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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Bonanno

Winter gear check time!

It's time again for wi ter gear check! Below is a great writeup from the American Mountain Guides Association on checking your avalanche transceiver.

Beacon, shovel, probe…check.

While this well worn meme is a time tested reminder, it is far from a comprehensive list of what you need going on a backcountry tour, so let’s take a deeper look in preparation for winter.

BeaconModern avalanche beacons have improved dramatically in the last few years. Modern transceivers have three antennae and a marking function—simple features that greatly enhance a beacons’ performance.

Test Your Beacon:

Perform a Range Check. Know your beacons’ Recommended Search Strip Width and ensure that in worst coupling (typically in a perpendicular orientation) your beacon can still pick up a signal at 50% of the recommended search strip width.

Test for Signal Drift (“Pro Check'' on Barryvox). Many modern transceivers offer a function which checks the accuracy of the signal (within +/- 80MHz of 457 KHz). Some, Like Mammut’s Barryvox S, also check for accurate timing in milliseconds of the duration of the “on'' time vs the “off” time, meaning the length of the beep versus the duration of silent time. These are regulated by international norms which reduces the likelihood of signal overlap.

Use your Group Check Function. This does not simply check the presence of a 457 Khz signal, it tests for proper amplitude, or strength, to meet the manufacturer's recommended search strip width.

If available, make sure to get your beacon diagnostically tested at a service center. Mammut’s Pulse, Element, Barryvox, and Barryvox S are all capable of Diagnostic Testing that confirms the performance of all functions. Mammut recommends this to be done a minimum of every three years.

Update Firmware. Firmware updates improve the performance of your beacon significantly. Depending on the update, it may enhance signal separation algorithms, the range of your beacon, the electromagnetic interference (EMI) warning capability, marking accuracy, and more. Sometimes, they may even provide a patch for a software glitch. Bottom line: if updates are available, use them. The Barryvox and Barryvox S are currently operating on FW 3.4.

Visual Inspection: Check for cracks in the housing, corrosion in the battery compartment, and strength of the battery contacts. All of these checks are performed during comprehensive diagnostic testing.

For more information go to

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