Imagine being trapped in the snow all alone or with your friends searching for you to no avail. You know going skiing can be life-threatening sometimes, especially if you are not aware of the avalanche ahead. Well, technology has done it again; there is now a device available to help you avoid risky situations by keeping track of your location. An Avalanche Beacon is a small emergency locator device, operating at 457 kHz. This device was invented to help locate people buried under the snow by sending out a signal to a global monitoring center. This device is especially useful for lone travelers. If you are someone who loves skiing, get yourself one of these devices. In this article, you will find a list of the best avalanche beacons, as well as how to pick an avalanche beacon for skiing.
What are the Types of Avalanche Beacon?
Avalanche Beacons come in two types- Analog and Digital:
- Analog: Analog Avalanche Beacons work by transmitting pulsed signals in the form of a perceptible tone to the user. And as the user gets nearer to the transmitting beacon, the tone gets louder. This type of analog beacon provides a visual indication as well through the use of LEDs that can shine through the snow. It also comes with an earpiece to enhance the ability of the user to perceive the sound. Analog beacons were the first kind of beacon ever used. Analog beacons have the advantage of operating at a larger distance.
- Digital: Digital avalanche beacons use the potency of the signal and the released dipole flux pattern to roughly locate the transmitting beacon. It calculates the distance and direction to the buried beacon. The digital beacon, upon receiving the transceiver signal, will indicate the direction to the victim’s transceiver. The beacon will show an arrow on the display and give out audio cues in the form of diverse pitch or frequency. The digital beacon displays a “U-Turn” on the indicator if the person is traveling away in a different direction from the victim. Most digital beacons also include an analog mode for improved reception. Digital beacon comes with three smart antennas.
What is Important in an Avalanche Beacon?
- Range: Consider purchasing a beacon with a higher range. The wider the receivable range, the easier it will be for someone to find you. The highest range an avalanche beacon or a mountaineering beacon comes in is 60 meters, but a 30-40 meter range beacon is most commonly used. Make sure the transmitting and receiving beacons are well aligned.
- Multiple Burial Searches: Look for a beacon that comes with a multiple burial search function. It can be a little complicated to use, especially if you are a beginner. You will need to become intimately familiar with the beacon before actually trusting it with your life in the case of a real avalanche situation. Beacons with a multiple search system allow a rescuer to locate multiple different victims. This is particularly useful if you are skiing with a partner on loose snow. The beacon will allow you to mark an icon for the rescued victims.
- Beacon Display: It is also important to consider the display of the beacon. A beacon with a good display will show both the distance and the location of where the victim is buried, making it quicker and easier for the user to locate the victim.
- Battery: It is not advisable to opt for rechargeable batteries or lithium-ion batteries. Alkaline batteries are considered the best and are convenient as well. Always carry spare batteries with you just in case the battery runs out.
- Antenna: Look for a beacon that comes with three antennas. Beacons are designed to transmit and locate through the antennae. The more antennas a beacon has, the better and faster it functions.
- Harness comfort: Besides a beacon with excellent features and design, it is important to consider purchasing a beacon that has comfortable straps. To do that, make sure to try it on and see that the harness is positioned at the right place around your chest or body. Avoid beacon straps that fall in an uncomfortable position. You won’t want any discomfort while out skiing. Additionally, if the beacon is uncomfortable, you are more likely to decide not to wear it because a trail seems “safe”, increasing your chances of being injured or worse.
- Size of Beacon: Size and comfort go hand in hand. Consider purchasing a beacon that is lightweight and try avoiding bulky designs. Lightweight beacons are more convenient to carry around as you don’t want something heavy in your body while out mountaineering.
How do I Carry a Beacon?
- Avalanche beacons should be worn inside a layer of clothing so that if you get stuck in an avalanche situation, the heavy snow does not swipe away your beacon.
- It is very important to buy an avalanche beacon that comes with straps or at least a way of attaching it to your person. Make use of the straps by securing the beacon around your body so that it does not get pulled away from your body when an avalanche hits.
- Make sure to secure your beacon in an easily accessible position.
- While placing your beacon onto your body, make sure the control buttons of the beacon are facing your body.
If you are looking for more options, you can check out our sister site’s list of the 4 Best Avalanche Beacons.
Are you a mountaineer, and you still don’t own an Avalanche Beacon? Well, what are you waiting for? Below are some of our personal recommendations of the best skiing avalanche beacons:
Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon:
The Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon is our personal recommendation for the best avalanche beacon for skiing. Here is our Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon review.
This beacon is one of the best skiing beacons available. It come with three antennae and a self-inspecting reference antenna. This skiing beacon is designed with a smart transmitter that allows you to adjust the signal, providing the easiest solution in multiple burial scenarios. It includes an extended, symmetrical search area and a marking function outlines multiple burials. The Black Diamond Pieps Beacon comes with drift adjustment, which helps in picking up beacons transmitting a drifted signal. Black Diamond beacons offer some of the best features with innovative gear and designs. This Black Diamond is one of the best Avalanche beacons available on the market. It is durable and easy to use.
Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver:
You can also read our full review of the Tracker S here.
Backcountry Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver is a digital beacon and offers a real-time display that comes with three antennae. It is one of the most technologically advanced beacons available. It offers multiple burial searches. Just press the button to suppress the transceiver signal of the rescued victim so that you can easily search for other buried victims. This Backcountry Transceiver basically eliminates lag and comes with a ridiculously fast internal processor so that you can quickly and easily search for the victim without having to wait for your transceiver. The three antennas allow for outstanding accuracy and location search capabilities no matter what position the victim is buried in. This beacon comes with LED lights that help in locating the direction of the victim’s indicator. All we need to do is rotate the transceiver and move towards the signaling lights. It works as a transceiver as well as a receiver and operates on 457 kHz and is compatible with all other 457 kHz units. The Backcountry Access Tracker Beacon is one of the smallest transceivers.
Arva Evo5 Beacon:
One of the best Avalanche Beacons available, the Arva Evo5 comes with three antennas and a digital search bandwidth of 40 meters. This beacon is simple and easy to use. It comes with the ability to clip for a safer hold, permitting the beacon to go directly to transmitting. The Arva Evo5 Beacon comes with an LCD screen that shows arrows and distance values, and it includes a check group function. This beacon can show multiple buried indications. The Arva Evo4 beacon comes with the best value and works incredibly well.
Ortovox Zoom + Avalancher Transmitter:
The Ortovox Zoom Avalanche transmitter comes with an LED display that guides the user to the victim. This Ortovox Avalanche beacon shows distance values with directional arrows and displays information about several avalanche victims. The Ortovox beacon helps by guiding you in the fastest way to the location where the victim lays. This Zoom beacon is built on the most advanced design, and it concentrates on intuitive service.
Mammut Barryvox Beacon Avalanche Transceiver:
The Mammut Barryvox Beacon is an effective digital transceiver with 70 meters search width and three standard antennas. This beacon also comes with excellent features that are simple and also easy to use. It comes with a digital receiving range of about 70 meters. Also, this beacon comes with a circular receiving field that has an identical receiving range for the two X and Y antennas. It features a single switch and is reliable. This Mammut Barryvox Beacon features an advance technology system with a digital Google-friendly display that shows distance, direction, and multiple numbers of buried victims. The Barryvox beacon is designed in such a way that it will automatically switch back into send mode if the transceiver has been still for four seconds. The Mammut Barryvox beacon comes with an alkaline battery and a carrying bag.
PIEPS Powder BT 60 Meter range Avalanche Beacon:
The PIEPS Powder beacon is a trimmed down version of the PIEPS Pro model. It has all the essential features required for an effective search. This beacon is user friendly and is one of the best skiing beacons available with very high performance. It comes with three antennae and a 60-meter range that will help you pick up the victim’s signal from a further distance. This PIEPS beacon comes with multiple burial functions that can pick up the victim’s signal within the range, while the flagging feature helps you mark the rescued victims so that you can continue with the other searches. This beacon is designed with the ability to automatically switch back to send mode when it senses that you haven’t been moving.
Technology has allowed avalanche beacons to massively improve their features over the years. Avalanche Beacons or mountaineering beacons are an essential device, especially if you plan on traveling alone. Beacons come with different functions and designs, but it is useless if you don’t know how to operate them. Therefore, it is advisable to completely understand the beacon you are buying. If you are new to using a beacon, consider taking some training to be more effective in case you are stuck in an avalanche situation. We hope this list of the best avalanche beacons has been helpful in your search. Happy skiing!