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Avalanche Beacons - Reviews & Guides For 2024

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Avalanche beacon buying guide

With the adrenaline-pumping thrill, backcountry skiing comes with a safety concern. No doubt, you get all the freedom, but you are responsible for your own safety. Avalanche beacons allow you to send a distress signal and communicate with other beacons quickly in emergencies.

By having a reliable beacon by your side, help can reach you faster. In case of an avalanche or unfortunate accident, you can quickly give a distress signal for help. So, having the right quality product is vital as your life depends on it.

While selecting a particular model, you have to look into specific features. A comprehensive buying guide provides you all the information at a single stop. You don't have to search tons of pages online to collect all the details and facts.

You can quickly analyze the pointers and funnel down the best product. But before all this, you should have a clear picture of the product in your mind.

So, without further ado, let us look at a quick briefing of the product and then move further in this detailed guide.

What do you mean by Avalanche Beacons? Why do you need them?

An avalanche beacon, also known as an avalanche transceiver, is a special type of electric device used to find people buried under snow. It releases a strong radio signal that helps to track down a victim of an avalanche.

If you are going for backcountry skiing, you will need an avalanche beacon to ensure the safety of your life. Also, it will help you to save others in an emergency.

There is a big chance of experiencing an avalanche in the backcountry slopes, and it comes unexpectedly. So, if you wear a beacon, the rescue team can locate you faster to save you from the aftermath of the avalanche.

Besides a probe and a shovel, an avalanche beacon should be considered as an essential gear. But one thing you should remember that an avalanche beacon is not supposed to protect you from avalanches. You can use it as an emergency gear in an accidental situation.

Types of Avalanche Beacons

Commonly, two types of beacons are available in the market-- one is analog, and another is digital.

  1. Digital Beacons

Digital beacons are better than the analog beacons in terms of functionality and speed.

They are built with a small computer and multiple antennas. These antennas are used in collecting information from the radio signal. The computer analyses the data and shows the direction and distance on display.

The best thing about a digital transceiver is that it can work faster, which means it can adjust the signal change and help you to locate the victims efficiently.

  1. Analog Beacons

Analog beacons are equipped with only one antenna, which helps to receive the radio signal.

You hear a beep sound after the device has received the signal. If you come closer to the target, you will get to hear louder beeps frequently. It will help you to locate the victim covered under the heap of snow.

But, this beep sound may not be reliable all the time, so digital transceivers can be a more effective solution in such cases.

Things to deem about while selecting appropriate Avalanche Beacons

Size and design

You should consider the size and design of the avalanche beacons in the first place while choosing one for you. It is crucial because the comfort of the model you are choosing directly depends on its size and design.

A beacon that is heavy and bulky will not be the right choice. Similarly, you should avoid a lightweight and fragile model.

Instead, you are suggested to look for a durable device that is built well. It makes sure that you can operate your beacon without having any discomfort.

Therefore, you should consider the model with an optimum weight, which you can handle effortlessly. A durable device can withstand any problematic situation and last longer.

If your beacon comes with straps and harness, you should check them properly before buying.

Frequency and Compatibility

Most of the avalanche beacons are compatible with each other when it comes to communication. Thus your search becomes faster after the accident has taken place.

Nowadays, all transceivers work at the standard frequency of 475kHz, so it is easy to find each other hassle-free. Because of this universal frequency, you can operate your device effectively anywhere in the world.

This universal frequency has been used over the last twenty years, so you can buy a new device without any doubts.

Initially, some beacons used to have dual frequencies such as 475 kHz and 2.257 kHz, but they had compatibility issues. Also, older models have the problem of "frequency drift" that can restrict your search flow.

So, it is highly recommended to replace your old beacon device with a new one. You can find some beacons which are well-equipped with advanced features that can adjust the frequency drift effectively.

It makes sure that you can search for little more or less than 475 kHz, and thus your device can collect signals from the older models.


Several factors determine the effectiveness of your avalanche beacon. The first and foremost thing is the design that has a significant impact on it.

Usually, almost all modern avalanche transceivers have a uniform frequency, but their speed of picking up a signal may differ. It happens because of the different components present inside the devices.

Moreover, how effectively the beacon can work depends on the users as well. An avalanche beacon can be used for both the victims and rescuers.

So you must know the exact way to operate the beacon when you are a victim buried under heavy snow or a member of the rescue team.

Without having the right knowledge of how to operate a beacon, you can not use it properly. So, before you buy the top-quality beacons, you ought to know how it works.

Also, there are some additional features like a third antenna, multiple victims flagging, etc. which can help the devices perform efficiently.


It is essential to check the avalanche beacons' portability because you need to carry them with you for backcountry skiing as an emergency tear.

Therefore, you should choose a lightweight and comfortable device that is easier to carry.

Usually, a harness is attached to the beacon, which helps to hold the device tightly on the body, but it will not impede your movement.

You can wear the device under the jacket, and there is barely any chance that it will fall off if the avalanche strikes.

On the other hand, you will see some newer models with a compact size without any harness. They will simply fit inside your pocket of the skin clothing without wearing any harness.

You can also keep the device in your inner pocket instead of the backpacks' outer pockets.


Unlike the older models, many avalanche beacons are built with multiple antennas. Especially, three-antenna models have become very popular nowadays. Two antennas are also very common.

It is needless to mention that having more than one antenna means you will get better coverage. If your device has multiple antennas oriented differently, it will be convenient to strong radio signals, and in turn, your device will have better readings.

So, it will be a crucial decision to look for a device with three antennas. With the third antenna, you can locate the buried person much faster because of the stable signals.

However, three-antenna versions neither make any difference in the range nor improve the function of the device.

Similarly, it does not create any significant difference for the victims. The signal transmission is the same as the models equipped with two antennas.


The coverage of the avalanche transceivers directly depends on their range. Put simply, if you choose a higher range, it will cover larger areas, so you must consider the range of the device before making your purchase.

Usually, this range varies from one model to another, but it is not less than 130 feet or more than 200 feet.

If you place the beacon in the center of a circle, the range will be represented by the diameter, which means it can cover at least 65 to 100 feet in all directions from your standing position.

So, it will be wise to look for a higher range. However, some devices are able to pick up the signals from another buried device very quickly, even though they have a smaller range.

You should always remember that a person covered under heavy snow or uneven terrain can significantly affect the range, so you should consider the range accordingly.


Generally, most of the avalanche beacons run on three AAA batteries. Few devices require one AA battery. It means you should check which one you need before making your purchase.

Alkaline batteries can be the best choice for powering your beacon because they are the most reliable and most appropriate for low temperatures.

It will be better not to choose lithium or rechargeable batteries. Lithium batteries are not reliable enough to show the remaining power with accuracy where rechargeable batteries cannot perform well in colder weather conditions.

You should make sure that you have at least 40% battery power before you start your journey. Typically, most devices have 200+ hours of battery life when they are operated in transmit mode.

However, if you are going on a trip for an extended period, you should always carry extra battery packs for emergency purposes.

Multiple Burials

When it comes to rescuing more than one victim buried under the stack of snow, you must take the matter more seriously. As a matter of fact, this situation rarely arises, but you should be prepared to deal with this problem efficiently.

With a view to that, many manufacturers have designed their avalanche beacons in an advanced way so that they can detect multiple signals effectively.

You will see the number and the direction on display, which will help you figure out the number of signals and their direction at ease.

But, you should know how to make a difference between two signals. Otherwise, they will overlap, and it will be challenging to find out the victims. So, you are suggested to search for a beacon that can serve this purpose.

If your device comes up with the marker function, you can easily mark the victims after finding, and thus you can save your time and continue your search at a pace.

Ease of Setup

You should look for an avalanche beacon, which is easier to access and has less complicated functions to use. You must check how convenient it is to turn the device on/off and switch between different modes.

Moreover, if you are a beginner, you should avoid a device having different types of control options so that you will be able to reach the victim without any hassles.

Too many options can create more confusion. So, you should know your avalanche beacon properly before your journey. Otherwise, you will find it very stressful to figure out the things in an emergency situation.

Also, you should check whether the device is able to pick up signals quickly or not. You can choose a beacon that can adjust the signals automatically. This is how you can ensure that you can complete your search successfully.


It is no brainer that the avalanche beacons that cover more additional features can work more effectively on snow. Although the primary function is more or less the same in all models, these extra features may create a difference in their performance.

Having some extra features in your avalanche transceiver will allow you to have a quicker rescue operation, so it will be wise to consider these features while you are scanning the models.

  1. Auto Transmit mode

Some transceiver devices are able to switch to the transmit mode automatically, which can be very helpful in a difficult situation. As you turn on a beacon, it will be in search mode, but if the device does not detect any movement for a longer time (measured by the minute), it will revert to transmit mode on its own.

  1. W-Link frequency

Many top-quality beacons are built with W-Link frequency, which supports the universal frequency, and it can transmit better information to the rescue team so that they can find out the buried victim faster.

  1. Flagging

Another common but essential feature is flagging or marking that comes in handy when you are searching for multiple victims. Once you have found the first victim, you can mark the location and keep on searching effortlessly.

  1. Big Picture mode

This function is closely related to flagging because it will let you know about the closest signals and their directions as well. The most important thing is that the signals do not overlap with each other, so it becomes more convenient to get your job done in an effective way.

  1. Compatibility with other devices

You will be happy to know that there are some beacons that can be easily connected to smartphones through Bluetooth. You can use this feature to update the present software, transfer data to the mobile phone and more. Also, it is possible to connect the beacon to your PC with the help of a USB cable.

Search Strips

  1. Wide Strips

Avalanche beacons equipped with wide strips are able to scan the danger locations very fast. But it comes with a downside that may lead you to complete the search without having any signals.

You should consider a device that can change a narrow search strip into a wide and vice-versa. This is how you can adjust your requirements according to your present conditions.

You must keep in mind that if you do not have previous experience on how to operate this device, you must practice thoroughly before going out. It will help you to know when you should use wide search strips instead of the narrow ones.

  1. Narrow Strips

As the name suggests, narrow search strips are the opposite of the wide strips. They take more time than the wide strips.

Arguably, a narrow strip can detect mountain signals with more accuracy, so you can choose your beacon that supports this feature.

However, you should practice thoroughly to make use of this efficiently. Thus you can search faster without compromising your accuracy.

Safety Guarantee

You should not expect any safety guarantee from your avalanche transceiver device. It will work best to help you find buried people but, unfortunately, never guarantee your safety from avalanches.

So, when you plan for skiing in backcountry slopes, you have to leave your survival to your luck, the rescuers, and other unpredictable variables.

Furthermore, you can take training in advance, consider the airbag and use a helmet to increase your safety during your journey. Having said that, it entirely depends on mother nature, whether you will experience an avalanche or not.

So, you should always be careful and carry all the emergency gear to make sure that you will have a better chance of survival even if you are buried under the snow.

Visual Screens

Different types of displays are available in the avalanche beacons, especially in the newer models. With these display screens, you can have exact readings, which will definitely maximize the speed, and thus you are allowed to identify the directions and victims with more efficiency.

These screens are typically smaller in size, and they come with the low resolution. They usually show the direction and distance. However, it is up to you to check the information that is shown on the screen of the device you are going to buy.

How do Avalanche Beacons work?

An avalanche beacon can detect another device through electromagnetic signals, which are also called radio signals. It is able to pick up the signals transmitted from other devices, and this is how it can locate a victim covered under the snow after the avalanche has happened.

Usually, these transceivers are operated in two modes, including receive mode and transmit mode. When you turn on a device, it will start working on receive mode. It will collect the signal from the device buried under the snow, process the information and display the distance along with the direction on the screen.

The rescuer team needs to follow the signals as well as the flux lines to reach the closest point where they will get the strongest signal. After that, they are ready to start the rest of the process that includes probing, digging etc.

On the contrary, the beacons use the antennas when they work in the transmit mode. The antennas transmit waves at the standard frequency of 475 kHz.

These signals can cover the surrounding areas according to their range and obtain the shape of flux lines. Therefore, the device emits signals continuously when in transmit mode.

In a challenging situation like avalanches, the speed of the beacons can create a huge difference between your life and death. So, it is vital to know all the features of your device and check the reading correctly.

You can find some transceivers that are built with automatic functions. It can be very useful for emergency situations. For example, some devices can switch to the transmit mode automatically where others will start searching automatically if you remove it from the harness.

However, you must bear it in your mind that the avalanche transceivers also have their limitations. They are compatible with other transceivers when they are within a certain range. They do not use satellite communication, so you should not expect effective results if you are lost in the forests.

In such cases, you can consider a hiking GPS so that you can point out a particular location with the help of a satellite. Otherwise, you can go for a personal locator transceiver.


  1. Should I wear the beacon under a layer of clothing?

Yes, you should always wear the product under one layer as the layer will protect the beacon, and it will not get lost during the slide.

  1. I am new to the skiing world. My beacon has three antennas. Is it safe and will work properly?

Yes, the antenna will work properly. Usually, all the models come with three antennas. The number of antennas is directly responsible for pinpointing your exact location. Having more number antennas will allow the rescue team to identify your location to the exact spot in case of emergencies.

  1. How can I change from transmitting to receiving mode?

It depends upon the model you have purchased. Typically there is an on/off button or a slider to change the mode.

Summing Up

Avalanche beacons present a portable and effective way to reach for help in case of a challenging situation. All you need is to select the best product.

Here in this guide, we have provided all the necessary pointers that will aid you in sorting out the best option. Go through them, select an elite beacon, and enjoy your adventure safely. / - © Copyright 2020