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Trancievers / Beacons

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I am looking into buying a tranciever this year and wanted some info on what was best to buy. I spend a lot of my time in the backcouny so I figure it is about time to get one. I don't need anything special just something simple and reliable.
post #2 of 25
If you have not used transceivers before and do not plan to do a lot of practicing, the general consensus is that the DTS Tracker is by far the easiest to use for a search. If you are going to put in a lot of time practicing (a lot of initial practice, then a few practice sessions per month to stay on top of it), then look at the Ortovox M2. The Ortovox F1 is still on the market and is the cheapest, but this is not the place to skimp.

From a receive/search standpoint, the DTS Tracker has a shorter range than the Ortovox, but is much easier to use and more directionally accurate because it has 2 antennae and, therefore, has a better sense of direction. You just follow the arrows.

It is far more important that you practice as much as possible, than the type of device you use, but I am always happier when my travel partners have a DTS Tracker (unless they are very experienced with their Ortovoxs).

ALways have fresh batteries in it -- low battery power shortens both the transmit and the receive ranges. As soon as the battery indicator goes from full to medium, I switch batteries (using the mid-level batteries for my walkman or TV remote).

DTS Tracker and Ortovox are the two most popular. I don't know much about the other 2 or 3 sold in the US. The "Red", distributed by Burton Snowboards, is supposed to be able to switch between the DTS Tracker's dual antennae digital mode and the Ortovox single antennae analog mode -- but many believe this adds more complexity than you want in a device that you will need to operate under very stressful, panicky circumstances.
post #3 of 25
i like my ortovox f1, since i learned on the f2 it seems to be a huge improvement. it does require practice however.

The guy i know who does alot of searches (teton county SAR team member) is damn fast with any beacon, but claims the DTS is the best thing since sliced bread. he says he can cut his search times in half.

I also read an article at couloir that talked about a 15yo kid, got a DTS for christmas, played with it in the house a little, then found his buddy 6' down and saved his life. I think that would make it the easies to use!
post #4 of 25
The DTS is definitely the most idiot-proof, although any modern (i.e., single-frequency) beacon in working condition is fine . . . as long as you practice on a regular basis.

Note that the DTS *transmit* range is identical to other beacons, but the *receive* range is definitely (and significantly) smaller. Howevever, this never seems to make any difference in the field, since the initial signals received at a longer range by some other beacons tend to be so weak and confusing as to not help very much.
post #5 of 25
The DTS is the way to go, and if your partner has the orvotox, trade him for the day.
post #6 of 25
What experience or info do you have about the Ortovox M1 and M2, which also claim some directionality, vs. the DTS? The M2 is the current model. I have the M1 from 1-2 years ago. Is the functional difference between them significant?
post #7 of 25
I have the M1 and the DTS. The M1 and M2 receive on a single analog signal and displays with a digital readout on an LCD screen. This is better than the F1 (in my opinion), but not as good as the DTS. The DTS receives with a dual digital signal (from the two seperately placed receivers) and provides both more clear and more accurate directional information on a search.

Unless you know how to interpret the speed and strength of the beeps on the M2 as they change (which comes through practice as mentioned above), the DTS will be easier for you to use when rescuing your friends.
post #8 of 25
Whistles and bells??

I think it comes down to: when in an emergency situation where one of your group is buried, panic will consume and handicap everybody (including the most rational and practiced). In a case where you may not be firing on all cylinders, you need a device that's simple and effective. If you have so much practise on an orthovox that it's second nature, even in your sleep, then it's very effective. But if you don't spend a lot of time practising, as most people won't admit, then go with something that's "idiot proof".

Doesn't mean you're an idiot... but panic is a funny thing. Who cares what neat functions the thing's got if you can't get them to work properly because you're frazzled out in panic.
post #9 of 25
Another qestion on the subject....
In Europe the transcievers all work on 457kHz freq.
Is it the same in North America?
post #10 of 25
Yes, we now use 457 also. There may be some people out there with the old ones, or dual ones, but there are no longer made.
post #11 of 25
I've still got a couple of old Pieps on the previous frequency . . . I keep them around for practice sessions, can have my wife bury them and my new dual frequency xceivers will find them. But I've got written in big red letters across them "DO NOT USE" -- so somebody doesn't take them out sometime, since some of the new digital ones are not dual frequency and wouldn't pick them up.

Incidentally - its good to note that having xceivers doesn't do a lot of good if everybody wearing them doesn't know how to use them. You need constant practice, every season you should practice a few times!
post #12 of 25
No recently manufactured beacons are dual frequency.
Some avy experts even argue that all dual frequency beacons should be retired.
(Besides their obvious age, I believe their range is lessened b/c of the ability to transmit/receive on two fequencies.)
post #13 of 25
I have the DTS and an old dual frequency Arva
9000 that I use to pratice with. The DTS is way easier to use.
Aspen mountain has a practice area behind the top of the Gondola building were they bury a beacon so you can practice by yourself. Do any other area's that you know of do this?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 19, 2001 02:46 PM: Message edited 1 time, by SHREDHEAD ]</font>
post #14 of 25
I have two dual frequencys that are just four years old and have only about 40 days of carrying on them. Four days might seem long to a teenager but . . . . :
post #15 of 25
An official statement on the issue is available at:
"It is the opinion of the American Avalanche Association that dual-frequency avalanche rescue transceivers be retired. The technology of modern, single, high frequency (457 kHz) transceivers is far superior to that of the old dual-frequency (457 and 2.275 kHz) and low frequency (2.275 kHz) transceivers. In the trained hands of the victim's companions high frequency transceivers offer the best chance for live rescue. Dual frequency avalanche rescue transceivers suffer from old age and inferior electronics that may lead to reliability problems. The American Avalanche Association strongly urges users of these old units to replace them with modern, high frequency transceivers"

A technical explanation of the shorter ranges is available at:
"Dual-frequency units have a lower range partly due to the fact that part of their power goes into transmitting at the lower less efficient frequency and partly because the antenna coil can not be designed to be ideal for both frequencies at once."

An interesting anecdote is available here:
"We had two people with older dual-frequency beacons, which are generally considered obsolete now. There were two different reasons and attitudes behind this. In one case the person does not ski avalanche terrain very often and was ready to purchase a new beacon but hadn't done so yet. They borrowed a new digital beacon from me for much of the week. The other person was one of those people who just resists change and will probably have the same dual frequency beacon several years from now. At the start of one tour we did a beacon check and I was unable to pick them up when standing more than about 6 ft away. We pointed out to the person that we would be unable to find them if they were to get buried and they didn't seem to appreciate the significance of this fact. If you're going to insist on carrying such an obsolete beacon you should realize that you are only giving yourself a false sense of security. And if you are a partner with such a person in more significant avalanche terrain you should consider the potential ramifications for yourself should you get caught and buried."
post #16 of 25
Jonathan; thanks for posting those links... the more ya know, the more ya know!
Personally I am still using my f-1. I like it, practice a lot with it and am comfortable with it. In the last 2 years we have seen a lot of F-1s with speaker and volume switch failures. Ortovox is very good about warranty on these beacons but its still a pain. If I was buying a new beacon it would be a DTS. I was given a pair of M-2s last season to try out and came away unimpressed. They aren't that easy to use and the directional display can get confused and confusing. As Cheap said, it will be a chaotic situation if you need to do a search for real and the less you have to think about your beacon the easier it will be (very paraphrased). I also urge everyone who is serious about using beacons to buy them new, not used. Check them often, and practice.
post #17 of 25
Does anyone know who has the best price on DTS?
post #18 of 25

you can probably get them for about $230 US with shipping.
post #19 of 25
Although tp is a great source for most everything, it is not a good source for the Backcountry Access (BCA) DTS Tracker beacon, b/c:

- If you are an American buying the DTS in America, you will pay $300.
- If you are a European buying the DTS in Europe, you will pay about $200.
- If you are an American buying the DTS from Europe while in Europe, you will also pay about $200.
- If you are an American buying the DTS from Europe while still in America, BCA will force the European shop to charge you $300.

And now for the especially ironic part:
BCA is an American-owned company, and the DTS is an American-designed and American-made beacon.
I mean, it’s one thing for European backcountry skiing gear companies to charge us rich Americans more than Europeans, but for an American company to do the same thing?!? (And for a piece of essential safety equipment too.) Business is business though, but I just hope BCA doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the profit-maximizing business they clearly are.
(Now that I’ve finished w/ my rant, tp does have a good price on the somewhat similar Barryvox.)
post #20 of 25
for any Canucks out there, Mountain Equipment Co-op ( or in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto) sells a few types of tranceivers.
The Ortovox F1 Focus is $295
the Ortovox M2 is $400
And the Tracker DTS is $412
keep in mind that those prices are in depreciated Canadian dollars!
By the way, has anyone here ever needed to use a transceiver in a real rescue situation?
post #21 of 25
On this topic, has anyone seen any recent info about cell phones and transceivers?

There was quite a bit of discussion last spring about the potential for a cell phone to potentially give signals that might register signals on a transceiver in search mode. It seemed to be that the periodic signal a cell phone sends out to locate the cell might be picked up by the transceiver. So, if a member of a search group has a cell phone that's turned on, it might give false signals to the rescuers.

The obvious solution would be to make sure any searcher with a cell phone has the phone turned off while searching. But as Cheap Seats said, in an actual search/rescue it would be pretty easy to forget something like this and possible have searchers looking in the wrong place.

I haven't heard anything more on this. Has anyone else?

post #22 of 25
Thanks alot guys!
I didn't even have to ask for the info on transciever prices in NA. When I logged on it was already there.
Want some perspective? In Sweden the M2 costs aprox. 330 USD(525 CAD)
I'm not buying one here before I go to Fernie, no way!!
Oh, almost forgot... Could the 25% VAT be the reason?? :
post #23 of 25
Bob Peters, here's a link for discussion on tranceiver interference.
post #24 of 25
DTS Trakker/F1/Barryvox Comparisons - This is an informative article, though it does not address the Ortovox M2 which uses the same receiver as the F1, but a different/better visual display of information.

It was in the Anchorage paper on Sunday:

Pete Robinson, a long-time Alaska mountain man, and I checked out three recommended by the state's leading avalanche gurus Doug Fesler and Jill Fredston: DTS Tracker, the Ortovox F1 and the Barryvox.

Pete and I are both familiar with beacons. We have taken avalanche safety classes. We both backcountry ski. And we both have spent lots of time messing around in the backcountry -- Pete, a pioneer of big climbs in the Alaska Range, far more time than me.

The purpose of an avalanche beacon is simple.

When turned on, the beacon transmits a signal. If victim is buried, searchers can switch their beacons to pick up on the signal and hone in on the victim.

An avalanche rescue -- which neither of us have ever done -- can be a dicey, high-pressure task.

In the past 10 to 15 years, manufactures have introduced a number of new beacons with a range of options. Of the ones we looked at, we found that the simplest beacon works best: the DTS Tracker made by Backcountry Access.

The Tracker has a visual read that shows distance from the victim, an arrow which shows the path to take and a beeping sound that increases in frequency as you close in on the buried person.

Fesler says that even young children can search using the Tracker -- a good sign we reckoned as we headed up Bear Valley toward McHugh Peak.

We buried one beacon to emit a signal and practiced. With the Tracker, we picked up a signal about 100 feet away. Following the arrow and listening to the beeps, we went right in.

"This thing is sweet," Pete said.

The only obvious downsides are that the Tracker does not pick up a signal until you are close to the victim. An avalanche debris zone can be huge. A rescuer can waste precious minutes stumbling through the snow to get within 100 feet of a victim.

Another downside, says Kip Melling, an avalanche safety instructor with the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, is that rescuers can get so focused on the Tracker's visual display, they can walk right over visual clues on the surface -- a hat, a ski pole or a glove poking through the snow.

The Tracker lacks some of the bells and whistles of other beacons. But most of us, who are not in the avalanche rescue business, want a beacon that can find bodies quickly. The Tracker works.

Next, we tried out the Ortovox F1, considered the gold standard of beacons for the past decade. This beacon is a proven performer and the choice of many avalanche rescue professionals.

Unlike the Tracker, it has no distance display. It has flashing light which changes colors the closer one gets to the victim. But the primary tool is a beep which gets stronger as one narrows in on the victim.

Pete owns an F1. We have practiced with this beacon before. But in test runs last week, we were noticeably slower with the F1 than the Tracker. With a practiced ear we would no doubt improve, but what's the point?

"It's not even close to the Tracker," Pete said.

The F1 has a couple attributes worth thinking about, say Fesler and Melling.

With practice it can be as fast as the Tracker and can pinpoint a victim more precisely. Also, the beacon can simultaneously pick up two signal tones of different victims. In practice rescues, I've found that for rookies like myself it can be bewildering to sort out the different signals. But for the practiced rescuer, it allows pursuit of multiple victims.

The third beacon we tried was the Barryvox. The beacon is marketed through Mammut -- a Swiss climbing company. Snowboard company Burton also markets this beacon.

Melling likes this beacon. It has a digital display with arrows and a distance readout as well as an audible beep mode. The user can customize the search to his or her preference -- an important attribute for an advanced rescuer, Melling said. Also, it has a function for doing multiple searches.

"The Barryvox may be the beacon of choice for professional searchers because it performs better in complex situations and it gives searches various options on how to search," said Fredston. "The Tracker only has only one method of searching."

Pete and I both disliked the Barryvox. The range is minimal -- close to that of the Tracker. When one moved around quickly, the beacon seemed to blank out for several seconds. Finally, we could not get the beeping mode to work, even after reading the directions and several practice runs.

"Ahh, this thing sucks," Pete said in disgust. With practice and, perhaps, a more careful read of the instructions, we could probably find the upside to the Barryvox. But I've got a Tracker and Pete's got an F1. "Why would you even bother with it?"

Good question.
post #25 of 25
Here are a few LINKS that were not posted here yet, that are helpful.



Wasatch Touring • 702 East 100 South • Salt Lake City, UT 84102 • Tel: 801-359-9361 • Fax: 1-888-SNOW SAW (766-9729)
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