Buying Guide: What is Avalanche Beacon?
An avalanche transceiver or avalanche beacon is a device that emits a pulsed radio signal. Another avalanche beacon can receive this signal. Avalanche beacons are used for finding avalanche victims buried under the snow.
The best beacon is the one that you can use competently and seamlessly in a high stress situation because you’re thoroughly familiar with its operation and quirks. A more expensive or more fully featured beacon that you’re unfamiliar with won’t help you find a buried victim more quickly. If you’ve never owned a beacon before, consider enrolling in an avalanche awareness course and checking out several models before deciding.
Things to consider when buying an avalanche beacon:
Digital and analog beacons vary in the way they allow you to interpret the data being transmitted.
- Digital – most of the beacons on the market (and all the models that we sell) are now digital. Digital transceivers use multiple antennas and microprocessors to translate the transmitted data into both an audible signal and visual display. Digital transceivers normally indicate both direction and distance to the victim, and adapt very quickly to changing signals.
- Analog – once common, there are very few purely analog beacons produced today. Analog signals are manifested as audible beeps that get louder as you approach a buried victim or transceiver. Analog transceivers generally have a greater send and receive range but require more user knowledge and practice to be used effectively. (Some digital beacons allow the user to use an analog signal as an additional aid in search or in conjunction with the digital signal.)
While older beacons commonly had only one antenna, newer models typically have two or three separate antennas and often the ability to electronically choose the best antenna to use in a given situation. Generally, more antennas are better.
Beacon prices vary based on the number of antennas, type of display, microprocessors, and features. High end beacons often offer a choice of search modes and more sophisticated multiple burial functions, but these may be difficult or confusing for novice or infrequent users.
Check out the 5 Best Avalanche Beacons on the market right now:
1. BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon
A smart transmitter built for the professionals, the DSP Pro considers the needs of ski mountaineers and backcountry skiers with auto-adjusting features that deliver the best signal. With a 60m range and a 55m search strip, it uses mark and scan functions to identify multiple scenarios and further adjusts once recognizing other burial devices to assist in accurate recovery. Self-checking ensures it remains accurate, while its easy removal is extremely helpful in both practice and emergency response.
2. Backcountry Access Tracker3 Avalanche Beacon
Backcountry Access stepped it up again this winter with its all-new Tracker3 Avalanche Beacon. Twenty percent lighter and smaller than its big brother, the Tracker2, the Tracker3 contains real-time display, a third receiving antenna, and markings for multiple burials. Its progressive industrial design creates unmatched wearing comfort and user experience. Unit weight with batteries: 7.6 ounces/215 grams, Harness weight: 3.5 oz/100 grams. Frequency: 457 kHz, Batteries: three AAA alkaline. Battery life: minimum 1 hour in search mode after 200 hours in transmit mode (approximately 250 hours in transmit only or 50 hours in search only). Range: 50 meters. Certified to be in compliance with all applicable North American and European norms.
3. Backcountry Access Tracker2 Avalanche Beacon
Backcountry Access Tracker2 Avalanche Beacon Rapid processor and simple user interface. Real-time, digital display shows direction and distance. Multiple burial indicator light Bright red LEDs (light emitting diodes). Uses three AAA alkaline batteries. Includes a protective carrying case.
4. BCA Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon + Avalanche Probe
The world’s first digital multi-antenna transceiver. The beacon that started a digital revolution. And still going strong. With a long track record for value, durability, and reliability, the Tracker DTS has been an industry staple since 1997. A real-time, digital display shows both direction and distance with bright red LEDs. The distance is shown in meters and indicator lights display the direction of transmitting beacons.
5. Ortovox Zoom+ Avalanche Transceiver
The Ortovox Zoom Avalanche Transceiver Distances, directional arrows and information about several avalanche victims guide you in the fastest way to the refined search area. Intuitive search acoustics making victims easier to locate. Equipped with the patented Smart Antenna Technology Analyzes its position in the avalanche and automatically switches to the best transimission antenna. Just two buttons make operating errors practically impossible. Once switched on, it is possible to switch between transmission and search mode using the safety switchover button Subsequent search instructions are given on the large LED-display. An all-round soft rubber ring guarantees easy handling and additional protection.