Winter 19/20 Transceiver review – Part 2

Part 1 covered our range of entry level to intermediate devices, now I’ll be moving on to our more advanced transceivers. While the devices covered have plenty of more advanced features that professionals will find useful, these features can be turned off in most cases, so if you decide to ‘future proof’ and go for a more advanced device straight away, then you can add features as your familiarity improves.

Part 2 will cover:

  • Mammut Barryvox S
  • Black Diamond Guide BT
  • BCA Tracker 3

If you have not read part 1 yet it covers:

  • Ortovox Zoom+
  • BCA Tracker S
  • Ortovox 3+
  • Black Diamond Recon BT
  • Mammut Barryvox

The three devices covered in this part all have some common features so I’ll get them out of the way here;

Signal mask. They all have a function to mark or unmark a signal should you want to start the search for a second victim while other dig out the first

Big Picture mode. In the case of multiple burials this feature will display usually up to four of the nearest signals and their distances so you can get an idea of where each casualty is located. This feature is in our opinion for professionals only, and is most likely just too much information for a beginner or intermediate user in a very stressful situation. It can be turned off on most devices.

Group check. The transceiver will check multiple other transceivers that are within range to ensure they are transmitting correctly. This function is usually used by guides at the start of the day, but its best practice for everyone to do it too.

Mammut Barryvox S

The Mammut Barryvox S is probably the most powerful transceiver currently on the market. It has an effective digital search range of 70 meters, and it really does work at those sorts of ranges, rather than giving confusing readings as can often be the case. For intermediate users all the advanced functions can be turned off to turn it into essentially a regular Barryvox, but with a more advanced screen. Even in basic mode the Barryvox S has some very clever functionality. The Auto Guidance will continue to guide the user to a buried device in the event of a signal failure

In Pro Search mode all the features that an advanced user will want are enabled. Big Picture mode is combined with vital data transmitted from other Barryvox devices by W-Link. This data is essentially movement data picked up by a buried Barryvox allowing an experienced user to prioritise a search for casualties most likely to survive. A true analogue search mode allows you to hear the actual audio signal from transmitting transceivers, allowing you to filter out ‘false positive’ signals.

The W-Link also allows you to perform firmware updates on other Barryvox S transceivers should you already have it installed on your device. Mammut release fairly regular updates as they analyse feedback from users. At Facewest we offer an update service for free if you purchase your device from us.

The Barryvox S is the transceiver of choice for most professional mountain guides and mountain rescue teams. If you are looking to upgrade your existing transceiver and want something fast, with plenty of features then the Barryvox S is for you. I would also say that if you are looking for your first transceiver and you have the budget then get a Barryvox S, in basic mode its a very intuitive device to use.

Black Diamond Guide BT

The Black Diamond Guide BT is developed with Pieps so is basically a Pieps Pro BT in Black Diamond clothing. Its a powerful transceiver with a lot of advanced features, presented in a straight forward manner. It has a 60m circular range.

For more advanced searchers the Scan function will tell you how many victims are within 5 meters, 20 meters and 60 meters. This helps to build up an important mental map of the situation. From this mode you can then select which signal you would like to follow. These features are for advanced users only and most likely to just confuse less experienced users.

There is also an analogue mode so you can hear the actual audio form transmitting transceivers, like the Barryvox S to help manually filter out false positives. Its also a useful training aid when demonstrating the fundamentals of transceiver use to others. A built in Inclinometer is a nice addition for measuring slope angles for avalanche risk assessment.

Like the Recon BT the Guide BT is compatible with the Pieps app, to allow you to manage the settings on your device and play with the training features. The Guide BT will also receive signals from Pieps’ TX600 mini transmitter fro dogs and equipment.

The Guide BT is an excellent advanced transceiver with some great functionality that enables it to be used as a pretty comprehensive training aid. If you are a professional user or very interested in some of the more advanced aspects of avalanche safety with a desire to educate yourself and others then the Guide BT is an excellent choice for you.

BCA Tracker 3

The Tracker 3 is the oldest of the models in this review. It’s a very compact but it does have a range of 50 meter, while less than the Barryvox S and Guide BT, is still totally adequate for the vast majority of search scenarios.

Big Picture mode allows you to get an overview of the entire rescue scenario by displaying all distances and directions of signals being transmitted at the same time. This button is black on a black background because BCA want you to know the button is there and why rather than press it when the search is not going well.

An important feature of the Tracker 3, and one that is easy to miss, is that of all the new digital transceivers the Trackers are the most backwards compatible with old analogue transceivers. All digital transceivers will detect a correctly functioning analogue transceiver but BCA transceivers are the best at picking up ones that are no longer transmitting within the agreed frequency window. As with the Tracker S its a feature that makes up for the failures of other old devices.

If you want ultimate simplicity but with advanced features the the Tracker 3 is for you, however it is now out performed by new transceivers like the Barryvox S and Guide BT

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