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 defence 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
- Great design
- Easy to use
- Backcountry Access Tracker3
- Backcountry Access Tracker 2
- Pieps DSP Sport
- Mammut Barryvox Element
- Arva Neo Beacon
- Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver
- Ortovox S1+ Beacon
- Arva Neo Beacon+
- Mammut Barryvox
- Pieps DSP Pro
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Backcountry Access Tracker3
- Great design
- Easy to use
- 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
Range: The Backcountry Access Tracker3 offers a decent range, and comes in at an average of about 43 meters. While it isn’t as strong with 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 Tracker3 is designed for people that are experts with beacons, and if you are at that level, this beacon isn’t hard to use. Plus, this beacon makes it very easy for search and rescue teams to find you, and delivers a great signal.
Features: Made to be small and lightweight, the Backcountry Access Tracker3 works well and is very easy to carry. It also brings you a big picture mode and multiple burial display options.
Value: 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
- Quite accurate
- Display could be better
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
Range: The Backcountry Access Tracker 2’s range is about 40 to 45 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.
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.
Features: 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.
Value: 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
- Display is easy to read
- Lightweight and comfortable in carrying case
- Great battery life
- Could have better range
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 pocket book.Read more
Range: 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.
Features: Made with a very hard and durable glass to prevent the screen from breaking, this beacon is durable. Also, it comes with Smart transmitter technology, which is another bonus feature.
Value: 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 Element
- Easy to use
- Accurate locationing
- 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
Range: Mammut’s Barryvox Element brings you a decent range of about 60 meters, which makes it a bit more powerful than some of the other options on our list. 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 Element 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. However, it does a good job of providing an excellent signal, making it easy for search and rescue teams to find you.
Features: 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.
Value: Mammut’s Barryvox Element 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 Neo Beacon
- Easy to use
- Great range
- Strong signal
- Not a stylish as other beacons on our list
The Arva Neo Beacon offers you an affordable option in high-quality, great performing beacons that even beginners will find easy to use. Plus, the Arva Neo Beacon packs in a variety of excellent features that you’ll love having so that you always feel safe.Read more
Range: The Arva Neo Beacon brings you one of the best ranges in beacons offered on our list, coming in at a little over 60 to 65 meters. That means you’ll get a lot of range with this beacon at an affordable cost.
Ease of Use: The Arva Neo Beacon is designed to be simple and easy to use so that even people that are novices with beacons can still use this product effectively. Also, it is very easy for search and rescue teams to find you with the Arva Neo’s signal.
Features: Made with a backlit screen so that the beacon is always easy to read, the Arva Neo also has a revert to send function. Plus, the Arva Neo also comes with a harness that makes it very easy to carry the beacon along with you.
Value: The Arva Neo is priced affordably, and for its range and excellent features, you get an excellent product. You’ll appreciate the solid investment you made in this beacon each time you are in the outdoors during the winter weather.
6. Ortovox 1+ Avalanche Transceiver
- Smart Antenna Technology
- Easy to use
- 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 piece of mind you’ll want when you are outdoors during the winter.Read more
Range: 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.
Features: 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. Plus, if the screen gets damaged on the beacon, it will continue to work and send out signals.
Value: 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 pocket book.
7. Ortovox S1+ Beacon
- Very responsive
- Very accurate
- 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
Range: 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.
Features: 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.
Value: 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 anntennas work together for stronger signal
- Novice and Expert modes
- Great bracketing
- 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
Range: 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.
Features: 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.
Value: 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
- Quaility construction
- Location is very accurate
- More expensive then 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
Range: The Mammut Barryvox provides one of the best distance ranges on the market, coming in at about 60 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.
Features: 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.
Value: 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
- Built well
- Easy to use
- 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
Range: 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.
Features: 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. It also has a long battery life of about 400 hours.
Value: 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
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.
Some beacons offer other features you’ll want to consider 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.
Built-In Compass. 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 Mammut Barryvox Pulse, Ortovox S1+, and Arva Link all have this helpful feature.
W-Link Frequency. 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.
Smart Antennas. 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.
Isotech Technology. 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.
Scanning. 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.
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.
Other Factors to Consider
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.
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.
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 products on our list are the Mammut Barryvox Element and the Mammut Pulse Barryvot. So, if accuracy is an important consideration for you, you might want to consider purchasing one of those beacons.
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 and Ortovox Zoom+ beacons both have controls that are very easy to figure out and use. These beacons don’t typically feature the more complex items that some of the higher-end beacons offer, but their 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: What 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: Which beacons perform the best in fine search mode?
If you are wondering which beacons work best in fine search mode for search and rescue teams, then don’t worry. On our list, the Mammut Pulse Barryvox and Mammut Barryvox Element delivered excellent results with this feature. Other beacons that performed well include the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 and the Arva Neo.
q: What beacons offer the best revert to transmit mode?
The best beacons on our list that offer a Revert to Transmit feature include the Ortovos S1, Ortovos 3+, Arva Pro, Arva Neo, and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox. Many of these beacons also allow you to turn this feature off, or adjust the time of the beacon’s switch rate.
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.