Mountains are beautiful, powerful, and dangerous. The vast expanse of a natural wonder provides awe-inspiring views and the human need to conquer.
Many people take whole days, even longer, to trek out to the backcountry and hit those untouched snowy lines through the virgin mountain. The danger lies with how common this takes the adventures through high-risk avalanche terrain.
I have taken a fair few trips out to find those hidden lines through trees and on snow reserved entirely for me. The walks are tough, and the gear I have to wear has to be up to the challenge. A high-quality most comfortable ski helmet and gear that can keep me warm through a blizzard are both essential.
These are things I would wear no matter where I am on the mountain. Backcountry skiing requires something extra, due to the nature of the adventure.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to safeguard against being buried alive. Keeping a backpack with a shovel and avalanche bag will help you dig yourself out and keep you afloat in the tumbling snow.
I have used my knowledge of the mountain and mountain safety to break down some of the best avalanche beacons available.
Pieps Pro BT
- Item Weight:7.94 ounces
Easy To Use
Black Diamond Guide BT
- Manufacturer:Black Diamond
- Item Weight:0.54 Kilograms
Mammut Barryvox S
- Item Weight:0.56 Kilograms
Super Simple Design
Ortovox Diract Voice
- Item Weight:7.4 Ounces
- Manufacturer:Backcountry Access
- Item Weight:2.13 Kilograms
Compact and Low-Priced
BCA Tracker S™
- Manufacturer:Backcountry Access
- Item Weight:0.43 Kilograms
- Item Weight:0.3 Kilograms
Arva Neo Pro
- Item Weight:141 Grams
Best Avalanche Beacons – Top 8 Picks
Doing your research before you buy your safety equipment is always a good idea. If it lets you down when you need it most, it’s your life on the line. You need something you can afford but will keep you secure and in one piece.
Your avalanche safety tools should be no different. You will want something with good battery life, advanced features, and equipped to help the ski patrollers find you quickly.
Let’s delve into some of the best on the market so you can decide which one is best for you.
1. Pieps Pro BT
We start off the review with a middle-of-the-group avalanche beacon. It offers a fine selection of the most essential safety features you would expect to see on most modern avalanche beacons.
Illuminated displays, send and receive functions, and tagging systems all make this beacon a safe choice for anyone looking to do some serious off-piste.
When in search mode, this beacon picks up the industry standard 457khz transmission code and uses directional arrows to help locate buried beacons.
This easy-to-use beacon allows for tagging multiple signals so one person can do the searching while others do the digging. The digital transmission has a range of 60 meters for quite a good search distance.
The battery life of this particular beacon runs to about 600+ hours in send mode with alkaline batteries and 400+ with the much more cold resistant Lithium batteries. Knowing you have so many hours locked in is very reassuring.
This may not have all the features of the top-end avalanche beacons, but it does have the essentials, and it will do them well.
The digital display makes this an easy-to-use beacon whilst remaining reliable for hours. Being able to tag multiple receivers whilst still locating more streamlines the whole process for a recovery team.
Despite being almost redundant as a method, this avalanche beacon still comes with the tried and tested analog mode of recovery. Although it isn’t used as much anymore, it has been relied on successfully for years and is nice to still have.
Pieps Pro BT
The price of “Pieps Pro BT ” varies, so check the latest price at
2. Black Diamond Guide BT
The Black Diamond Guide BT is a beacon designed to make your avalanche rescue as easy as possible. Compatible with the industry standard 457Khz transmission, the Black Diamond Guide BT is also able to work alongside the TX600 and Iprobe for the most comprehensive rescue attempt.
The TX600 is a wonderful avalanche transceiver designed to be worn by rescue dogs as a collar. Dogs are widely used in avalanche rescue and can find a buried victim using their digging and smell abilities. Having them connected to an avalanche beacon only speeds the whole process up.
The Iprobe is a spear-shaped marking beacon. They are used to pin out spots for digging to speed up the process for avalanche professionals.
Taking care that every base is covered when buying your equipment is always a good idea. Making things as easy as possible for everyone involved is always the best approach. Digital beacons are always a great way of speeding up any recovery attempt.
The Black diamond utilizes three transmitting antennae for an improved circular range that will greatly improve location accuracy. A buried beacon needs all the help it can get to transmit its exact location to anyone searching.
This is a great little beacon for helping to locate multiple burials. The ability to pair with both dogs and transmit spikes makes being part of a rescue team a lot easier. The easy-to-hold, small unit will quickly ping up anyone buried up to 60 meters under the snow.
It may be lacking some of the more advanced features that other beacons use, but it still does the essentials well. Lithium batteries ensure long life even in the cold snow, keeping you safer for longer.
Black Diamond Guide BT
The price of “Black Diamond Guide BT” varies, so check the latest price at
3. Mammut Barryvox S
Here we have an avalanche beacon with a few more bells and whistles. It is equipped with the usual functions, such as tagging and the ability to automatically switch to send mode in the event of a secondary avalanche. This also comes with an auto-search feature and a much broader search strip width.
Sometimes, during a search, a second avalanche can bury rescuers. In this event, the most capable beacons will activate a motion sensor to switch to transmit mode.
This function safeguards against the rescuers being lost in the event they cannot reach their own beacons. This Mammut comes with this fantastic, life-saving feature.
The Mammut Barryvox features a wide 70-meter search strip width that dictates the larger LED display. The display features a full 360-degree visualization, informing the rescuers on the slope, depth, and full range, including easy-to-understand instructions.
This allows for a super fine search across an area, knowing you’re not reading the beacon search wrong.
The auto search feature of this particular model allows for a simple button press to interact with other active searching people. It locates and guides to help you assist in digging and searching. You can combine efforts to quickly locate many beacons and have the maximum range.
With a few extra little features on top of the basic essentials, this will leave you feeling slightly more reassured when in avalanche terrain. Lithium batteries can keep the beacon working even in the coldest weather and ensure you aren’t left with no battery life and in the dark.
This model, as usual, comes with both a digital and analog transmit mode. The Marmmut really excels with its range. A maximum range of 70-meter digital and 100-meter analog is impressive and surpasses the most basic beacons.
The larger LED display is used to make the most of this impressive ability to pick up transmitting signals.
Mammut Barryvox S
The price of ” Mammut Barryvox S” varies, so check the latest price at
4. Ortovox Diract Voice
The Ortovox Diract comes with a super simple design. Capable of tagging multiple burial indicators and showing clearly the location of nearby beacons buried. It does the basics, and it does them well.
This is a super simple beacon, it uses a single button that, when pressed, guides the rescuer via both visuals and sound toward the nearest transmitting beacon.
The Ortovox Diract removes a lot of the stress that may come post-avalanche by simply and clearly displaying the direction. This is a capable beacon that will help keep you calm.
A smart antenna is used to help the beacon decide which of the three available antennas to use in any scenario. Ortovox Diract claims to more than double the range in bad reception areas.
This is a helpful feature for this model in particular due to its lower range than most avalanche beacons looked at so far. At only 50-meters, it is slightly lacking in range.
The Ortovox Diract is one of the more basic models available when it comes to avalanche beacons, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be suitable for someone going out into the backcountry.
With the ability to still guide, via voice and display, to multiple burial locations, it is still proficient at what it was designed to do. The simple and easy-to-use beacon would absolutely be a benefit to the beginner rescuer.
An adequate battery life and simple, auto switch system combined with an analog mode make this a beacon you can rely on to cover all the bases you need it to.
You won’t be let down by the Ortovox Diract, even if you are missing some of the bells and whistles of the best avalanche beacons.
Ortovox Diract Voice
The price of “Ortovox Diract Voice” varies, so check the latest price at
5. BCA Tracker4™
The Backcountry Access Tracker 4 is the bigger and better version of the Backcountry Access Tracker3. It offers a bigger display with big picture mode, a lightning-fast processor, signal suppression mode, and an easy-to-hold rubberized casing.
This is a real powerhouse of an avalanche beacon, offering a comprehensive list of functions to make sure you can locate multiple burials as fast and accurately as possible.
The Backcountry Access Tracker implements the Big picture mode that is designed to locate multiple victims as fast as possible. Introduced with the Backcountry Access Tracker3, this allows a rescuer to locate all the beacons in an area. This makes for a fine search area for multiple rescuers.
A signal suppression mode is included with this Backcountry Access Tracker. This allows for a temporary signal suppression function when you have located one buried signal.
In multiple burial scenarios, this allows you to locate one avalanche beacon, mark it for others, and quickly move on to the next. When there are multiple burial scenarios, it is imperative to locate and mark them all as quickly as possible.
This is one of the best avalanche beacons reviewed, you pay for premium and get it in the form of a rugged, hard-working, BCA tracker. Whilst still having all the basics we have seen across the previous models, such as an analog mode and tagging system, this really sits above the rest with its extra life-saving features.
The signal suppression system really speeds up avalanche beacon location, and paired with the Big Picture mode, most beacons will be found in a great time.
When you are in multiple burial scenarios, you want to be as fast as possible to get anyone buried out of the snow. The multiple burial function is a great extra to have.
The price of ” BCA Tracker4™” varies, so check the latest price at
6. BCA Tracker S™
This is the second BCA tracker on our list featuring many of the benefits of the Backcountry Access Tracker 4 reviewed previously but in a smaller, compact design.
The smaller avalanche beacon has done away with the motion tracker and upgradable software features. This results in a smaller, cheaper BCA tracker.
The BCA Tracker S still packs a punch with the fantastic multiple burial indicator functions brought about by the signal suppression and big-picture modes.
It has a maximum range of 55 -meters, which isn’t the best we have seen but uses three antennae to ensure it can be picked up even in tough conditions.
The battery life of this does suffer due to its size and functions. It advertises only 250 hours in transmission or 50 in search. This isn’t a great number, especially compared to some of the previous models that boast much longer times.
Backcountry Access is known for making some of the best avalanche beacons, this just happens to be their smaller cheaper version. If you are looking for something with long battery life and further micro-strip searching, then this isn’t the best beacon.
As a cheap and lightweight option, it does still have a lot of potential. You will still have some fantastic functions that could make all the difference. It will do a fine search in most conditions but may start to lack after a long time out on the mountain.
BCA Tracker S™
The price of “BCA Tracker S™” varies, so check the latest price at
7. Arva Evo5
The Arva Evo5 packs a lot of the best features into a small and lightweight package. A very standard 50-meter range, backlit display, and visual and audio distance signals all combine to provide an avalanche beacon that does what it needs to without weighing you down.
Super low profile and very cheap for a triple antenna beacon, this is the piece of equipment for the money conscious who still want to ensure they’re in good hands.
With a simple press of a button, it is possible to switch to search mode. Using the search tone and simple on-screen display it doesn’t take long to locate two buried beacons or more.
The multiple burials feature brings up one, two, or three images of skiers at the bottom of the screen depending on how many signals are found. This signifies signal overlap and helps with identifying how many should be looked for whilst digging.
A simple and lightweight tracker that, despite its price, does not slack when it comes to functionality. It is a highly competent avalanche beacon that can keep you safe when you need it.
The real issue lies with the single battery design on this model. The battery life suffers from its small size leaving only 200 hours of transmitting and only one single hour of searching. This will be a good model for someone with casual use or a pocket full of batteries.
The price of “Arva Evo5” varies, so check the latest price at
8. Arva Neo Pro
This is Arva’s flagship design, cramming all their best features into 240g of tech. A wide search strip and very intuitive directional guides make for an avalanche beacon that won’t let you down in any situation.
We have seen a number of beacons that offer between only 40 and 50 meters of the search range. The Neo Pro is equipped with an impressive 70-meter wide search strip.
Having such a broad area provides a fantastic distance from which to locate a buried beacon. Like the previous model we reviewed, it is equipped with multiple signal images on the screen.
Whilst scanning, if multiple beacons are picked up, a fine search can be initiated, and using the scrolling buttons, different signals can be selected to choose who to locate. This combined with a search technique selection tool, makes for an avalanche beacon that can do it all in any situation.
For a very reasonable price, a lot is offered. Many search functions over a wide range provide a scanner and receiver that will be a real asset in the dreaded situation of an avalanche burial.
Spending a little more than the smaller version will keep you in super-safe hands. It will be an asset both to you and to the team you work with.
Bringing a scanner to an avalanche that is able to identify how many are buried, and to select through them all is a lifesaver. The more you know about what you are looking at under the snow the better.
Arva Neo Pro
The price of “Arva Neo Pro” varies, so check the latest price at
Some Tips on Buying Avalanche beacons.
Making sure you know what you’re looking for when starting your search for your next avalanche beacon is essential. Saving money whilst still getting a piece of safety equipment that will potentially save your and someone else’s life is possible with the right knowledge.
I have listed a few key points to pay attention to when shopping around to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t important.
Send And Receive Modes
There are a number of modes for sending and receiving on the average beacon. All regular beacons transmit at 457Khz, which makes them universally receivable by all models of receivers. The method they receive is what sets them apart.
All models will come with a general search function, but a number of the better models come with a finer search function for when you are extra close to the beacon. This helps with pinpoint accuracy.
Search Range And Width
This is what set the beacons apart. When learning how to rescue on avalanche courses, the American avalanche institute works at a 40-meter range as the industry standard. This doesn’t mean that this is the maximum range they can work at though.
A lot of the premium receivers will have a range going all the way up to 7o-meters, giving you the ability not only to pick up single beacons as a distance but often multiple buried victims.
Finding a beacon with a broad and long distant range is something that is well worth keeping an eye out for. It will make all the difference when you have not seen where people have been covered with snow and will rapidly narrow down the search.
Digital Vs Analogue
Analogue was the industry standard once upon a time. It is a simple method using basic high-pitched sounds to help locate a body. It is tried and tested, and as a last resort, it can save a life.
In the situation where someone is under the snow, and the people searching don’t have receivers, it could be the difference that saves a life. Even without a receiver, anyone can listen out for the high-pitched noise. Rescue dogs are trained to locate it also.
Digital has since taken over as the preferred method. Via a 457Khz signal, receivers are able to digitally locate and direct toward the buried beacon. These are fantastically accurate and work through deep snow and adverse conditions.
Buying a beacon in this day and age without digital transmission would be very unusual and not recommended.
Weight And Dimensions
Beacons are usually quite small and only vary in weight by a few hundred grams. The small versions are tiny and can be kept in a pocket without really being noticed.
The smaller versions often sacrifice battery power and functionality for their compact design. They are still better than nothing and could easily save a life. For the casual user, they are perfect.
A much more bulky design often comes with a harness to keep it attached to the user. These have all the bells and whistles and are used by recon teams.
They are a way to stay confident on the days when the snow is fresh but could rip at any time. Safety should always come first when venturing into the great unknown.
Durability And Waterproofing
The last thing you want from safety equipment is for it not to survive the tumble it was supposed to protect against. Modern beacons are designed with durability in mind. They are watertight and able to take the real hammering that comes along with being caught in an avalanche.
Reading up on your potential new beacon and ensuring it is both waterproof and durable is always a good idea. There is no point in safety equipment that can’t keep up with you.
Untouched snow is usually not taken care of by ski patrol, depending on how far out of the boundaries of the resort you have gone. Ensuring you understand avalanche safety is essential when you start to get off the beaten track.
Resorts are regularly cleared of avalanche risks keeping them safe. This isn’t possible all over the whole mountain. Taking an avalanche safety course and keeping the right equipment on you will improve your chances if the worst happens.
It is important to give yourself the best chances if you get caught in an avalanche, so owning the right avalanche safety tools and wearing the right gear is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Making sure you know what the best avalanche beacons are before you go out could save your life.
The most important piece of equipment to keep in your arsenal is your avalanche beacon.
These beacons use a variety of methods to help locate a body buried in the snow. Sounds, digital transmissions, and RECCO harmonic radar are all methods of rescue signaling.
Avalanche rescue is well equipped to pick up all kinds of transmissions and quickly rescue the buried people. Beacons can range from highly advanced to the most basic that comes equipped in regular ski jackets.
Hitting fresh backcountry snow is a thrill unlike any other on the mountain. The long trek out to fresh, virgin snow is rewarded with silent hills and lines that belong to you. There is no snow like untouched powder and the serene beauty is unmatched. Making sure you keep on top of your avalanche awareness is important regardless.
Keep an eye out for avalanche warnings in the mornings, make sure people know where you have gone for the day, and wear your avalanche packs, beacons, and helmets. Go out with a team, and most of all, have fun. Stay safe out there shredders.