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ACR Ocean Signal rescueMe PLB1 Review

If you want peace of mind in the backcountry in an emergency, the ACR / Ocean rescueME PLB1 is what you need. It's the smallest and most compact personal locator beacon (PLB) that you can get. I'll show you how it works, compare it to a satellite communicator, and give you my recommendations.

In this Guide:
  • How To Use the rescueME PLB1
  • rescueME PLB1 or inReach Satellite Communicator
  • Who Should Get the rescueME PLB1

What is the rescueME PLB1?

Put simply, the RescueMe PLB1 is a satellite distress beacon—hit the button and rescuers are dispatched to find you. It's generally used when you don't have cell phone service and can't simply dial 911, like in the backcountry. The PLB1 works worldwide, on land and at sea. The actual unit is a small, rugged box, about the size of a pack of cards, that you put in your pack and forget about until you need it (mostly).

The PLB1 does a few things when you hit the distress button.

Not sure when it's okay to hit the SOS button? Here's the answer, directly from one of the busiest search and rescue teams in the USA.

Plb1 Size
The PLB1 is very small. It's like a beefy Zippo lighter, and weighs about the same as a D-cell battery or deck of cards.

How is the PLB1 Different than an inReach?

For those of you familiar with inReach and ZOLEO satellite communicators, you might be wondering how the PLB1 is different. Both technologies rely on satellites to broadcast an SOS call. That's about where the similarities end.

Ease of UseDead SimpleRequires a Little Time
SubscriptionNo Subscription FeesMonthly Fee
Battery Charging7 years15+ hours
Two-Way Non-Emergency TextsNoYes
Non-Emergency TrackingNoYes
Two-Way Emergency CommunicationsNoYes
Satellites UsedMultiple Systems and OrbitsIridium Only
Transmit Power5 watts 1.5-1.6 watts
Location if no GPSYes (Doppler)No
Rescue DispatchNOAA in USA (government-run)IERCC (private - owned by Garmin)
Supplemental Insurance OfferedNoYes
Gpsmap 66i Weather 3
With an inReach, you can message using email and text, and get detailed weather reports, but you pay for that functionality. The PLB1 doesn't even come close to this level of versatility, and doesn't have a screen, but in my opinion fulfills the most crucial function of a satellite device, SOS.

So as you can see, the PLB1 has a singular function, to broadcast a distress call, while an inReach or ZOLEO offers non-emergency communication and tools. Which type of device is right for you?

Who Performs the Rescue

Plb1 Workflow
The workflow for a PLB1 rescue has been honed for the last 40 years, and in the US leverages the expertise of the Air Force and Coast Guard to facilitate a rescue.

An important point to note is that inReach and ZOLEO use a private (but very reputable) service, the IERCC (formerly GEOS), to facilitate the dispatch of rescuers. IERCC will generally reach out to local search and rescue organizations, of which they have a database of and relationships with. For example, in Los Angeles, they will reach out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, who will dispatch one of their local units.

The rescueME PLB1 uses the (government-run) COSPAS-SARSAT system, set up by government entities, to dispatch a rescue. In the USA, SARSAT partners with the Air Force for inland rescues in the lower-48, and with the Coast Guard for marine rescues. Generally they will get the call and coordinate with a local entity like the LA County Sheriff's SAR department, but they sometimes also dispatch a rescue themselves. I've personally witnessed an Air Force-led rescue triggered by a PLB on White Mountain Peak. The SARSAT system also serves aviation and professional marine users.

SARSAT or IERCC will contact local authorities to coordinate a rescue when a beacon is used overseas.

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Before You Take Your PLB1 Out

Plb1 Registration
Your PLB1 will usually come with a paper registration form for your national beacon agency. You can generally register online as well, which I find easier.

Before you do anything, take a few minutes to register your rescueME PLB1 with your country's beacon registry. In the USA, that's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and in Canada it;s the Canadian Beacon Registry of National Defense. ACR has a nice page here where it will point you in the right direction for your country.

When you register your beacon, you'll provide:

I keep my notes section focused on what I have with me, my experience level, my age, and the fact that I'm day hiking. If I'm heading on a longer backpacking trip or am traveling with others, I'll take a minute to update the section with the new details, including any medical conditions that my friends may have.

Will a beacon work when unregistered? In most places, probably, but it will be scrutinized and potentially evaluated as a false alarm. You'll also leave rescuers at a distinct disadvantage without any information about you. Also know that in the USA, if you use a beacon, there's a law stating that you must register it. Take the 5 minutes to register it.

How to Use the rescueME PLB1

The PLB1 is dead simple to use. Here's what you do.

Plb1 Using 1
First, you pull out the transmitting antenna, which is coiled inside the body. When you want to retract it, you simply turn the spool on the right.
Plb1 Using 2
Once the antenna is fully retracted, place the unit back down, ideally with a clear view of the sky.
Plb1 Using 3
Lift the spring-loaded cover to expose two buttons, the red ON button and green T (test) button. To activate an SOS, hold the red ON button down for 1 second. The LED will start blinking green.

You have 50 seconds to cancel your SOS, which you do by holding the ON button for 1 second. The LED will flash red and then stop flashing.

Plb1 Using 4
If you forget these instructions, they're also printed on the side of the unit and on the outside of the float pouch.
Plb1 Using 5
Once activated, the strobe will start to blink. The LED blinks five times quickly every time that the PLB1 transmits - green for a send with GPS location, red for one without a GPS position. A red LED flashes every 2.5 seconds indicating the homing beacon is on.

The PLB1 will transmit for 24 hours or more.

From here, it's a waiting game. It's best to stay put where you triggered the SOS unless you are in danger there. Then you wait. Most rescues take several hours, with the large majority happening within 24 hours. But there are a lot of variables. I've seen rescues happen in 30 minutes, and I've also seen conditions where rescues can't even start until weather conditions improve. It helps to have the 10 essentials to make yourself comfortable while you wait.

Making Sure the PLB1 is Working

Plb1 In Pouch
This is one piece of gear that I'm happy I haven't ever had to use. When keeping it in my pack, I use the float pouch, which protects the button cover and snaps shut, ensuring that the beacon doesn't go off accidentally in my pack.

While you can just put the PLB1 in the bottom of your pack and forget about it, there are a few tests that you will want to periodically do to ensure that it's working. I just set myself a repeating calendar reminder (on my phone) for these tests. The manual has details on how to perform the tests and decode the LED results.

Plb1 Battery Experiation
After 7 years, you're supposed to get the battery replaced. The cost is usually around $100-150 USD and often includes a unit test and replacement of rubber seals. Officially you'll want to do this with an authorized ACR / Ocean Rescue service shop, but with a little investigation you can probably figure out how to replace it yourself for much less.

The PLB1 will generally work after the battery expiration, but know that the battery life diminishes over time. You can probably expect to get less than 24 hours of use once the battery has expired.

The rescueME PLB1 Versus Other PLB Choices

Acr Resqlink Self Test Pass
There are other PLB models, such as the ACR ResQLink View, which has an LCD screen displaying test results and status.

I've used several PLB models over the years and today I use the PLB1. Why do I think it's a great option?

Is the rescueME PLB1 Reliable and Effective?

Acrartex News Epirb Plb Hero
The technology for a "personal" locator beacon (PLB) evolved from its larger cousin, the EPIRB, used on boats. EPIRBs have been around since 1987, but the technology wasn't miniaturized (and authorized) into the PLB form until 2003. Photo ACR

Overall a unit like the rescueME PLB1 is about as good as you can get for a backcountry emergency beacon. There are a few reasons why this is true.

Should I Get a rescueMe PLB1?

Overall, I think if you are traveling in the backcountry and value your life, you need to have some type of emergency communication device. No matter how experienced you are, accidents and events outside of our control happen. If there's a fire in your area, if you slip and fall, or even if you encounter another person who needs help, having a device like the rescueME PLB1 or a satellite communicator can save lives.

Here's what I recommend.

If you find this guide useful, please use one of my affiliate links to purchase your PLB1: Amazon - REI. I get a small commission, there is no cost to you, and it helps me keep all of my content ad and promotion free. I depend on these commissions to keep the website running, so thank you!

rescueME PLB1 Unboxing

Plb1 Unboxing 1

Plb1 Unboxing 2

Plb1 Unboxing 3

Plb1 Unboxing 4

Plb1 Mount 1
The PLB1 comes with a cradle clip that you can attach to a belt, life jacket, backpack, etc.
Plb1 Mount 2
There's also a float pouch that snuggly fits the PLB1. It has a cover that prevents the door from opening and the unit from going off accidentally.
Plb1 Mount 3
The back of the float pouch has a strap that you can put a belt through, attach with a carabiner, etc.
Plb1 Mount 4
There's also a hole that you can run the included lanyard through.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.