< Go to Personal Locator Beacons

Hands-on Gear Review

ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon Review


Personal Locator Beacon

Click to enlarge
  • Currently 3.8/5
Overall avg rating 3.8 of 5 based on 10 reviews. Most recent review: August 25, 2016
Price:   $290 List
Pros:  Five-watt transmission power, dual frequency SOS transmission, COSPAS/SARSAT’s reliability and long track record, no annual fees., easy one handed (even gloved) operation.
Cons:  Unless the lack of messaging is a con for you, we found no faults with this device.
Manufacturer:   ACR ResQLink 406

Overview

The SOS function of the ResQlink is probably the most effective of any device we tested. It transmits your SOS message at 5 watts of power, compared to 0.4 watts for the Spot 3 Satellite Messenger, and 1.6 watts for the DeLorme InReach SE Satellite Messenger. If the lack of messaging is not a deal-breaker for you, then this device is the least expensive over time.


RELATED: Our complete review of personal locator beacons

Compare Side-by-Side

Compare all Personal Locator Beacons >

Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday

Ease of Setup


Like any SEND device, the ACR must also be registered. There are, however, no annual fees to pay in order to register or be rescued, and when you register your device (for US customers, at least), you do so with NOAA, which gives a certain sense of security. With no smartphone pairing and no subscription plans to choose from, that part is simple and worry-free.

Satellite Network


The ResQLink, operating on the COSPAS/SARSAT military satellite network described above, is arguably the most effective of all the devices tested when in SOS mode. But, realistically, it only has an SOS mode. ACR does offer a limited "Self-Test" message service that seems meant to help it compete with SEND devices but, due to the finite battery life, the ResQLink is only good for 220 self-test "OK" messages without GPS information, and 12 messages with GPS information, during the battery's five-year lifespan. To add this service to your device costs $60 (www.406link.com). We can't really think of many situations in which this could be viewed as a valuable function, other than to occasionally reassure yourself that the ResQLink is capable of sending messages. Based on ACR's track record alone, we would be more than happy to trust that it would work when needed and we would not buy this device if messaging was a priority.

SOS


The ResQLink's lack of real messaging capabilities is not a reason to overlook it. If your main concern is having the most powerful and reliable beacon to use in case of emergency, and tracking features aren't crucial, then this is definitely the device for you. The dual SOS transmission (406MHz / 121.5MHz) and 5-watt transmission power coupled with the reliability and global coverage of the COSPAS/SARSAT constellation makes this the most "serious" device that we tested, in pure SOS terms.

Other Versions


Click to enlarge
ResQLink Plus 406 Personal Locator Beacon
  • Same as the reviewed device with built in floatation
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for water sports or marine adventures.

Click to enlarge
AquaLink 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon
  • GPS Positioning Signal
  • Powerful 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing beacon
  • LED Strobe
  • up to 35 hours of signal transmission
  • 5 year battery shelf life

Click to enlarge
AquaLink View 406 Personal Locator Beacon
  • LED Screen to display coordinates, instructions, tips, transmissions and battery power
  • GPS Positioning Signal
  • Powerful 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing beacon
  • LED Strobe
  • Simple self-testing with digital Screen (compared to beeps and LED patterns on other models)
Chris McNamara and Matt Gerdes

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 25, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (3.8)

88% of 8 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
10 Total Ratings
5 star: 30%  (3)
4 star: 40%  (4)
3 star: 10%  (1)
2 star: 20%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 9 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jan 3, 2014 - 01:43am
Tommy Penick · Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab
I've never had to push the uh-oh button on this yet, but it's been along on all my adventures for the past three years and is holding up great! Always works on the test, let's hope we don't have to figure out how high test it is.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 25, 2016 - 08:30pm
HighTraverse · Climber · Bay Area
When I collapsed with a heart attack 5 miles behind Truckee, California my teammates activated my 406.
The signal got delivered to the Sheriff in Auburn. CalStar chopper arrived within about 20 minutes followed soon after by Truckee SAR on foot.
There's more to the story but this is lifesaving evidence that it works.

There IS one thing to beware. We (7 of us) were on a forest service road in tall forest. CalStar circled right overhead but couldn't see us until one of my party ran 50 yards to a meadow and waved a space blanket.
Another thing to beware: I had the 406 in my pack and before we started hiking I mentioned it to my comrades so they were able to retrieve it immediately.
It does no good if you're carrying it and no one else knows where it is.

Be certain to check the battery level as soon as you get back. Mine had only been on for that 20 minutes and checked fine a few weeks later.

Some additional observations.
1: the 406 contains a GPS. When activated it turns on the GPS, finds its coordinates and broadcasts the location to the satellites. ACR claim 100 meters accuracy. Since the chopper hovered nearly directly over us without seeing us I believe less than 100 meters. Obviously depending on terrain.
The ResQlinq 406 also transmits a homing signal on 121.5 MHz so that once they are close, properly equipped SAR personnel can home on you.

2: Each PLB has a unique serial number. You register the PLB when you get it including your name, address, contact info etc. This is true regardless of manufacturer for a 406MHz PLB. The SARSAT system has this info so emergency personnel can reach your contact person.

3: You have to re-register any 406MHz beacon every 2 years. They'll send you an email and a snail mail letter. Re-registration is easily done by internet.

4: SARSAT service is world wide up to about 70 degrees latitude. The satellite constellation is slowly being expanded into the higher latitudes.

5: I have the ResQLink Plus. From the article you might infer it can be submerged. It is meant to float and can withstand brief dunking. It won't work if submerged. If you're a kayaker/diver ACR have a different model for you.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 22, 2016 - 09:14pm
Paolo B · Hunter · Pebble Beach, CA
Unless you have ACTUALLY used an ACR PLB in an emergency, how can you even deduct stars?

Other than sending TEST SIGNALS, there is no way to know if it actually works. Trust me it does!

I owned a SPOT for over 5 years. I got fed up with spotty tracking (my Garmin tracked GPS coordinates just fine) and unreliable messaging. Only about 40% of the sent messages ever were received by my recipients. Annual subscription fees, increasing costs and new annual network access fees, killed any enthusiasm or confidence that it would save me if needed.

Shortly after dumping the SPOT for a subscription free ACR PRB-375, my son was bitten by a rattlesnake. Hours form nowhere and without cell service, the ACR was a lifesaver. I would have had to carry him over 5 miles through steep hills and canyons to just get to a road.

Needless to say, once I had found a clear line of site on a ridgetop, the ACR sent out it's signal. Within the hour, a fish & game warden rode up on a quad to give my son a ride to the nearest road and waiting paramedics.

Like any satellite transponder, a clear line of sight of the sky is required. The more sky and horizon it can see, the more satellites it can triangulate on.

Yes, these have non-user replaceable batteries. But this is not a messenger device - it is an emergency, all hand on deck, 9-1-1, summon the troops, we need an airstrike, mobilize the SWAT Team - kind of DEVICE!

Every 5 years, the unit needs to be sent to a service center for battery replacement, calibration and testing. Though it is about $150, that's only $30 per year. That's a fraction of the $150-250 you'd pay for an annual SPOT or DELORME subscription!

The best part is, that if you use the device in an emergency, when you send it in with details of your rescue, ACR will replace it with a new unit (or current model) for FREE!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 31, 2016 - 09:41pm
Jon Beck · Backpacker · OCEANSIDE
I am puzzled by woodsy review. The unit generates a GPS coordinate that is transmitted to a professional worldwide monitoring system (SARSAT?) rather than to a private company as Spot does. There are no inaccuracies involved. I think he is referring to the old units that just transmitted a generic signal that was picked up by satelite (no GPS data)

I have heard negative comments from SAR and Rangers who worry about false alarms. At the same time these devices have saved lives. You need to be certain you are at risk before setting one off, being stuck an extra night in the back country is not "at risk".

Spot transmits half a watt, the ACR unit transmits at 5 watts, I want more power in case I am deep in a canyon when I get inured.

I travel solo a lot in the Sierra Nevada and Grand Canyon and have carried one for 3 years. The only issue I have with the unit is the system securing the antenna is terrible, I put a rubber band on it because if the antenna deploys in your pack it exposes the activation switch.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 11, 2016 - 04:13pm
Mecha · Hiker · Seattle, WA
Wife and I got lost on Mt. Rainer last year and had to spend an extra night on the mountain before we could back track our way our. If we had this we would have used it. We were in a seriously bad place. Thanks fully we made it out. Beat up and sore but out alive.

Bought this for the wife this year and I insist she takes it when she hikes alone or with friends. Its a great piece of mind to hike and know if we need it we can call in help to come get us.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 21, 2014 - 07:49pm
Chudak · Climber
I just got one so the 4 star rating is quite provisional and it only gets
4 because despite what it says on their website "global coverage" in my
book doesn't mean only N and S America.

As mentioned by others elsewhere the ACR website is pretty lame and seemingly
mainly geared towards getting you to buy one of the 'test plans'. Does that
imply they don't trust the built-in self-test feature?

The instructions on the unit are quite confusing. It says to press the power
button for 1 sec to activate. It doesn't say if this is needed to run the
self-test or to actually initiate a rescue. Then it says to press the power
button for 5 seconds to deactivate it. If it really is an emergency why
would you deactivate it?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 13, 2014 - 02:05pm
Chudak · Climber
Not a review but a question - if it works so well why does it only get a 3.0? The
lack of the messaging feature should not be a reason to lower it's
appraisal IMHO. The fact that it seems to work consistently, well, and
has five times the transmitting power should give it all 5's!

I'm going to get one, just to shut the wife up, mind you, when we go off trail.
Don't tell her I said this! ;-)
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 31, 2016 - 09:32pm
requiem · Backpacker · California
I have only considered purchasing this (I bought an inReach), but as one cannot "use it" unless in dire straits I'm posting on the basis of research done about the product.

The ACR PLB mentioned here can locate you in two ways. First, it has a GPS chip and can send your location to the GEOSAR satellites sitting high in geostationary orbit if it can see them. (Since they don't move relative to you, either you have a view or you don't. Higher latitudes have poor coverage.) If that works, the coordinates will provide your location down to the nearest 100m, which is often "close enough". (A limitation of the communications protocol, not the GPS chip.)

If that doesn't work, after a few hours the LEOSAR satellites in lower orbits will have made sufficient passes overhead to narrow your location down to within 5km or so. (I believe each pass has a 75% chance of getting usable data, so figure ~3 hours.) If the local SAR team has the proper radio direction-finding gear, they can then use that to home in on you. (LEOSAR does not get GPS coordinate information from PLBs.)

While there is widespread belief in the reliability of the COSPAS/SARSAT system, I'm not sure how much actual published data is available. My suspicion is that the reliability is not too far different from the other options. The good news is that a third layer of satellites (MEOSAR) will soon come online that will allow the relaying of the GPS data from "moving" satellites, as well as confirmation that the signal has been received. This should increase reliability and provide better coverage for polar regions.

The pluses: It's quite small and light, and has no operating fees beyond the initial purchase. The odds of it working are pretty good, and you can pretty much toss it in your pack and forget about it. (I.e. no need to remember to recharge it before your trip.)

The minuses: No way to know if your signal was received, or to correct erroneous location data. If you're solo and are incapacitated before you can trigger it, there is no tracking data to help find you.

The other systems: I went with an inReach for the 2-way messaging and the perceived reliability of the Iridium system compared to GlobalStar. (This provides worldwide coverage and message relaying similar to how the above-mentioned MEOSAR system will work.) Note that the non-PLB systems do not have radio beacons that can be homed-in on as a last resort. I don't worry about transmitter strength because those GEOSAR birds are about 40x further away than the Iridium birds; of course the PLB needs to shout "louder".

@Woodsy: I also know of at least one case (NH's White Mountains in 2015) where a Spot provided erroneous locations that confused the rescue attempt. I believe there are others; that is the nature of the technology. GPS-derived locations can contain significant error in cases, although I expect such errors are far more likely for the non-GPS-derived locations.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 31, 2016 - 02:59pm
Woodsy · Backpacker · California
My experience is not with this specific product but with PLBs in general. I work in SAR and have been gathering information on emergency signalling devices for a few years now. I would use great caution in buying one. There are potential errors inherent in the technology and data interpretation in arriving at a location solution, once the emergency button is activated.

The good news is the location might map exactly where you are. But there are a number of cases where PLB/ELT/EPIRB activations give a range of locations. The data is sent to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. They interpret it according to algorithms they've developed. They involve a merge of the GPS position and the doppler solution provided by subsequent satellite passes.

Perhaps too much information, but I know of a number of activations where the signal was not close (that is, more than a couple of miles). Perhaps this product has tech that mitigates the problems inherent in PLBs but I'd recommend taking a closer look at the InReach. They might exist, but I know of no incorrect location coordinates for emergency activations by SPOT or InReach.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Helpful Buying Tips

Unbiased.