or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Backcountry, Telemark, and Cross Country › Recommendations for an avalanche beacon
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Recommendations for an avalanche beacon

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
My daughter's ex boyfriend is looking for advice about what avalanche beacon to get. I know NOTHING about this topic. Any pointers?
post #2 of 27

tracker vs barryvox

These 2 are usually cited as the easiest to use. Any beacon requires lots of practice to be fast and skilled with it in a crisis- that is the ultimate truth. I have the Tracker and think its great (luckily I have never needed to use it in a burial). The new Ortovox S1 is supposed to be the state of the art, but is expensive. Read about it here : http://www.backcountryworld.com/showthread.php?t=3265 (scroll down to Hacksaw's post). Mixed opinions seem to exist as to the utility of the Barryvox pulse (as opposed to the regular Barryvox).

There are a few of independent reviews that are quite good. One was in Couloir magazine last year (now merged with Backcountry- you may be able to find a link to it on the backcountryworld.com website). On the Couloir forums, now found at the Backcountry site, there are lots of threads on beacons- look under the avalanche tab. Also look on Lou Dawson's website (www.wildsnow.com). Jonathan Sheffitz did a great review and study, but I can't remember where it was published.
post #3 of 27
I used to have the tracker.

It worked pretty well with some practice.

It's also pretty affordable.

Upgraded to the new Mammut Pulse last year.

It's spendy, but it's worth it. It's super easy to use.
You should always practice, but you can find beacons in
drills pretty fast without any practice with the Pulse.
I hid mine, handed my girlfriend her new pulse and told her to
go find it. She had no problem, first time she touched the thing.

Like I said though, most important part of beacons is practice. Many
ski areas have 'beacon basins' for practice.

The Pulse costs $400, but when there's a slide $400 doesn't really matter.

The new ortovox should be sweet too. It has a triple antennae also. Haven't used it. The nice thing about triple antennaes is the beacons can and will be able to communicate with each other.

For example, the pulse recognizes that one beacon has been found, and then blocks that signal to concentrate on other burials.

One thing is, it's very sensitive to movements. If it detects movement or not, it relays that information to the other beacons so you can perform triage better (know who is dead and concentrate on digging live people out). Some disagreement over if this is useful or not. Personally, I would rather dig the living people out rather than dig for 10 minutes on somebody who is already gone, and not use those 10 minutes digging somebody out who is still breathing.
post #4 of 27
The ones that ump to mind are the new Tracker (announced but I don't think shipped yet), Pulse Barryvox, Pieps DSP and the S1. The key thing they have in common is being 3 antenna digitals. A bunch of reviews are noted above. Also some excellent discussion of all of these at TGR. Do the search thing.

We have one Pulse Barryvox and several old Trackers in the house. In several hours of practice one day last winter, the Pulse yielded quicker searches in multiple burial scenarios - yes, all the ziplocs survived . OTOH, the Tracker is truly braindead simple. The Pulse is a bit quirkier due to more features and has that stupidly designed switch (discussed at TGR). I've also gotten the impression that it chews through batteries faster. I do like the strap/holster setup. I've never seen an S1, but my worry would be complexity - and newness of something that complex. Reviews on the Pieps have been super positive and it too seems very simple.

We are likely to replace one or two of the old Trackers this year. All of the above will be candidates (at least the released ones). IMO opinion, simplicity counts for a lot. Even with practice, I can imagine really screwing up with something that is not uber-simple. Or that at least has an easily set uber-simple mode. Anything with any complexity probably demands even more practice - at a level most of us probably will not put in. Oh - all my beacon use so far has been off-piste inbounds in treewell and slough/slide prone areas. Call me paranoid...

Also check out:

http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/
post #5 of 27
Regarding the Pulse movement detection feature. This only matters if the entire group has Pulse beacons. Not likely at this point in time unless you are doing a group thing. There were rumors of Mammut licensing this out, but I wold not hold my breath (so to speak).
post #6 of 27
The best beacon is the beacon that you can operate proficiently. It doesn't matter how "good" it is if you can't use it.
post #7 of 27
I have a Mammut Barryvox that has worked well in practice drills in the beacon basin for me. I have seen this unit sold for as little a $179 but it is more often on sale for $230 to $270 and retails for 299. It has a battery life that has seen me through an entire winter with only a single change. The dual mode analog / digital (DSP) signal finder is very easy to get to know with practice, has exceptional range, and accuracy. For a tool you hope to never use, it is exceptional. The newer pulse model lets you prioritize rescues in a multiple burial (God forbid). Lets hope the moderate priced DSP units are sufficient for your needs.
post #8 of 27

Just a joke....

Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
My daughter's ex boyfriend is looking for advice about what avalanche beacon to get. I know NOTHING about this topic. Any pointers?
Daughter's ex? Any one will do, just be sure to remove the batteries before you give it to him.
post #9 of 27
Heh, I was about to write something along the lines of what bumpfreaq wrote.

Anyway, the only bad beacons are the ones you don't practice with. I've seen highly-practiced individuals with an Ortovox F1 (no visual readout, just analog beeping sound) go faster than moderately-practiced people with the latest visual/digital readouts.

The BCA Tracker is pretty reknowned for being easy and intuitive to use. If I was going bc with someone who I wasn't sure how much they practiced then I'd be glad to see a Tracker on their chest.

I've been using a Barryvox 3000 which has the capability to read both signals in both analog (longer range) and digital (more detailed readout), but it requires some set-up whcih may be confusing for a beacon novice.

I haven't got a lot of experience with the new beacons - Pieps DSP, Barryvox Pulse, Ortovox S1 - but they look promising. I've sort of been waiting for any production electronics issues to sort themselves out before I commit. I don't like to be an early adapter for safety electronics, but this season I may upgrade, even though I believe the Barryvox 3000 and the Tracker and other digital and digital analog models are perfectly good if the owner practices regularly with them.

Here's a website with more than you wanted to know:
http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/index.htm

And some geeky forums with tons of posts concerning beacons:
http://www.backcountryworld.com/forumdisplay.php?f=20
http://www.telemarktalk.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2
http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/f...splay.php?f=17

Bottom line, the Barryvox 3000 and the BCA tracker are classics. The Barryvox Pulse, Pieps DSP, and Ortovox S1 all have really nice features and are probably mature technology this season, but cost about 25-30% more. Your call.
post #10 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpfreaq View Post
Daughter's ex? Any one will do, just be sure to remove the batteries before you give it to him.
It was amicable and they are still going to be sharing an apartment with another student at school.
post #11 of 27
Hmmm, lot's to say on beacons. Personally, I like the Pieps DSP, Ortovox D3, and Tracker right now. I think the DSP functionality wise is better, but the harness is kind of lame.
The S1. Impressed but not impressed. There are some issues I had with it. Small, but show stoppers imo. I would wait until they address the issue.
Here is my review from another site:
Quote:
Ok, so I got a real hands on test with the Ortovox S1 last night. We were able to take it out with a couple of other beacons at a park behind a friends house. It is a good beacon but in short my verdict is wait before plunking down the $600 for this beacon. If all you are looking for is an opinion that is my conclusion. My review follows.

First off, the beacon itself is compact. The harness is much like the Ortovox D3, Simple, fits comfortably, and easy to use. Unlike the D3 you do NOT have to turn the beacon on to put the harness on. Turning on the beacon consists of pressing a button. You use a menu screen to scroll through to turn it off. I am not a fan of this. Imo, you should have to turn a beacon on to use it. It almost eliminates someone going out without a beacon on. We are all supposed to do a check before you go out, but stupid **** happens.

Searching, pretty amazing. On the flip screen there is a crosshair. A body shows on the screen when you have a good lock. If you don't lines guide you in, making you stay within a range to receive the single. If you are completely out of range the display will indicate a search pattern is necessary. Once in range the body appears and you just walk it to the crosshair. Once within centering of the single the display changes to a circle. It get's smaller as you get closer. It widens if you get away. Arrows indicate that you are moving inward towards the transmitting beacon or away from it. Very effective. You'll have an idea as to how deep your victim is buried.

Problems with searching. You have to hold the beacon very horizontal with the flip screen open. It's sensitive. Range was not so hot. About 30 meters out is the reading we got. With the Pieps DSP we hit almost 60 and it showed. Not a show stopper, but it does change your search pattern.

Other features include an inclinometer. Handy if you are searching, but a life link card or some other sort of pocket inclinometer is much more effective.

Ok so the big problem is a small function and I can't believe Ortovox didn't think this through, but it is a show stopper imo. To open the flip screen, you have to squezze two buttons at the end of the box and flip open the screen. There is no indent, grip, or anything to get your fingers around. With a little practice bare hands were alright to open it. With gloves on, about as close to impossible as it can get. Imagine having you buddy buried in an avalanche, seconds count and you are ******* with opening the god damn flip design. If my visual search didn't yield any results, I want my beacon to go to receive, fast, reliable, and without any ******* around. Taking off your glove to get the screen open is unacceptable as far as I am concerned. Especially with super cold temps, dropping your glove etc. All bullshit you don't need to deal with when a life is at stake. Seconds count and you need to use them in the best possible way given the crap situation you are in.

So yes the new features are great and I am excited to see this tech go further, but I would wait for generation two or three to come around and address these problems. I give Ortovox credit for thinking outside of the box, but it's the small things that make the biggest difference, and they missed the boat there.
Mind you this was first impression. We were just playing with it in a park, but it is what stood out when using it.
post #12 of 27

BCA Tracker on sale..

... at www.mountaingear.com for $229.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by dp View Post
... at www.mountaingear.com for $229.
I would jump on that. That's what I paid for mine last year.

Regarding recommendations, the Tracker is perfect for me. I rarely go where I need my own beacon. Usually, if we're cat or heli skiing, the beacons are provided by the operation so require separate training and practice anyway. Since I rarely use my own beacon, the Tracker is a great choice that doesn't require a great deal of practice to get good with it. The only downside I'm aware of is it's size. It's bigger than some beacons, like the Mammut Barryvox for example (which is another beacon I really like). I've also heard that the Tracker is a little tricky with multiple burials but I've not had any problems when I practiced with it.
post #14 of 27
The Tracker is a great beacon. For better or worse, it's the one all digital beacons are gauged by. The harness they use now is well made and they are reliable. The range on a Tracker seems to be much less than the DSP or D3. This is again from playing with it in the field and in the park. That is easy enough to compensate for but you need to be aware. Also, I don't like beacons that you can turn on or off. I like the Ortovox/Arva method of if you are putting on the beacon you have to turn it on. Too many times I have seen people go out and not turn their beacon on. Or turn it off to save battery power and then forget to turn it on. The Pieps has this problem too. I know you are supposed to check beacons everytime, but again stuff happens. One less thing to worry about is a good thing.
post #15 of 27
Tracker is simple to use and the company has a solid history of innovation. If you can wait until spring to buy (obviously) do so to save a couple of bucks. Mountain Gear usually has a nice mrk down.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by dp View Post
Jonathan Shefftz did a great review and study, but I can't remember where it was published.
An earlier version was published this winter by the American Avalanche Association in The Avalanche Review – if anyone wants the latest version, just PM me your email address. (The sections with yellow highlighter are forthcoming this fall once I get the Tracker2 and S1.)
One of these days I might write up a more subjective review based on qualitative factors I've noticed from using all these beacons. I also had an interesting experience leading about 30 students through the beacon practice station I was teaching at the ski patrol every-other-year advanced avy course this past March at Whiteface: summarizing an entire day of observation into one sentence, user skill certainly makes a difference, but the latest high-tech gizmos sure do help too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dp View Post
The new Ortovox S1 is supposed to be the state of the art, but is expensive.
The other problem is that it doesn’t quite exist yet. Ortovox produced a very small number for the winter, sold only to guide services, SAR teams, and the like (and I think only in Europe?), then produced another very small batch this spring for retail, but the major production still isn’t going to occur until this fall, and some substantial changes are supposed to be coming too. (But supposedly existing units will be ungradable)

Quote:
Originally Posted by splitter View Post
The new ortovox should be sweet too. It has a triple antennae also. Haven't used it. The nice thing about triple antennaes is the beacons can and will be able to communicate with each other.
A third antenna helps for eliminating confusing “spikes” and “nulls” during the final pinpoint phase. The masking/marking and additional features that the Barryvox Pulse, Ortovox S1, and Pieps DSP offer really aren’t directly related to their additional antennas. Third antennas are also in the currently available Ortovox X1 and D3, as well as the upcoming Tracker2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post
Regarding the Pulse movement detection feature. This only matters if the entire group has Pulse beacons.
For its *intended* use, yes. But think of the consequences if, say, I take two Pulse units from my beacon quiver when my wife and I go out on a tour with a large group (something I try to avoid, but that’s another topic...) and - heaven forbid - one of us is buried along with one or more other non-Pulse users. Creates an interesting moral choice: go after the closest or first-acquired signal, or go after the signal whose identity is known to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post
The range on a Tracker seems to be much less than the DSP or D3.
Tracker and D3 ranges are almost exactly identical. DSP range is much greater, but it’s much greater than *any* beacon with directional signals activated. (That is, some multiple-antenna digital beacons with directional signals come close to the DSP range for initial signal acquisition by shutting off all but one antenna and thereby providing only an acoustical signal using analog processing.)
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Shefftz View Post
Tracker and D3 ranges are almost exactly identical. DSP range is much greater, but it’s much greater than *any* beacon with directional signals activated. (That is, some multiple-antenna digital beacons with directional signals come close to the DSP range for initial signal acquisition by shutting off all but one antenna and thereby providing only an acoustical signal using analog processing.)
Just my experience from playing with those beacons in the field last season. I was getting positive locks with the D3 about 10 meters further out than the Tracker. The DSP was locking on about 10 (maybe 15 I forget) meters further than the D3. I was impressed with the D3 enough that I might use it for next season. The sensitivity on the D3 hands down beat the other two beacons. It put me right on top of the buried pack. When zeroing in with the D3. Find your center, and probe beneath your balls. Because that is where the pack was everytime....
post #18 of 27
Let me add, the Tracker was not brand new. So it was not truly a "fair" comparison.
post #19 of 27
The Tracker's range has been boosted a bit over its history, so depending on just how old the model was, that could explain the discrepancy.
My results (meters) for those three beacons were (worst/best alignment of the Barryvox Opto 3000 transmitter):
Tracker 26/48
D3 27/48
DSP 47/66
post #20 of 27
It was least a couple of years old, maybe two or three more than that. I think your hypothesis is spot on.
post #21 of 27
I have used several brands of beacons and the Tracker is the easiest to use, especially for someone with minimal practice when searching for one victim, but unless they have changed it I don't think it works as well as many other brands for multiple search scenarios.
post #22 of 27
The Tracker2 coming out this fall will feature a simple indicator for the presence of multiple signals (like the ARVA Evolution+ and ADvanced, Barryvox Opto 3000, Ortovox D3), but no:
-- separate directional indicators for multiple signals (like the Barryvox Pulse, Ortovox S1);
-- marking/masking (like the Pulse, S1, Pieps DSP); or,
-- manual switchover to analog mode (like Barryvox Opto 3000 and Pulse, ARVA ADvanced).
Whether or not such additional features are an advantage depends in part on individual preferences...
post #23 of 27
Barryvox Pulse is you are skiing with a party that are also using them (otherwise movement function not much use) - easy to use and in the test pit at A-Basin easily handled multiple burials despite doing the normal guy thing and trying it before reading the manual (just wanted to see how intuitive it was). After reading manual at the cafe I went a bit faster.

Barryvox 3000 if you do not need the Pulse function - used these heli skiing, simple to use (10 minutes training & 20 minutes practice), pretty instuitive again.

Best thing about both models is that they have excellent harness/ holster set ups - doesn't seem like a biggy until you have spent your 5th hour or 6th heli run wrestling your tranciever back into a comfortable position under your jacket.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew R View Post
Barryvox 3000 if you do not need the Pulse function
The "Pulse function" is by far the least important of the many (many, many) differences between the Barryvox Pulse and Opto 3000 models. And overall, the motion-sensor function of the Pulse beacon is the most trivial of all the beacon's various innovative features.
post #25 of 27
Whilst technically there are many differences -pactically the 3000 can handle multiple burials almost as well.

So if you do not ski with a party that all have the pulse model then the 3000 offers almost as much and is cheaper, lighter and more compact.

Most people will play with the other functions on the Pulse once or twice - do I want a cross or and arrow? and then use it like any other digital transciever anyway.

It is normally only professionals and serious backcountry/ mountaineering/ heli skiing types that practice diligently and frequently enough to have the necessary equipment and procedure familiarity to conduct an effective search anyway.
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew R View Post
Whilst technically there are many differences -pactically the 3000 can handle multiple burials almost as well.
For a skilled searcher, yes, but that summary can be highly misleading for anyone not familiar with how these two very different beacons function.

In summary, the 3000 is certainly a capable beacon, as well as the lightest multiple-antenna beacon available. The screen indicates a multiple burial, and then automatically switches the accoustics to analog, thereby aiding the searcher's ability to distinguish between different signals. The searcher can also switch into full analog mode with adjustable sensitivity.

But the Pulse uses soft keys to allow the user to scroll though a list of different signals, with different distance readouts for each victim. For a selected signal (which will default to the closest beacon), the Pulse will display a 360-degree arrow (that distinguishes -- albeit slowly sometimes -- between straight ahead and straight behind, unlike other beacons with 3 or 5 directional indicators). Once within the pointpoint phase (whose accuracy is enhanced by a third antenna), the Pulse can mark/mask the found beacon, so as to focus on any remaining signals. So essentially the beacon tries to do all of the thinking for you: a multiburial search just becomes two sequential single burial searches, without having to try to distinguish between multiple simultaneous signals.

All of the features in the previous paragraph are not available in the 3000, so the Pulse offers an entirely different approach to multiburials as compared to the 3000. I'm not saying the Pulse is the best choice for everyone, but the previous poster's statements have the potential to mislead potential purchasers into thinking the two beacons are more alike than they really are. A skilled searcher with the 3000 can indeed handle multiburials almost as well, but from a functional viewpoint, the 3000 handles multiburials using a much different approach than the Pulse. (When I led about 30 students through my beacon practice station at the ski patrol every-other-year Whiteface advanced avy course this past March, I shadowed them with my Pulse -- during the multiburial scenario, it was interesting to see all of them struggle to some extent in separating out the multiple signals, but for the Pulse the two signals were clearly separated, and a multiburial was essentially no more difficult than a single burial.)
post #27 of 27
Good points above about practicing and the Tracker. I concur - the best beacon is the one you practice with and know how to use. I think the Tracker seems to work best for those with less practice. The beacons with more complex and detailed information might be better in certain aspects, but only if you practice with those features; if not, they could become a distraction.

I took a course a couple of winters ago and our group had the opportunity to try several different beacons. We did some good drilling, where the instructor worked to simulate the pressure the group would feel in a burial situation. Consensus was the Tracker would probably be the easiest to use when everyone is freaking out a bit. Familiarity and simplicity turned out to be key features.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Backcountry, Telemark, and Cross Country › Recommendations for an avalanche beacon