First it was GSM. Then it was GPS. Then I got PLB.

My latest toy

Yesterday, I got this on the mail. Now I feel like hiking will never be the same again.

Beyond the drama, there’s something inherently disturbing about owning a Personal Locator Beacon: I’ll feel prompted to take it with me every time. I’ll need to justify to myself leaving it behind.

It’s not like this is a new deal. As the title line means to say, it’s happened before when cell phones became the new essential and it happened again when GPS units went mainstream. It’s not that long ago that I went on a multi-week trip without any of those. I have so far skipped the sat messenger trend entirely so now a PLB is for me a step further.

I’ll be going next summer on a long, solo trip over consistently remote terrain. It’s the kind of place where self-rescue is bound to be a must. I won’t be able to count on anybody’s help. It’s the kind of situation where satcom might be the only chance, and I mean the only one. No plan B. It feels scary. I’ve been in remote places before, most times solo, but there still was some reasonable chance of a plan B. So far the pros of a PLB device hadn’t outweighed the cons. I feel like this time they do.

Disclaimers aside, I worry about the scenario change that a PLB can bring. I won’t need to be self reliant anymore, there’ll always be the option of pushing the button.

I wonder how this will affect the whole experience, both physically and emotionally. My intention is that it does not change a thing and particularly that it does not affect decision making. If it did, this would be sad. Worse yet, I might not even be aware of it.

I also wonder how this will affect crisis management, namely when to push the button. Some situations will be clear pushers but the temptation will be there in some others that will not be so clear.

Then there’s the long term, the looming effect over future trips where this tool wasn’t an option and now is. This will need to be managed too.

Maybe I’m over-dramatizing, maybe it’s just a mild case of resistance to change and I’ll just adapt nicely to the new playing field but I like to write this down now that I’m still unspoiled, so to speak. This way, I know I’ll have somewhere to look back to and ask the questions again.

I know many of you have been using sat messengers, PLBs or even sat phones for some time already. Did you feel they impacted your outdoors experience somehow? Am I overthinking this?

At the very least, it’s 5 additional ounces in my base weight (damn moaning ultralighter hat on)