Satellite Phone vs. PLPs vs. self reliance? thoughts? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 05-01-2010   #1
 
Durango, CO
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Satellite Phone vs. PLPs vs. self reliance? thoughts?

so, for a long time, i've been of the school of thought that in the backcountry (skiing, biking, whatever) you should be confident in your own abilities to self-rescue. I've found it typically leads to better and safer decision making process and has (<knocksonwood>) kept me from any serious injuries when far away from medical care.

but, now I'm a bit older, and my kids (almost 6 and almost 3) are starting to do more adventurous and dangerous activities. It's one thing to take responsibility for yourself and know that you can suffer through an injury to rescue yourself...but I'm not willing to put my kids in the same boat.

this summer we are looking at doing numerous multi-day raft trips. Many of these trips, while not big on rapids, are in remote places where cell phones will not work and we may be days away from roads or any other people. In the event of a severe bone fracture, snake bite, head injury, etc...I want to be able to contact rescue personnel asap.

so, what's the best choice? Satellite phones look good, but the things are expensive. Really, we only need to call 911. There are rental satellite phone businesses, but it seems like you pay about $100/week for a phone that will most likely never get used. After this summer (if we do 7 weeks) than the thing we be mostly paid for, and we'll wish we would have just bought one. we won't use the thing for calling family or chit chatting or accessing the internet...we just want to call in emergencies should the shit ever hit the fan. hopefully it will never ever get used, but we want it just incase.
PLB's look interesting, but not sure it would receive the same attention as a 911 call. do they?
or, does someone know of a good place to buy sat phones? or rent them long term (like mid-may to mid-september)?

or anyone have any other input?

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Old 05-01-2010   #2
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
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The easy answer is the PLB will receive lots of attention if you press that button. It comes across as the same thing as a plane crash at first. the system is monitored by different groups..... including the Airforce

PLB's transmit on freq 406mhz and some also transmit on 121.5 as well
121.5 is soon becoming unmonitoried by athorities

i can go on and on about this but the answer is yes.... if you press the button all hell will break lose. I have an ACR PLB

People will come on here and talk about the SPOT it is a good product but requires a monthly service fee SPOT gives you all kinds of cool features.... take some time to read about it.

if all you want to do is have the ability to cry for help when you need it buy a PLB if you want to let people know where you are and your ok buy the SPOT if you want the ability to be really frustrated by not being able to make a call get the SAT phone
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Old 05-02-2010   #3
 
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Check this out: https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f...ker-17827.html

We had one along on a middle fork trip last year (not ours) and it seemed to work well.

A pilot friend that was also on the trip tells stories about the response service not getting GPS positions correct to the ground team. Not sure what that means other then anything the more humans are involved the more flawed the process is.

MR
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Old 05-02-2010   #4
 
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Since this is the buzz and I will go ahead and come across as an ass, "leave the kids at home". I understand most parents want to show the kids how cool this stuff is, but the age should be appropriate. Let kids get into it on their own when the age is correct. It's one thing to teach a 6 yr old how to roll and keep him in easy settings, ie roadside. You can do lots of day floats with the kids. It's another when it comes to multi day trips. I won't roll into multi day trips with adults that can't cut it when it comes to self rescue. If you think you need a rescue beacon, the kiddies shouldn't be along.
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Old 05-02-2010   #5
 
Durango, CO
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yep. you came across as an ass. I was going to respond to all of the different points of failure of your post, but I think you hit in on the head by calling yourself an ass.

thanks to everyone else for the advice.
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Old 05-02-2010   #6
 
Missoula, Montana
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The thing I don't like about SPOT is that you can only send out a generalized message, either I am ok and at this location, or 911. Well, what if you would like to tell rescue personnel what kind of trouble you are in, what kind of obstacles they will face, what kind of medical treatment you need? They might not come prepared. What if you only have a mild but life threatening condition and they send a heli and bill you 10K for it? I would prefer to speak with a human, tell them what kind of rescue I need and so on.

My buddy hunts solo with the Spot. I can't wait to check my email to see where he's at and what route he takes. If he gets in trouble I can follow his route and find him. It's better than nothing I guess. Keep in mind that there is an expanded 911 signal for cell phones, so even if you have no service in an area you can often make a 911 call from a phone that would otherwise not work.

I agree that potentially life threatening situations in an area so remote that you would need a sat phone probably isn't the best environment for a 3 year old, or a 6 year old.
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Old 05-02-2010   #7
 
Los Alamos, New Mexico
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Originally Posted by Marco Esquandolis View Post
I agree that potentially life threatening situations in an area so remote that you would need a sat phone probably isn't the best environment for a 3 year old, or a 6 year old.
I suspect that Blott is not talking about needing one in case someone gets hurt on a remote Class 4 rapid, more for the "I fell on a side hike while on a Class 2 float trip with the kids".

In the west it is very easy to be on an overnight trip or even a day trip on a mellow river and still be a long way from help. Hell, if you go out mid week or off season it could even be a popular run. Just going 4 wheeling over a pass or down into a canyon somewhere on a weekday could be one of those situations.

I have pondered the same question of getting PLB or a SPOT to carry. My wife and I often are out on the river with just the 2 of us (but always 2 boats), and if things went really bad it would be nice to have the option of calling in the cavalry. Not a choice to be taken lightly of course. I can imagine nothing worse than the knowing that someone was killed or injured trying to rescue me.

The SPOT does offer the "help" option which sends a message that things are not OK, but it is not life threatening. Potentially a good middle ground between the communication flexibility (if it works) of Sat phone and the on/off nature of a PLB. I really hope they come out with a version of the SPOT that allows some kind of texting capability. Perhaps with it only able to be initiated by SAR so does not become a tool for "OMG I like totally cleaned that rapid".

I will be curious to read whatever feedback other folks have on these devices, especially any real world experience with deploying the SPOT.

SYOTR,

George
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Old 05-02-2010   #8
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I've owned SPOT for 3 years now and love it. I upgraded to the newer version unit. My wife likes to get updates from me when I am away on trips. My buddy has been rescued from a slot canyon (canyoneering) in remote Southern Utah due to a broken leg. The S&R got to the spot about 4 hours after the 911 call went out from the bottom of a slot canyon. Without SPOT the outcome would have been very bad due to bad weather, human mistake and conditions. Of course you got to have common sense on pushing the button. There have been a lot of false calls due to people's panic. I think that's why SPOT gets bad rap for it. It's just a tool, people are the ones that abuse it.

I love having an ability to let my wife know I am ok twice a day (morning and night) from the bottom of Cataract canyon. In my 911 message, I enter all the health issues I might have, blood type, emergency contact, etc. All the emergency info S&R might need to know about me.

On my kiddie trips, I always bring my SPOT with me (in my life jacket pocket in case I get thrown out of the boat). I also rent a SAT phone, $60 for a week is a cheap price to pay in case something goes wrong.

I much rather have my 7 year old on multiday trips with me than parked in front of the TV.

Alex
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Old 05-02-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbratt View Post
Since this is the buzz and I will go ahead and come across as an ass, "leave the kids at home". I understand most parents want to show the kids how cool this stuff is, but the age should be appropriate. Let kids get into it on their own when the age is correct. It's one thing to teach a 6 yr old how to roll and keep him in easy settings, ie roadside. You can do lots of day floats with the kids. It's another when it comes to multi day trips. I won't roll into multi day trips with adults that can't cut it when it comes to self rescue. If you think you need a rescue beacon, the kiddies shouldn't be along.
Funny, I had the same thought, I must be an ass as well.
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Old 05-02-2010   #10
 
Durango, CO
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heh.

I didn't even think about the folks who would take this opportunity to criticize me for being an irresponsible parent. i'm going to have to live with the fact that nameless strangers on the 'net don't agree with my parenting. George hit the nail on the head with the fact that it's not like I'm concerned about them getting injured in a "rapid" (class two waves!), but more the dangers around camp (I have no doubt that the snakes, rocks, cliff bands, beach-drownings and sunburn are way more dangerous than the boating iteself.)

I also take my 6 year old skiing, and have since she was 2.5 yrs old. I'm sure there are plenty of people that think it's bad b/c she could so easily hurt themselves, or be hit by another skier. Also, my kids ride bikes, which also can be viewed as totally unsafe. But, they also ride in cars to go to school, play with our pets, swing on trapezes, eat grapes and do a zillion other things that they could hurt themselves doing.

life is full of risks, and making good decisions and being well prepared is how we get through it. I don't expect to 'rely' on a PLB/Sat Phone or change the way I make decisions because I have one...it's just an extra, potentially time/life saving tool.

Those spots look interesting. I like being able to tell others that we're okay. most of the trips we're going on are with other families...maybe if we buy the spot the others in our groups will chip in to help with the yearly fee. Really though, something that if I were to press a button sends in the calvary is really what we're looking for. A-hope-you-never-use-it-and-stays-in-the-pocket sort of tool.
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