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PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord on 11/03/2009 17:45:44 MST Print View

All the talk about PLB's and SPOT has has me thinking...

I do a good deal of solo traveling. All of my 5 day+ trips to date have been alone, as well as all of my long distance trail runs. Running 30+ miles from where you start is a daunting task. I've been lost on many occasions.
So, being a husband, father, and general aficionado of life, I've thought quite a bit about getting an emergency device of sorts.

Yet every time I consider a trip with one in my pack I feel like it's almost cheating. I question whether it takes away the element of self-reliance that I crave.
I remember the butterflies in my stomach on my first long solo. Being dropped off at a trailhead and not being sure when I was coming out the other side was a beautiful thing.

Ive been drawn to running longer and longer distances in the mountains because I don't know for sure if I can do it. Starting a run and not knowing if I'll bonk or break down and have to spend the night out is exciting. If I always knew the outcome I suppose I'd be less interested.
I like to cut the cord, as scary as it sometimes is. Much of the beauty of going solo stems from the fact that I'm on my own, responsible for my own decisions, and reliant upon my own skills. Yes, this also means that when the random, unforeseen, and accidental strikes, I'm on my own.

And then there's family. I'm sure my wife would like that I carried something. Simple logic begs the question "Why wouldn't I?"

But I just can't get the thought out of my head that if I'm carrying a device with a button that calls in the cavalry, maybe it's not as much of an adventure. I realize crazy things can be done with or without a PLB...I guess it's just the psychology behind the journey, of knowing vs. not knowing what's out there...

To each their own.

Edited by xnomanx on 11/03/2009 17:47:42 MST.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord on 11/03/2009 20:05:20 MST Print View

I feel the same way as you do. Going it alone is a way for me to test myself against the great outdoors and know that if I had to, I could survive with nothing. I also do not like to rely on anything electronic. When I go into the wilderness I do not like the thought of bringing any part of city/suburban life with me. It is oddly comforting to me to be so far away from civilization that when you stop and listen, all you can hear is the wind. No cars, no radios, no people, nothing; and if you get lost, no one is comming to get you anytime soon.

BUT...

Fast forward my life to now: I am a husband and a father. As much as I love to be truely alone in the wilderness and thrive off of the thrill that I may get lost and have to survive on my own, I have a duty to my family to return safely. Yes, I do believe it is cheating a little to carry a PLB or GPS unit, but my priorities changed when I became a father and no longer have the luxury of doing the thrilling things I once did. It isn't really an option for me to get myself lost in the wilderness for days, weeks, or even months on end. So in conclusion, Although I am completely confident in my ability to survive in the wilderness and I crave the thrill of the possibility of having to do so, it would be irresponsible for me to venture off without such devices.

Just my 2 cents. :-)

Nice post! It makes you think...

Edited by judach on 11/03/2009 20:06:40 MST.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Cutting the cord on 11/03/2009 20:17:06 MST Print View

One of the main reasons I plan to get one is to reduce the time a SAR team would have to use up in looking for me. If you are on a five day trip and don't come out at the end the SAR team would have to potentially cover a lot of ground to find you.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord on 11/03/2009 21:23:28 MST Print View

"And then there's family. I'm sure my wife would like that I carried something. Simple logic begs the question "Why wouldn't I?"

"To each their own."

You pretty much answered your own question. As it ultimately has to be. +1

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Cutting the cord on 11/03/2009 21:27:19 MST Print View

Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all against getting one.
In fact, I likely will withing the next year or two.

I guess I'm just pondering how our relationship to the outdoors is rapidly changing. I'm sure we're not far off from the day that nearly every hiker will be carrying a satellite phone as "standard" gear: out adventuring while still saying goodnight to the kids many hundreds of miles away. Not a inherently a "bad" thing, just different; a technology that potentially changes the way we think of wild places and our undertakings within them. A technology that potentially changes- possibly even erases- the last symbols of being somewhere "remote".

A good point made above and something to think about: In the event of a rescue, carrying something with a GPS signal might not only save your life, but the lives of those searching for you.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 12:22:33 MST Print View

I don't have anything against anybody that chooses to use these devices, or even a cell phone for that matter. But I really hope public opinion doesn't evolve over time into thinking someone who chooses not to use a device like this is somehow irresponsible.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 12:40:43 MST Print View

I don't think it would evolve into public opinion that not using a PLB or GPS would be irrisponsible. It's a choice which has to be made by the individual and what he/she feels comfortable with. I personally would feel irrisponsible if I just embarked on a journey into the middle of nowhere without the safety net a PLB or GPS allows. But that is me; I have a wife and son who depend on me to make it home so I can continue to support them. To me, that has to weigh heavier than my desire to have an adventure. However, I would never look down my nose at or judge someone who had a different opinion or deem them "irrisponsible".

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 12:57:53 MST Print View

I totally respect your choice.

I also have a wife and a young child but I choose not to carry a beacon or a cell phone - although I sometimes carry a very basic GPS if I'm travelling off trail out West.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord on 11/04/2009 13:00:50 MST Print View

As a reminder, this is why they makes sense:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010201404_webmissinghiker04m.html

As noted, if S&R is deployed it's our job to 1. ensure it's a rescue and not a recovery and 2. make their task as easy as possible.

Because SPOT provides useful options beyond just "come get me" it's quite attractive for those of us with families but, the onus is upon them to convince me/us that the emergency component is as robust as a PLB. Once they've done that I'll commence deciding whether a hundred/hundred fifty bucks per year is worth it.

I've happily never been in a PLB situation, just as I've never had a bear go after my canister (or Ursack or food bag). Doesn't mean I never will.

Cheers,

Rick

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 13:04:35 MST Print View

After thinking about it, I guess it's no different than getting onto a car and driving down the road. There's only so much you can do to ensure you don't get into an accident.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 13:39:43 MST Print View

maybe we also need more roads in the wilderness so the rescuers can get to us faster.

Edited by asandh on 12/01/2009 23:55:13 MST.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 14:09:49 MST Print View

Ok... Are you making a point or just being cheeky? ;-)

Edited by judach on 11/04/2009 14:11:01 MST.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 14:37:20 MST Print View

My preference is for no search and rescue teams. I'm sure this attitude is now the minority view.

Edited by asandh on 12/10/2009 01:09:44 MST.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 14:53:27 MST Print View

"Do we want to change the wilderness to match our frailties, or do we want to meet the wilderness on its own terms."

-I don't think anyone has suggested or would agree to "change" the wilderness to meet our needs. We are talking about the personal choice of whether or not to carry PLBs or GPSs; we aren't debating whether or not to cut down trees and pave roads and change the wilderness.

"If you're not prepared to pay, you're not prepared to play."

-My point exactly, which is why I don't "play" like I used to. I do not have the luxury anymore of "playing", but does that mean I have to give up my love of the outdoors? Forgive me if I misunderstood your point, but I think it's a little bit on the unreasonable side to suggest that if you aren't willing to venture into the outdoors without a PLB or GPS that you shouldn't go at all. Did I understand you correctly?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 15:32:58 MST Print View

"My preference is for no search and rescue teams. If you're not prepared to pay, you're not prepared to play. But I'm sure this attitude is now the minority view."

I'd hazard a guess that the minority view loses one vote every time one of them gets their A$$ in a pickle, one way or the other. ;}

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 18:05:37 MST Print View

as long as you don't hinder someone elses experience I guess its your choice.

Edited by asandh on 12/10/2009 01:11:02 MST.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re: "PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/04/2009 18:35:13 MST Print View

Art, I would like to say that I respect your opinion, but it sounds a bit too much like a critisizm or a judgement to me. Although I can appreciate the gist of the point you are trying to make, I do not think you have grasped the concept behind this discussion OR the point I made. I do not see how me bringing a PLB or GPS into the wilderness as a safety measure for me would have any bearing on YOUR enjoyment of the wilderness or anyone else's. I see your opinion as being radically fanatical and lacking any reason or understanding. It seems to me like you either A) Want to dictate to others how they should enjoy the wilderness or B) Think of the wilderness as "your personal wilderness" and feel superior to other outdoor enthusiasts that don't share your point of view. Either way, I must respectfully disagree with your "opinion". :-)

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
re:"PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/05/2009 09:24:53 MST Print View

I guess Justin just answered John's earlier question about shifting public opinion...

I'd argue that Art quite gets the point of the OP. His comments directly address the questions/comments of the OP.

Among other things I have been a SAR team member. There are distinct advantages to PLBs/EPIRBs/ELTs. But when you carry one it does affect your trip with a bit of an undertone.

To me they only make sense in the S&^t hits the fan perspective. Last resort measure only, if you do choose to carry one. But I don't think it's at all radical to not carry one. I prefer to take responsibility for my actions and live with the consequences. But sometimes a PLB makes a whole lot of sense. Best example I can think of is a pre-existing medical condition.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: re:"PLB's, SPOTS vs. Cutting the Cord" on 11/05/2009 10:35:08 MST Print View

Well, I'm at a loss for words... I don't see how I have proven the supposed shift in public opinion though. I'm confused about that comment. I think we are talking about 2 separate issues here; the personal choise to carry a PLB and the overuse/abuse of PLB's. I will agree that having a PLB could lure some people into activating it prematurely or unnecessarily. As for me, my background speeks for itself. I don't feel the need to divulge my experience with SAR or wilderness survival and outdoor medicine to prove I'm worthy enough to be in the wilderness. So I go back to my original point which was just to express my personal reasons for why I might carry such devices. I personally don't care what someone decides to carry with them into the wilderness so long as it's not a boom box or something that makes loud noises. Whatever gets people off the couch. That's what it's all about in the end.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Direct link to “civilization” on 11/05/2009 10:51:12 MST Print View

I don’t think anyone is really attempting to tell anyone else how they have to hike. I think the point Art was trying to make is that the more of “civilization” we take into the wilderness the less wild it is. How much is too much? We already take a bunch of civilization with us, tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food, stove, etc. However, none of those things provide a direct link back to anyone else. Once you take your cell phone, PLB, or any other direct link to “civilization” you are no longer completely separated from it. Some people like being completely separated, it’s one of the big reasons they go. Others, not so much so.

Those that choose to carry the direct links back to civilization (I am one of those) loose that separation. They gain some security, but lose some independence. It’s everyone’s own personal choice, at least at the moment. And that is how it should be. :-)

Edited by Hitech on 11/05/2009 10:51:49 MST.