Top 8 Best Avalanche Beacons | 2021 Reviews (Ortovox)

Skiing is a fun, adventurous activity. For skiing to be fun, skiers need heavy snow to ski at their best and perform the best maneuvers they want. That is why most skiers feel excited when the snow forecast states about a heavy snowfall.

However, with all these advantages comes a price that might even cost your life. Comes with heavy snow is the possibility of an avalanche that can bury and trap you.

Because of this possibility, you either stop your skiing passion or still pursue it by taking safety precautions. Because you cannot control an avalanche and do not know when it might get into you, you can take a reliable avalanche beacon with you.

This device can transmit signals to others who also own one if you have become a victim of this horrible accident.

Top 8 Best Avalanche Beacons Reviewed

  1. Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver by Backcountry Access – Best Overall
  2. Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond – Best Value
  3. S1+ Avalanche Beacon by Ortovox – Editor’s Choice
  4. Zoom+ Beacon by Ortovox
  5. EVO 4 Avalanche Beacon by Arva
  6. Evo 5 Avalanche Beacon by Arva
  7. Tracker S Avalanche Beacon by Backcountry Access
  8. Pieps Micro Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond

#1. Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver by Backcountry Access – Best Overall

Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver

Check Price on Amazon 

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 60
  • Battery life: 200
  • Weight 153 grams

If you are looking for an avalanche beacon that has LED lights display, you will appreciate the Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver by Backcountry Access. This model uses LED lights to point you to the victim’s signal. You only have to spin the transceiver and follow the light indication. It displays the approximate distance of how far the buried victims are from you. It also comes with a loudspeaker as added reinforcement to the number displayed.

This beacon works in multiple scenarios. You only have to push a button to suppress some victims’ signals to search for the others. It comes with lights that indicate the number of signals this beacon detects. It has three antennas that provide precise direction. 

What is amazing about this beacon is that it is one of the smallest on the market. You do not have to worry about it being bulky or obstructing your actions for rescue. This beacon is fast. It works perfectly for rescue missions because it does not lag, enabling you to save more lives.

ProsCons
Excellent for advanced users60-second marking function only
Fast beacon 

#2. Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond – Best Value

Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 50
  • Battery life: 200+
  • Weight: 210 grams

If you are looking for an excellent digital backcountry beacon, you will never go wrong with the Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond. Upon hearing the brand Black Diamond, you know that you can trust its products because of the reputation it already has established in the snowsports industry.

One of their best items is the Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond. This model can adjust automatically for optimization when multiple-burial incidents happen. It can pinpoint you to the exact location of the victims. What makes this item more amazing is that you can upgrade its software through a USB link cable. Because of this, you do not have to buy a new beacon to keep up with technology.

This beacon has three antennas on top of the reference antenna. It allows a circular range for a symmetrical search for the area. It also comes with drift adjustments to sense the drifted signals. 

ProsCons
Can work with analog beaconsFew complaints of being uncomfortable operating the switch
Excellent battery life
Simple interface
User-friendly

#3. S1+ Avalanche Beacon by Ortovox – Editor’s Choice

S1+ Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 55
  • Battery life: 250 hours
  • Weight: 260 grams

If you want a beacon that can provide you with a 360-degree real-time display, you will love the S1+ Avalanche Beacon by Ortovox. This item provides an illuminated display that provides you the victim’s location in the avalanche. It can also provide you with the number of victims, distance, and directions.

This model uses the Smart-Antenna Technology that finds out the antenna’s position after the incident and switches by itself to the antenna with the best transmission. It is compatible with all transceivers that use 457 kHz frequency, which is the international standard. Besides that, this model also has a switchover feature. Because of its three antennas and motion sensor, this device can sense the possible secondary avalanche. It automatically switches to transmission mode if it senses no movement. 

It can locate up to four victims at the same time. It also has auto-scan features that allow you to scan the area without pressing any button. As soon as you flip the transceiver open, the device automatically starts its search. What makes this model more impressive is that it provides an overview of the burial situation. It shows the victims’ position that provides you more control and gets into the site fast. The manufacturer claims that it is the only one that has this feature.

Besides that, this model also has a navigator. It has a bearing line to indicate your position and the basis of the overview. It also has direction arrows that point you to the target’s location. The Fine Search feature allows you to know if you are getting closer to or farther from your target.  

ProsCons
Excellent performanceNot extremely intuitive
User-friendlyExpensive
Long-range 

#4. Zoom+ Beacon by Ortovox

Zoom+ Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 40
  • Battery life: 250 hours
  • Weight: 200 grams

If you want a user-friendly beacon, you should take a look at the Zoom+. This model uses the latest technology and design. Because it is user-friendly, it has a simple design that you can operate using only two buttons. Even if it has a simple design, this device is highly functional and useful. The LED display shows the searching and transmitting mode and the on and off switches.

Aside from that, it also shows you the victims’ position through information and directional arrows to quickly find the victims. Its LED display also provides you information on the transceiver received and sent.

Because of its straightforward usability, it is one of the most favorites of beginners or occasional users. It has an interface that is easy to understand, and you do not have to confuse yourself in operating several buttons because it only has two. However, you cannot expect more features and functionalities from this beacon because of its limited operation.

ProsCons
Straightforward designLack of features
User-friendlyShort-range
Long-range 

#5. EVO 4 Avalanche Beacon by Arva

EVO 4 Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 60
  • Battery life: 250 hours
  • Weight: 255 grams

If you do not like the Zoom+ Beacon, but you still want an easy-to-use beacon with a straightforward design, the EVO4 Avalanche Beacon is probably the one that you want. EVO claims that this model is the best in their EVO series because it uses the latest technology to improve the marking functionality in searching for the victims.

This model has a 100 percent digital interface that uses Bright Screen Technology. It is an easy-to-use device that automatically operates when you turn it on. This model uses a clip-for-safe feature for automatic activation of the beacon.

Because of this feature, the device operates on its own upon wearing it. If you press the transceiver on, it begins transmitting. The maximum range is 60 meters, which is one of the longest. Aside from that, the battery life may last up to 250 hours. 

ProsCons
Multiple burial displayDirectional arrows tend to disappear after a few minutes.
User-friendly design Needs plugging to power on
Reasonable priceBulky 

#6. Evo 5 Avalanche Beacon by Arva

Evo 5 Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 50
  • Battery life: 200 hours
  • Weight: 170 grams

If you are looking for a compact avalanche beacon that is also lightweight, you will never go wrong with the EVO 5 Avalanche Beacon. It is because this device weighs on 170 grams but has enough functionality to find victims.

This device can find victims that are up to 50 meters away. It is capable of managing interference from other electronic devices, such as smartphones. It enhances the level of safety by its automatic return to emission features.

Because of its compact feature, you can keep this model in your pocket. Aside from that, it has the necessary features that are useful for finding avalanche victims. It has a slider that you can toggle between send, search, or ff operation. That is why it is easy to use.

It also has a U-turn function that alerts you if you are going in the wrong direction while searching for the victims. It is also capable of finding multiple victims because of the multiple burial markings. This model uses triple A batteries, which is convenient enough. Aside from its compact design, this model comes with a carrying strap, allowing you to attach it around the waist. 

ProsCons
User-friendly interfaceExtremely sensitive
LightweightNot updateable
Compact

#7. Tracker S Avalanche Beacon by Backcountry Access

Tracker S Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 55
  • Battery life: 250 hours in transmit and 50 hours in search mode
  • Weight: 165 grams

If you are looking for an affordable device with enough function to detect avalanche victims, you might want to consider the Tracker S Avalanche Beacon by Backcountry Access. That is why it is advisable for recreational users who are looking for a cheap option.

Because of its price, you cannot expect much about this avalanche beacon, but it is useful and helpful to do the job. This model is upgradeable, unlike the Tracker Three and Four models.

However, it has the missing motion sensor that you can only find in expensive beacons. It reverts to the send mode if it detects user inactivity after a minute, which is also a useful feature for a possible second avalanche. Although it does not have all the other avalanche beacons’ advanced features, it has the basic ones that are already useful.

ProsCons
InexpensiveOne-minute marking
CompactTwo-digit display
Unupgradable 
Short-range

#8. Pieps Micro Avalanche Beacon by Black Diamond

Pieps Micro Avalanche Beacon

Check Price on Amazon

 

Specifications:

  • Digital
  • Range (meters): 40
  • Battery life: 200 hours in send mode
  • Weight: 150 grams

If you are looking for another affordable option as a recreational user, you can consider the Pieps Micro Avalanche Beacon next. This model uses patented sensor technology and intuitive handling to make using it easier. Like the Tracker S, this model has basic functionality. This model is compact and lightweight. It is the lightest among these lists, making it an excellent beacon if you are looking for a pocketable one. 

Despite its size, it has a large display that allows you to see the interface. It has a unique sensor that detects transmission easily once you pull it from your pocket or harness. It automatically goes into search.

What makes this model more impressive is that it has Bluetooth functionality that allows you to upgrade the firmware. You only need to use one double A battery to power up this model. 

ProsCons
LightweightProximity sensor issues 
Compact

Top Pick

Avalanche beacons are an essential device that every skier must-have. Owning one can help save their lives when avalanche accidents happen. Because of this, skiers should choose the best avalanche beacon for them wisely, because they do not want to jeopardize their safety just because of a crappy device.

That is why this review listed some of the best ones that you can buy on the market. Whether you are an expert user, a beginner one, or a recreational user, you might find the best one to use for your next adventure. What stands out the most among these lists is the Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver by Backcountry Access. 

This avalanche beacon has a long battery life and a wide range of 60 meters. It is also compact. That is why there is no problem carrying it anywhere.

Despite its small size, this device has tons of features to offer. It can detect signals fast and can detect multiple burials. You can choose to suppress the signals to detect the others. This model uses a wide LED lights display to see all information clearly, and it comes with a loudspeaker that reinforces the displayed info.


What Is an Avalanche Beacon

An avalanche transceiver is another term for this device. It is something that you wear near your body that emits radio signals to other beacons. A beacon uses two basic modes: search and transmit.

If you put your beacon into search mode, it will help you find the victims’  location through the radio signals they transmit to you. If you are the victim, yours will transmit radio signals to the others so that they will find your location. Most of the avalanche beacons today run in 457 kHz frequency. That is why the majority of the beacons nowadays are compatible with each other. 

However, avalanche beacon is not the same as the personal locator beacon (PLB). The PLB sends an SOS signal to the rescue teams that are even far away from your location. 


Factors to Consider When Buying an Avalanche Beacon

Now that you know some of the advisable avalanche beacons to use for your next trip, it is not enough that you know the best models on the market. Knowing the factors to consider and the features you need can be as crucial or even more essential.

That is why knowing these considerations can help you find the best device to use or use the device effectively.

Training

Knowing how to use an avalanche beacon is more important than choosing the best model. Even if you own the best model in the world, you will not be able to use it effectively without knowing how to use it effectively.

Because of this, make sure that you underwent some training on how to use the avalanche beacons or transceivers before aiming to buy the best device on the market. 

Price

Prices always affect the user’s purchasing decision. People can dream of having the best beacon on the market, but if the budget tells otherwise, they do not choose but to settle for a cheaper one.

Price is not much of an issue when it comes to beacons. You can find functional and reliable beacons at a low price, but they do not have extra features, or their distance range is short. As much as possible, go for the avalanche beacons with all the necessary features, because it is worth an investment because it is life-saving equipment. However, if you do not have enough budget to buy one, make sure to know what value or features you can get from that purchase.

Brand

A brand is not crucial for some people, especially if they already know the features that they need. However, some people trust brands because of their reputation.

Because famous brand names have a reputation to protect, they trust that they will not create any subpar products in quality. It is also easier to trust a beacon that came from a brand with a long history of excellent customer service and quality than the one that came from an unknown manufacturer.

Reviews and Testimonials

Before placing your order, make sure that you did some research. Aside from the beacon’s features, specifications, and description, you also need to find out what the users say about it. Find out the most common issues. 

Avalanche Beacon Features

If you think that you are ready to own an avalanche beacon, what you need to find out next are the features to find the best one to buy based on your preference.

Display Screen

The display screen is not much of a consideration. However, if the temperature drops at an extremely low temperature, it can cause sluggishness to an LCD screen. The one with an LED screen can still perform as well.

Search Strips

It is best to buy an avalanche beacon that comes in both wide and narrow strips.

Wide strips allow you to search the area fast, which is an essential feature if you are also in a dangerous situation, and you have to search the place fast. The problem is that you might not be able to locate a signal during your search.

Narrow strips are time-consuming, but many believe that it provides more accurate signal detection in the mountains. 

Beacon Type

Avalanche beacons come in two different types: analog and digital. The most common nowadays is digital because it is what most users prefer because of its user-friendliness.

The digital type also has multiple microprocessors. It displays the necessary information on the screen: the distance, the location, etc. Advanced models provide audio signals along with the visual display. 

However, it does not mean that the analog type is at a disadvantage. The analog type has a wider range than the digital type, and it produces sound, indicating that you are near the victim’s location. The only problem with the analog type is that it takes an extra learning curve to use it efficiently.

Both of these types have multiple antennas. 

Antennas

Old models only have one, making them less efficient.

If you are shopping for an avalanche beacon, do not buy the model that does not have antennas or only have one. The most efficient models have three, which are better at providing accurate location of the victims. 

User-friendliness

Having a user-friendly device can help you save time, which you do not have when looking for someone buried under thick snow. Some beacons have touch screens that your gloves might not be able to operate. Make sure to buy the device that will not require you to remove your gloves to operate it. 

Range

The wider the range, the better, especially if you are the type who loves to ski in unpatrolled or distant areas. However, as the range of the models goes higher, the price goes higher too.

The ideal avalanche beacon range is 50 meters, and nothing less than that, except if you are a recreational user who skis near to others. The best ones can go up to 60 meters.

Multiple Burial

This feature allows you to save a lot of lives. This feature is essential if you need to look for a group of skiers or even your group members.

Aside from that, this feature also allows you to suppress a signal to allow you to search for the others.

Battery Life

The majority of beacons use either double A or triple A. Alkaline batteries are advisable because they drain gradually compared to the lithium type. 

The average battery life is 250 hours. If you can buy a model that is beyond that, it will be better. 

Audio Signal

Aside from the display, many advanced models also provide audio signals that signal that you are getting closer to the location. It also helps keep your focus on finding the victims than just staring at the display most of the time.

Auto Revert to Send

Advanced models also have an ‘auto revert to send’  feature. With this feature, the beacon automatically switches the mode to ‘send’ if the device is stationary in the ‘search’ mode for a long time.

This feature seems advantageous. However, it may confuse the searchers sometimes.


Conclusion 

An avalanche beacon is one of the most crucial devices that a skier should have. Owning one might help save your life someday.

Because of the life-saving purpose it serves, you should make shopping for it seriously. You do not want to buy a device that provides erroneous information or transmit wrong radio signals. You want a device that is fast, reliable, and accurate.

However, there are tons of avalanche beacons on the market. Finding the best one to use can feel overwhelming, especially for the first-time buyer. That is why this review aims to save you some searching through dozens of devices on the web by providing you the ones that most users recommend.

One example is the Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver by Backcountry Access. Many skiers love this avalanche beacon because of its speed and accuracy. It is also compact and lightweight, which is why you can carry it almost everywhere.  However, there is no guarantee that you will like any of the mentioned devices. That is why knowing the features that you want for an avalanche beacon can help you find the best device to use on your next trip. 


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why Do I Need an Avalanche Beacon?

An avalanche beacon is a useful device that can save your life or the life of others trapped and buried in the snow after an avalanche. It is an electronic device that the users wear to find victims or send help. This device transmits and receives a 457kHz frequency signal.

How Will I Be Sure That My Avalanche Beacon Is Compatible WIth the Others?

Avalanche beacons made in the last 15 years are compatible with each other. These beacons run at 457 kHz frequency. However, models older than can use separate frequencies that might not be compatible at all. It uses standard frequencies either from North America or Europe. If you are buying a new device, you should not have a problem because it can be compatible with most beacons nowadays. Check for the frequency to be sure.

Are Avalanche Beacons Effective in Saving Lives?

Avalanche beacons do not directly save people’s lives, but these devices can help find people who need rescuing. Avalanche beacons find the victims covered and hidden in the snow that the human senses alone cannot detect. Avalanche beacons can detect radio signals coming from the victims that can help find their locations. For this reason, avalanche beacons are useful in saving people’s lives by detecting the location of the people who need rescuing through radio signals. To serve its purpose, you should find the best avalanche beacons to detect the victims’ location accurately.

How Long Do Avalanche Beacons’ Battery Last?

The length of the avalanche beacons’ battery life depends on the model. On average, when in the search mode, the minimum is 1 hour after the transmit mode of 200 hours. If you only use the transmit mode, the battery can last around 250 hours, but when you use only the search mode, it will last up to 50 hours. This battery life is the standard in Europe to gain approval.

Will My Avalanche Beacon Be Useful Still When the Temperature Is Extremely Cold?

Yes. When it comes to transmitting the radio signals, you do not have to worry because the temperature does not affect the radio signals that the device transmits or receives. However, if you have a cellphone or any other electronic device close to you, it can interfere with the radio signals. When using them, take your other electronic devices 20 inches away from the beacon. However, LCD might become sluggish when it comes to displaying, but the LED type can remain operational even when the temperature drops.

Related Resources:

Leave a Comment