Avalanche beacons are intimidating when you first pick one up. Especially when they have too many buttons and endless unnecessary features.
To make your life easier, I’ve outlined the best beginner avalanche beacons.
The best avalanche beacon for beginners is the Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver. This device is intuitive, easy to use and even provides simple voice commands.
Remember, when arming yourself with an avalanche transceiver you must also arm yourself with the right knowledge. Read some of our articles on avalanche safety!
- Simple, intuitive, easy to use.
- Unique voice navigation system
- 50-metre search range
- Flag up to 4 people
- Straight-forward single button operation
- Super lightweight
- Comfortable harness
- Voice commands aren't always as clear as they could be.
- Not the cheapest option on the market.
- Some beacons offer larger range
The Ortovox Diract Voice Transceiver:
- Weight: 7.4 oz (210g)
- Dimensions (in mm): 79 x 120 x 23
- Maximum range: 50
- Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery Life: 200+ Hours
- Number of avalanche victims: 4
The Ortovox Diract Voice Transceiver is the best beginner avalanche beacon. In an event as stressful as an avalanche, you need the most straightforward equipment available.
The innovative voice command system is intuitive and easy to use. It’s not perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than the primitive beeping used by other transceivers. This allows you to focus on the task at hand, rather than staring at the screen.
The system also offers other beginner-friendly technologies. The light sensor is able to detect when the light intensity changes, which could represent a secondary avalanche. This automatically switches the beacon back to send mode – so other rescuers could find you.
This is backed up with a motion sensor, which will also switch to send-mode if you’re inactive for 2-minutes (after emitting a 10-second warning alarm).
The Diract also used Smart Antenna Technology, finding the strongest antenna and switching to this to provide the best chance of recovery.
The rechargeable lithium battery is reliable even in sub-zero temperatures and the screen is bright and easy to read.
Whilst not the cheapest option available, it’s ease of use makes it the best avalanche beacon for beginners.
- Great value for money
- Super easy to use
- Great range - 55m
- Simple interface
- Low profile and lightweight
- Extremely fast processor
- Similar performance to the tracker3, at a better price point.
- Lacks voice commands
- Missing more premium features and does not have updatable software.
The BCA Tracker S Avalanche Beacon:
- Weight: 5.8 oz (165g)
- Dimensions (in mm): 115 x 71 x 26
- Maximum range: 55
- Battery: three AAA alkaline
- Battery Life: 1+ hours in search mode after 200 hours in transmit mode.
Another of the best beginner avalanche beacons is the BCA Tracker S. Whilst this lacks some of the premium functions of the Diract (such as voice command, motion sensors and a rechargeable battery), it remains a great option. It’s simple to use and cheaper than most other options.
The transceiver itself is low profile and extremely easy to carry. The processor is super fast and the beacon can switch between send and receive modes instantly.
If you’re on a budget, this is an excellent choice! However, overall I would still suggest the Ortovox for a few extra bucks.
The Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Avalanche Beacon:
- Weight: 7.6 oz (215g)
- Dimensions (in mm): 115 x 71 x 24
- Maximum range: 50
- Battery: three AAA alkaline
- Battery Life: Minimum 1 hour in search mode after 200 hours in transmit mode (approximately 250 hours in transmit only or 50 hours in search only)
Another great entry by BCA (Backcountry Access). The Tracker 3 is the slimmed down and simplified version of the Tracker 4. It’s aimed at a slightly more experienced crowd than the Tracker S, but it’s still intuitive enough to be a great avalanche beacon for beginners.
This beacon is consistently one of the fastest in the market, particularly during the fine search. It also has a super-slim profile, making it one of the best beacons to carry in your pocket. It looks very similar to the Tracker S above, but is slightly more advanced and allows software updates.
The tracker line includes some of the best beginner avalanche beacons ever made, so you can’t go wrong with either.
My Personal Favorite Beacon for Beginners
I’ve used dozens of avalanche beacons over the years; the Ortovox Diract is comfortably the best one for beginners.
I’ve taught several of my buddies to use it and noted a much shorter learning curve than normal. Even the advanced features are more intuitive compared to most options.
Arguably, it may have too many features for a complete technophobe – but most people these days are pretty familiar with tech. If not, go for the Tracker S.
How To Use The Beacons
It’s extremely important to know how to use your beacon, both for search and for your own rescue (god forbid). Discussing the many ins and outs of using your transceiver is a little outside the scope of this article.
Once you’ve chosen which beacon to buy, make sure you read the product specs carefully. Make sure you have also fully educated yourself on avalanche safety tips. This article is a good place to start.
And if you’re curious to know how avalanche beacons work, I’ve written about that too!
The most important step after this is to practice. Taking a backcountry safety course is an excellent way to hone your skills. You can never be too prepared!
Those are the best avalanche beacons for beginners. Make sure you gear up, clue up, make smart decisions and enjoy the backcountry safely.
Have fun and stay safe my friends!