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For a complete review of 2011’s newest beacons, pick up the January issue of Backcountry Magazine. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of last winter’s best beacons and our test procedures from the January 2010 issue.
You’ve just been buried by an avalanche. You’re panicking, running out of air, growing lightheaded. This is no time to worry about your partner’s dated beacon and rusty skills. There’s no replacement for plenty of search practice, but beacons have come a long way since the days of analog and headphones. With better range, smoother, faster pinpointing, and multiple-victim management and marking, any one of the following beacons is a serious step up from models just a few years old. Backcountry hopes you never need to use one in a real avy situation, but we’re confident that these six beacons will perform when you—or your partners—need them most.
The Test Setup
Five testers were chosen for their wide range of beacon experience, from professional to never-ever. Outdoor testing totaled more than 20 hours, conducted in large fields, away from power lines, homes, cell phones, and other interference, and each tester completed single burial and three-victim multiple burial scenarios. To simulate burial depth with only a foot of snow on the ground, testers held the beacons at stomach height for pinpointing, instead of directly on the snow. Multiple burial setups included an easy scenario with beacons separated by three to five meters, and a grueling scenario with three beacons buried within four meters, with two only 1.5 meters apart.
Good news: you should feel comfortable carrying (or having your partner carry) any one of these three antennae beacons. In single burials, every beacon performed nearly flawlessly for all testers, but differences became clear in how beacons managed multiple-burial scenarios. Certain features evoked strong preferences in testers, but there was ultimately one unanimous winner. When asked—after completing their testing—which beacon they would choose, all testers selected the Barryvox Pulse, Backcountry’s 2010 Editors’ Choice beacon.