Best Avalanche Beacon

The Best Avalanche Beacon: Top 5 of 2024

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by James

Skiing off-piste is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have on skis. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous activities on the mountain.

If you intend on skiing some serious powder, then carry an avalanche beacon is vital. They can be a lifesaver if you are caught in a snowslide, significantly decreasing your risk of mortality.

In this guide, we have reviewed the best avalanche beacons on the market. We list the pros and cons, assess the key features and help you find the best way to stay safe on the slopes this winter.

Best Avalanche Beacon At A Glance

Photo

Summary

Price

    • 50 meter range

    • Battery lasts at least 1 hour in search mode

    • Streamlined and lightweight design

        

        

    • 40 meter range

    • Simple and easy to use controls

    • Intuitive search guides you with directional arrows

        

        

    • 70 meter range

    • Easy to read display with background lighting

    • Acoustic search guidance is highly practical

        

         

    • 60 meter range

    • Settings and updates via smartphone application

    • Circular range gives a symmetrical search area

           

           

    • 40 meter circular range

    • Super lightweight and compact

    • Large and user-friendly LED screen

           

           

    Why Do I Need The Best Avalanche Beacon?

    If you plan on skiing off-piste or backcountry, then carrying an avalanche beacon is important. Although you hope you’re never caught in a snowslide, it’s always best to be prepared for every eventuality.

    Avalanche beacons are also know as ‘transceivers’

    Avalanche beacons are small devices that transmit and receive electronic signals. In the event of an avalanche, other members of your ski group will be able to hear the signal coming from your transceiver, allowing them to locate your position.

    In one study of backcountry accidents in Austria, avalanche beacons were shown to reduce burial time from 102 minutes to 20 minutes. These results significantly reduced mortality from 68% to 54%.

    The best avalanche beacons allow you ski powder with safety in mind. When used correctly, these lifesaving tools are invaluable for backcountry skiers.

    Best Avalanche Beacon
    Avalanche Beacons Can Save Your Life (Image: Naturpuur CC BY 4.0)

    How To Choose The Best Avalanche Beacon

    Range

    The range of an avalanche beacon determines how far its signal will reach. If you want to find somebody who’s buried, you need to make sure they’re in range.

    The best avalanche beacons usually feature a range between 40 – 60 meters. This is sufficient to find most buried skiers within a reasonable time, as long as they haven’t strayed too far from the group.

    Best Avalanche Beacon
    Range Can Make A Big Difference In The Event Of An Avalanche

    Search Strip

    Searching for a buried skier involves zigzagging the avalanche debris looking for a signal. Different types of transceivers are optimised for different zigzag widths, which is commonly known as ‘search strip width’.

    Wide search strip transceivers allow you to search a large area quickly, but there is less chance of receiving a signal. Narrow search strip transceivers take longer to search an area, but the chance of finding a signal is much higher.

    Some avalanche beacons are able to switch between wide and narrow search strips, which can provide the best of both worlds. However, be sure to learn how to use both features accurately to get the most out of your equipment.

    Easy Operation

    In a time of crisis, it’s important that your avalanche beacon is easy to operate. Although you may have practiced many times in a controlled environment, real life situations can cause an adrenaline rush that makes it difficult to think clearly.

    Making sure the display is easy to read is often overlooked, but of vital importance. If it’s clear and easy to read in any weather conditions, this will make a big difference to your chances of success.

    In addition, making sure the controls are easy to operate is another important factor. If your hands are freezing from the cold, then your decreased dexterity is going to impact your ability to use your transceiver.

    Some of the best avalanche beacons are optimized to allow use while wearing ski gloves. This is a great additional feature that can save valuable time in the event of an emergency.

    Harness Design

    Avalanche beacons usually come with a chest harness. It is designed be worn above your base layer, but below all your other layers.

    The job of a harness is extremely important. It removes the chance of your transceiver being dislodged in the event of an avalanche.

    Look for products that come with a durable harness made from high quality materials. In addition, make sure it’s size adjustable if you want it to fit comfortably.

    If your harness doesn’t fit properly, it can also affect your ability to access your beacon. A great way to gauge the harness quality is by analysing previous customer reviews.

    Best Avalanche Beacon
    Your Beacon Harness Is Important When You Go Off-Piste (Image: Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0)

    Best Avalanche Beacons Reviewed

    Backcountry Access Tracker 3

    Key Features

    • Range: 50 Meters (164ft)
    • Search Strip: 50 Meters (164ft)
    • Battery Life: 200 Hours

    The Backcountry Tracker Access 3 is one of the best avalanche beacons money can buy. It is designed to be lightweight and easy to carry, weighing only 100grams (3.5oz).

    This transceiver has a range and search strip of 50 meters, making it a reliable option for backcountry skiers. In addition, it uses signal suppression and big picture modes for no-nonsense multiple-victim searching.

    If you are looking to stay safe in the powder, the Backcountry Access Tracker 3 is a great option. It combines a lightweight and robust design with a user-friendly interface, making it ideal for recreational off-piste skiing.

    Pros

    • 55 meter range
    • 55 meter search strip
    • Lightweight construction
    • Pocket-friendly design
    • Multiple victim searching
    • 200 hours transmit mode battery
    • Auto-revert mode for added safety

    Cons

    • Lacking bluetooth compatibility
    • Top price bracket

    Ortovox Zoom Avalanche Beacon

    Key Features

    • Range: 40 Meters (131ft)
    • Search Strip: 40 Meters (131ft)
    • Battery Life: 250 Hours

    The Ortovox Zoom Avalanche Beacon uses a simple interface that makes off-piste safety simple. It has an intuitive design with only two functional buttons and a clear LED display.

    Although this transceiver has basic features, its 40 meter range and search strip is more than adequate for most backcountry skiers. It uses directional arrows and distances that help you find several avalanche victims, making it practical in serious situations.

    The Ortovox Zoom Avalanche Beacon is built to be basic and user-friendly, reducing user error in stressful situations. It provides a lightweight and intuitive design for a reasonable price, making it one of the best transceivers on the market.

    Pros

    • 40 meter range
    • 40 meter search strip
    • Easy to use interface
    • Clear LED display
    • Lightweight design
    • Simple buttons minimise human error
    • Multiple burial indicator
    • Motion-sensing auto-revert

    Cons

    • Lacks burial marking function
    • Range not as long as some

    Mammut Barryvox Avalanche Beacon

    Key Features

    • Range: 70 Meters (230ft)
    • Search Strip: 70 Meters (230ft)
    • Battery Life: 300 Hours

    Mammut have produced the Barryvox Avalanche Beacon to provide maximum off-piste safety. It has a 70 meter range and search strip that provides long distance search capability.

    This beacon has an easy to read display and acoustic guidance for optimal searching. Its interface is visual; showing you the number, direction and distance of buried subjects.

    The Mammut Barryvox Avalanche Beacon provides a host of features that can keep you safe in any conditions. It is also super durable and easy to use in adverse weather conditions, making it one of the best avalanche beacons on the market.

    Pros

    • 70 meter range
    • 70 meter search strip
    • Clear display with background light
    • Acoustic search guidance
    • Durable construction
    • Auto-revert capability
    • Reverse direction function

    Cons

    • Can be slow when searching a confined area
    • Bluetooth functionality would be an improvement

    Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Beacon

    Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Beacon

    Key Features

    • Range: 60 Meters (197ft)
    • Search Strip: 60 Meters (197ft)
    • Battery Life: 200 Hours

    The Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Beacon offers a host features in a simplified style. It has a 60 meter range that provides a circular and extended search area.

    This transceiver features a mark function that works extremely well in multiple burial situations. It also has bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to manage settings and software updates via mobile application.

    If you are looking for a wide range of features in an easy to use format, the Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Beacon might be your best bet. It combines functionality with a user-friendly design, making it ideal for backcountry enthusiasts.

    Pros

    • 60 meter range
    • 60 meter search strip
    • Circular and symmetrical range
    • Mark function for multiple burials
    • Bluetooth functionality
    • Easy-to-handle outer shell
    • Simple yet functional design

    Cons

    • Side lock could be higher quality
    • 3-bar battery symbol not the most accurate

    PIEPS Micro Avalanche Beacon

    Key Features

    • Range: 40 Meters (131ft)
    • Search Strip: 40 Meters (131ft)
    • Battery Life: 100 Hours

    If you are looking for a super small and lightweight avalanche beacon, the PIEPS Micro is your best option. It offers a 40 meter range and search strip, as well as sensor technology that switches from search to send mode automatically.

    This beacon a simple yet large display that is easy to read, with a flagging system for multiple burials. Although small in size, it has a wide range of features, including bluetooth compatibility for updates and settings.

    The PIEPS Micro Avalanche Beacon is the most compact option available. Its lightweight size combined with high-quality features make it a great option for anyone heading off-piste.

    Pros

    • 40 meter range
    • 40 meter search strip
    • Large and easy-to-read display
    • Super lightweight construction
    • Flagging function for multiple burials
    • Bluetooth compatibility
    • Send/search switch sensor technology

    Cons

    • Weight reduction not necessary for most skiers
    • Manually toggling search/send can be a challenge

     Summing Up

    Powder days can be fantastic, but they can also be dangerous. If you plan on skiing backcountry, then taking adequate precaution should be paramount.

    The best avalanche beacons can significantly improve your chances of surviving an avalanche. Although you hope to never use one, it’s always best to be prepared.

    Not every beacon is created the same, so take the time to analyse the key features of each product. Making the best choice can be challenging, but this guide is sure to take you one step closer to mountain safety.