Choosing your avalanche transceiver
What is an avalanche transceiver ?
An avalanche transceiver (or beacon) is a piece of equipment that emits and receives a signal in order to rescue someone or be rescued in the event of an avalanche. This means that someone wearing a transceiver can rescue someone buried beneath the snow if the latter is also wearing a transceiver. This device helps to save precious minutes before search and rescue professionals arrive on scene.
Choose the right transceiver by reviewing the performance characteristics and features that you need. A device’s performance is expressed in search strip width. This means the width of an area the device is capable of “scanning” to indicate whether or not an avalanche victim is buried in the area. In addition to this, there are several other functionalities or search options that you might need.
How to choose your avalanche transceiver ?
All ARVA transceivers include certain standard functions that enhance performance and make them simple and easy to use. All of our devices are digital, equipped with 3 antennas, and feature the marking, group check, and auto-test functions.
The three antennas provide distance information in three dimensions. The main antenna, also referred to as the Y antenna, is the longest antenna. In transmit mode, it emits the signal, and in receive mode, it provides greater range. The secondary or X antenna orients then signal. This antenna provides reliable directional information. The third or Z antenna provides depth information during the fine search to avoid the multiple spike effect. Combining these three antennas provides a full signal.
Through digital processing, the signal is then translated into a distance and a direction indicated by an arrow. The search is made much easier through clear, visual indicators.
As digital avalanche transceivers have become the standard in the avalanche safety device market, the difference between the models is now based more on the processor speed. This can become more apparent during the fine search phase, the cross-search when you get closer to the victim. So you will have to be careful not to go too fast, depending on your device. Carrying out a preliminary simulation is very useful as it gives you an idea of the speed to adopt in a search situation.
The quality of the information displayed on the screen may also vary between the different models, depending on whether it is sunny or overcast.
Usable range and search bandwidth
These two concepts are often confused, but they are extremely important in choosing your transceiver. The effective range is the maximum distance at which your transceiver can receive a signal. The search bandwidth is twice the useful range.
So, when you are in the middle of a flow, if your useful range is 30 metres, you will be able to receive a signal from the victim if they are within 30 metres on your right and on your left, that is to say, 60 metres in total. The greater the effective range, the greater the chances of picking up the victim's first signal.
Group Check, Self-test and Victim marking
The auto-test is also a standard feature on all of our devices. It checks to make sure the device is working properly as soon as it is turned on : transmit, receive, and battery life.
The group-check feature allows you to make sure that everyone in your group is wearing a transceiver and that their transceivers are transmitting properly.
The marking feature rounds out all of these useful and essential functionalities. During a multiple burial search, the marking feature allows you to isolate and eliminate the signal of a victim who has already been found in order to focus on the next burial.
The key accessory : the holster
If you are not familiar with the transceiver holster, here is an illustration. The holster is essential for keeping your avalanche transceiver as close as possible to you while allowing you to move around easily. Remember, in the event of an avalanche, an avalanche transceiver placed in your trouser pocket, for example, could be swept away by the snow. So it is better to have it as close as possible to you, in a holster, which also guarantees you maximum freedom of movement.
Our avalanche transceivers
EVO5, A miniature beacon : the EVO5 is the smallest DVA ever designed by the ARVA brand. Measuring only 11 cm in height and 7 cm in width, it is one of the most compact beacons on the market. Its size and light weight of 170 g allow it to be barely noticed while worn without neglecting performance in an emergency situation.
The EVO4 is our simplest transceiver to use. In addition to a 40-meter search strip width, it includes all standard features to ensure a maximum level of safety without increasing the complexity of a burial search. This is the perfect device for novices or occasional users.
The NEO PRO offers an incredible 70-meter search strip width. In addition to including all standard features, this device provides several additional functionalities during a burial search.
The revert-to-transmit mode allows the device to automatically return to transmitting a signal in the event of a secondary avalanche if the integrated motion sensor detects that device has not moved within a certain timeframe. This timeframe can be customized through the device’s settings menu.
The device also has a u-turn indicator, and will sound an alert if the person conducting the search is heading in the wrong direction.
Modern communications devices (cell phones, radios, smartwatches, etc.) can potentially interfere with a transceiver signal. In this case, the device will reduce its search strip width to focus on the closest signal in its attempt to eliminate the effect of all interfering frequencies.
In group check mode, the NEO PRO is equipped with a frequency check feature that verifies if the transmitting device is working properly on the standard international 457 kHz frequency. All devices on the market use this frequency, but the device may drift over time. If the frequency of the transmitting device is off plus or minus 80 Hz, the device conducting the group check will indicate an error.
The NEO PRO is a high-performance device designed for professionals and the most demanding backcountry enthusiasts.
The AXIO, equipped with a third extendable antenna for a spherical search, makes it much easier to conduct a search in undulating terrain, and regardless of the device’s position. It has a search strip width of 60 meters. In addition to the 60-meter search strip width, it is equipped with a standby mode and burial marking feature.
The standby mode means the device is neither in search or transmit mode. This function is designed to allow the user to work the avalanche without disturbing searches being conducted with other devices. In the event of a secondary avalanche, the revert-to-transmit function automatically switches the device back to transmit mode.
The multiple-burial indicator makes it much easier to organize a rescue by being able to select the burial to search as well as to spread search responsibilities among everyone participating in the rescue. The identity of each victim is not displayed but a list of burials is created based on proximity, which allows searchers to select a burial to search based on distance.
The AXIO is a device designed for search and rescue professionals as well as expert backcountry skiers and riders looking for the most advanced features available.
Looking after your transceiver
Like any electronic device, a regular check is essential to ensure your transceiver is in good working order. A check may be necessary to recalibrate your transceiver frequency; it is normally set to 457 kHz. In addition to the frequency, the batteries should be checked regularly. Below 50 % of their capacity, we recommend changing the batteries in your transceiver. Moreover, using rechargeable batteries for your avalanche victim detector is prohibited because they are not suitable for use in mountain temperatures.
To maximise the life of your batteries, you can remove them at the end of each season, replacing them for the next season.
Next step: learn how to use your transceiver !
Find our online avalanche safety and rescue training programme.