Best Avalanche Beacons
Mountain climbing is a winter sport that brings quite an adrenaline rush as not only are you battling the winter weather but also the winter elements, and one of these elements that could be a problem is an avalanche. The best tool to pack in your gear if you enjoy the occasional mountain climb is the avalanche beacon, a little handy tool that is your first line of defense against this natural danger. The avalanche beacon's purpose is to help you if you end up being lost or stuck in an avalanche and will allow a rescue team to help locate you. If you're planning on going on a winter climb, it is not recommended to leave home without one!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9 hrs of research
Easy to use
Top 10 Picks
1. Backcountry Access Tracker 3
Easy to use
The display could be better
If you’re looking for a good beacon that provides you with more features at the expert level, then you might want to consider the affordably priced Backcountry Access Tracker3. The Backcountry Access Tracker3 brings you a lightweight beacon that offers several excellent safety features.Read more
The Backcountry Access Tracker 3 offers a decent range and comes in at an average of about 50 meters. While it isn’t as strong with the range as some of the other options on our list, it does offer enough range to give you peace of mind.
Ease of Use
The Backcountry Access Tracker 3 is designed for people that know their way around beacons, and if you are at that level, this beacon isn’t hard to use. In fact, reviewers have been very impressed with its user-friendliness. Plus, this beacon makes it very easy for search and rescue teams to find you and delivers a great signal.
Made to be small and lightweight, the 7.6-ounce Backcountry Access Tracker 3 works well and is very easy to carry. If you plan on pairing it with the harness, that will add another 3.5-ounces. It also brings you a big-picture mode and multiple burial display options.
With strong battery life and impressive construction, you can last on this beacon to be with you through the years. The battery lasts for about 250-hours, or 50-hours in strictly search mode. It has a slim but strong design that fits perfectly in almost any T-shirt pocket or pants pocket.
The Backcountry Access Tracker3 is priced to be affordable, so if you are shopping on a budget, this is an excellent beacon to consider. You’ll feel much safer having it with you each time you venture into the snow.
2. Backcountry Access Tracker 2
Easy to use
The display could be improved
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 comes packed with great features and a fast processor, all at an affordable price. It’s very efficient and simple to use, and if you’re just starting out with beacons, you’ll love how user-friendly this one is.Read more
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2’s range is about 45 to 50 meters, which means it has a bit less range than some of the other products on our list. However, compared to some other beacons on the market today, it provides an average amount of range. It functions on a frequency of 457 kHz.
Ease of Use
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 is very easy to use, and it does an excellent job helping search and rescue teams locate a single person. Because this tracker has such a fast processor, it does a very good job in aiding search teams that are looking for you. It is certified compliant with all U.S and European norms.
The simple design, easy control system, and fast processor all provide you with some excellent features you’ll love having on a tracker. Plus, the design of the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 makes it so easy to use even beginners will feel comfortable with it. Most importantly, the included harness is comfortable and the screen of the beacon is easily read in any light. With the batteries, it weighs 9.0-ounces, and if you include the harness, add another 4.2-ounces.
While most people hope that they never need to use these devices, the durability is of the utmost importance. Even though the beacon itself has a durable feel, to protect it even further, there is a protective carrying case included as well.
The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 comes at an affordable price, making it a good investment for those on a budget. Plus, if you are just starting out with trackers, you’ll love how simple this one is.
3. Pieps DSP Sport
The display is easy to read
Lightweight and comfortable in carrying case
Great battery life
Could have better range
Screen durability could be improved
The Pieps DSP Sport provides you with a basic, entry-level beacon with good processing speed, a large display, and an affordable price. This is another great beacon for people who are just starting out with them, and also won’t burn a hole in your pocketbook.Read more
The Pieps DSP Sport has an average range of about 45-50 meters, making it effective for tracking purposes. For its price, this is a good range, even if the range isn’t as far as some other products on our list.
Ease of Use
Using five directional arrows to help search and rescue teams find you, this beacon is very easy to use, and does a great job of helping others locate you. The buttons and features on the Pieps DSP Sport are also simple and easy to use. Reviewers say that it is very intuitive and easy to use.
It comes with Smart transmitter technology and a mark feature, which are bonus features that aid you in multiple-burial situations. Even more, it is also compatible with iProbe. It is lightweight enough that you won't even notice it in the pocket of your jacket. It weighs 7.4-ounces, including the batteries. Additionally, a harness carrying pouch is also included.
Made with a very hard and durable glass to prevent the screen from breaking, this beacon is durable. The soft harness adds an extra layer of protection as well. However, there have been a few complaints about the screen losing its pizazz quickly. However, the Black Diamond support team and warranty department have proven to be quite helpful.
The Pieps DSP Sport is priced very affordably for the features and functionality you get with this beacon. You’ll be able to save some money and still wind up with an excellent product.
4. Mammut Barryvox S
Easy to use
Reverse direction function
Can be hard to use with gloves
If you are looking for a simple, affordable beacon that offers some very effective all-around features, then you’ll love the Mammut Barryvox Element. The setup of this beacon is very basic, and it also has a very fast processor.Read more
Mammut’s Barryvox S brings you a great range of about 70 meters, which makes it a bit more powerful than some of the other options on our list. The receiving field is circular and has an almost identical range for both Y and X antennas. It has a fast processor and effective signal, so it will be easy to find you if you need help.
Ease of Use
Mammut’s Barryvox S does require a lot of fine motor skills to use, and it can be difficult to set some of the settings with your gloves on. Luckily, the included instructions are clearly written and helpful, you may just need to spend some time studying them. However, it does a good job of providing an excellent signal, making it easy for search and rescue teams to find you.
This is a very lightweight and tiny beacon, so it’s easy to carry the beacon along with you without wasting space. You also get the helpful revert to send mode with this beacon. It has great marking features and an easy to read LCD screen. With the batteries, the beacon weighs in at 7.4-ounces.
The shell of this beacon is both impact-resistant and waterproof. During a search, it can be clipped to your jacket or secured around your wrist for easier searching. With three AAA batteries, this beacon holds about 200-hours of transmission time. For longer battery life, it is recommended to use alkaline batteries with this beacon.
Mammut’s Barryvox S is priced affordably, and it is a great value for people looking for a small, lightweight beacon to carry along with them. With all of the safety features, you get by purchasing this beacon, you’ll be able to have peace of mind.
5. Arva EVO 4
Easy to use
Group check feature
Sometimes gives false readings of battery life
In comparison, it has a short-range
The EVO 4 is straight-forward, easy to use, and affordable. A few of our favorite features include the group check option and marking capabilities. While the range is only the lower end of the spectrum, it is still sufficient.Read more
The three antennas provide great directional assistance. The included multiple-burial and group check features are useful, however, the speed could be slightly improved. Overall, this beacon has a range of about 40-meters.
Ease of Use
The LCD screen is small but easy to read. The EVO 4 has been praised as one of the most intuitive and easy to use beacons on our list. It has minimal buttons and a minimal learning curve. For beginners or pros, this is a great choice. When attached to the included clip, the beacon automatically turns on.
As mentioned before, the EVO 4 has a marking function for multiple burials. Another useful and unique feature is the group check feature. This allows you to connect with everyone in your group. Overall, this beacon weighs in averagely, at 7.8-ounces.
This beacon is slightly bulkier than others, which also makes it slightly more durable. The LCD screen is small and unlikely to endure much damage. There is a holster included that keeps the beacon on your waist if you choose to use it. The battery life can last up to 250-hours, depending on the mode you have it in. To top it all off, there is a five-year manufacturer’s warranty included.
Even without all of the great features that are built into this beacon, it’s a great deal. It is affordable, easy to use, and unique. The batteries are also included and a five-year warranty! This is a great option for the whole family.
6. Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver
Smart Antenna Technology
Easy to use
The range could be better
If you’re shopping on a budget and you need a beacon that is reliable, durable, and easy to use, then you might want to consider the Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver. The Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver is manufactured to be simple and effective and will give you both the protection and peace of mind you’ll want when you are outdoors during the winter.Read more
The Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver comes with a range of about 60 meters on average, but this beacon features both digital and analog options. When placed in analog mode, you’ll get about 15 meters of extra range added onto the distance.
Ease of Use
The buttons on the Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Transceiver are simple and easy to use, and most of the functions require the press of a single button. Not only is this beacon easy for you to use, but it also works so well it makes it very easy for search and rescue teams to find you. Overall, there are only two buttons on this beacon and the LCD screen is easy to read, making it very user-friendly.
There is a RECCO reflector built into this beacon, automatically strengthening the signal. The Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver features the Pulse Barryvox which helps to both sense and monitor your vital signs to let others know you are still alive.
Amazingly enough, if the screen gets damaged on the beacon, it will continue to work and send out signals. This beacon uses only one AA battery and has a battery life of about 250-hours, depending on which mode you are using it in.
Coming at an affordable price, the Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver offers a lot of bang for your buck. You’ll be able to stay safe without burning a hole in your pocketbook.
7. Ortovox S1+ Beacon
Smart antenna technology
More expensive than other beacons on the list
The Ortovox S1+ is great for people who want a very technical beacon, and it is designed for people who are at the expert level. While it does have a learning curve, it offers some of the best features and options on the market, and also delivers a great all-around performance.Read more
The Ortovox S1+ gives you about 55 meters of range, which is on the higher end. So, if you feel better and safer with a beacon that features more range, this would be a good product for you.
Ease of Use
The Ortovox S1+ gives you very simple and easy to use controls and buttons, making it an effective and efficient system. It also does a great job of providing search and rescue teams your exact location easily.
The Ortovox S1+ utilizes Smart Antenna technology, meaning it will automatically use the best antenna to send out the strongest signal and alert others about your location. It also comes with a great harness system that makes it very easy to carry along with you. It weighs slightly more than some of our other options, at 9.2-ounces.
This beacon is constructed in the style of a flip phone. Its nostalgic appearance does a great job of protecting the screen and buttons of the beacon.
The Ortovox S1+ is a higher-end beacon and does cost more than some of the other beacons on our list. However, it is durable and will last quite a while, so it is a solid investment in safety.
8. Arva Neo Beacon+
Three antennas work together for a stronger signal
Novice and Expert modes
Could have better range
Arva Neo Beacon brings you one of the most popular beacons available for purchase on the market today. This beacon offers an excellent range in performance and brings you a bevy of fantastic features.Read more
The range on the Arva Neo is about 50 meters, so it gives you a fairly average distance to work with. The range isn’t as strong as some of the other products on our list, but it does work effectively enough to provide you with the safety you’ll want.
Ease of Use
The Arva Neo is very easy to use, and it also does a great job with its fast processor of sending out a single so it is easy for search and rescue teams to find you. Also, the Arva Neo brings you one of the most precise bracketing systems you can buy today.
The Arva Neo uses a W-Link frequency to make it easier for search and rescue teams to locate you. It also includes a novice mode and an expert mode, so if you are just starting out with beacons, you can set it to novice mode and use it easily.
This compact beacon can be safely carried in your pocket or hanging or clipped to the included lanyard. The batteries can last for about 240-hours in transmit mode. It has a durable hand feel and hasn't shown issues with durability.
The Arva Neo comes priced in the average range, and for what it offers, it is a solid and effective device. You’ll certainly get a lot of use out of this durable beacon.
9. Mammut Barryvox
Location is very accurate
More expensive than other beacons on our list
Mammut’s Barryvox is an excellent all-around beacon, giving you the fast processing speed and features you’ll want to have with you when you are out in the snow. Plus, Mammut’s Barryvox also comes with a long-range and some excellent features.Read more
The Mammut Barryvox provides one of the best distance ranges on the market, coming in at about 70 meters of range. If you feel safer having that distance at your fingertips, then you’ll love having this beacon with you.
Ease of Use
While the Mammut Barryvox isn’t difficult to use in functionality, it does require a lot of fine motor skills and can be difficult to use with gloves. However, it does provide the effectiveness you want to make it easy for search and rescue teams to locate you.
Made with the Barryvox feature, the pulse helps to tell search and rescue teams that you are still alive when you wind up in a pinch. Also, it has a simple function feature to make it easier to use and is very light and easy to carry.
With a strong reputation for durability, reviewers have been impressed with the feel and overall look of this beacon. There have only been a handful of concerns and complaints about the functionality of the screen. Luckily, Mammut offers great customer service.
The Mammut Barryvox is a bit pricier than some other models on our list, but you do get a lot of features from that price. If you feel safer having a beacon with top-of-the-line features, then you’ll know you made a solid investment when you purchase this one.
10. Pieps DSP Pro
Easy to use
The switch can be a little stiff
If you’re looking for a more advanced beacon that still isn’t priced too high, then you’ll like the options the Pieps DSP Pro has to offer you. The Pieps DSP Pro has some excellent all-around features and offers a lot of the technology that higher-priced beacons also carry.Read more
The Pieps DSP Pro offers you about 55 meters in range, meaning it covers a pretty good distance. If you feel safer having that level of range with you, then you’ll always feel great having the Pieps DSP Pro along with you.
Ease of Use
The Pieps DSP Pro is relatively easy to use and comes with simple and effective features and buttons. Plus, it’s also easy for search and rescue teams to find you whether you’re signaling for just yourself or multiple people.
Designed with Smart Transmitter technology, the Pieps DSP Pro will automatically figure out the best place to direct its signal and send immediately using that signal.
The harness carrying pouch provides an extra layer of protection to the beacon, as well as making it easy and comfortable to carry. The remarks about durability have been all over the place. For some, they have had it for years without issue, while others say that it didn't last for more than one month. It has a long battery life of about 400 hours.
Priced in the average price range, this beacon brings you a lot of the same technical features and options that some more expensive beacons also have. So, you are getting a lot of value for the price.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Durability is another important factor to consider, since purchasing a good beacon will cost you a few hundred dollars, so you certainly want to purchase something that will last for a decent amount of time. One nice thing to know about beacons is that most of them are durable, but they can still break, so you want to keep them protected and make sure you don’t expose them to too much abuse when you are on the go. Try to make sure you keep the beacon warm so the antennas still function well, and keep an eye on how you treat the antennas.
Some beacons offer other features you’ll want to consider that are discussed more detail below.
Revert to Transmit
Some of the beacons on our list include a Revert to Transmit feature. With this mode, the beacon can change its mode from search to send if the user hasn’t used it or moved much for an extended period of time. So, that means if your beacon is placed in search mode and something else happens to you, the beacon will switch over to help search and rescue teams find your location. However, some brands don’t utilize a revert to transmit feature, and some manufacturers don’t like the feature at all. If you do wind up trapped in an avalanche and you get hit by another one, you probably won’t be able to hang onto the beacon, so some brands don’t feel it is an effective feature to have.
One great bonus feature you’ll sometimes find in beacons is a built-in compass which can really aid if you need to switch your beacon into fine search mode. The compass helps to tell you where you are at, how far you have gone, and where you need to go to help aid in a search. The Ortovox S1+ and Arva Link both have this helpful feature.
This feature is a relatively new technical bonus that you’ll find on some brands of beacons. Both Mammut and Arva use this frequency in some of their products. W-link is a separate frequency that also works with normal frequencies but boost effectiveness by transmitting more information, which can help w-link beacons track your w-link beacon better. Mammut’s Pulse Barryvox actually uses this as its Pulse feature in its beacon.
This is another relatively new feature you’ll find mostly in Ortovox, since they manufactured them initially, but will probably also be copied by other brands. A smart antenna figures out the best antennas to use in order to transmit your signal, and then automatically uses those antennas. If the antenna the beacon uses is vertical, the signal may not transmit as effectively as vertical antennas reduce the range the beacon can use to transmit its signal. This is another reason why it’s nice to have a Smart Antenna built into the beacon because if your beacon has one, it can figure out what antennas are stronger and not vertical, and then more effectively signal to others, making it much easier to find you.
Some beacons use several antennas, which can affect the way the antennas actually transmit the signal through the beacon. For example, some three-antenna beacons only use two antennas more often to send out signals, and not using the third antenna can create range problems for you, making you more difficult to find. Isotech Technology in a beacon ensures that the beacon uses all of its antennas equally. One product on our list that does this very well is the Arva Neo, making its range much more effective when you need it the most.
Some beacons on our list use scanning to help search and rescue teams find you more easily, allowing search and rescue teams to use scans as well as signals to find you and anybody else you might be with.
Big Picture Mode
Big Picture mode allows search teams to know the distance and direction of all the signals the beacon is receiving and allows the beacon to effectively search through multiple signals in various directions and figure out who might be where.
Ease of Use
How easy your beacon is to use can often dictate how well you’ll use the beacon when you really need it. Beacons come in a wide variety of skill levels, and some require expert knowledge while others are made for novices. So, before you figure out what beacon you want to buy, make sure you are honest with yourself about your skill level so you do pick something that you can use well when you need it.
The controls on your beacon will tell you a lot about how simple it will be for you to use. Also, you need to remember that the controls are a very important feature on your beacon, since how well you can use the controls and how well they perform will impact search and rescue teams looking for you, and the rate at which they can find you if you do get in a pinch. Most of the beacons on our list have helpful controls that make it easy for you to send out a signal if you need assistance.
When measuring a beacon’s ease of use, you also need to consider how well it performs in multiple burial situations and in fine searches. With multiple burial situations, these are far less common occurrences, but still do happen, so you need to be prepared. If you do wind up buried with friends or family, you’ll likely want to use a flagging feature on your beacon to attract rescuers to our location. Remember, however, that when people are buried in multiple burial situations, the search and rescue teams are more likely to focus all of their efforts rescuing one person at a time, so that they are able to save somebody. Search and rescue teams only have a certain number of resources, so it can sometimes be difficult for them to pull everybody out at once and save all people that get trapped.
Most flagging features will send out different signals to try and give off different locations. However, if people get buried close together and they use their beacons at the same time, then your beacon will only be able to use cadence to help mark where you are at. If you have several beacons trapped with people very close together, you might wind up with your signals overlapping, so that can make it difficult for search and rescue teams to find everybody. You’ll want to make sure that your beacon has a good marking or flagging feature, and that you are familiar with it. Also, making sure that the multiple burial signals the beacon sends out are easy for search and rescue teams to find makes a huge difference. In our product reviews, we’ve listed what beacons are easy for search and rescue teams to find in multiple burial situations, and if you want peace of mind about this, then make sure you focus on purchasing one of those beacons.
How easy your beacon is to use when you use it in fine search mode is another factor you’ll want to consider. Fine search mode is one thing that can create distress for search and rescue teams, but you do want a beacon that performs effectively. Some beacons are more precise than others in delivering your location to search and rescue victims in fine search mode.
When you’re deciding on what beacon you want to purchase, you’ll want to know how much range you’ll really need to feel safe when you are out in the snow. Detecting what the range is for a beacon means the distance between the search beacon used by the search and rescue team and the beacon you would use to help them find your location. While manufacturers typically advertise a wide variety of ranges depending on their products, remember that some beacons are more effective than others in transmitting signal and actually alerting search and rescue teams to your exact location. So, the range can sometimes be a deceptive number, and you’ll need to take a close look at all the features offered in your beacon.
Most of the beacons on our list use a range that falls somewhere in between 40 and 60 meters. However, some beacons give you far less range, around 25 meters, so make sure you purchase a beacon that gives you at least 40 meters in range, but the best level is 50 meters in range. Even if a beacon says it has 40-60 meters in range, remember that that range doesn’t cover all directions, but usually the circumference of the area you’re located in. So, a beacon with 40 meters in range can cover about 20 meters of range on each side of you. Most search and rescue teams advice having at least 15 meters in range on both sides of you, but since not all beacons work as strongly when you are trapped in the snow, going for one with at least 40 meters of range means it will be easier to locate your signal and find you.
If you are shopping on a budget for your beacon, then you’ll want to make sure you buy something that fits your price range. Some affordably priced beacons actually offer similar features and benefits to models that would be considered higher-end, so know that it isn’t impossible to buy a good beacon even if you are short on cash. Just remember, while you might think to spend more money will buy you the best beacon on the market, this isn’t always the case in reality. Some beacons are higher priced simply because of their brand name and offer just as many features as other, lower-priced beacons.
We’ve noted value points to consider on our list with all of our products. So, once you know what you can spend, you can figure out what you need and how much value you’ll get for the price.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
While you are mountain climbing, skiing or even snowboarding in the mountains, that you keep your avalanche beacon close to you for emergencies. You never know what will happen with the extreme weather cases in winter terrains and you always want to make sure you can stay safe. By having it within hands' reach, even in your backpack or side pockets, you are able to take out your avalanche beacon whenever needed.
Many ski, snowboarding, and mountaineering gear are equipped with RECCO reflectors. These are a very useful and important addition to your equipment but do not take the place of a beacon. These reflectors actually enhance the signal of a beacon. This could result in a faster rescue. It's great to have both advantages when exploring avalanche territory!
Other Factors to Consider
How fast your beacon performs and works is another important factor to consider when you make your purchase. Throughout our product list, we mentioned the beacons that are equipped with fast processors and do a better job of sending out speedy signals to search and rescue teams. Speed is largely focused on the speed of your processor mode, and there is an interesting thing to note about the speed with beacons. Higher-priced beacons aren’t necessarily faster than some more affordable options. Since speed will be an important factor anytime you get in a pinch and need assistance, make sure you factor in the level of speed you are likely to get with your beacon.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Which beacons give the most accurate range signals?
Remember that with beacons and range, some beacons give more accurate range readings than others. Also, what is interesting to note here that some of the most accurate beacons aren’t always the most expensive products on our list. The most accurate product on our list is the Mammut Barryvox Element. So, if accuracy is an important consideration for you, you might want to consider purchasing one of this beacon.
q: What beacons are simple to use, and work well for beginners?
If you are a novice at using beacons and need a model that is easy to use, then you’ll want to consider some of the beacons that are made specifically for beginners. The Backcountry Access Tracker 2 beacon has controls that are very easy to figure out and use. This beacon doesn’t typically feature the more complex items that some of the higher-end beacons offer, but its simple design makes it very easy to use whenever you get in a bind. Most beginner models state in their descriptions that they are made for amateurs, so if this an important feature that you really want with your beacon, then you’ll need to look for that as you make your search.
q: Which beacons are more for experts?
If you are looking for something that is a bit more complex and has more features and options, then you might want to consider models like the Arva Neo, Ortovox 3+, or Pieps DSP Sport, since all of these are still standard and simple in use, but offer more features like a flagging features and a search and send feature. The most complex models on our list are the Ortovox S1+ and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox. Both of these beacons offer a lot of features and options but can take some time to learn. However, if you are an expert with using beacons, you should be able to get past the learning curve pretty quickly.
q: What do I need to know about the durability of my beacon?
The antennas on beacons are almost always the first part to go, and if your antennas aren’t working well, it can really affect how well the beacon performs and sends out its signals to search and rescue teams when you get trapped. However, there isn’t much difference in durability between the different models we’ve presented on our list, and all brands of beacons have the same antenna issues. So, make sure you are careful with your device, and pay special attention to preserving the antennas.
q: Will other electronics interfere with the signal of a beacon?
Great question! Yes, other electronics can affect the signal and accuracy of a beacon. It isn't just phones that you need to keep away, this also includes GPS, cameras, and radios. These electronics (and more) can cause interference that could make the difference between finding the buried person and not. However, the good news is that there should not be any interference if you keep the electronics at least eight inches away from each other. Either way, when performing a search, it is best to turn off all other electronic devices. If you need your phone for something, try your best to keep it in airplane mode. If you still finding that there is an interference, try holding the beacon out further in front of you to clear the airwaves.