Can you still use the beeper

The best avalanche transceiver?

Man and material

The avalanche transceiver, along with the shovel and probe, is part of the standard equipment of every freerider. There are different types and brands. In the past there were only analogue devices with antennas, then 2 antennas followed and currently avalanche transceivers are equipped with 3 antennas. Don't you have an avalanche transceiver yet? Then you should definitely opt for a three-antenna avalanche transceiver.

One-antenna avalanche transceiver

Single-antenna avalanche transceivers are the beeper from the past. A beeper with an antenna receives the signal only via this one antenna and emits this signal via a loudspeaker as an acoustic signal. What you hear when you receive a signal are beeps that get louder or quieter. You can regulate the received noises using a filter button. There is only one manufacturer left who produces avalanche transceivers with an antenna (PIEPS with the Freeride model). All other brands have stopped producing single-antenna devices.

On the left the ORTOVOX F1, on the right the PIEPS Freeride.

The trick is to set up the device so that you can hear the signal well, but not too loudly. Then you go in the direction from which the loudest signal is coming. In the meantime, you turn the filter knob back further and further until the signal becomes quieter or even stops. Then you go back to where the signal was most clearly heard, turn 90 degrees and walk in the direction in which the signal gets louder. You repeat this until you reach your goal.

It's a bit cumbersome and you need good hearing to be able to hear the differences in volume. That's not that easy! All beepers with only one antenna are analog devices. There is one exception, however. The Freeride model from PIEPS is a beeper with an antenna but with internal digital technology.

Avalanche transceivers with an antenna are relatively cheap, but if you do not live in the mountains or do not have a lot of search experience with such a beeper, we strongly advise against this avalanche transceiver. If you want to master an avalanche beeper with an antenna well, you need a lot of experience and have to practice a lot with it.

Two-antenna avalanche transceiver

Backcountry Access (BCA) was launched in 1997 with its famous "Tracker" model. It was the first avalanche transceiver that had two antennas and used a computing module. This indicates the search direction, so you don't need loud signals or signals. BCA was followed by several brands with two-antenna avalanche transceivers. But the introduction of the three-antenna avalanche transceiver quickly made two-antenna devices superfluous. Only BCA offers a two-antenna avalanche transceiver with the "Tracker DTS".

Digital beeper
The distance and the search direction are indicated on a display with arrows. That is why these devices are called digital beeps. Once you get a signal, follow the arrows in the direction shown on the display. A '180 degree error' is possible here, however. In practice, you run straight to the victim in a slight curve. After the "Tracker", more two-antenna devices came onto the market. They all have different functions. Some say they are receiving multiple signals. Others have an analog backup function (can undoubtedly be useful). With the computing modules in this new generation of avalanche beepers, producers were also able to adjust the signal tone. Not just the monotonous beeps but, for example, a faster or higher tone, the closer you get to the goal.

Fast reaction time
The "Tracker DTS" still has an extremely fast response time. So it reacts quickly to movements of the viewfinder, but many avalanche beeps with three antennas are now faster. The weak point of the "Tracker DTS" is its limited range, which is why you only receive a signal when you are quite close to the avalanche victim. The difference (in the reception area) is smaller than many manufacturers would like to believe. Ortovox thought that the reason was not due to two antennas but to the display and brought the "M1" onto the market. But that was quickly taken off the market and replaced by the "M2" model. This is an analog device with an antenna, but with a display. The M2 has also been taken off the market in the meantime.

Yeah sure, antennas. Avalanche transceivers transmit over the frequency 457 kHz and from the moment we switch to search, these antennas are used. We receive the signal with the antennas. With the introduction of two-antenna devices, it was possible to calculate where the victim should lie approximately. For this purpose, a processor was installed to convert the signals from the two antennas into clear instructions for the direction of travel for the rescuer in search. With the introduction of the third antenna, fine-tuning has become easier. This third antenna is literally much shorter, which is why this shorter area does not matter until you are very close to the victim. The LVS then sacrifices you precisely.

Three-antenna avalanche transceiver

With the three-antenna devices everything became much easier! On the one hand, a third antenna was installed and at the same time the new processor chips got a lot more computing power, which in turn made extra functions possible.

A collection of three-antenna avalanche transceivers.

Several buried victims
The third antenna largely solves the problems with victims lying deep under the snow. The new software makes it possible to give every received signal an identity. This gives you the option of ignoring signals (virtually switching them off) in the event of multiple burials. So you can locate several avalanche victims with such devices. If there are several signals, run to the first victim, mark it by pressing the button and then run to the second, etc. With some models, you can choose yourself which signal you want to block.

Blocking function
There is a little catch, however. These blocking features don't always work equally well. If you are unlucky, the signals you receive will overlap so often that it is difficult to block a particular signal. That is certainly a reason for discussion. Nevertheless, three-antenna avalanche transceivers are very suitable for several buried subjects, even if the blocking function does not work. But then they are no better than a two-antenna device. The advantage of the devices in deep burials remains, however.

Our recommendation is to buy a three-antenna avalanche transceiver. Although you need a lot of practice with each type of avalanche transceiver and have to be practiced again and again so that you can act correctly in an emergency, a three-antenna avalanche transceiver is by far the most user-friendly. The price is higher than devices with one or two antennas, but locating a buried victim earlier is worth every euro.

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