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Survival Lab: Vital Signs

When you’re lost or injured, you need a foolproof way to get your rescuers’ attention. Ted’s testing team tried more than 25 devices—here are their ratings of 9 top tools.

LIGHT
Purpose-Built
BRIGHTEST Greatland Rescue’s Laser Light ($75-$99; 2.3 oz; greatlandlaser.com) is a shotgun slug-size signaling
bazooka. The beam sweeps a fan of light (easier to aim than a pinpoint) that caught spotters’ eyes like lightning from 7 miles away in our tests (the manufacturer claims a
20-plus-mile range).

Survival Stand-in
MULTI-USE An ordinary 35-lumen LED headlamp outperformed a flare and survival strobe—with zero extra ounces or cost. Spotters saw an SOS clearly from two miles, and the strobe lit
up a tester’s position (in tree cover) from a mile. The diffuse beam blunts accuracy; go to a clearing for maximum reach. AAA-power averages 60 to 80 hours.

DIY
SURPRISE SUCCESS Brought your camera, but no light? A pop-up DSLR flash effectively signaled spotters from two miles. Triggering an SOS could be impossible, but three successive
flashes followed by several minutes of darkness still signals an alert. Reserve for when rescuers are searching and you can spot them; flashing drains battery power.

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