by the Product Review Staff | 2004-01-31 03:00:00-07
McMurdo claims that they manufacture the smallest and lightest personal locator beacon (PLB). The McMurdo Fastfind personal locator beacon weighs 9 oz (255 g) and measures 6 x 3 x 2.1 in (15 x 7.6 x 5.3 cm) with a -4 F (- 20F) battery pack. With the addition of its lanyard and neoprene storage case the PLB weighs 11 oz (312 g). A -40 F (-40 C) battery pack (optional) slightly increases its size and bumps its weight to 14 oz (397 g).
If the manufacturer's claimed weight is correct, the McMurdo FastFind personal locator beacon is 3 oz (85 g) lighter than the ACR Electronics TerraFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
The McMurdo FastFind personal locator beacon appears to have all of the same features and functions of the ACR TerraFix 406. Such features include a 5 W satellite broadcast on the 406 MHz signal as well as an earth homing signal at 50 mW at 121.5 MHz. Like the ACR unit there are two versions of the PLB: 1) the FastFind "standard" that does not have GPS (and no provision to interface with an external (user provided) GPS unit), and 2) the FastFind "plus" which has a built in GPS receiver.
Both PLB’s will locate a user within a 2 mile radius on the first satellite pass and to within a 0.5 mile radius within three satellite passes (typically 40 min/satellite pass). The Fastfind Plus with a GPS fix will broadcast the user's GPS location within a 100m radius on the first satellite pass. The Fastfind has a flat, stainless steel antenna that stores folded in the unit's case. It deploys when the activation switch safety cover is removed. Status LEDs are also visible once the unit’s safety cover is removed.
The McMurdo FastFind PLB is similar in size to the ACR Terrafix 406. The FastFind with its internal antenna storage has fewer features to snag and catch on its surface. The McMurdo FastFind has been in production since July and McMurdo claims that the US Coast Guard has ordered large quantities of this unit to equip its personnel. The FastFind Plus costs $259 more than the similarly-GPS-equipped ACR Terrafix 406.
Specifications of the McMurdo FastFind Personal Locator Beacon
"McMurdo FastFind Personal Locator Beacon First Looks (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004)," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00304.html, 2004-01-31 03:00:00-07.