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How We Tested Personal Locator Beacons

By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday April 4, 2019
We take these products out in the field and try out every possible function.
We take these products out in the field and try out every possible function.

We took all nine devices and their apps and tested them side-by-side for over 200 hours. We tested the beacons while boating around tiny cays in the Bahamas, paragliding in Argentina, skiing in Chamonix, climbing in Peru, coordinating charter aircraft in Alaska and traveling through the jungles of Costa Rica.

We submerged them in fresh water and let them chill out in temps of down to -5C. We tested the GoTenna, Garmin inReach, Bivy, and Somewear Labs products extensively with iPhones. We also took these on a 150-mile bike ride on the Kokopelli Trail in CO/UT and on many dirt bike rides and backpacking trips in and around the Sierra. We used the devices on daily ski guiding in Wyoming's Tetons. A major ski traverse expedition in Chile in 2018 helped distill our findings.

To confirm signal coverage and message transmission, we sent and received non-emergency messages as prescribed and did copious amounts of research. With devices that do not have non-emergency messaging capability, we employed the built-in test mode and secured the most reliable confirmation that the device and network allows.