Every year, every skier and snowboarder will dream of going to a mountain with lots of snow. When the snow forecast predicts a heavy snowfall, all mountain goers will feel the butterflies of excitement brewing. But what many beginners don’t realize, is that heavy snow fall often comes at a price. A sunny bluebird day that follows a heavy snowfall often causes high avalanche risks, with the majority of mountain goers not owning an avalanche beacon (let alone the best avalanche beacon).

The Adventure Junkies has created an easy guide for you, to not only buying an avalanche beacon but a useful know-how to spotting key features to look for in your new piece of kit. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a backcountry touring pro, or a rookie of the mountain, we can help you choose the right kit to enjoy your snow time safely!

 

QUICK ANSWER: THE BEST AVALANCHE BEACON

  1. Mammut Pulse Barryvox
  2. Ortovox S1+
  3. Black Diamond Pieps DSP Pro
  4. Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport
  5. Mammut Barryvox Element
  6. Backcountry Access Tracker 3
  7. Ortovox Zoom +
  8. Backcountry Access Tracker 2
  9. Ortovox 3+
  10. Arva Evo4

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide To Snow Sports

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE BEACON

PICTURE
AVALANCHE BEACON
BEST USE
SEARCH STRIP
CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
AVALANCHE BEACON
BEST USE
SEARCH STRIP
CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS
PRICE
RATING
Mammut Pulse Barryvox
Overall
164ft
Yes
$$
5.0
Ortovox S1+
Overall
196ft
Yes
$$$
4.5
Black Diamond Pieps DSP Pro
Overall
164ft
Yes
$$$
4.8
Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport
Overall
164ft
Yes
$$
4.8
Mammut Barryvox Element 
Overall
164ft
Yes
$$
4.9
Backcountry Access Tracker 3
LED SEARCH
164ft
No
$$
4.2
Ortovox Zoom +
LED SEARCH
131ft
No
$
3.9
Backcountry Access Tracker 2
Budget
164ft
Yes
$
4.6
Ortovox 3+
Budget
131ft
Yes
$
4.5
Arva Evo4
Budget
131ft
Yes
$
4.5

 

 

AVALANCHE BEACONS 101

 

7 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE BEACON

 

1. RECEPTION RANGE & ANTENNAS

As climates change mountains are getting more and more unpredictable. So when looking to buy an avalanche beacon, it is always wise to seek one that works well. Be it in multiple burials that need a fast search, or finding a beacon that is easy to understand and use in a rescue. Having a strong set of ski wear and gear can be useless if you aren’t cautious and prepared when skiing off piste. A ski helmet will only provide protection from the initial impact of an avalanche slide. It is the beacon that will rescue you from the burial.

 

RANGE

The range of your avalanche beacon will determine how far the signal can search at any one time. The majority of high-performing beacons will feature a range of 160 ft (50 meters) or more. With some beacons being able to cover up to 190 ft (60 meters). When considering the range, it is also worth considering the search width you will be using. This is due to some widths being more effective than others in various situations. For unpracticed beginners, a long range is usually more beneficial.

 

ANTENNAS

Most avalanche beacons have multiple antennae. The benefit of this is that a single antenna will only be able to search a very limited reception range. Whereas two antennas or more will instead be able to perform a more effective and quick search. This is great in severe conditions where time is running out. The higher market rated beacons will often feature three antennae. This feature will allow your device to search in three directions at once. Such as left/right, up/down and forward and behind.

 

2. SEARCH STRIP

 

WIDE STRIPS

These will help you search the danger area faster. But the downside of doing so can result in completing your search without locating a signal. It is best to seek a device that is able to switch between a narrow and wide search strips. This option allows you to tailor your needs to suit the conditions and scenario before you. If you are a beginner with a device that can switch, practice will be necessary. Practice  will always be crucial for beginners unsure of when to use narrow or wide search widths.

 

NARROW STRIPS

The opposite to a wide search strip; is a narrow strip. Narrow strip are proved far more time-consuming. Experts will argue a narrow strips is far more accurate in locating mountain signals. When buying an avalanche beacon it can be a good plan to choose a device capable of this feature. But be sure to take it out and practice! Doing so will speed up your search process and maintain a high accuracy.

 

3. MULTIPLE BURIAL FEATURES

In bad avalanche conditions, it is rare that you will be facing a single burial. As a result of this experts have designed marking features. Multiple marking systems will seek several victims at once. A rescue team can mark several locations. This allows you to dig for more than one victim at the same time. As you dig, the beacon continues to search the location for other victims.

 

4. DISPLAY

The display of your avalanche beacon is an often overlooked aspect. But when you are in low light conditions and an emergency, this can be a vital trait of your avalanche beacon. A good beacon will have a bright and easy to read display, some featuring backlights to their screens. This way despite poor visibility, reading your beacons signal won’t be an issue. Whether you are in the dark or a blizzard!

 

5. EASE OF OPERATION

It is easy to overlook the simplest functions of an avalanche beacon. Yet these will be the most time-consuming in a crisis. One of the most common and overlooked flaws can your gloves. Many gloves are not compatible with touch screens and small buttons. Check if your beacon is operational while wearing your winter gloves. Removing your gloves during a search is time-consuming and risks the survival rates. Struggling to operate your beacons controls is dangerous in a dire avalanche scenario!

 

6. COMFORT

Most avalanche beacons come with a strap or harness. It is always a good idea to try these out before a sale. Most mountain equipment stores will be happy to show you not only how these fit, but how to wear them. Avoid a harness that holds your beacon in an uncomfortable position. This could be pressing on your chest or too far to the side for easy access. This is not suitable for the quick and reliable access you will need in any avalanche scenario.

 

7. SIZE & DESIGN

This goes hand in hand with the comfort of the avalanche beacon you choose. Be careful not to select a beacon that is bulky and heavy, or additionally to light and fragile. These devices are durable when made well. They shouldn’t be uncomfortable as you operate them. Find a design that is durable, whilst being a weight you can support with ease. Take the strap and harness into consideration, if these come with the beacon.

 

perfect avalanche beacon must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/konane

 

AVALANCHE BEACON REVIEWS

 

1. BEST AVALANCHE BEACON FOR OVERALL USE

MAMMUT PULSE BARRYVOX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: An all round performing beacon, that works in multiple burials

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Will still operate well after multiple burials

CONS: Very expensive

 

 

 

ORTOVOX S1+

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: A stylish flip transceiver that fits neatly into the supplied holster

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Self test option checks battery, transmit and recieve function at the start of the mountain day

CONS: Very expensive like it’s competitor the Mammut Pulse Barryvox

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS DSP PRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Multiple burial functions for complex avalanche recoveries

SEARCH STRIP: 196ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Excellent search strip range

CONS: Not easy to use with a mass of features included to learn and practice

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS DSP SPORT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Back touring risky areas for the first time with a high functioning device

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: It works just as well as it’s sister product the PIEPS DSP PRO, but with less functions for an easier use

CONS: The price has recently gone up despite the product remaining the same

 

 

 

MAMMUT BARRYVOX ELEMENT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: An intermediate mountain rider, seeking an easy to use and reliable beacon

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Despite being more budget friendly than it’s sister product the Mammut Pulse; it still features a lot of great features, and a fast processing speed

CONS: It lacks advanced features such as being able to scroll through victims in a multi-burial scenario

 

 

 

 

2. BEST LED SEARCH AVALANCHE BEACON

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS TRACKER3

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Operating in refined searches for fast single victim recovery

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: No

PROS: An incredibly fast beacon that proves great with advanced users

CONS: The marking function (signal suppression) only lasts for 60 seconds before automatically referring to the nearest beacon

 

 

 

ORTOVOX ZOOM+

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Very easy to use, with a simple design and very friendly to budgets

SEARCH STRIP: 131ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: No

PROS: Attractive design for the more fashion conscious ski and snowboard tour fan

CONS: No flagging/marking features are included, poor search strip range

 

 

 

 

3. BEST BUDGET AVALANCHE BEACON

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS TRACKER2

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Beginners to using avalanche beacons that need a strong and easy to use device

SEARCH STRIP: 164ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Despite being designed for novices, it proves extremely fast in finding single victims

CONS: Due to it’s target market of novices, it lacks a lot of the advanced features

 

 

 

ORTOVOX 3+

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: An attractive design with an easy use for the less practiced back country skier

SEARCH STRIP: 131ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Features a Flagging and transmitter marking system unlike it’s sister product the Ortovox Zoom+

CONS: Poor search strip range

 

 

 

ARVA EVO4

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Extremely easy use and good peformance for buyers on a budget

SEARCH STRIP: 131ft

CAN MARK TRANSMITTERS: Yes

PROS: Given its ability to mark features and transmitters it is a very low price

CONS: A somewhat bulky design and poor search strip range compared with competitors

About The Author

Ski & Snowboard Junkie

Beth Nicole first discovered a love of the extreme and outdoors in a rock climbing university society. Since then, she has trained in - then instructed; extreme sports worldwide, exploring new landscapes and mountains as she goes. You can currently find her living in the Alps absorbing the snow on her Snowboard and Ski’s!

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