This includes backcountry skiers but also anyone snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or winter hiking. Avalanches don’t distinguish between recreationists.
Once you find the best avalanche beacon, you’ll be better prepared to deal with winter weather. In many ways, winter is the most dynamic and unpredictable season. Getting the right equipment is an important step in understanding how to navigate the colder months outdoors.
Best Avalanche Beacons Reviewed
Check out our list of the best avalanche beacons. These transceivers are accurate, easy to use and will provide critical information in any emergency situation. They are helpful to all winter recreationists, novices to avalanche professionals. Don’t go into backcountry terrain without one of these capable beacons.
Best Overall Avalanche Beacon
Other avalanche beacons may have more advanced features, but the Backcountry Access Tracker3 hits all the right notes between usability and function. It can accomplish all the tasks you need it to from most recreational situations and provides reliable data.
Weight: 7.6 oz (215.5g)
Max range: 55m
Operating temperature: -25 to 45℃ (-13 to 113 ℉)
- Easy to use beacon: This avalanche beacon is simple to operate and intuitive, which is great for anyone looking to simplify their setup or someone just getting into backcountry skiing/riding.
- Battery Life: In transmit mode (passive), this beacon can last a whopping 250 hours. Search mode will drain the battery faster.
- Very fast processor: These are consistently the fastest avalanche beacons for single-person avalanche rescues.
- Detailed fine search: Accurate information when you’re in the bracketing stage. Distance displays are easy to read and help you quickly center yourself over the buried beacons.
- Pocket ready: The small size and lightweight design make it easy to carry this avalanche beacon around on single or multi-day adventures.
- Multiple burial: If you are in a multiple burial scenario, the Tracker3 doesn’t do a great job at handling multiple buried beacons at once.
- No Bluetooth connectivity or rechargeable battery: Minimalism is the keyword here, this avalanche beacon works well, but there are no bells and whistles like Bluetooth or rechargeable batteries.
Lightest Avalanche Beacon
Ultralight snow sports enthusiasts, take note; this is one of the lightest, fully functional avalanche beacons on the market. The fine search capabilities are also quite good, and the beacon is easy to hold.
Weight: 4.8 oz (136.1g)
Max Range: 50m
Operating Temperature: -20 to 45 ℃ (-4 to 113℉)
- Lightweight: No one wants to carry around an unnecessary amount of weight, and while avalanche beacons should be non-negotiable in avalanche terrain, this beacon takes the prize for the lightest offering.
- Fully functional: In many cases, lighter weight means sacrificing functionality elsewhere, but this is still a fully functioning beacon.
- Fast processor: The beacon displays accurate information quickly, aiding in searches.
- Bluetooth capability: Can connect to your phone.
- Easy to hold: The ribbed exterior makes it especially easy to hold with gloves on.
- Stiff buttons: Toggling the on/off button is tough with gloves on.
- Battery life: The overall battery life is still quite good but relies on one AA battery which means less power and life than similar models that use rechargeable batteries or 3 AAA’s.
- Good range: Stated range is longer than many competing options.
- User-friendly display: The LED-lighted display is easy to read and interpret.
- Glove-friendly: The switches are large enough to operate with thick winter gloves on.
- Fast processor: Get the information you need displayed quickly.
- Fine search: Not as quick or precise as other options. Still very useful for the majority of users, but other beacons are a bit quicker in the fine search/bracketing phase.
Best Avalanche Beacon for experts
Taking it up a notch with the Barryvox S, Mammut has crafted a fully features and highly accurate device. This is not the easiest avalanche beacon to use, but it has the best-advanced features and modes that experts, guides and avalanche professionals will enjoy.
Weight: 7.4 oz
Max Range: 70m/95m (digital/analog)
Operating Temperature: -25 to 45 ℃ (-13 to 113 ℉)
- Fast processor: Get critical information displayed quickly and accurately.
- Best Range: with a nearly 100m range in the analog mode, this beacon has the best range in our list.
- Multiple burial: Can not only flag and locate multiple signals but will also differentiate between them to help you locate multiple victims.
- Comfortable to carry: The size and weight are firmly in the average range of most beacons and can fit into a pocket easily.
- Fantastic battery life: Among the best of the best, this beacon takes 2 AAA lithium batteries for superior performance.
- Expensive: With all its features and functionality, it makes sense that the price is higher. However, it may be too expensive for a lot of budgets.
Best Bundle: Black Diamond Guide Avy Safety Set
Some of the most expensive avalanche beacons can drain your wallet, but for the same price, you can get a set of avalanche safety tools to cover your bases. This set will satisfy the vast majority of recreational backcountry users. If you are an expert skier, ski patroller or avalanche professional, it may be worth getting more advanced avalanche safety equipment, but that only applies to a small percentage of backcountry users.
Items included: Avalanche Shovel (collapsible), Probe (collapsible), Black Diamond Lt Recon Transceiver
- 3 for 1: The best bundle out there, three critical pieces of avalanche equipment in one package.
- Competitive price: For all three items, you’re only paying a hundred dollars more than you would for the more expensive beacons out there.
- The Evac 7 Shovel: This great tool has multiple applications for backcountry and any snowy situation. When it’s cold out, and you aren’t in the backcountry, leave the shovel in your car for emergency situations.
- Beacon is Bluetooth enabled: The included avalanche beacon is able to connect to Bluetooth for updates and training modes.
- Quickdraw probe: Fully collapsible and able to extend with just a few quick moves, this probe is perfect for quick burial situations.
- Overall price: The overall price is a little high, but if you need all three items, there aren’t many deals around that can give you what this kit does.
Best Runner-Up Avalanche Beacon
An updated version of the wildly popular Backcountry Access Tracker3, the BCA Tracker 4 avalanche beacon features largely the same interface and modes with a more durable case and a larger display. The updates are relatively minor, though and don’t necessarily justify the price jump.
Weight: 7.6 oz (215g)
Max Range: 55m
Operating Temperature: -20 to 40 ℃ (-4 to 104 ℉)
- Larger screen: Building off the Tracker3, the display is larger and easier to read.
- Durable case: The case is better equipped to handle some falls and abuse.
- Same benefits as the Tracker 3: With the same features and modes, the reliability is on par with our best overall selection.
- Comfortable to wear: The Tracker 4 fits into most zippered ski pants pockets for easy access.
- Great for 1-2 burial situations: Fine search is accurate, and like the Tracker 3, the processor is very fast.
- Pricier: The price jump from the Tracker3 isn’t a lot, but you’re also only getting a bigger screen and a more durable case. If you have a habit of throwing your gear, it may be worth it, but for most, the Tracker3 is fine.
How to Choose an Avalanche Beacon
Before settling on an avalanche beacon, make sure it will be able to handle the situations you’re going to put it through. The following points should help narrow down your search.
Does the avalanche beacon come with a waterproof profile? Is the case durable? Also, check out the state operating temperature range. You need a beacon that can handle extremes on either end.
Many beacons rely on multiple AAA batteries, which grant a longer life than one single AA. Lithium battery-compatible beacons are more powerful, and beacons that employ rechargeable batteries are useful as well. In all scenarios, look at maximum battery life (stated in transmit mode) and bring extra batteries on any adventure.
Size and Dimensions
If you’re worried about weight, opt for a lightweight model. If you want to tote the avalanche beacon around in your pocket, make sure it is easy to carry. Most avalanche beacons are small enough to bring with you without noticing an increase in weight, but if size and dimensions matter, look for minimalist options. Fully featured and expensive avalanche beacons can end up being bigger than what you’re looking for.
- Price: You should be able to find a great beacon for under $500.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Some avalanche beacons have it, and some don’t.
- Bundles: If you need multiple items, consider getting a bundle. You can always get a more advanced item as your backcountry adventures increase.
- Multiple burial scenarios: Can your avalanche beacon detect multiple signals clearly and accurately? If you plan to travel with one or two partners, this is less of a concern, but larger groups need to have an avalanche beacon that can detect multiple burial signals accurately.
- Avalanche Safety Course: Avalanche beacons help, but nothing can substitute for the right information. Look up an avalanche rescue course to increase your avalanche awareness. The knowledge gained from avalanche courses can be applied every time you go out.
Q: How do you wear an avalanche beacon?
A: Some avalanche beacons come with a harness that you can wrap around your chest underneath a shell or jacket. In other cases, larger zippered pockets can easily hold the beacon.
Q: How often should you replace an avalanche beacon?
A: The best avalanche beacons are hardy, and if you’re not noticing any problems, you won’t need to replace them for a decade or more. If the screen becomes hard to read, the processor slows down, or the buttons and switches get tougher to handle, then replace it.
Q: Are avalanche beacons universal?
A: Yes, all avalanche beacons work on the same international frequency. You need to practice with your beacon to get the best results.
Winter backcountry adventures come with real risks. Luckily, modern avalanche beacons are here to help; whether it’s single or multiple burial scenarios, these tried and tested devices are widely considered mandatory. Find the best avalanche beacons with Altitude-Spots so you can stay safe all winter long.