The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon
The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon

How can I stay in contact while hiking Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit?

I'm going to Nepal to trek the Annapurna Circuit and would like to send a message home letting family know I'm okay. Will the Spot or ACR personal locator beacons work, and, if so, which do you recommend? Steve Apple Valley, CA

The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon
Doug Gantenbein

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You can just call me mired in ambivalence on this one. Okay, you’re doing the Annapurna Circuit. I get it. But people have been doing that for many years without the benefit if constantly beaming their location back home. I really don’t think doing so is a BAD thing—I’m hardly a Luddite when it comes to technology—but I do question its necessity. Whatever happened to splendid isolation?

The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon

The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon The SARLink Personal Locator Beacon

Anyway, while I think the Spot II ($150, plus $99 subscription to access SPOT satellites for sending messages) is a pretty good gadget. It’s a GPS device that allows you to send simple messages to the outside world (“I’m OK!”), the device isn’t yet functional in the part of Asia where you will be traveling.

I’d go with the ACR Electronics SARLink Personal Locator Beacon ($400). It works everywhere, and is designed for emergency use by search-and-rescue teams. It can bring people to within 100 meters of your location. It’s also very tough, and has long battery life of up to 35 hours once activated.

Now, keep in mind, the ACR is not a communications device. You can’t use it to send messages. It is an EMERGENCY device. Which I think is the right balance. You and your family will have some peace of mind knowing you have an effective electronic beacon, minus the over-sharing aspect of constantly sending “I’m OK!” signals. Maybe I’m being cranky, but there it is. And if you have to have some sort of non-emergency message, you can upgrade to the non-emergency message surface, though coverage in Asia isn’t guaranteed.

Anyway, you’ll probably bump into people with satellite phones. So take some little bottles of Scotch whiskey or something to trade for a phone call out.

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