Summer Storage: Maintain Your Beacon, Shovel, Probe and Airbag in the Off Season

Most tips for summer storage serve as practical time-savers: clean, waterproofed gear and waxed skis make it that much quicker to get on the skintrack when the snow starts falling again. But for beacons and avy equipment, summer storage is even more important. Proper storage, and testing equipment before heading out again, is crucial to another safe bc season.

The Skadi: Best served with a ketchup and avalanche education.

If you still use the Skadi, it might be time for an off-season upgrade.

Why Clean and Update Your Stuff

Over time, batteries can leak, which can cause corrosion to a beacon’s battery terminals and the electrical wiring. “Corrosion will fester and grow worse all summer, until the point where you can’t use [a beacon],” says Jeremy Jolley, U.S. Brand and Sales Manager for Arva Equipment.

It’s also important to update firmware regularly to ensure your beacon is equipped with up-to-date internal software. This will allow new features on a beacon without the purchase of a new model, although if your beacon is over five years old, it’s probably time to splurge on a new one. It’s important to regularly check your other safety gear for signs of wear and tear that could be detrimental in an emergency situation, too.

How to Do It

Storing a beacon for the off season is easy—just take your batteries out. And if you forget to take your batteries out at the end of the season, brushing the corrosion off isn’t enough; the beacon should be tested, repaired and replaced if need be.

Next, check the manufacturer’s website for any new firmware updates that may be available, and update accordingly. If you’re unsure of what firmware your beacon currently has, consider sending it to its manufacturer for a diagnostic test. Then, ideally, run through some testing with your regular ski partners. “If you have time, put in fresh batteries and run a good diagnostic,” Jolley says. “That’s the ‘black diamond’ of storage, and just taking the batteries out is the blue square.” Make sure to test your beacon a few times in both search and transmit mode. For step-by-step tutorials, websites like WildSnow and EarnYourTurns have in-depth posts on how to test your beacon and determining whether it’s time to update or upgrade your beacon. If your beacon is inaccurate at less than 30 meters, that’s a good sign it’s old and the signal is drifting, and that it’s time for a new beacon.

Checking shovels and probes only takes about five minutes and is worth the time. Check the cable, cord or Teflon on a probe, and practice throwing it to make sure it’s functioning properly. Then, inspect the plastic and pin pieces on your shovel for anything cracked or missing. Rusting can be an issue on shovels, so use WD-40 as a summer preventative.

Give airbags a once-over to inspect for any damages to the pack, including to the cords and straps. This is a good time to also make sure the deployment trigger is working, which, on some models, can be done without inflating the airbag by removing the cartridge and testing the trigger mechanism. Many bags are designed to withstand multiple avalanche releases and test deployments, but if your bag has withstood roughly 20 deployments, take your airbag to a trusted shop or reach out to a customer service department like Mammut’s for maintenance. Depending on the airbag, packs can be stored with or without the canister attached; double check with your particular brand before storing in a cool, dry place for the off season.

Not planning on hanging up your boards any time soon? Check out our Summer Stashes series to earn your turns all year round. 

This article was originally published in May 2015.


  1. […] recently stumbled upon an article about summer storage for avalanche gear on Backcountry Magazine. It offered some great tips on how to store your life saving tools – beacons, shovels, […]

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