The Ortovox 3+ is a small, three-antenna,
avalanche transceiver with a modest
range. It has
logic that can increase the distance at which other
transceivers will receive its signal. The 3+ does
an excellent job of suppressing
well. The no-nonsense display makes it easy to locate
the victim. The 3+ supports software
and is the first transceiver to come in a choice of
colors: green apple and phantom black.
Notice: There is an
online discussion about the 3+ getting confused ("quirky")
during the coarse
search. I did not see this during my testing, but I've
heard reports from several people. My trusted colleague,
Jonathan Shefftz, wrote
this article about the oddity. His article contains
two videos (one
two) that show the issue. I talked to the top people
at Ortovox who say that the problems people are reporting
are the result of background
interference (and in Jonathan's case, the video camera).
I just don't know. In Jonathan's case, he saw the problem
and then recorded it with a camera. Ortovox feels strongly
that this is not re-creatable in the backcountry. Although
I have not seen the quirks, I've heard from enough people
to make my five-star rating soft.
3+ has a modest reception
range (similar to the ARVA's and
Version 1.0 first displayed the distance indicator and if
you waited a few moments, it displayed the direction indicator.
After a few more moments, it emitted the audio indication.
reportedly displays all three indications at once.
3+ has a recommended search
strip width of "up to 40 meters." As with
all transceivers, it's better to make narrower search
strips than to end up at the toe of the avalanche without
receiving a signal.
The direction is indicated with an arrow that can point
in seven different directions. When pointed straight ahead,
the arrow is solid black to indicate that you're aligned
with a flux line. The estimated distance to the transmitter
is displayed in the center of the screen.
While searching, the
audio indication is a digital beep. During the
fine search, the
cadence and pitch increase.
As with most transceivers (the exceptions being the
Ortovox S3 and the
Mammut Pulse), if
you are headed in the wrong direction (which can easily
happen, since transceivers simply align you with the transmitting
beacon's flux lines)
you will need to notice that the distance is increasing
and turn around.
Spikes: Spike handling
Multiple Burials: The 3+'s handling
of multiple burials is
similar to most of the top-ranked transceivers: you press
a button to ignore the nearest beacon and advance to the
next. During testing, the 3+'s marking was excellent.
Read the details
Transmitting: All avalanche beacons transmit
on a single antenna. If that one antenna ends up pointing
vertically, the range
at which a horizontally-held searching transceiver can
receive the signal is significantly reduced (and the vertically
oriented transmitters broadcast
flux lines that are
more difficult for searching transceivers to interpret).
However, the 3+ (and now the
S1+ and Zoom+) has
a unique feature where it can transmit on either
of two antennas based on the transceiver's physical
orientation. If the 3+'s senses that its primary antenna
is aimed skyward (which will theoretically occur 25 percent
of the time), it will instead transmit on the more-horizontally
oriented antenna. This is a nifty feature that can improve
the range at which searchers will receive your signal and
make it easier for the searching transceivers to locate
your transceiver. I've tested this feature just enough to
know that it works, but I haven't had enough time with a
3+ to quantify its value. In any case, based on the time
that I have spent with the 3+, it is a worthy transceiver
even without this feature (and let's hope your rescuers
make properly spaced search
strips during the
which will ensure that they locate your signal).
Controls: The 3+ is powered on by turning
the knob that secures the battery. The markings to turn
the device on, off, and to open the battery are a bit difficult
to read and somewhat obfuscated by the 3+'s logo. You'll
figure it out within a few minutes after purchasing the
3+, but hand the unit to a novice they may struggle turning
it on. It is possible to turn on the 3+ without realizing
that it is in search mode.
to Transmit: To change from transmit to search
mode, you simultaneously slide two switches outward. There's
no chance you'll do this by mistake and it's easy
to learn, but if you hand the 3+ to a novice and start screaming, "Change
it to search mode!" they may not be able to do so.
This switch is not a deal breaker by any means
and it will only affect people who haven't used a 3+,
but it is worth noting. I think a single switch that can
be in either the Off, Transmit, or Search position is more
Revert to Transmit: If the 3+ is in
receive mode for two minutes without any motion (e.g., if
a searcher is buried while searching), it will
automatically revert to transmit
mode. Sensing motion is good because it prevents the
beacon from returning to transmit mode during the search
and confusing the other searchers. However, there are valid
concerns that reverting to send when a second avalanche
strikes may result in a transmitting beacon that is no longer
attached to a rescuer.
Ortovox's decision to use a fixed time period (two minutes)
simplifies the user interface (e.g., no menus or tricky
button presses). (A limited number of 3+ transceivers were
recalled in late-2012 due to a problem with "revert
to transmit" functionality.
Learn more here.)
the 3+ will give an audible warning for 10 seconds before
reverting to transmit. That's extremely important (and worth
getting the update) or a rescuer's beacon can unexpectedly
begin transmitting during a search.
Replacement: The single AA battery is retained
with a small, permanently attached, knob. I floundered while
trying to close the battery compartment, until I discovered
that the knob, and the strap that connects it to the transceiver,
must both be rotated counter clockwise before inserting
Comfort: The 3+ is 21% lighter than the
DTS, 13% lighter than the
S1 and the
5% lighter than the
and 2% lighter than the
The 3+ has a comfortable pouch-style harness that closes
with a zipper. The elastic retention cord on the 3+ is unique,
in that it threaded up through one of the harness straps.
This makes the cord short when retracted (about 10 inches)
and longer when stretched and extended (about 24 inches).
Disconnecting the 3+ from its harness takes a little work,
because there isn't a disconnect clasp.
Group Check: The Ortovox 3+ includes a
group check mode (as do several other transceivers as listed
table). Enabling the mode requires a good memory. Here
are the steps:
- With the transceiver turned off, enter
search mode by
sliding the two switches outward.
- Turn the transceiver on (i.e., slide the release
catch and then twist the battery compartment knob counterclockwise).
- Immediately press and hold the multi-burial
Mark ("flag") button. You must begin pressing
the button when "UP" is displayed on the screen
(i.e., quickly) and keep the button pressed
until the battery percentage disappears and "--"
appears (about five seconds).
When the group check mode is activated, the screen will
display "00" when a properly transmitting beacon
comes within one meter, "--" if no transmitter
is within one meter, or an error code between "E1"
and "E7" if a improperly transmitting beacon is
within one meter. The seven error codes are explained in
the user's manual.
Updates: The 3+ can be updated by taking it to
a participating retailer or by mailing the unit to an Ortovox
service center. Learn more about
updating the 3+.
Self Testing: During startup, the 3+
performs a self test that will
display an error code if anything is amiss. The codes are
E1 (a problem with the transmitter or receiver), E2 (a problem
with antenna reception), E3 (a problem with antenna transmission),
or E4 (a memory error).
Sole Battery: The 3+ is the only three
antenna transceiver that uses a single AA battery (and it
still meets the EN 300 718 standard).
RECCO Reflector. Ortovox began installing
a RECCO reflector in the 3+ in October
2013. (Read the
View the comparison table for
more information regarding the Ortovox 3+.