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Anyone venturing into the backcountry during the winter months should have the best avalanche beacon with them. Avalanche safety is extremely important, and you need to make sure you’re properly prepared in case you are in one. If you are caught in an avalanche, a beacon can emit a signal that allows rescuers to locate you and save your life. If others are caught in an avalanche, your beacon can locate their beacon and allow you to track their location. Keep reading for avalanche beacon reviews and ratings.
Avalanche beacons are part of the essential avalanche survival kit for all skiers and snowboarders, along with an avalanche airbag and waterproof walkie-talkies. However, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for you. Because of that, we did all the hard work for you. Here are the top five best avalanche beacons for backcountry adventurers to help you choose the right one for you.
In This Article
The Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon is the best avalanche beacon because it uses drift adjustment to help provide an extremely accurate location so you can be easily found if needed.
One of this unit’s unique features is drift adjustment, which picks up beacons transmitting drifted signals. That makes it more precise than other beacons. Precision is key when minutes make all the difference in saving someone’s life. This beacon also gets high praise for battery life—another potentially life-saving feature.
One of the biggest differentiators of the Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon is how simple it is to use. It won’t take you long to master the different functions, and you’ll soon be ready to tackle your next adventure knowing you’re prepared for the threat of an avalanche. The beacon is designed with one button that can toggle from send to search to flag. If you find yourself in an emergency situation you only have to locate one button rather than fumbling for the correct option.
- Drift adjustment feature for more precise locating
- Simple and intuitive one-button design
- Long battery life
- Precise locating technology
- Plastic tether may break
The Backcountry Access Lightweight Tracker Beacon is the best avalanche beacon because it combines all the best features from other beacons into one 7.6-ounce package.
The Backcountry Access Tracker 3 combines almost all the features of the other beacons we reviewed, ensuring you’re getting only the best of the best. It has a range of 50 meters, 10 meters longer than most other trackers. A wider range can make a huge difference when searching for buried victims over an expansive space.
The manufacturer, Backcountry Access, improved upon previous models to create a smaller, lighter version weighing in at only 7.6 ounces. Whether you use the harness provided or keep the beacon in your pocket, you’ll hardly notice it’s there. Yet if you need it in an emergency it will be close at hand and easy to use.
- Real-time updating display
- Small and easy to store
- Wide range
- No drift adjustment feature
The Arva Evo4 Beacon with Tracking Function is the best avalanche beacon because it’s a more affordable option that has an exceptional battery life and will help protect you in case of an avalanche.
The Arva Evo4 beacon comes in at a lower price than most other options and while it lacks some convenience features, you won’t sacrifice safety. This beacon still has three antennas, a long battery life, and marking capabilities for multiple burial situation scenarios—everything you need to feel safe and prepared in the backcountry. The only significant difference is a slightly shorter range compared to some other options.
Backcountry guides or other expert-level adventurers may prefer to invest in a more sophisticated beacon, but for most of us this budget option will do the job well. The digital LCD screen makes it easy to read when in search mode, and the buttons are easy to use.
- Great price
- Includes all major safety elements
- Intuitive and easy to learn
- Shorter range than some other models
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon is the best avalanche beacon because it’s another more-affordable option, and it has a bright LED screen that you can read easily even in the sun.
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon is another solid option. It’s one model older than the Access Tracker 3 and is a little heavier, but it comes at a cheaper price and still has everything you need. The harness and carrying case complete the package, adding convenience and durability.
One unique feature is its ability to automatically switch from receive mode to transmit mode, a great safety feature if you’re unable to put the beacon in transmit mode yourself. The buttons are easy to use but won’t get pressed accidentally. The extra-bright LED screen is easy to read even in bright areas, such as the snowy tundra on a sunny day, improving ease of use.
- Solid brand reputation
- Good value for the money
- Automatic switch from receive mode to transmit mode
- Slightly outdated compared to newer models
The BCA Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon With Avalanche Probe is the best avalanche beacon because it’s a respected industry staple that has been around for more than two decades.
The BCA Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon With Avalanche Probe lacks some top of the line features but will work just fine for most people. It has been an industry staple since it was first produced in 1997 and has a reputation for being durable and reliable.
We have this beacon honorable mention mainly because it only has two antennas instead of three. That means when someone is searching for your receiver, they’ll only have two signals to pick up instead of three, making it somewhat harder to triangulate. The avalanche probe is shorter than most other beacons out there too. Still, it’s a perfectly serviceable probe and can give you peace of mind when adventuring in the backcountry.
- Well-known in the industry
- Solid reputation of reliability and durability
- Includes all the standard features that you need
- Two-antenna receiver instead of three
Features to Consider for the Best Avalanche Beacon
After reading avalanche beacon reviews, it’s time to think about what is best for you in a beacon. This means thinking about the different features each beacon offers. Here is what you should pay attention to when choosing the best beacon.
The best avalanche beacons also have multiple antennas to provide reference points for searchers. Three antennas is optimal, as three signals will allow searchers to triangulate your location and pinpoint your location more precisely.
Most beacons include a harness so that you can wear it while you’re out in the backcountry and keep it in an easily accessible location, crucial if you find yourself in crisis and need to reach it quickly. If an avalanche occurs, you want to have your beacon close at hand and not buried in your backpack.
Range and Battery Life
You’ll also want to consider features like range, meaning how far away the receiving signal can pick up the transmitting signal, and battery life. A long battery life will ensure the beacon is always charged and ready for action. Since most people carry their beacon days, weeks, or even years before needing to use it, an extended battery life reduces the chances that you’ll forget to replace the batteries and end up with a useless beacon.
When choosing the right avalanche beacon for you, consider your skill level, or aspired skill level. The more advanced options are designed for those who plan to spend hours learning about their beacon and practicing all the features it offers. These are designed for group leaders, search and rescue personnel, and others with a more advanced need. Those advanced features can trip up a more novice user and cause more harm than good.
Benefits of Using Avalanche Beacons
If you plan to spend any time in wilderness areas with avalanche risk, having the best avalanche beacon is essential for surviving an avalanche. This simple machine could save your life as well as the lives of those around you in the case of an avalanche. Avalanches happen fast and with little warning, so having a quality beacon that allows you to change modes quickly and easily is a true life saver.
If you don’t have an avalanche beacon, it could be nearly impossible for rescuers to locate you. Death via asphyxiation or other trauma is a real threat when an avalanche hits, and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for irreversible damage to be done. That’s why it’s so important for rescuers to find you and dig you out quickly.
Having an avalanche beacon also allows you to locate other victims in the event of an avalanche. If others around you become buried, it’ll be extremely difficult for you to be able to find them without the aid of an avalanche beacon. A quality device with some basic features can allow you to locate and dig out victims as quickly as possible.
Precautions of Using Avalanche Beacons
Avalanche beacons vary in complexity and the level of expertise required to use them properly. If you’re a novice user and purchase an advanced model, the expert features may hinder your search rather than help it. There are great basic, intuitive options out there that require minimal training or practice and work just fine for those just starting out.
The most important thing to note for anyone purchasing an avalanche beacon is to practice using it. Avalanche situations are incredibly stressful, and a stressful life-or-death scenario is not the time to learn to use a life saving tool. Understanding all the ins and outs of how your avalanche beacon works is critical to both your safety and the safety of those you might try to rescue.
Even with an avalanche beacon, the best way to keep yourself safe from an avalanche is to know the warning signs that come with one. Avoiding the path of an avalanche is a much better option than getting caught in one and being rescued, so take the time to learn how to avoid avalanches all together.
While all avalanche beacons provide most of the same basic features, the small differences between them can make a world of difference when you’re skiing or snowboarding. Of the beacons we reviewed the Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon was the clear winner of the title “best avalanche beacon” thanks to its solid design and extra features. Take time to consider the best avalanche beacon for your skill level and degree of interest, as having the right device with you in the case of emergency could make a world of difference.