David Frith provides a compelling first hand report of being rescued with the help of Australia's new Emergency Plus app
(see "Emergency app that could save your life one day", The Australian, February 24, 2015
12:00AM). But this app depends on having a functioning smart phone and being in range of the mobile network. If you are going beyond the mobile network or in conditions where a consumer smart phone will break, then you need something better.
As David points out small Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are available for about $400. These are robust and waterproof. They transmit a signal to a special network of satellites (not the GPS satellites as David suggests). The PLB's location is estimated by the satellites to within a few km and the rescue services notified (if equipped with GPS the PLBs give a more accurate fix). To activate the unit you simply flip up the antenna and press a button.
If hiking alone, there are also Satellite Communicators, which will send a regular position signal. This way if you are overdue, your friends can report your last know location to the rescue services. These units use a separate satellite network and require payment of a subscription (whereas PIBs require no subscription). These units also have a SOS button, but can't be expected to provide as reliable a service as PIBs.
A useful gadget I purchased recently is a keyring multitool
. This is one piece of stainless steel about the size of a key, which has slots and knobs on it to act as a screwdriver, spanner and bottle-opener. More relevant for an emergency is the slot for cutting cord and webbing (such as seat-belts and backpack straps). The tool does not have an exposed blade, so it is safer to carry in your pocket and use under extreme conditions.
ps: If he is going to make a habit of falling into deep water while wearing a backpack, then David might want to invest in a Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket
and water activated distress beacon. ;-)
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