The Ortovox 3+ is a small, three-antenna, avalanche
transceiver with a modest range. It has
innovative transmitting logic
that can increase the distance at which other transceivers will receive
its signal. The 3+ does an excellent job of suppressing
multiple burials and
spikes well. The
no-nonsense display makes it easy to locate the victim. The 3+ supports software
is the first transceiver to come in a choice of colors: green apple and phantom
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
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 Tracker's).
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. Version 1.1
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 is excellent.
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 here.
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
Ortovox 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 signal search 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 intuitive.
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.
This feature is also found in the
Mammut Pulse, the
and the Ortovox Zoom+.
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 send" functionality.
Learn more here.)
Beginning with version 1.1,
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 the knob.
Comfort: The 3+ is 21% lighter than the
Tracker DTS, 13% lighter
than the Ortovox S1 and
the Pulse DSP, 5% lighter
than the Tracker2, and
2% lighter than the Mammut
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 the Mammut Pulse and the Ortovox S1). Enabling the mode requires a good memory.
Here are the steps:
- With the transceiver turned off, enter search mode by
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
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
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
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+.
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).
Battery: The 3+ is the only three antenna transceiver that uses a single
AA battery (and it still meets the EN 300 718 standard).
View the comparison table for more information
regarding the Ortovox 3+.