Avalanche Beacons – My Personal Preference

| September 24, 2008 | 0 Comments
Picking the right avalanche beacon is trickier than it may seem.  I’ve used Pieps, Barryvox, Ortovox and BCA Trackers over the years and am not wedded to any particular brand, but instead look for the best beacon available at the time when I decide to upgrade.  I hold onto my beacons for 2-4 years because once I learn a beacon, I like to stick with it.  For me to upgrade, there needs to be some major advancement, like dual frequency (now a non-issue), advent of digital beacons (now the norm) or a major leap in technology, as happened in the last couple of years. In addition to that, all the top-tier beacon companies make good products and are constantly leap-frogging each other with features, distance or speed, so it really depends year-to-year which one is the best.

To confuse the issue, the “best” beacon will depend in part on your personality.  In the hands of a Luddite, the fanciest, feature-packed beacon will be overwhelming, but to a techo-geek, it may be a dream come true.  For me, a big consideration is durability, as I tend to be hard on my beacons.  If I’m looking at a new beacon and it doesn’t seem like it could withstand being dropped on the floor, I don’t care how many fancy features it has, I’m not going to buy it. I want a beacon which is fast, easy to use, durable and absolutely intuitive.  Complicated button sequences to change modes doesn’t cut if for me.

There are no bad beacons, only bad users.
There are no bad beacons, only bad users.

I had the good fortune of doing a beacon review for SKIING Magazine last year.  The premise was (this came from SKIING) that you open the box, turn the beacon on and use it without reading the instructions.  I liked this idea as it was so real-world, for better or worse.   In the hands of someone who practices often, any beacon will be fast, but in a panic situation, intuition counts for a lot.  My personal pick from the beacon litter of that era was the Pieps DSP, based in part on its tight feature set, but also because it looked like I could drop it a few times.  So far I’ve been very happy with it – your mileage may vary.

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Category: 02 Gear

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

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