for weeks, something. They will not look for you in a raging storm. They will not look for you at night - unless you are in Fresno County, which team searches at night. They will not look for you if the risk to the volunteers is too great. They MIGHT look after conditions have improved or more information is obtained. They will not charge you when they do look - but they are not medical personnel, and if such personnel are required you will be charged for that extra expense unless you went to the extra effort to get insurance that will. SAR isn't a magic bullet and we can't help you if the PLB doesn't send a good signal, or if it's broken.

Too many people don't do enough preventive steps. Lost people often have a GPS or SPOT they can't use.

The point being, still leave an itinerary and still take all other precautions that can be taken, and don't pretend that the PLB does anything useful in spite of the fact that it can be useful. Sometimes even a properly used one does nothing. All the rest is still needed - the itinerary, the precautions of not taking risks on the trail or pushing your limits, the wisdom to not "go anyway" if there is some medical issue likely to cause issues on the trail.... It should be used in addition to, not instead of. Which is the real point.... Too many people are ignorant of the rest of risk management steps and think the PLB/Spot will do the job.



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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby overheadx2 » Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:16 am

I aggre that if you fall of a cliff you are dead. That is not the injuryor problem I got the PLB for. My intention was not to use a PLB as an excuse to be Irrisponsible. Becouse you carry a PLB doesn't mean you lose all reason. I still leave a detailed map of my itinerary with my father and brother. I still limp out if I get injured during a trip. I'm OK with people not using a PLB, I was just surprised at the amount of resistance and the negative attitude toward them. I feel much better knowing that guys like you and mav would drop every thing to come help me if I got into real trouble and needed help right NOW not a week later when I didn't show up at home!
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:49 am

I think that reading a negative attitude into warnings and attempts to educate on the reality of using PLBs may be another problem. It's easy to go extreme when a mistake is seen repeatedly - Rangers have issued warnings that I considered hyperbole when I talked to them about my off trail route, but recanted when I told them I used to teach SAR volunteers navigation skills. They are used to the ignorant getting into all kinds of trouble and always assume until proven otherwise that you may be one of them - because the backcountry Rangers see a LOT of folks in trouble and do a lot of searches, and few of those who are less likely to be in dire straits.

I have a unique view on safety - the hiking group members can sometimes express anger or harsh criticism of me for wanting to keep a group together. I seem to have a rep for being the hard*$$ hike organizer. But I have also not lost anyone yet.... Others cannot say the same. Being SAR skews my perspective on these matters, but I refuse to put myself at increased risk of being the organizer who had a fatality on a hike. 200+ organized hikes later, I am more likely to see something happen than a twice-a-year backpacker. But I also enjoy the benefits of helping others get into the wilderness and learn to do that safely. We hikers all take some calculated risks because of the rewards. I don't expect that will change.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby freestone » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:52 am

I am one of those who got a Spot devise because my family insisted on it. I educated them on the fact that it's electronic, and no news is good news. When I returned from my last trip, I asked if they got my messages, they had, but it's not like they were on the edge of the seat panting to receive another, and another. I think the real benefit of these devises, when used with consistency and a routine, will leave a nice cookie crumb trail to your dead a--s body if, God forbid, you make a wrong move. BTW, I never had and issue with not linking up with a sat. Concerns about trees, mountains, and cliffs preventing a link-up in the alpine areas of the High Sierra are totally unfounded.
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The Case for PLBs

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:55 am

Actually, those concerns are not unfounded. A single person's success does not nullify the difficulties others have had. As someone who waited five hours without receiving a followup text from an InReach - and the message was sent five minutes after the first one - I can tell you that connectivity can be spotty. One only needs to review multiple threads over at Backpackinglight about failures of SPOT and InReach devices to see they are not foolproof or completely reliable.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby Jimr » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:12 am

Perhaps I missed something, but I cannot find where anyone is advocating mandatory possession of a personal emergency device. Off the top of my head, the only mandatory items at this time are a permit and bear can, and these are not in all jurisdictions.

Absolutely nothing is foolproof. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed to cover all possible situations. Absolutely nothing will replace the basic skills and knowledge required for the endeavor one is undertaking. Absolutely nothing above is a valid argument for or against the value of a tool in your toolbox. There is a cost/benefit analysis we each make with every item we choose to add to our toolbox. This is a personal analysis.

I consider my first aid kit to be useful for less than half of what could happen to me out there. It is a cost/benefit decision between weight, probability and ability. That less than half is, in my analysis, the most likely situations where first aid will be needed. Minor injuries.

I've added a PLB to my first aid kit (I don't carry it there). I consider it useful for maybe half of what could happen to me out there. I put my faith in that it will send the signal it is designed to send, accepting the fact that there is a slight chance that the signal will fail due to environmental or gadget issues. It weighs next to nothing. For me, the cost/benefit ratio makes it a no brainer to carry.

With the above, I have a reasonable toolbox for dealing with minor to slightly major issues that could happen to me or whoever is with me. Absolutely nothing is 100%. Such is life. If I'm dead, I don't need help. If I experience a trauma such that I cannot get to a device and push a button, I'm no worse off for having it.

Knowing that the tools I carry only aid in my ability to deal with a situation is paramount to me. I can have all of the hammers I want in my toolbox, but if I think I'm covered for my wood cutting needs, I'm screwed.

I've tried to keep this on a personal level. YMMV.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby longri » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:25 am

Jimr wrote:Perhaps I missed something, but I cannot find where anyone is advocating mandatory possession of a personal emergency device. Off the top of my head, the only mandatory items at this time are a permit and bear can, and these are not in all jurisdictions.

Not in this thread to my knowledge, nor in any wilderness area at present. But there have been attempts in the recent past to pass laws requiring them in certain places and circumstances. I worry that if the general mindset becomes that it is irresponsible (and potentially costly to society) to not carry one that laws requiring them will follow. It's not likely to happen tomorrow.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby overheadx2 » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:04 pm

Believe me, the last thing I want is the government telling me what should be in my pack. I completely respect every ones decision to carry a PLB or not. If you want to go old school and commit to self reliance, I can appreciate that. I just thought that the many reasons for not carrying one besides I simply don't want to seemed odd and was commenting on that.
A perfect example is snow nymph. She gets hit by a boulder, fractures her pelvis and hits her PLB to get air lifted out. With out her PLB, things absolutely would have been much worse and could have gone horribly wrong. That is the scenario I carry one for.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:04 pm

I think it would be more difficult to require PLB's than bear cans. The device tracks you, or can be used to track you. There are more stringent laws regarding your right not to be tracked by the government than for requiring bear cans (protection of wildlife). I would think requiring a PLB would be a big issue with respect to privacy rights.
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby freestone » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:24 pm

One only needs to review multiple threads over at Backpackinglight


I did not read all the negative threads, many of which are on poor costumer service and billing practices for renewing subscriptions, but did notice they gave it their "Highly Recommended" rating.

For the High Sierra, PBLs are well worth the effort because of performance, minimal weight penalty to the pack, and the loved ones at home grumble less.

If you going to Africa or the Poles, consider something else.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin ... C8PxGddWuI
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby longri » Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:45 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:I think it would be more difficult to require PLB's than bear cans. The device tracks you, or can be used to track you. There are more stringent laws regarding your right not to be tracked by the government than for requiring bear cans (protection of wildlife). I would think requiring a PLB would be a big issue with respect to privacy rights.

PLB's don't track you. You activate in an emergency and that's all you can do with them. You're thinking SPOT or Inreach which are different technologies and have additional features. They are also less reliable.

And, in case you hadn't heard, the government IS tracking you. :-)
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Re: The Case for PLBs

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:53 am

freestone wrote:
One only needs to review multiple threads over at Backpackinglight


I did not read all the negative threads, many of which are on poor costumer service and billing practices for renewing subscriptions, but did notice they gave it their "Highly Recommended" rating.


So you missed the long thread of all the people testing them at home and having multiple failures?

I don't trust 'em, never will. There are rock solid reasons for not counting on electronics of any kind in the backcountry - they can and do fail, sometimes when you need them the most. GPS units are just as fallible as SPOT. I have a PLB but I know that without all the other precautions one would take without one, it is not going to save me.

The problem that the OP is neglecting to recognize is the upswing of carelessness - hikers have claimed in my presence that they don't need to study the route or bring a map, they have a GPS. Bad idea if you want to keep hiking with me.

Bottom line, if it's electronic it is an additional tool, not a replacement for map skills, leaving an itinerary, being careful in the backcountry, etc. No gadget will ever replace the educated human brain for efficiency and decision making. People who want to replace knowledge with a gadget are at issue. They make SAR's lives complicated and unduly risk their own lives into the bargain.
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