There’s nothing more important for mountain snowmobiling than having an avalanche beacon. The second-most important thing is to know how to use it.
All modern beacons are digital and most of them have multiple antennae that cast a triangular pattern so searchers can quickly find the victim. Digital beacons from all manufacturers are compatible with each other, so a beacon from Company A will be able to locate a beacon made by Company B.
When shopping for a transceiver, avalanche safety experts recommend keeping it simple. Fewer switches and functions make a device easier to use, and that’s ultra-important in a high-pressure situation, like when trying to rescue a buddy who’s been buried.
Members of a riding group should purchase the same brand and model, if possible, so users can share tips and learn from each other about how to operate the device. Experts warn against using rechargeable batteries because they don’t last as long, and stay away from Lithium cells because, while they last a long time, they tend to die suddenly.
Backcountry Access Tracker DTS / $289.95
The Tracker DTS is designed to be simple to use. It has a digital, LED display that shows direction and distance from the burial victim. Distance is shown in meters — a meter is about 3 feet — and indicator lights display the direction toward the transmitting beacon. Powered by three AAA batteries. Includes protective carrying case and harness.
Mammut / Element Barryvox / $350
This three-antenna device focuses on a fast and precise recovery. One-button operation and a clear display help make the Barryvox Element easy to use. Signal analysis, listing of victims and a marking function help in complex situations with multiple buried victims. Mammut claims the robust housing offers good resistance to impact. Operates on three AAA batteries and has a range of 60 meters.
Ortovox / Patroller Digital / $250
Fast, easy and safe. This no-frills transceiver has three antennae that help make the Patroller precise in pinpointing a search subject. By means of three LED lights, the display shows the precise distance and direction to the victim. The housing is waterproof, impact-resistant and ergonomically shaped. It requires two AA batteries.
Pieps / Freeride / $199
The Pieps Freeride is a one-antenna transceiver designed to be simple and easy to handle. An optional auto-revert feature is available that automatically switches from receive to send in case of a secondary avalanche. The Freeride has a 40-meter receiving range.
Arva / Evo3+ / $279
Arva calls its Evo3 the workhorse of avalanche beacons, and the Evo3+ builds on that device’s strong reputation of reliability and easy-to-use features. The Evo3+ can locate multiple victims and has three antennae, a 40-meter range and a marking function. The “clip and be safe” concept automatically turns on the transceiver when a user puts it on. Runs on four AAA batteries.