Powder Guides Review of Avalanche Safety Beacons
At Powder Guides, we believe skiing and boarding in the backcountry comes with a responsibility to come equipped with the right avalanche skills training and tools to be avalanche prepared. True to our philosophy, Powder Guides offers a variety of avalanche skills training courses. And just this past season, our experienced Powder Guides tested out a variety of avalanche beacons to determine which are best in class. What follows is a review of the top four avalanche safety beacons everyone backcountry winter adventurer should know about.
Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Avalanche Beacon
Once again, Backcountry Access has exceeded expectations with its newest beacon, the Tracker 3. Building off of previously successful beacons, what we love most about the Tracker 3 is that it gets the job done but at a weight that is twenty percent lighter than previous models. Keeping a light load is incredibly important in the backcountry where every little bit of weight-shed counts. The Tracker 3 also hits the mark with functionality. Specifically, the device contains a real-time display that has the ability to track multiple avalanche burials. Plus a third receiving antenna means that the Tracker 3 can pick up a signal just about anywhere.
- 20% smaller and lighter than the popular Backcountry Access Tracker2
- Progressive industrial design creates unmatched wearing comfort and user experience
- Third digital antenna enhances search accuracy while transmitting a stronger signal in any orientation during burial
- Easy-to-read interface (just like the DTS) shows distance and direction, so you’re not slowed down with excess information
- Multiple burial light indicator informs you of multiple signals in the search zone
- Frequency: 457kHz
While a bit pricier than some other models, Mammut’s Pulse Barrybox Avalanche Safety Beacon is well worth the price and should be a “must have” on any serious backcountry skier or boarders wish list. In a nutshell, the Mamuut Pulse Barrybox is built with precision and reliability in mind. The device uses dual analog and digital signals with three antennas, which amounts to massive range and coverage in some of the backcountry’s most remote areas. Plus, it’s incredibly user-friendly and works with you for more streamlined rescues. The intuitive LCD display shows you multiple burial sites and guides you to which location is displaying the strongest signal. It even detects movement in buried victims, enabling rescuers to make the most efficient decisions in times of distress. All of these features are wrapped into a little, compact package, making the beacon easy to strap on during long backcountry treks.
- Digital/analog combo with three antennas
- Real time-optimized 360-degree directional display
- Map View display of number, distances, and locations of subjects
- Signal analysis and separation (DSP) when multiple burials
- Marking of found victims; unmarking of previous markers
- Fully graphic LCD display
- 3-D motions sensors
- Rescue-Send automatic switch when secondary avalanche
- Group check test function
- Automatic self-test
Don’t mistake the simplicity of the PIEPS DSP Pro for a lack of sophistication. On the contrary, the PIEPS DSP PRO is a sophisticated device built with the user in mind to ensure speed and accuracy in avalanche situations. The Pro’s unique feature is that it simplifies the rescue process by using a two-switch signaling system that hones in on four essential modes – send, search, scan and flag. Once a primary victim has been rescued, the rescuer has to simply flag the rescue and the device automatically changes gears to identify the nearest un-flagged signal – this enables rescuers to think quickly and make every second count. The Pro is designed to minimize dead spots and signal interference by automatically switching to the clearest broadcasting channel, even when buried. The display is similarly kept simple with a distance readout, easy to understand arrows, and multiple burial maps.
Designed to keep things simple and efficient, the Pro has a distance readout, a directional arrow, multiple-burial indicators, and a battery-life display, which provide all the necessary information without cluttering the screen. The Sport is also compatible with the Pieps iProbe to reduce search time even further, particularly in a multiple-burial scenario, and has a built-in inclinometer to help you assess slope angle. There are also available software updates to keep your beacon up-to-date, and it will work with older beacons regardless of the software installed.
- Three antenna digital beacon with simple two-button interface
- 60m circular range, 55m search strip
- Direction, distance, and multiple-burial indicators
- Flagging and scan functions
- Automatic Smart Transmitter signal optimization
- Compatible with Pieps iProbe
- Integrated inclinometer
- Updateable software
The ORTOVOX S1+ Avalanche beacon goes beyond giving backcountry skiers the information they need to respond to avalanche situations and its sophisticated features actively advise you on your best course of action. The S1+ uses smart antenna technology to optimize antenna positioning and automatically switch you to the best possible signal. After a fast scan, the 360 degree view instructs you what to do next, using lines and directional arrows. And the device scans the avalanche field to quickly identify where victims are buried relative to the receiver’s positioning. Plus, it features the most reliable transmitting antenna which heightens range by almost 45% more than the majority of other devices on the market. Once a victim has been found, simply flag that signal and the S1+ starts all over again with the next burial. Beyond its sophistication, the S1+ is design for backcountry wear and tear, with a rubber casing that protects against moisture and impact. And a backlight feature enables nighttime rescues.
- Automatic switchover in case of secondary avalanche after 120 seconds of no movement
- 360° real time display
- Display of multiple victims
- Backlight display
- Recco receiver
- Slope inclometer
- Setup functions: contrast of display, volume
- Quality rubberized housing
- Carrying system with flexible device link-up and wrist loop