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 modern PLBs transmit a 406MHz signal, but some also transmit the older 121.5MHz signal, which helps searchers hone in on your location once they arrive in the vicinity. Your chosen PLB should also be GPS-enabled so it can also send your location to searchers (non GPS models still work but take longer for orbiting satellites to pinpoint your location). All of our PLBs for hire have all three 406MHz, 121.5MHz & GPS.

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?

PLBs are for life threatening situations. The RCCNZ advise people to err on the side of caution and to activate their PLB when in need of rescue.

  • If possible, activate your PLB during daylight. It’s easier and more convenient to search during the day.
  • Find a clearing - and stay put. Once activated keep your PLB turned on and stay in one place. The more you move around, the harder it is for rescuers to find you. If you’re with an injured person and someone can stay with them, one of your group could take the PLB to a clearing and guide rescuers once they arrive.
  • 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. Create arrows out of rocks and sticks, leave bright pack liners beside a riverbed or move to a ridge or a flat area large enough for a helicopter to land, where rescuers would be able to spot you.

Frequently asked questions:

What if I accidently activate the PLB?

If your beacon is set off accidentally, please turn it off immediately and then call John (027 412 2925) or Teri (027 322 9552) as soon as you can. This will ensure a search and rescue operation is not launched needlessly.

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.

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

Follow New Zealand's Outdoor Safety Code with these 5 key steps:

  1. Plan your trip.
  2. Tell someone your plans.
  3. Be aware of the weather.
  4. Know your limits.
  5. Take sufficient supplies.

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.