Gearbox: 2024 Beacons

From user-friendly to professional-level, these beacons have you and your backcountry needs covered.

Editors’ Choice: Ortovox Diract Voice

$450 |

Some disembodied digital voices are malevolent (ie. Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey). Not so for the atonal, simple commands the Diract Voice gives to guide users during an avalanche burial. “I found myself listening to the directions intuitively, like I was in a trance,” our tester said. He appreciated the Diract Voice’s lengthy list of beginner-friendly features: a large display, flag function for multiple burials, easy toggle switch, rubber side grips to help with shaky hands, and an automatic switch function in case of a secondary burial. His feelings about the rechargeable lithium-ion battery were mixed. It won’t leak like AAAs, but it could leave you up a creek if you forget to charge it before a tour or multiday trip. Its 50-meter search strip pales in comparison to its highest-end competitors, but our tester concluded, “That shortcoming is far outweighed by the fact the beacon helps you calm down without missing a step during a rescue.”

Mammut Barryvox

$385 |

Social media’s clean girl aesthetic is an elegant-yet-minimalist style, which might be the best way to sum up Mammut’s powerful-yet-easy Barryvox beacon. Though it’s been on the market since 2017, our tester still found the Barryvox to be a top-of-the-line choice for recreational backcountry users. “For those not aiming for professional courses, the Barryvox will check all the functions and more without being bogged down with unneeded features,” she explained. She backed up the claimed 70-meter search strip and found the flagging function to be reliable and simple. As for the screen, she said the distances, direction and number of burials were easy to read, even with polarized sunglasses, thanks to the backlighting. For those looking for a higher-end model, Mammut also sells the Barryvox S ($550), which includes an analog mode and allows the user to toggle through burials.

Backcountry Access Tracker S

$300 |

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” quipped our tester who has been using the unchanged Tracker S beacon for the past three winters. Simple and straightforward, BCA’s base-model beacon is great for first-time users and veterans alike. With just two controls—a secure dial to switch between functions and a button to flag beacons in search mode—the Tracker S hits the mark on ease of use. Plus, the clean design—uniform black—eliminates distraction and confusion. “Visual and audio search indicators are clearly communicated and easy to follow,” our tester said. So, where doesn’t it stack up? According to BCA, the max range is 55 meters—at least 20 meters shorter than other transceivers. “If someone’s buried, I’d like my beacon to offer an equal search distance to my partner’s,” our tester said. Still, she commented, “It’s hard to beat this reliability in the heat of a search.”

Arva Equipment Neo BT Pro

$420 |

Want a pro-level beacon without paying top dollar? Go for the Neo BT Pro, our tester recommends. “It’s chockful of features like group check, multiple burial capability and an analog search mode,” he said, “but at less money than comparable beacons.” Arva claims an 80-meter search strip (top of the market), but our tester found the displayed distances were less accurate above 65 meters. Other useful features he appreciated were the scrolling function to move between flagged victims, a noisy U-turn alert for when a searcher is moving in the wrong direction, and Bluetooth connectivity with the Arva app, which includes handy training modules. Highest on his list of perks was an alert that sounds after the Neo BT Pro senses electrical interference and recommends users shrink their search strip to 30 meters. “For the average user, it’s super intuitive,” he concluded, “but pros will also find everything they need for a higher-level tool.”

These reviews were originally published in Issue No. 153. For more, pick up a copy, or subscribe to read our gear reviews earlier when they are published in print.

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