Just as there isnít one car that is best for everyone, there
isnít one avalanche transceiver that is best for everyone. And just
as it isnít Consumer Reports role to tell you which car to buy,
it isnít our role to tell you which transceiver to buy.
Of course, Consumer Reports can measure and compare
braking distance, turning radius, fuel consumption, and storage
space. More subjectively, they can compare seating comfort, driverís
visibility, and the arrangement of the dashboard. Which car you
ultimately choose should be based on how you prioritize these features
and how you plan to use your car.
Similarly, the avalanche transceiver you select should be based
on how you prioritize its features and how you plan to use it. If
you wonít spend much time practicing with your transceiver, choose
a unit with minimal features and options. Are you outfitting customers
for a one-day backcountry trip? Choose a unit with the most obvious
controls (ďEverybody change their transceiver to Search now!").
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All of the avalanche transceiver that are rated
4 stars and above are
solid choices. Selecting from within that group should be based
on the features that are import
to you and the price.
With that said, the current avalanche transceivers can be grouped
into these four categories.
Transceivers Without Three Antennas
Two transceivers are still being sold with fewer than three antennas.
The lack of a third antenna means these transceivers cannot resolve "spikes."
These transceivers also lack the ability to "mark" (i.e.,
suppress) a signal during a multiple
The Pieps Freeride is popular with racers
due to its size and weight, but its single antenna
can't provide crucial
during a search.
DTS was a revolutionary breakthrough when it was introduced
in 1997, but that was 1997. Within the BCA product line, all
users would be better off with a
Three-Antenna Transceivers without Multiple-Burial Marking
There are currently two transceivers in this category, the
BCA Tracker2 and
Ortovox Zoom+. These transceivers
have three antennas which
enables them to resolve "spikes,"
yet they lack the ability to "mark" (i.e., suppress) a
signal during a multiple burial search.
Some people consider the ability to mark a multiple burial relatively
unimportant (e.g., multiple burials are less-common and using the
marking feature does require practice). If you don't want the "marking"
feature, these transceivers are worth considering.
Three-Antenna Transceivers with Multiple-Burial Marking
There are currently five transceivers in this category. All have
three antennas to
and all have the ability to "mark" (i.e., suppress) a
signal during a multiple burial search.
Toward the basic end of this category, the
can suppress only one signal at a time. (Based on very preliminary
information, it sounds like the repeatedly delayed
BCA Tracker3 will be similar in
The ARVA Neo,
Pieps DSP Sport (and the recently
discontinued Pieps Tour) have
very similar features, including the ability to suppress more than
one signal. They differ in how well they perform the core functions
and in variations in their displays, controls, harnesses, prices,
etc. These beacons are targeted toward the ďmiddle market.Ē
Transceivers with Additional Features
There are currently four avalanche transceivers that include
three antennas and support the marking of transmitters during a
multiple burial, but which also include one or more additional features.
The value of these additional features depends on your needs.
- The Pieps DSP Pro is
the most traditional avalanche transceiver in this category.
It starts with the features of a DSP Sport and adds an increased
reception range, the longest battery life of any modern transceiver,
and the abilities to test the frequency of another beacon, to
measure slope angles, to scan for nearby beacons, and to search
for a Pieps TX600 dog transmitter. And the Pro adds these features
without complicating the basic searching functionality.
- The Mammut Pulse has
two modes. In the "basic" mode the Pulse is very similar
to the Mammut Element. The
mode adds numerous customizable options—too many to
summarize here. The Pulse also has a unique
that floats freely like a compass needle and can point behind
- The ARVA Pro W (previously
named the "Link") is similar in many ways to the Pulse.
S1+ (and the recently discontinued S1) has a radically different
flip-phone-style housing, a radically different grid-like search
display, and many additional features—once again too extensive
The model of the transceiver you select is far less important
than your ability to use it and your decisions in the backcountry. It's
also important that you take a formal avalanche safety course, engage
in continuing education, read your avalanche bulletin every day,
pay attention to natureís clues in the field, and communicate openly
with your partners.
|Brighton Ski Area Boundary
|This sign "beeps" as you walk
past it to show that your transceiver is transmitting. It
is too bad it can't sound an alarm if you are not
wearing a beacon.