Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling, Tech

Best Avalanche Beacons 2019

Best Avalanche Beacons

Backcountry winter sports are the most thrilling yet highly risky pastime engagements, especially when it snows heavily. Avalanches mostly take place on 30-45-degree slopes killing an estimated 28 people every winter in the United States according to government statistics. It is important to stay safe by:

  • Learning how to identify risky areas and conditions
  • Having and learning how to use safety equipment
  • Signing up for avalanche updates
  • Wearing protective gear
  • Having a friend or a group of friends around
  • Using gadgets that facilitate speedy rescue like an avalanche beacon also known as an avalanche transceiver.
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BCA Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon + Avalanche Probe 4.4
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Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon 4.6
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Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Avalanche Beacon 4.8
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Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon 4.5
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Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon 4.4
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Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon 4.9

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There are two types of avalanche beacons:

Digital beacon

This beacon comes with several antennas. It comes with a microprocessor which converts an electronic signal into an audio signal and visual signal on an LED or LCD panel. An important advantage with the digital beacons is that they will show the distance and direction towards the beacon buried in an avalanche. As the signal in the receiving transceiver strengthens, the beeping tone in the buried transceiver changes to indicate the closeness of the distance between the two.

Analog beacon

This was the first beacon to be used before their digital counterparts came into the scene. These beacons operate by producing a beeping sound which becomes louder as it approaches the buried transceiver. An advantage with these beacons is that they operate at a greater distance.

 

What should you consider when buying an avalanche beacon?

Your level of experience

Ultimately, you need to consider having a beacon whose operation you are most familiar with. This will help you locate a victim faster and save them in time. Avalanche beacons are designed with different experience levels in mind. Some simple designs will work well for recreational users who go out occasionally but will not be effective for professional snowboarders or skiers. Secondly, consider taking a course to help you familiarize with different models available in the market. This will help you select one that is best suited for you.

Range

The highest signal range that a beacon can operate in is within 60 m. Considering the maximum range when purchasing a beacon is important. However, the range must not be considered solely when purchasing a beacon. In essence, a greater range only increases the space within which you can search a buried victim unless the transmitting and receiving beacons are well oriented to each other. Practically speaking, the 30-40 meter range is the more common.

 

Number of antennas

The more the antennas in a beacon the better. This is because these devices are designed to operate with the antenna with the best-optimized orientation in the situation for a faster search. Consider a beacon with at least three antennas.

 

Multiple burials

Most transceivers operate the same way when searching for a single victim. In the event of multiple victims, some transceivers will flag victims by displaying icons for each of the victims or display a number. They also let you mark an icon of the victim you have already located. Operating the multiple burials function in a transceiver is usually a little complicated so you will need some training and practice do this effectively.

 

Display

A good screen will display both the direction and the distance of the victim from the receiving transceiver.

 

Batteries

Always use the batteries recommended by the manufacturer. In any case, go for the alkaline batteries and carry spare ones just in case you will need them. Never use rechargeable or lithium-ion batteries.

 

How should you wear your beacon?

It is recommended that the transceiver is worn under one layer of clothing so that in the event of an avalanche, it will not be pulled from your body. If a harness system is not included in its package during purchase, consider buying one separately. The harness helps you secure it in place. Secondly, ensure that you wear your beacon with the controls facing your body. Also be sure to place it in an easily accessible position.


 

Best Avalanche Beacons

Below, we analyze 6 top avalanche beacons that you need to consider when making your selection.

 

1. BCA Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon + Avalanche Probe

Accidents do happen especially for those who love backcountry skiing or snowboarding on steep slopes. That is why it is always important to have a device that can relay a message to your crew in case of an emergency or better still an avalanche kit with both a beacon and probe. BCA Tracker DTS avalanche beacon is the best option to carry along during backcountry snowboarding. The Tracker DTS comes with 2 antennas and is designed to display real-time information on the powerful and radiant red LED screen. The screen displays distance in meters and direction of the transmitting beacon. The latter is displayed by red indicator lights on the screen.

This digital beacon also features a 200cm rapid deployment probe stuffsack which helps you to easily locate where your skiing-mate may have been buried. It is built to operate in very low temperatures making it durable, reliable, and less prone to malfunction due to extreme temperature.

 

2. Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon

The Tracker 2 beacon by Backcountry Access is designed for the avalanche do-or-die moments. With a small easy-to-carry and lightweight size at just 258 g (9.1 oz), this device happens to be more portable than most models in the market. It features a single search switch that makes it user-friendly even to amateurs as it is simple to operate and learn how to use. Thanks to its real-time display which you can work with under any light condition, it is possible to track a victim or receiver beacon with much ease, speed, and precision. This is further enhanced by its three antennas. The third antenna specifically designed to enhance precision in different orientations. It also comes with a comfortable lightweight harness.

 

3. Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Avalanche Beacon

This ultramodern avalanche beacon comes as the best avalanche transceiver to have for several reasons. Tracker 3 transmits signals on the standard 457 kHz frequency. It comes with three receptive antennas for precision during searches and operates within a 50 m range. It features an LED screen which displays real-time data and is powered by three AAA alkaline batteries. The batteries are rated to take you through 50 hours of search or 250 hours of transmission which is quite remarkable if compared to other models. It comes with a multiple burials function allowing you to search more than one victim along with an option to suppress the signals of the victims you have located as you proceed with your search.

It is pretty light to weighing a mere 215 g (7.6 oz) without the harness. The harness will add in just 100 g (3.5 oz) which should not make much of a difference. A North American and European norms compliance means that this transceiver is built not only for use in different locations but also for the professional.

 

4. Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon

The peaks of snow-capped mountains may appear tempting but they also come with obscured danger. The Pieps DSP Sports Beacon is a great addition for any sportsperson intending to venture into the risky backcountry trails during winter. It features three antennas for guaranteed precision during your search and a smart transmitter which comes in handy during a multiple burial search. The smart transmitter incredibly auto-aligns it signal to others within a 50-meter all-round range. It also comes with a mark function that lets you mark a beacon which you have already located to let you continue searching the rest.

This digital beacon also features a drift adjustment that identifies beacons that transmit drifted signals. It comes with a classic harness style carrying pouch with a buckle closure to secure your beacon safely in place and for fast and easy access when the need arises and operates on three AAA alkaline batteries that will give you up to 200 hours on the transmit-mode.

 

5. Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon

Several avalanche beacon reviews point to the fact that the Tracker DTS beacon is designed with remarkable features for the ardent backcountry skier. It is outfitted with two powerful antennas with the revolutionary X-Shape capability. This means that when both antennas receive the same signal strength, they cross each other to form an X which prompts the center light to light up and point in the direction of the signal that is more pronounced giving it the accuracy that is needed to locate buried victims. Furthermore, its simplicity makes it a great option for beginners since it is relatively easy to operate. This beacon gives direction by lighting up the direction arrow at the top of the screen.

 

6. Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon

Pieps DSP Pro is agreeably the best avalanche transceiver, skillfully designed for the professional. This transceiver is designed with three antennas along with an additional self-checking reference antenna to enable you to locate the signal of a buried victim fast and accurately. It is also outfitted with a smart transmitter which comes in handy in a multiple burials situation. This, in addition to the mark and scan feature, is functional for locating victims and then marking them off in order to proceed with searching for the rest of the victims in an avalanche.

The 60-meter circular and 55-meter search trip range lets you cover an extensive area and its digital signal processor will identify faulty signals so that you can respond faster to where you are needed most. It comes packaged in a nylon harness pouch that makes it easily accessible in times of the emergency. This brand operates on the 457 kHz international standard.

 

Conclusion

While avalanche beacons come with different functions and features, the best beacon for you is the one that you know how to operate very well. How well you can operate a beacon is, in fact, the determining factor of how effective you will be when caught up in an avalanche situation. Most importantly, however, is taking up an avalanche course if you haven’t already done so. Courses are in levels depending on your level of experience but the most fundamental is level 1.

Secondly, these gadgets are delicate and therefore need utmost care. Leaving them out in the cold will cause them to de-tune while careless handling will most likely damage their antennas. Remember that they will need replacing after around seven years or earlier if used more frequently. However, their range needs a check-up on a yearly basis just to be sure that they are in a good working condition.

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