Hey there my mountain and back country enthusiasts and welcome to my post where we will check out my three best avalanche beacons to keep us on the radar this year. Exploring the backcountry is both exciting and it has to be said, risky at times. Fortunately, there is some excellent equipment available to make it safer.
And perhaps the most critical of these devices is an avalanche beacon or transceiver. so for those of you looking to get out there off the beaten track and explore, I have had a good look around and come up with three decent avalanche beacon options below.
Let’s check them out…
My three recommended avalanche beacons
I will review these in more detail below. Still, if you want to get moving without all the carry-on, my recommended products are listed here for your convenience:
What are avalanche beacons?
An avalanche beacon, also known as an avalanche transceiver, is a radio-emitting electrical device used to find buried individuals in the wake of an avalanche. Your avalanche beacon, together with a shovel and probe, is one of three pieces of safety equipment you must take with you at all times in the backcountry.
These are commonly carried by skiers, particularly backcountry skiers, hikers and mountaineers for added safety in the case of an avalanche buries. Before embarking on an expedition, all group members activate their transceivers in transmit mode, causing the device to emit low-power pulsed radio signals throughout the journey.
If some members of the ski party are buried following an avalanche, the others may switch their transceivers from transmit to receive mode, allowing use as a radio direction-finding device to search for signals coming from underneath the snow.
Check out my: Best Avalanche Packs
What should you be looking for?
The following factors should be considered as you look around for a good avalanche beacon to meet your mountain safety needs.
- Digital or Analog Beacons
- Batteries and Battery Life
- Send and Receive Modes
- Weight and Functions
- Search Range and Width
Digital or analog beacons
All contemporary avalanche beacons function digitally. Digital beacons are considerably faster and easier to operate than analog beacons however a few high-end ones allow you to switch between analog and digital modes.
Without getting into too much detail, the main thing to realize here is that analog beacons can detect sending signals from a distance via audio broadcasts and most beacons with analog capabilities include a headphone connector for this purpose as well.
Batteries and battery life
Avalanche beacons typically utilize AA or AAA alkaline batteries, whilst others may use lithium or alkaline. If you choose one of these latter types, ensure your beacon’s internal settings are adjusted to your preferred battery. In most cases, they will show how much battery power is left in the form of a percentage or bars. Some beacons will display the battery power when turned on, while others will always display it.
When to change the batteries is a personal preference, but 50-60% is a decent rule of thumb to guarantee you always have adequate energy in the field. Fr AA or AAA options, I highly recommend replacing the batteries often to ensure they do not lose charge at the wrong time.
Send and receive modes
Avalanche beacons operate in two modes: transmit and receive. Every beacon’s default mode is called “send mode” (or transmit mode), which means it sends out a signal. This means that they continue to emit a signal in the case of a slide. The surviving party members or rescuers will switch their beacons to search mode to locate the transmitting beacon.
Visual and audible communications alert rescuers to the buried victim in search or “receive modes.” Most beacons include a readable screen with arrows and numbers. They indicate the victim’s sending signal’s distance and direction. Most models additionally have a speaker that emits warnings (that grow in cadence and frequently pitch) to let you know when you’re approaching close without continually glancing at your beacon as well.
Weight and dimensions
Avalanche beacons are tiny enough to fit in your hand and weigh between 5 and 8 ounces weight isn’t usually a decisive concern for most people. The dimensions of a beacon are often the most crucial attribute since many people prefer streamlined ones that can fit into their jacket pocket. On the other hand, some beacons have rubberized molds for improved handling and durability.
Furthermore, some more extensive versions include larger display screens and glove-friendly toggles as well, making them much easier to use.
Search range and width
Most avalanche beacon manufacturers claim a search range of 50 to 70 meters which is the maximum distance at which the beacon can detect a broadcasting signal. The maximum range of entry-level versions is 50 meters, while top-of-the-line manufacturers may reach up to 70 meters (or up to 90m in analog mode).
Although the two values are always in the same ballpark, companies frequently distinguish between search width (side-to-side range) and maximum search range (out in front of you).
Other potential additions include:
- Bluetooth Connectivity: This feature allows you to manage your settings easily and quickly update the software.
- Auto Revert-to-Transmit: This feature allows the beacon to switch to send mode following minutes of inactivity automatically.
- Multiple Burials: This capability indicates that the beacon can identify several sending signals and will display this information on the display screen.
- Marking function: A marking function allows the rescuer to mark the location of a found signal and continue searching for additional signals without losing track of the first
- Self-Test: When switched on, most avalanche beacons do a self-test to ensure that the antennas broadcast a signal and that the battery has sufficient charge.
- Carrying Case: This item could protect your avalanche beacon from the elements of the backcountry.
Should you carry an avalanche beacon?
If you are going skiing, snowboarding, or participating in any other winter backcountry activity, carrying an avalanche beacon is strongly recommended. An avalanche beacon, also known as an avalanche transceiver, is a device that can help rescuers locate you if you are buried in an avalanche. It emits a signal that can be detected by other beacons, allowing rescuers to find you more quickly.
My three recommendations broken down
So based on the information above and my own experience, I recommend the following options:
1. Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver
First on my list is a solid all-purpose beacon with a voice command feature. It comes equipped with Smart-Antenna Technology which analyzes the device’s precise location in an avalanche and automatically responds optimizing response time. See its specifications below:
- Brand: Ortovox
- Type: Digital
- Range: 50 meters
- Battery: 200+ hours
- Dimensions: 7.83 x 5.75 x 2.72 inches
- Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Voice command
- Voice guide
- Rechargeable battery
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Recco reflector
Why have I chosen it?
For ease of use, this first option has only two buttons: power and flag with voice navigation that provides user with clear, succinct directions during the search process.
Even wearing bulky ski gloves, switching from transmitting to search mode is simple as you can flick the bright orange tab at the top of the beacon. In addition to search and send, my it also has a useful “standby” mode that briefly disables both transmission and receiving.
This beacon also has a Recco reflector hidden in the harness, is waterproof, does periodic self-tests and software upgrades through the app and switches from search or standby mode to transmit mode after 90 seconds of inactivity.
My next avalanche beacon option is compact and fully functional with straightforward operation. It’s a superb emergency SOS communicator, providing all you need for immediate emergency communications to search and rescue responders. See its specifications below:
- Brand: ACR
- Type: Digital
- Range: 100 meters
- Battery: 24+ hours
- Dimensions: 4.52 x 2.03 x 1.49 inches
- Weight: 2.01 pounds
- Emergency strobe lights
- Belt clip
- Built-in buoyancy
- Self and GPS tests functionality
Why have I chosen it?
The avalanche beacon connects to a system that utilizes the worldwide and government-maintained COSPAS/SARSAT satellite network and communication protocol. If you have a life-threatening situation and press the beacon’s power button, a “Y’all come” message will be sent to the best available local services.
This item will also permanently activate wherever your journey takes you where you can simply deploy the antenna, turn it on and the beacon will do the rest, leading rescuers within 100 meters or less of your location.
3. Mammut Barryvox Package Light Beacon
My device is a fantastic all-around and extremely competent beacon with improved multiple burying capabilities and an excellent range. See its specifications below:
- Brand: Mammut
- Type: Digital
- Range: 70 meters
- Battery: 300 hours
- Dimensions: 19.8 x 9.2 x 5.1 inches
- Weight: 1.43 pounds
- Auto revert feature
- Group check mode
- LED indicator
Why have I chosen it?
This beacon includes a feature that when you get lined up with the buried beacon on your last approach during the bracketing stage, it shows a straight-line display. This allows the user to continue with the excellent search/bracketing step while keeping the beacon in the same orientation.
The SAR device requires two hands to turn on the beacon meaning you can’t do it by accident. However you only need one hand to turn it back to Send mode.
There you have it, my three best avalanche beacons for mountain safely. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual, let me know of your experiences with them.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time.