Macpac Personal Locator Beacon Hire

Personal Locator Beacon Hire at Macpac

Macpac and the Southland Locator Beacon Trust (SLB) have partnered to provide a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) hire service at Macpac stores across New Zealand.

Who is the Southland Locator Beacon Trust?

The Southland Locator Beacon Charitable Trust (SLB) was formed in 1996 by a passionate group of people, who recognised the need for a Personal Locator Beacon hire service for the thousands of people who enjoy our great outdoors every year. SLB was the first company to be accepted by Search and Rescue as the standard to achieve when supplying emergency Personal Locator Beacons and they are the preferred supplier of emergency Personal Locator Beacons for The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) and LandSAR.

What is a PLB and how does it work?

A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) — also known as a distress or emergency beacon — is the most effective way of telling people you need help and where to find you.

A PLB is a small electronic device that, on activation, broadcasts a signal to a satellite. This signal alerts the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) that you are in distress. The RCCNZ will contact the person listed on the beacon’s registration details (In this case, SLB will be contacted for details of the person who has hired the PLB).

Once the beacon’s exact position has been determined, RCCNZ will launch a search and rescue operation. All PLB's available for sale or hire in New Zealand are GPS enabled. If the PLB is activated in an emergency, your GPS position will be sent to RCCNZ via satellite on a 406MHz signal. The device will also transmit a 121.5MHz signal, which can be directly tracked by search and rescue ground teams and helicopters when they are in your vicinity. This second signal helps to pinpoint your location if the GPS position is less accurate, due to dense vegetation or steep valley sides.

Where do you take it?

Due to New Zealand’s rugged landscape and changeable weather, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is an essential item for anyone regularly heading into the backcountry for bush walking, hiking or backpacking — whether it’s an afternoon trip or a multi day hike.

Hire charges

Period of hire is from day of pick up to day of return, and includes pick up and return date.

Hiring period


1 day $15
3 day $30
7 day $40
1- 7 additional days
(second and subsequent weeks, or part thereof)

Macpac hire locations

Personal Locator Beacons can be hired from any of our New Zealand stores (subject to availability). Visit the Macpac store locator at to find your nearest store.

Why are they a good idea?

Radios, GPS tracking systems, distress flares, whistles, lights and mobile phones may be useful as a back-up, however, none of these devices are as effective as a PLB when you need help in distress or an emergency situation. There are many areas of New Zealand that still have no cell phone reception so the above options can't be relied upon as a safe contact measure if things go wrong on any trip.

When should you activate it?

If you feel that your life is in grave or imminent danger, you should first try to use two-way communications such as a phone or radio so that you can talk to emergency services. If this is unavailable, then a distress beacon should be activated. This is a personal decision that is unique to each situation.

PLBs are for urgent assistance or life threatening situations. The RCCNZ advise people to err on the side of caution and to activate their PLB when in need of rescue. There is no charge for search and rescue in New Zealand.

  • If you are safe for now, consider waiting until the morning to activate your PLB. For example, if someone has a broken leg, but you have made it to a safe campsite or hut. Provided your group is warm and safe, activating the PLB first thing the next morning will make it easier and safer for the rescuers to get you. But if you have any doubt about the injury or your safety, then activate the PLB straight away.
  • If it is safe to do so, stay put. If it is dangerous where you are (e.g. rising rivers, very exposed to the weather) it is ok to move, if you can move safely to a better place nearby. Once activated, keep your PLB turned on and then stay in your safe place. The more you move around, the harder it is for rescuers to find you.
  • Do what you can to help. New Zealand bush and terrain can make it tricky for searchers to hone in on a Personal Locator Beacon. If it is safe to do so, make yourself visible to searchers, by lighting a smoky fire, spreading bright objects (such as packliners) widely around your location. Consider creating large arrows out of rocks or sticks if you need to direct a search team. To attract attention during the day, use a reflective surface (knife blade, phone screen, pot lid) to shine light at a rescue helicopter. At night time, use a torch.

Frequently asked questions:

What if I accidently activate the PLB?

If your beacon is set off accidentally, please leave it on until the authorities tell you to turn it off. (It's much better that a rescue team finds you quickly using the PLB signal, than having them waste extra time looking for you without a good GPS location plus a homing signal to guide them in).

There is no charge or fee for accidental activation, so don't put yourself in danger trying to tell someone it was a mistake. As soon as you reach phone coverage, call Southland Locator Beacon representatives John (027 412 2925) or Teri (027 322 9552). They will immediately contact the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand to inform them it was an accidental activation, so they can call-off any search and rescue operation which may have started. If you own the beacon, you must contact the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand yourself.

Can I travel by air with a PLB?

Personal Locator Beacons and other items containing lithium ion and lithium metal batteries, such as power banks and cell phone battery charging cases, must be carried in carry-on baggage only. Please package and protect your PLB to prevent unintentional activation or damage.

Distress beacons work all over the world so you can take your New Zealand coded beacon with you overseas, but there are a few things you need to consider before you go. See the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand's website for how it works overseas and what to think about.

Can I return my PLB to another Macpac store?

You’ll need to return your PLB to the store you hired it from so the team can complete the paperwork.

Safety tips

  • Keep your PLB securely on your person. All of our hired PLBs come with a heavy duty carry pouch.
  • Get familiar with your beacon before you head out.
  • Read the instruction information on the back of the pink hire form and understand how to operate your beacon.
  • Ensure everyone in your party knows where the beacon is and how to operate it.
  • When possible, have more than one PLB in your group.

Other ways to help stay safe

The Land Safety Code provides important information to follow when going out for a walk or tramp in New Zealand.

  1. Choose the right trip for you
  2. Understand the weather
  3. Pack warm clothes and extra food
  4. Share your plans and take ways to get help
  5. Take care of yourself and each other

You can read more about each of these steps on websites from the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and

You can use the Mountain Safety Council's 'Plan my trip' tool to check for alerts and notices and share the trip details with your friends & family.

Need some inspiration on where to go? Visit our blog, the Log Book for adventure ideas.

Looking to buy a PLB? We also sell them.