There are people on all sides of the arguement as to whether or not access to the "outside world" is a good or bad thing. Ask yourself:
If the world knows where you are most of the time, does that detract from the adventure?
If you are able to call for help, does that detract from the adventure?
If you answered no to either of those questions, read on. If you answered yes to these, I'm surprised you even own a computer. Just sayin'.
Since I ride by myself most of the time, these devices gave me a certain level of comfort.
Tracking and Emergency Locator
There are a number of devices that you can set up to periodically send your location (tracking), send an assortment of messages and call for help.
The best known devices are sold by SPOT. I used a SPOT2 satelite tracking device. For the price of less than $100 plus a $150 annual subscription, it will identify to the world where you are within the last 10 minutes to an hour using a network of satelites you device communicates with. On my device, I can pre-program 3 different messages that I can send at will. When sent, the message with coordinates will be distributed to a pre-selected list of recipients by email and/or SMS.
Newest version of the SPOT pictured above will allow more flexibility in messages, flexible frequency of tracking and a USB port that will allow hardwiring to your bike.
Should you get into trouble, you can call for help using the 911 button and depending where you are, authorities will be notified to come get your sorry ass. For a small amount you can buy insurance from SPOT to cover the Search and Rescue costs.
Tracking - There are two reasons to pay the subscription fees to have tracking. Firstly, people back home are sometimes interested in knowing where you are. Secondly, if you get into trouble and it is necessary to organize a search party to find you, the last track gives them a great place to start looking and if injured, may mean finding and treating you much sooner.
SPOT's website provides a map of your tracks . . . for one day. WTF? Instead, I use Spotwalla (Free) who will access your SPOT data and give you a map for as long a period as you want. Easy to share with others also. Below is the record of my last short trip to Mexico.
If you are interested in more, here are the links to my 2012 Mexico trip and my South America trip. When viewing those, if you want more detail, chang the "% Fill" on the left side to 100% - it will then show all tracking points.
There are other devices that do the same thing. Delorme has a combination GPS mapping device and tracking device. They seem to be shooting for the same retail market as the SPOT. I have no experience with Delorme although I do know they use their own mapsets. There are a number of other, lesser known tracking devices you may wish to investigate.
Personal Loacator Beacon
Just because I tend to overdo things, I also carry a a PLB or, Personal Locator Beacon. This is very similar to EPRIBs used on boats and airplanes. I have an Acr ResQLink. Company website here .
Why do I have one? Two reasons:
1) One of the problems of satelite communication is that the signals can be blocked by organic matter (ie: Overhanging branches or a thick forest or even your body if you happen to be standing and leaning over the device) or by solid objects like mountains in a narrow canyon or tall buildings in a city. The PLB has a stronger signal than the SPOT and while it too can be blocked, your chances of getting through in less than ideal conditions are greater than with the SPOT.
2) While I like to have my SPOT on my handlebars so it is easy to monitor if it is working properly and easy to push buttons on the go, what happens if I am separated from my bike in an accident and I'm unable to get to it to push the 911 button? Ah, I carry my PLB in my jacket pocket so it is always with me. I just try to make sure it is not carried in a pocket that will put more hurt me if I happen to fall on it.
There is actually a third advantage of using the PLB over the SPOT for emergencies: It uses the same satelites that the EPRIB system does which are supposed to be more extensive and reliable. Also, these satelites are monitored by a government entity and they will tend to seek help from Military/Law Enforcement whereas SPOT can sometimes rely on private rescuers.