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Avalanche Transceiver Reviews and Specifications
CompareOverloadThis page contains information on 41 models of avalanche transceivers. You can also view a detailed comparison table and read a summary.
 
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Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued in 2001 Dimensions 138 x 84 x 30 mm, 275 grams
    Type Analog (mostly)
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (numeric)
The ARVAs are French transceivers that have not been widely distributed in USA. The ARVA 9000 is an older model that was discontinued in 2001.

Summary: This is an interesting beacon in that it has one antenna, yet the audible tone is digital. The tone increases in both cadence and pitch as you near the victim, and the screen displays digital numbers. Read more about audio feedback here.

Although I have only done moderate testing of this beacon (and it has been discontinued), the ARVA 9000 appears to be one of the most capable of the single-antenna transceivers I have tested (i.e., the long range you would expect from an analog beacon and the best audio and visual indicators of the analogs).

Links Globe Book Antennas 2
Retail Price Discontinued in 2009 Dimensions 135 x 80 x 25 mm, 285 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)
Arva

Summary: The Evolution+ is an excellent two-antenna transceiver that is similar to the ARVA Advanced, Barryvox 3000, and Tracker DTS. The controls are a little more intuitive than the Tracker DTS. The range is similar to the Tracker DTS. The Evolution+ was replaced by the ARVA Evo3 in late-2009.

Searching: Prior to the 2007/2008 update, the Evolution+ displayed five LEDs similar to the ARVA Advanced and Tracker DTS. Beginning with the 2007/2008 update, the direction indicator is an LCD arrow. The audible feedback of all of the ARVA's is excellent.

Multiple Burials: The Evolution+ shows an icon when there are multiple victims. You can toggle the "nose" of the transceiver to enter a scan mode that provides information regarding the multiple victims. Read the details.

Controls: The Evolution+ turns on when the harness is connected. The switch that changes between transmit ("SOS") and search is reasonably intuitive. A bump of the switch conveniently changes from search back to transmit.

Comfort: The Evolution's harness positions the transceiver on your side. The only downside of the ARVA transceivers is they are a little large (47% larger than a Barryvox 3000, 18% larger than a Mammut Pulse, and 25% larger than a Pieps DSP Sport.

Other: The English section of the owner's manual improved in 2007/2008, but it is still somewhat awkward.

Links Globe Book Antennas 2
Retail Price Discontinued in 2009 Dimensions 135 x 80 x 25 mm, 355 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)

Summary: The ARVA Advanced transceiver is both analog and digital (hence the interesting capitalization of ADvanced in much of the literature). It is otherwise very similar to the Evolution+ except as noted below. The ARVA Advanced was replaced by the ARVA 3Axes in late-2009.

Searching: Digital searching is identical to the Evolution+. However, if you press and hold both the "-" and "+" buttons for two seconds, the transceiver switches to analog mode. You can then use the "-" and "+" keys to modify the sensitivity of the analog signal (similar to a classic analog beacon). This is a quick and easy way to change between modes. If you are an old-school analog rescuer or prefer analog mode when searching for multiple victims, the ability to switch to analog mode is great (and is similar to the Barryvox 3000 and Pulse). The BeaconReviews.com range chart displays two ranges for beacons that have both an analog and digital mode.

Multiple Burials: The ARVA Advanced shows an icon when there are multiple victims. Beginning with the 2007/2008 model (which has a semi-transparent housing, versus the opaque housing of the previous model), you can suppress a victim (they refer to this as blocking) by quickly switching from search, to transmit, and then back to search (i.e., by toggling the "nose" switch). Earlier versions of the Advanced performed multiple victim searches by dividing the search area into nine sections that you move through using the "-" and "+" keys. I wasn't a fan of that technique. If you have an earlier ARVA Advanced, you may be able to return it to ARVA (in France) to have it updated. Learn more about searching for multiple victims using the ARVA Advanced here.

Controls: To turn on the Advanced, you connect the wrist strap to the transceiver (versus the Evolution+ turns on when the harness is connected). Changing to search mode is unusual, but simple (you pull the "nose" of the beacon).

Comfort: The harness is different from the Evolution+ (the Evolution's harness is required to turn the unit on whereas the Advanced slides into a pouch on the harness). Both harnesses comfortably position the transceiver.

Other: Some other reviewers (and the manufacture's literature) say that the ARVA has faster processing than other transceivers. The processing seemed similar to the Tracker DTS and little faster than the Pieps DSPs, but I did not attempt to quantify the differences.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price Discontinued in 2011 Dimensions 136 x 80 x 30 mm, 305 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)

Summary: The Evo3 is basically the ARVA Evolution+ with a third antenna to resolve spikes. This is ARVA's easiest-to-use model, with distance and direction indicators.

Searching: The direction indicator on the Evo3 is an LCD arrow similar to the Pieps DSPs. The audible feedback of all of the ARVA's is excellent. The Evo3's third antenna resolves spikes flawlessly.

Multiple Burials: The Evo3 shows an icon when there are multiple victims. You can toggle the "nose" of the transceiver to enter a scan mode that provides information regarding the multiple victims. Read the details.

Controls: The Evo3 turns on when the harness is connected. The switch that changes between transmit ("SOS") and search is reasonably intuitive. A bump of the switch conveniently changes from search back to transmit.

Comfort: The Evo3's harness positions the transceiver on your side. The only downside of the ARVA transceivers is they are a little large (47% larger than a Barryvox 3000, 18% larger than a Mammut Pulse, and 25% larger than a Pieps DSP Sport.

Other: The owner's manual could be improved.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $289.00 Dimensions 136 x 80 x 30 mm, 305 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)
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ARVA Evolution 3+ Avalanche Beacon
ARVA Evo3+

Summary: The Evo3+ is identical to the ARVA Evo3, but it indicates if there is one, two, or more than two victims whereas the Evo3 showed if there was one or more than one victims. Early versions of this beacon supported the marking of a multiple burial by toggling the "nose" switch. In late 2013 a dedicated "mark" button was added as well as the option to purchase the transceiver in red or orange.

The Evo3+ is an easy to use beacon with a relatively short reception range and less than intuitive multiple burial marking.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price Discontinued in 2011 Dimensions 136 x 80 x 30 mm, 280 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)

Summary: The ARVA 3Axes is basically an ARVA Advanced with a third antenna to resolve spikes. As with the Advanced, the 3Axes allows you to toggle between digital and analog modes. (Don't confuse the ARVA 3Axes, which was discontinued in 2011, with the ARVA Axis, a completely new avalanche transceiver that was released in 2011.)

Searching: As with the Advanced, if you press and hold both the "-" and "+" buttons for two seconds, the transceiver switches to analog mode. You can then use the "-" and "+" keys to modify the sensitivity of the analog signal (similar to a classic analog beacon). The 3Axes' third antenna resolves spikes flawlessly.

Multiple Burials: Learn more about searching for multiple victims using the ARVA Advanced here.

Controls: To turn on the Advanced, you connect the wrist strap to the transceiver. Changing to search mode is unusual, but simple (you pull the "nose" of the beacon).

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $359.00 Dimensions 118 x 78 x 26 mm, 350 grams
  Discontinued 10/2013 Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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ARVA Axis Avalanche Beacon
ARVA Axis

Summary: The ARVA Axis is the little brother to the ARVA Pro W (aka Link). This follows the trend of the Pieps Sport (the little brother to the Pieps Pro) and the Mammut Element (the little brother to the Mammut Pulse).

(Don't confuse the ARVA Axis which was released in 2011 and discontinued in 2013 with the ARVA 3Axes which was discontinued in 2011.)

 

Review
Read the full ARVA Axis Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $349.00 Dimensions 123 x 74 x 31 mm, 385 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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ARVA Link Avalanche Beacon
ARVA Link

Summary: The ARVA Neo is a three-antenna avalanche transceiver that supports marking of multiple burials and handles spikes. The controls are easy to use and the screen is intuitive.

Review
Read the full ARVA Neo Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $449.00 Dimensions 118 x 78 x 26 mm, 385 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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ARVA Link Avalanche Beacon
ARVA Link

Summary: The ARVA Pro W (previously named the ARVA Link) is a three-antenna avalanche transceiver with a long range that is similar to the Mammut Pulse (the Pro W was initially developed in partnership with Mammut, the company that developed the Pulse). The Pro W offers both analog and digital modes, supports selective marking of multiple burials and handles spikes. The now-discontinued ARVA Axis was the little brother to the Pro W and shares most of the Pro W's features.

Review
Read the full ARVA Pro W Review

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued in 1994 Dimensions  
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio
This is the first, and now discontinued, Barryvox transceiver. It was commissioned by the Swiss Army in 1968.

I have done minimal testing with this transceiver. It is similar to other single-antenna beacons.

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price €235.00 Dimensions 132 x 75 x 24 mm
    Type Audio
Steve's Score score Indication Analog
Summary: The Barryvox VS 2000 Pro is an analog, single-antenna transceiver. It is available with a RECCO chip for an additional €15. Its sister beacon, the Barryvox VS 2000 Pro Ext, includes a powerful external antenna.

Searching: As with all single-antenna transceivers, you (and not the transceiver) must interpret the flux lines to locate the victim (versus multiple antenna beacons that display a direction indicator). Likewise, single-antenna transceivers cannot compensate for spikes (which you can compensate for with good probing). Unlike most single-antenna analog transceivers, the 2000 Pro does not include any visual indication of signal strength.

Controls: The 2000 Pro has a single dial to change between transmit and receive. This dial also controls the reception sensitivity.

Comfort: The harness is made with a narrow strap and positions the transceiver on the front of your chest.

Read the manufacture's brochure.

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price €680.00 Dimensions 132 x 75 x 24 mm
    Type Audio
Steve's Score score Indication Analog
The Barryvox VS 2000 Pro Ext is almost identical to the VS 2000 Pro, but it has three major distinctions.

First, the Ext (which stands for external) is an avalanche receiver, but not a transmitter. This unit is used strictly for searching by professional rescuers.

Second, the Ext comes with a massive, external antenna. The antenna, which is almost a foot long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter, gives the Ext tremendous range.

Third, the Ext includes a high-quality pair of Peltor headphones to help you hear the signal.

The Ext's true strength is its long range. A rescuer can stand at the top of an avalanche field and search a tremendous area. I've worked with a special version of the Ext which can be lowered out of a helicopter. This allowed us to search avalanche debris for a possible burial without exposing rescuers to the avalanche hazard.

The Ext requires two hands to operate (one to hold the receiver and adjust the sensitivity and the other to aim the antenna). Because it is intended to be used with the headphones, it can't be used with a helmet.

Given the unique design of the Ext, it isn't really fair to rate it using the five-star approach. If you want to know if an avalanche transceiver is transmitting, the Ext can't be beat and disserves five stars. If you want to search for a buried transceiver, the Ext probably disserves two stars due to the lack of a directional or distance indicators (although a skilled rescuer can quickly locate a victim using the handheld antenna). If you want to carry a transceiver with you when you are backcountry skiing, this isn't it.

Links Globe Book Antennas 2
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 108 x 68 x 25 mm, 265 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
Summary: The Barryvox Opto 3000 is a dual mode transceiver that starts receiving in analog mode and switches to digital mode as you near the victim. In addition to its dual mode, it has the benefits of two-antenna beacons, offers customization, and is small. This is my favorite two-antenna beacon. Although the Tracker DTS is easier to use, I like the 3000's ability to switch into analog mode and its small size.

An earlier version of the 3000 was packaged in a blue case. I'm unsure of the differences between the blue and red models.

The 3000 beacon has been discontinued and replaced by the Mammut Pulse.

Searching: The Barryvox 3000 displays an intuitive arrow to indicate the direction. It does not have the ability to suppress a transceiver during a multiple burial, but it does indicate when there is more than one victim and the analog tone helps experienced users resolve multiple burials.

Two distances are shown for the Barryvox 3000 in the range chart, because it starts in analog mode and then switches to digital mode. You can also manually switch between analog and digital mode.

An article in a popular backcountry magazine mentioned that in their testing the 3000 had a range of only 14 meters when the antennas were in worst orientation (i.e., the transmitting and receiving beacons were perpendicular). That has not been the case in my tests where the 3000 has an average range of 23 meters (view the testing details) in worse orientation versus an average of 27.2 meters for all digital beacons (again in worst orientation).

Controls: The On/Off switch is located on the back of the transceiver and is very intuitive. However, changing from transmit to receive is far from intuitive: you press the Mode button three times. If you press it too quickly (as you might do when your buddy is dying), the mode does not change. To return to transmit mode, you press and hold the Mode button for a few seconds–not easy to do during a secondary avalanche. As an informal test, I often hand the 3000 to someone unfamiliar with it and urgently ask them to change to receive mode. Nobody has ever passed the test. Of course, if you own a 3000 it is certainly easy-enough to learn how to change modes, but is not intuitive.

Customization: The Barryvox 3000 allows you to modify several configuration options. You enter the customization section by holding both the "+" and "-" buttons pressed during startup. You can then control:

  • Whether it should start searching in analog mode and then switch to digital mode ("dA") or only search in digital mode ("d").
  • When the direction arrow should stop displaying (3.0 m or 0.3 m).If it should automatically return to send mode after 4 minutes ("r4"), after 8 minutes ("r8"), or not automatically return ("r-").
  • If the ear phone should be quiet ("E1") or loud ("E2").
  • The type of audio tone during the digital search: no tone ("S1"), digital tone ("S2"), or analog tone ("S3").

These are great features, although having the same make and model beacons behave differently may be confusing during an emergency.

Comfort: The Barryvox 3000 was the smallest avalanche transceiver until the Pieps Freeride was released.

Other: The 3000 can be configured to switch between an analog and digital transceiver with the press of the Mode button (the "S2" setting, above).

Links Globe Book Antennas 2
Retail Price $289.95 Dimensions 141 x 83 x 30 mm, 400 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)
Summary: The Tracker DTS from Backcountry Access (BCA) is a popular and easy to use beacon. It set the standard as the first two-antenna transceiver in 1997. However, it has one the shortest ranges of the digital beacons and many of the newer digital beacons have easier to use controls. The Tracker2 has many improvements over the Tracker DTS.

(Note that BCA increased the recommended search strip width of the Tracker DTS, from 20 meters to 40 meters, during 2010. The 2010/11 Tracker DTS user manual mentions both 20 and 40 meters, but the manufacture has informed me that they now consider the recommended width to be 40 meters.)

Searching: Intuitive blinking lights indicate the direction. The DTS senses changes in direction quickly. If you get off-course by a few degrees, the lights promptly indicate the new direction.

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BCA Tracker DTS Beacon
Tracker DTS

The Tracker DTS' multiple burial feature takes some serious practice. The fine search can be a little confusing, because the directional indicators (lights) continue to point (often away from the victim) no matter how close you are to the victim. To compensate for this, ignore the directional lights and use the distance numbers when you are within 2 or 3 meters of the victim. Because the Tracker DTS has two-antennas (unlike the Tracker2 which has three antennas), it is unable to resolve spikes.

Controls: Turning the DTS on is obvious. Changing to search mode is easy, but not intuitive (you press the large red button until the letters "SE" are displayed at which point you release the button). There is a yellow button that narrows the range to help find multiple burials. This works fairly well, but requires practice. If you turn the unit on while pressing the yellow button, the Tracker DTS will automatically switch from receive to transmit mode if it doesn't receive a signal in a few minutes.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $335.00 Dimensions 132 x 83 x 28 mm, 330 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (direction and distance)
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Backcountry Access Tracker 2
Tracker2
Summary: The Tracker2 is a three-antenna transceiver from Backcountry Access (BCA) that was released in early 2010. Compared to the original Tracker (DTS), the Tracker2 is even easier to use, has a slightly longer reception range, has a larger display, resolves spikes flawlessly, turns the direction indicator off  when it is within 3 meters, includes a multiple burial indicator light, and it can be periodically upgraded with newer features. It's also 18% lighter and 13% smaller.

This is a sold no-frills avalanche transceiver at a competitive price. (Read the latest rumors about the Tracker3.)

Read the full Tracker2 Review
Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $350.00 Dimensions 113 x 72 x 27 mm, 315 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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Mammut Element Barryvox Avalanche Beacon
Mammut Element
Summary: The Mammut Element Barryvox is the little brother to the Mammut Pulse. It still includes the core features of the Pulse, including support for multiple burials, but it removes one of the buttons and a few bells and whistles (e.g., toggling to analog mode and the "floating" direction indicator) to create an easy to use avalanche transceiver (and save you $140.00us).

Review
Read the full Mammut Element Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $490.00 Dimensions 113 x 75 x 27 mm, 320 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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Mammut Pulse Avalanche Beacon
Mammut Pulse
Summary: The Mammut Pulse Barryvox is a small, three-antenna, avalanche transceiver with a long range. It offers both analog and digital modes, supports marking of multiple burials, handles spikes well, and has a floating direction arrow that can indicate minor changes in direction as well as point behind you if you are moving the wrong direction. If the victim also has a Pulse transceiver (which has been configured for use in the same region), it can tell you if the victim is alive by sensing tiny movement (hence the name Pulse).

Review
Read the full Mammut Pulse Review

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 150 x 85 x 25 mm, 340 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio (earpiece only)
The model number "F2" is a bit confusing, as the F2 was released before the F1 (i.e., in 1980 versus 1989). The naming scheme is based on the fact that F2 operates on two frequencies. The F2 transmits and receives on both 457 kHz (the current frequency) and 2.275 457 kHz. This allowed it locate both current and ancient beacons. Learn more about frequencies here.

This now-discontinued beacon was a strong contender during its day, but the wired earpiece is very awkward (the F2 does not have a speaker). The wire gets stiff when cold, it is difficult to connect when wearing gloves, and it is difficult to keep the earpiece in place (there is not a loop that goes behind your ear). I would not want to be buried while my partner on the surface struggled with the earpiece.

The F2 is rumored to suffer from frequency drift which makes it more difficult for digital beacons to locate. (I only tested the transmitting frequency of two units and both were fine.)

Given the transceiver's age, the awkward earphone, the fact that it does not have a visual indication of signal strength, and the fact that I encountered two failures when testing three units (a non-functioning earpiece and a unit with a very short range), it is time to retire all F2s.

See the review of the M2 for general information on Ortovox analog transceivers.

Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price $249—Discontinued in 2012 Dimensions 130 x 80 x 25 mm, 240 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, Lights (signal strength)
The Ortovox F1 is Ortovox's single-antenna, pure-analog beacon. It was a very popular analog avalanche transceiver. The first F1, released in 1989, was light blue and had no lights. In 1990 one light was added, and in 1994 the beacon was renamed the F1 Focus and three lights were added (red, yellow, and green). In 2002 the beacon was equipped with larger lights and the case was changed to a darker blue. It was discontinued in 2012. 

Although the F1 lacks the ease-of-use of a digital beacon (i.e., it does not have distance or direction indicators), it has a long range, simple controls, and a small size. If you are willing to learn how (or already know how) to use an analog beacon, the F1 is a solid avalanche transceiver. This was my favorite beacon for many years. See the review of the M2 for general information on Ortovox analog transceivers.

Note that newer digital transceivers will occasionally report multiple transmitters (i.e., a "multiple burial") when receiving a signal from a single F1. This seems to be most common with the Tracker2 and the Pieps DSPs when receiving a signal from an older F1.
Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 145 x 60 x 25 mm, 315 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LED (signal strength)
The M1 was released in 1998 and discontinued in approximately 2000. See the review of the M2 for a similar Ortovox analog transceiver.
Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price $299.95 (discontinued) Dimensions 145 x 60 x 25 mm, 315 grams
    Type Analog (mostly)
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LED (signal strength)

(The gray M2 is very similar to the M1. It was first released in 1999 and the blue version was released in 2001. Manufacturing of the M2 was discontinued in 2009.)

Summary: The M2 is a solid performing single-antenna beacon.

Searching: The long single antenna in the "M" series provides a long range. However, as with all single-antenna transceivers, you (and not the transceiver) must interpret the flux lines to locate the victim (versus multiple antenna beacons that display a direction indicator). Likewise, single-antenna transceivers cannot compensate for spikes (which you can compensate for with good probing). Although I was a big fan of the Ortovox single-antenna beacons for many years, I personally feel that the advantages of multiple-antenna transceivers no longer make single-antenna beacons the best choice for most users.

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Ortovox Zoom
Ortovox Zoom+

The M2 is primarily an analog beacon. The audio signal is always analog (the volume increases, but the tone and cadence remain constant). The digital portion of the transceiver kicks in when you are within approximately 30 meters (and the distance indicator displays 40 meters). At this point the M2 displays the distance to the transmitting beacon. Although the M2 does not have a direction indicator that points to the victim, an arrow on the M2's display darkens when it receives the strongest signal (i.e., when it is aligned with a flux line).

Controls: All analog Ortovox transceivers turn on via the harness: when you put it on, it turns on. Most of the other transceivers turn on via a switch. People familiar with the approach used on the analog Ortovox transceivers have reported that they sometimes forget to turn on the manually-switched transceivers. You know what they say about teaching those old dogs new tricks! Changing to search mode is fairly intuitive.

Comfort: All of the Ortovox harnesses are comfortable. The M1 and M2 are relatively large. The long banana-style allows for a long and effective, albeit single, antenna.

Other: The Ortovox M1 and M2 were recalled for a replacement battery door. If you have an M1 or M2, you should get the new (free) door.

Links Globe Book Antennas 2 (initially) or 3 (since 2005)
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 130 x 80 x 25 mm, 250 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LED (direction and distance)
Summary: The Ortovox X1 was released as a two-antenna dual mode (analog and digital) transceiver in 2002.It was later changed to a three-antenna (still dual mode) transceiver and eventually became the Patroller. I tested both the two- and three-antenna variations of the X1. Per the comments in the Searching section (below), I find this transceiver unacceptable (I tested four units).

Searching: The X1 begins in analog mode using a single antenna. The distance indicator appears when the transceiver senses a distance of approximately 40 m. The direction indicators (lights) do not appear until the distance displays 15 m. Unless you are skilled at locating a victim without direction indicators, the lack of a direction display until you are closer than 15 meters is too short. And if you are skilled at getting within 15 meters of a victim without a direction indicator, then a single-antenna Ortovox F1, M2, or Freeride may be a better choice. Also, the directional indicator (only three lights) were slow to respond to searcher movement and jumpy (similar to the Ortovox D3).

According to Ortovox, when the three-antenna version of the X1 is within two meters of the victim, the lights turn off and the third antenna is enabled similar to the Ortovox D3. However, in my testing, the X1 (both two- and three-antenna) was unable to accurately resolve spikes.

Although the X1's analog range is very long, the fact that the direction indicators do not appear until 15 meters (versus approximately 35 meters for the Tracker DTS and 50 meters for the Pieps DSP, Mammut Pulse, and Tracker2), and the fact that even the three-antenna model cannot resolve spikes, makes the X1, in my opinion, unacceptable.

Controls: The controls on the X1 are simple and easy to use.

Comfort: As with the other Ortovox transceivers, the harness is very comfortable.

Other: In my testing the X1 handled frequency drift poorly (I had to be within two meters of a transceiver that was transmitting +200 Hz off frequency before the direction arrow was displayed).

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $299.00 Dimensions 130 x 80 x 20 mm, 250 grams
  Discontinued in 2013 Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LED (direction and distance)
Summary: The Ortovox Patroller is a three-antenna dual mode (analog and digital) transceiver that evolved from the Ortovox X1. In my testing, the unit did not suffer from the sluggish and jumpy direction indicator problems of the Ortovox X1 and Ortovox D3, but its direction indicator is limited (by design) to about 15 meters. The Patroller was discontinued in 2013.

Searching: As with the Ortovox X1, the Patroller begins in analog mode using a single antenna. The distance indicator then appears when the transceiver is approximately 40 m from the transmitter. The direction indicator lights appear when the distance is approximately 15 m. The directional indicator then does and excellent job of guiding you to the transmitter. This approach, using a single antenna until you are within 15 meters and then displaying a directional indicator, is by design. Unfortunately, unless you are skilled with an analog transceiver, the lack of a direction indicator until you are 15 meters from the victim is simply too limiting.

When the Patroller is within two meters of the victim (2.1 meters, actually), the direction indicator lights turn off (a good thing).

As with the Ortovox D3 (and unlike all other three-antenna transceivers), the Patroller struggled to resolve spikes. In my testing, the Patroller and D3 performed a little better than two antenna transceivers at resolving spikes, but a careful fine search repeatedly centered the transceiver over the spikes rather than the victim.

Although the Patroller's analog range is extremely long, the fact that the direction indicator does not appear until 15 meters (versus approximately 35 meters for the Tracker2 and 50 meters for the Pieps DSP, Mammut Pulse, Ortovox S1), and the fact that even with three-antennas it does not accurately resolve spikes, makes the Patroller a less than optimum choice for most people. However, if you are skilled with an analog beacon, the long reception range is very impressive .

Controls: The controls on the Patroller are simple and easy to use.

Comfort: As with the other Ortovox transceivers, the harness is very comfortable.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $249.00 Dimensions 130 x 80 x 25 mm, 270 grams
  Discontinued in 2013 Type Digital
Steve's Score score  Indication Audio, LED (direction and distance)
Summary: The Ortovox Patroller Digital is a three-antenna dual mode (analog and digital) transceiver that evolved from the Ortovox D3 (whereas the Patroller without the "Digital" is an analog/digital transceiver that evolved from the X1). I have not tested the Patroller Digital.

The Patroller Digital was discontinued in 2013.
Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price Discontinued in 2010 Dimensions 130 x 80 x 25 mm, 330 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LED (direction and distance)
The Ortovox D3 is a three-antenna digital transceiver (versus the X1 and Patroller which are dual mode analog and digital). It displays the distance indicator and direction indicator when it first locks on to the transmitting beacon (at approximately 35 meters in my testing).

As with the Ortovox Patroller (and unlike all other three-antenna transceivers), the D3 struggled to resolve spikes. In my testing, the Patroller and D3 performed a little better than two antenna transceivers at resolving spikes, but a careful fine search repeatedly centered the transceiver over the spikes rather than the victim.

I tested four different D3s and in my testing the direction indicator (as with the X1) was jumpy and sluggish (frequently slow to change the direction indicator when 20+ meters from the victim).

Considering the jumpy direction indicator and the fact that this three-antenna avalanche transceiver does not accurately resolve spikes, I'm under-impressed.

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $299.00 Dimensions 117 x 80 x 24 mm, 285 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LED (direction and distance)
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Ortovox Zoom
Ortovox Zoom+
Summary:  As with the Ortovox 3+, the Zoom+ is a small, three-antenna, avalanche transceiver with a modest range that includes the innovative transmitting logic that can increase the distance at which other transceivers will receive its signal. The Zoom+ does not support software updates.

The strength of the Zoom+ is in its simplicity—there are only two controls: a dial to turn it off and on, and an M2-like switch to change between transmitting and searching.

The Zoom+ follows the trend of the Pieps Tour, Pieps Sport, and the Mammut Element in seeking simplicity. As with the Tracker2, the Zoom+ does not support the marking of multiple victims in its pursuit of simplicity.


Read the full Ortovox Zoom+ Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $349.00 Dimensions 122 x 73 x 27 mm, 315 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD (direction and distance)
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Ortovox 3+
Ortovox 3+
Summary:  The Ortovox 3+ is a small, three-antenna, avalanche transceiver with a modest range. It introduced 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 handles spikes well. The no-nonsense display makes it easy to locate the victim. The 3+ supports software upgrades and is the first transceiver to come in a choice of colors: green apple and phantom black.

(A limited number of 3+ transceivers were recalled in late-2012. Learn more here.)


Read the full Ortovox 3+ Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 123 x 79 x 30 mm, 360 grams
    Type Analog and Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD Screen
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Ortovox S1 Avalanche Transceiver
Ortovox S1+
Ortovox S1 Avalanche TransceiverSummary: The Ortovox S1 has a unique flip-phone design where opening the transceiver initiates search mode. The S1 displays information on a computer-like screen and uses icon-based menus. To search for a victim, you follow a stick-figure image of a victim on the screen (rather than using a traditional directional indicator that points to the victim).

The S1 has been replaced by the S1+. If you have either the S1 or the S1+, be sure to get the latest updates.

Review
Read the full Ortovox S1 Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $449.00 Dimensions 123 x 79 x 30 mm, ??? grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication LCD Screen
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Ortovox S1 Avalanche Transceiver
Ortovox S1+
Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Transceiver

Summary: The Ortovox S1+ is the successor to the Ortovox S1. Differences between the S1+ and S1 include:

  • The S1+ includes the "smart antenna" technology that was first introduced in the Ortovox 3+. This can improve the ability of other transceivers to locate the S1+. The addition of the smart antenna resulted in a slightly longer "y-axis" antenna which should, theoretically, allow for a slightly wider search strip width than the basic S1.
  • The number of batteries was reduced from 3 to 2. Ortovox tells me that the removal of the battery resulted in a longer reception range (due to a reduction of interference).
  • The device has a rubberized coating that makes it easier to hold with gloves.
  • The S1+ uses an accelerometer, rather than a compass, to sense subtle changes in direction while searching.
  • The S1+ does not include a thermometer or navigation compass.
  • The S1+ cannot be switched to analog.
  • The menus have been redesigned to have fewer icons and be more intuitive. (You can upgrade your S1 to simplify the menus.)
  • The S1+ includes a new "deep burial" mode. (You can upgrade your S1 to have this feature.)

The S1+ began shipping in Late-2011.

For more information, read the review of the Ortovox S1.

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 117 x 71 x 22 mm, 245 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio (earpiece only)

In electronic years the Pieps 1 is Precambrian. It transmits and receives on the old 2.275 frequency, uses an easily bumped push button to switch between transmit and receive, has an awkward earpiece, etc. I'm thankful for the engineers who designed this, but if you own one, retire it yesterday.

 

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 118 x 77 x 22 mm, 245 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio (earpiece only)

The Pieps 2 was a significant improvement over the Pieps 1, but it too transmits and receives on the old 2.275 frequency. Retire it.

 

 

Links Globe Antennas 1
Retail Price Discontinued Dimensions 123 x 83 x 26 mm, 230 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score  Indication Audio, LED
I haven't tested this old workhorse. I expect that it performs similar to the other analog beacons. This was originally released in 1991 and updated in 1998.
Links Globe Book Antennas 1 (transmit only)
Retail Price $149.95 Dimensions 62 x 47 x 19 mm, 70 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score NA Indication None

Pieps CheckerSummary: The Pieps Backup is a one-of-a-kind device. Rather than transmitting all of the time, the Backup only transmits a signal if it does not sense a nearby transmitter and there isn't any significant motion. It's intended to be worn in addition to an avalanche transceiver. If you get buried (i.e., no motion) and your avalanche transceiver isn't transmitting (either because you were in search mode when you were buried and your transceiver doesn't have an "auto-revert to transmit" mode, or because your transceiver was damaged as you were strained through the trees), the Backup will begin transmitting.

One of the selling pitches for the Backup is that it's an effective way to replace the "revert to transmit" mode found in many transceivers. That mode causes your transceiver to return to transmit mode if you are buried while searching. The Ortovox 3+, Ortovox S1, and the Mammut Pulse have motion sensors that'll revert based on time and motion. Most "revert to transmit" transceivers revert based on time.

The Backup's battery will last 150 hours in dormant mode and one hour in transmit mode. The single hour is plenty if you're going to be found alive, but it's not very long for rescuers who might want to recover your body.

Please remember that this is a transmitter and not a transceiver. You can't use the Backup to search for your partner.

Links Globe Antennas 1 (receive only)
Retail Price $29.95 Dimensions 51 x 35 x 17 mm, 19 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score NA Indication ??

Pieps CheckerSummary: Released during the 2009/2010 season, the Pieps Checker is a tiny device that you can use to test avalanche transceivers. It's primarily intended for backcountry guides so they can test their client's beacons before heading out in the morning (and maybe after lunch). It has a maximum range of 100 cm (1 meter).

The Pulse, 3+, and S1 have a test mode similar to the Checker. The DSP has a frequency tester that displays the accuracy of the transmitting beacon, but not its signal strength.

Links Globe Book Antennas 1 (transmit only)
Retail Price $149.95 Dimensions 62 x 47 x 19 mm, 70 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score NA Indication None

Pieps CheckerSummary: The Pieps TX600 is a miniature transmitter for dogs and other equipment (like that pricy sled) that might be buried by an avalanche, but which should never interfere with the search for humans.

The TX600 transmits 1 kHz below the frequency used by avalanche transceivers (i.e., at 456 kHz), so it will not be received when searching for an avalanche transceiver. The original Pieps DSP (with the version 8.2 update), the Pieps DSP Pro, and the Pieps Vector can be toggled into a special mode where they will then search for this off-frequency signal. 

Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price $199.95 Dimensions 110 x 58 x 24 mm, 265 grams
    Type Hybrid (single antenna digital)
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (distance)
Summary: The Freeride is a single-antenna digital transceiver. This is definitely the smallest avalanche transceiver (it is less than half the size of the Tracker DTS).

There are significant limitations with the Freeride. See the details in the full review before you purchase this transceiver.
Review
Read the full Freeride Review
Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $349.95 Dimensions 116 x 75 x 27 mm, 360 grams
  Discontinued in 2013 Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
Pieps Tour
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Pieps DSP Tour Avalanche Beacon
Pieps Tour

The Pieps Tour was replaced by the Pieps DSP Sport in October 2013 after Pieps was acquired by Black Diamond Equipment.

Summary: The Pieps Tour is a near-twin to the popular Pieps DSP, but it has one button (versus three on the DSP) which results in an easier to use transceiver with a lower price tag.

Review

Read the Pieps Tour Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $450.00 Dimensions 116 x 75 x 27 mm, 360 grams
  Discontinued in 2013 Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
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Pieps (original) DSP
Pieps DSP

The Pieps DSP was replaced by the Pieps DSP Pro in October 2013 after Pieps was acquired by Black Diamond Equipment.

Summary: The Pieps DSP has one of the longest ranges of the digitals, it allows you to suppress a transceiver during a multiple burial, its third antenna is excellent at dealing with spikes during deeper burials, it handles frequency drift well, it has a simple user interface (although the Pieps Tour is now even easier), and it can be upgraded via the earphone jack.

Review
Read the full Pieps DSP Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price Discontinued in 2009 Dimensions 116 x 75 x 27 mm, 360 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
The Pieps DSP Advanced included the same features as the Pieps DSP plus it included a temperature display, compass, and barometric altimeter. The Advanced was only released in the United States and was discontinued in 2009.

Review

Read the full Pieps DSP Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $599.95us Dimensions 132 x 75 x 26 mm, 345 grams
  Recalled Type Digital
Steve's Score Conflicted Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)

Pieps VectorSummary: The Pieps Vector combines a GPS with an avalanche transceiver to create a totally new class of transceiver. Initially announced in 2010 and delayed multiple times, the Vector was released in Canada and Europe in late 2012. It was subsequently recalled in late 2013.

The Pieps Vector has been recalled.
"Please stop using the PIEPS VECTOR immediately."

Review

Read the Pieps Vector Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $274.95 Dimensions 116 x 75 x 28 mm, 310 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
Pieps DSP Sport
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Pieps DSP Tour Avalanche Beacon
Pieps Tour

Summary: The Pieps DSP Sport replaced the popular Pieps DSP Tour in late-2013. The Sport has several improvements over the Tour and costs $75 less.

Review

Read the Pieps DSP Sport Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 3
Retail Price $374.95 Dimensions 116 x 75 x 28 mm, 310 grams
    Type Digital
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LCD (direction and distance)
Pieps DSP Pro
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Pieps DSP Pro
DSP Pro

Summary: The Pieps DSP Pro replaced the popular Pieps DSP in late-2013. The Pro has several improvements over the original DSP and costs $75 less.

Review

Read the Pieps DSP Pro Review

Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price $264.95 Dimensions 120 x 70 x 25 mm, 210 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (signal strength)
The sales information for the SOS F1-ND touted it as a digital beacon, but the only thing digital about this beacon are the LED lights. The sales pitch also implies you can follow the lights, but that is not true unless you know how to line-up the transceiver with the flux lines. Bottom line: this is a single-antenna analog beacon.

Summary: Other than the "digital" marketing, the SOS F1 is very similar to the Ortovox F1.

Controls: The SOS turns on by twisting a 90° bayonet plug similar to many of the Ortovox transceivers. You enable transmit or receive (search) modes by moving a slide switch.

Links Globe Book Antennas 1
Retail Price $2??.95 Dimensions 120 x 70 x 25 mm, 250 grams
    Type Analog
Steve's Score score Indication Audio, LEDs (signal strength)
The SOS-SB includes the same features as the SOS F1-ND (above) plus it can locate an SOS "Bug Device" which is attached to skis, a dog collar, a snowmobile, etc. You activate the "bug" search by pressing a recessed button on the bottom of the beacon.
 

Compare
Compare Avalanche Transceivers

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Ortovox 3+
Ortovox 3+
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Mammut Pulse Avalanche Beacon
Mammut Pulse
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Pieps (original) DSP
Pieps DSP
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Backcountry Access Tracker 2
Tracker2
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Ortovox S1 Avalanche Transceiver
Ortovox S1+
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