There's a slightly Darwinistic aspect to the admin associated with our test Fast Find Ranger GPS Personal Locator Beacon - if you're resourceful enough to work it out, you probably won't need it anyway as you'll be hunkering down for a comfortable night's sleep in a hollowed-out moose carcasse and barbecuing slugs on a fire you started by rubbing blueberries together at supersonic speeds...
Ok, I exagerate a teensy weensy bit, but shortly after our test beacon arrived back in October, I followed the legalities to the letter and registered it with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency online. It was a slightly arcane process and happens because until recently PLBs were mostly a nautical sort of thing.
All Labelled Up And Ready To Roll
And then I sat back - afraid to leave the house - waiting for confirmation to arrive. Which it finally did along with an apology for being slow due to being short-staffed and a couple of labels, one of which need sticking on the unit but is too large to fit anywhere on the unit without covering up something else that might or might not be crucially important.
I stuck it on anyway, on the basis that a really finnicky rescue outfit in, say, Switzerland, might otherwise leave me to perish - 'Where is your proof of registration? Without it, we cannot save you...'
Anyway, so now it's all registered and legit, the Ranger is fully operational. In an ideal world, I guess, it would simply sit unnoticed in the lid of your pack until needed. The thing is though, that it's just about weighty enough at 164g that I find myself taking it in and out depending on the outing in hand: solo night-riding on the moors in full winter conditions? Yeah, stick it in. A group weekend walk? No, take it out again. Cairngorms in winter? Yes, that makes sense.
And so far, that's the sum of it. For once, it's test kit I don't really want to use. There is no way of 'testing' it short of a real, life-threatening wilderness emergency when mobiles won't work and extricating yourself isn't an option.
Location, Location, Location...
And how useful would it be in some proper serious scenarios? Off piste in the Andes or the Himalaya? Or deep in the Amazon? Is anyone actually going to be there to rescue you anyway? In the Alps though or, potentially Scotland, it could be spot on.
I guess the bottom line is that if you are going to be somewhere where a GPS PLB makes sense, then it, well, makes sense. But you need to bear in mind that unlike, say, a SPoT tracking device, it's an emergency only unit, so while the SPOT can be used to send out reassuring 'I'm okay' messages and allow your mates to track your position online, the Fast Find is only ever going to tell the authorities that you're deep, deep in the doggy do...
The plus points of that are that it can sit there unused for six years and still work when you need it, it's lighter and less bulky than a SPoT, though not by much, once you've shelled out your £264 there's no annual subscription fee and, of course, it could just save your life.
More about the Fast Find Ranger at www.fastfindplb.com/en/.