When heading off on your adventures, it pays to be prepared for the worst. An important piece of safety equipment to have is an Emergency Beacon which could help save your life should you find yourself in serious peril.

Emergency beacons are available as either an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Both beacons transmit on the 406MHz frequency to the international COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system.

So, what is the difference between an EPIRB and a PLB? And how do you know which one is right for you?


An EPIRB is intended for use in a marine environment and are generally mounted in a bracket that is easily accessible on one’s vessel. An EPIRB is larger in size than a PLB as it must encompass a larger battery to support its minimum transmission time of 48 hours. An EPIRB must also float vertically up-right, must have a strobe light, lanyard and reflective tape which contribute to their size which is approximately that of a household brick.


A PLB, as its name suggests is intended to be used on one’s person. A PLB is a more compact version of an EPIRB and is small enough to fit comfortably in your hand. A PLB is smaller due to its differing requirements which include a minimum transmission time of 24 hours, small lanyard, and ability to float but not vertically upright. Other safety features that are found on an EPIRB including strobe lights and reflective tape are optional for a PLB and are part of the reason a PLB does not meet the mandatory carriage requirements of an EPIRB.

When deciding if it is an EPIRB or PLB that you need it is easiest to determine what activity you are undertaking first and then choosing your emergency beacon accordingly. But for a rule of thumb it is easiest to remember that an EPIRB is best suited to marine usage whilst a PLB is better suited for land.

To see our range of emergency beacons click here.