Rental device offers beacon of hope in the backcountry

A North Shore entrepreneur is renting emergency gear that could mean the difference between life and death in the mountains. has begun renting personal locator beacons that link hikers to loved ones or rescuers via satellite at the touch of a button.

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“On the North Shore, certainly, we see a lot of situations where people get into trouble. The mountains are a little bit deceiving. We live on the edge of a wilderness area that stretches to the Arctic Ocean. Essentially, you can start walking north, and very quickly you get out of cell coverage,” said Ryan Reilly, founder of All Adventures. “When people get into trouble outside of cell coverage, their situation tends to worsen. It's problematic because it's difficult to make decisions under pressure.”

People tend to follow their instincts downhill where they wind up deeper in gullies and deeper in trouble, he said.

The Garmin inReach Mini’s SOS button rings through to a monitoring centre, which will then patch the user through to the nearest search and rescue team with exact GPS co-ordinates.

They’re also good for getting up-to-the-minute weather forecast or sending two-way messages to any cellphone or email address so you can tell your honey that you’re an hour away from the trailhead and please order pizza.

Reilly saw a business opportunity when he realized what keeps people from buying the useful and possibly life-saving devices. People may only have use for them a few times per year, but they require monthly subscription fees, starting at $25 a month.

“It can be really tough to get locked into a 12 month contract and be paying for this device while it's sitting in a drawer,” he said.

All Adventure delivers the devices via mail and charges $50 for three days or $80 for a week.

Reilly said his hope is that more people carrying the devices will mean fewer call-outs for search and rescue teams like North Shore Rescue – or at least, rescue missions being made quicker and easier.

But, Reilly stressed, a useful gadget is no replacement for proper planning and preparation.

“This isn't that get out of jail free card by any means. The onus is still on everyone who goes out into the backcountry to be prepared and be knowledgeable.”

North Shore Rescue hasn’t officially endorsed the business, but team leader Mike Danks said he is very pleased to see it online.

Personal locator beacons or satellite communication devices are on the list of the “10 essentials” the team asks anyone to carry when they venture out onto the trails.
“We think that’s a great idea. Anything that’s going to make it easier for people to have that security of being able to call for help is really key,” said Danks. “Having accurate information and getting a very descriptive breakdown of what the situation is, really helps us on the front end of these calls.”

Danks said he can only remember five or six calls in his career where someone called for help with one of the beacons, but he said he’s seen countless lost or injured adventurers who would have really benefited from one.

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