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Old 07-19-2015, 05:30 PM   #1
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Default Looking for emergency commo in the mountains on a budget

Not sure if I should put this here, electronics, or camping/hiking, but whatever.

I'm going on a backcountry camping trip with my 10 year old stepson next month in the Olympic National Forest (WA). I have pretty much everything covered; outdoor skills are good, got gear, maps, top-notch first aid, route and camp stops planned, protection from wildlife, etc.
My wife wants me to have some kind of radio or beacon to take with in case of emergency, and this is where I'm stumped. There are handheld radios, ham radios, sat phones, personal locators. FRS, GMRS, MURS. HF, VHF, UHF.
WTF?
I don't want to go out and spend a grand on something I may only take out once, for one thing. Second, I don't know what frequencies would actually do me any good to transmit on.
Any suggestions on what I could get that's fairly inexpensive, light and portable, and useful to contact SAR in a pinch, in a mountainous area?
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Old 07-19-2015, 06:02 PM   #2
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How about a beacon like this? You should both be prepared to spend the night alone and if you don't return at the designated time, someone will be looking for you.

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Old 07-19-2015, 06:48 PM   #3
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Hey, that's a great idea! I was already planning on leaving our route and planned schedule with both my wife and the ranger station (5 point contingency plan - old infantry habit), and I will definitely take a couple of these.
I should have thought of this, I have a strobe in my issued gear but it's IR only.
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Old 07-19-2015, 07:11 PM   #4
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That's great if they send out a search party at night. How likely is that in the mountains?

If it were me, I'd rather have something like this......

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Old 07-19-2015, 09:15 PM   #5
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You're pretty much out of luck if you want radio comms. All the freqs that I've found listed for use by Park Service rangers are in the 159 - 168 MHz range. Even though they're VHF, that freq range can't be used for transmission by any Ham radio. Even if it was available, a handheld radio is only going to give you a few miles of range, which would be further limited by the terrain.

The Park website doesn't mention that they monitor any freqs, including those used by FRS/GMRS/MURS. Those types of radios are all very short range anyways, which would be lessened by the terrain.

Surprisingly, according to the Park's website, there is some patchy cell service in some areas. I wouldn't count on it, but in an emergency, if you can get some altitude, you might be able to get a signal out.

It looks like Key's idea might be the best option.
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:23 AM   #6
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Probably would be a good idea for each of you to carry hurricane whistles as well. Be sure to have a plan in case you get separated.
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Old 07-20-2015, 01:44 AM   #7
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Oh yes I have those too. Nice thing about being in aviation...over the years I've acquired various small survival vest goodies - whistles, pocketknives, firestarters, signal mirrors, etc. Always handy.
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Old 07-20-2015, 10:57 AM   #8
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One of these saved my ass a couple times and they work pretty much everywhere

http://findmespot.com/en/
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Old 07-20-2015, 11:39 AM   #9
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Looks pretty cool...it almost looks like a good deal too with the $15 a month - until I see that I have to pay another $135 for the 11 months that I won't be using it. If it had an impact trigger, I'd get it and just keep it on the bike most of the year.
I might try to find somebody that has one and borrow it for a couple days...
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Old 07-20-2015, 04:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSG Rex View Post
Looks pretty cool...it almost looks like a good deal too with the $15 a month - until I see that I have to pay another $135 for the 11 months that I won't be using it. If it had an impact trigger, I'd get it and just keep it on the bike most of the year.
I might try to find somebody that has one and borrow it for a couple days...
I thought you could do a one month.....haven't looked deep in while.
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Old 07-20-2015, 06:39 PM   #11
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You each will have something like this too, right?

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Old 07-20-2015, 07:27 PM   #12
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If you do not have Tactical Navigator on your smart phone,

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Old 07-20-2015, 09:29 PM   #13
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Doesn't SPOT work whenever you press SOS?

I think you have to subscribe if you want the tracking, etc..

But I am not an expert.

You could always get the Spotphone for free. Of course you have to buy the airtime. Lol
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:09 AM   #14
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The problem with most radio communications is that they are line of sight. Which can be pretty short in mountainous terrain.

If you can see the sky though there's a very good chance a satellite phone will work and they can be rented. Air time is expensive, but you're not going to be chatting. If you're in a jam big enough to call for rescue even ten dollars a minute is trivial.

I haven't looked into this for several years now so have no ideas how the market may have changed. Search on "satellite phone rental." Plenty of info will come up.
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:45 AM   #15
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I have (no longer activated) the Gen 1 spot sos device that allowed you to contact for S&R as well as one preprogrammed messaged with your location requesting non emergency help from friends, and an "I'm ok, never mind" button
to cancel help form friends or let them know you made your destination ok.

Used it once int he entrance to a canyon with high walls and message still got through, the one time I had to call S&R, the Spot team got hold of sheriffs dept in like 1 minute or less with my location.

It isnt cheap but as many times as it appeared freezing to death was the agenda for the day it seemed like a bargain.
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Old 07-21-2015, 12:00 PM   #16
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Your point about line of sight is true. But it looks like the Park Service, and possibly other agencies, has at least one repeater if not more, in the area. Anyone can use them but I imagine that they're primarily in place for use of the Service and fire fighters, etc. You still have to get a LOS to the repeater tower but that's much easier than establishing a connection with a simple radio reception antenna.

I was wondering about a sat phone too. I don't know much about them but I thought they are still essentially line of sight - that the the satellite being used has to be X degrees above the horizon in order for the phone to connect. Or is there sufficient satellite coverage that they can hop off one sat and automatically onto another pretty much 24/7?

Sorry for the thread drift. My mind is kind of drifting too.
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Old 07-21-2015, 12:22 PM   #17
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I don't recall a lot of the details any longer, but I'm of the understanding that the satellite constellation used by these services pretty much always has at least one in line of sight.
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Old 07-21-2015, 07:43 PM   #18
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As I am a "serial" survivalist I will add my 2c worth.
What you need is a box of matches that lasts for 20 years.
I have had one of these for 15 years and it has been in a lot of "places".
Mine is still in better shape than the one in the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i_m0olRY9I

You can buy one on the internet......... you will feel a lot safer in the bush with one of these.

https://www.ustbrands.com/product/st...tarter-orange/

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Old 07-23-2015, 04:30 PM   #19
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Thank you everyone for the help...getting some good ideas.
Glock, thank you, I'm installing that now as a backup - doing old grunt-style land nav first, and training the boy up on it too.
Yes, BG, I have a lifestraw on order - I was NOT going to subject the boy to iodine tablets - I had enough of that nastiness in Panama.
And I have a whole baggie full of those magnesium firestarters...
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