Why should I use an avalanche beacon?
Traveling and recreating in avalanche country has inherent risks due to the time and distance from organized assistance should an emergency occur. In the event of an avalanche burial, the only chance of survival is through “companion rescue,” or immediate recovery by a member of your own party. When no visual signs (i.e., exposed body parts) are evident, transceivers are the only proven effective way to locate a completely buried victim while he or she is still alive. Every one in your party should wear one and know how to operate it.
Do I need to take an avalanche safety course to use my beacon?
Technically No. However, no avalanche beacon can save lives without a fully trained user. Practice frequently with your Tracker before going into the backcountry. Learn and understand the inherent dangers of backcountry travel. Become educated in avalanche hazard evaluation, route selection, and self rescue. In addition to your beacon, always carry a probe and shovel – and always travel with a partner. A beacon may or may not save your life if you get caught in an avalanche. Your best option is to stay out of avalanches in the first place. To take an on-snow avalanche course, see our learning page.
Why is the Tracker easiest to use?
The Tracker is the easiest beacon to operate because of its rapid processor and simple user interface. A real-time, digital display shows both direction and distance with bright red LEDs (light emitting diodes). The distance is shown in meters and indicator lights display the direction at the top of the beacon. It’s easy to think of meters as “yards” and even easier to just make sure the numbers decrease as you are searching with your Tracker.
The Tracker does not require user interpretation. Instead, the beacon processes the information, filters extraneous data, then clearly shows a searcher the direction and distance to the buried victim.
Although the Tracker is easy to use, practice is essential for a successful companion rescue. Remember, locating the person is only the first step in rescuing an avalanche victim. Shoveling actually takes most of the time in any avalanche rescue.
Is the Tracker compatible with other transceivers?
Yes, the Tracker is compatible with any transceiver produced after 1996 using the 457kHz international frequency standard.
Does the Tracker meet international standards for avalanche beacons?
The Tracker has been third-party tested (by TUV Product Service) to meet all the requirements of the European EN 300718 standard. This includes tests for durability, immersion, transmit power, receive range, and battery life.
How long will the battery power last in a Tracker?
Minimum 1 hour in search mode after 200 hours in transmit mode (approximately 250 hours in transmit only, or 50 hours in search only). This is the standard all beacons are required to pass for European approval.
What kind of batteries can I use in a Tracker?
Use AAA alkaline batteries only. Do not use rechargeable, lithium, Oxyride, PowerPix, or any other non-alkaline battery. These should be removed during long periods of inactivity, for example, during the summer.
Do cell phones affect the Tracker?
Yes, but only if the items are extremely close to each other. Do not place cellular phones, communication radios, or any other electronic equipment within 15 inches (roughly 38 cm) of the Tracker DTS or Tracker2 while performing a transceiver search. In receive mode, irregular readings and decreased range can be caused by these and other sources of electrical interference, such as power lines, electrical storms, and electrical generating equipment. In transmit mode, keep the Tracker at least 1 inch (roughly 2 cm) from other electronic equipment.
How well does the Tracker perform in multiple burial situations?
Many certified mountain guides throughout the world have used the Tracker successfully to pass their rigorous multiple burial exams. In the U.S, the Tracker holds the record for the fastest multiple burial search times ever recorded. The Tracker2 is designed to simplify multiple burial situations. Once a signal is found, the Tracker directs the searcher to that signal. If a second transmitter is detected during the search, the Tracker stays on course and continues to guide the user toward the strongest signal. Once the first victim is located and uncovered, the transmitting beacon should be switched off and the search for the next buried individual should begin.
In multiple burial situations, it is important to concentrate rescue efforts on one victim at a time. Research indicates that if a person is rescued in under 15 minutes, the survival rate is 92%; if a person is recovered in less than 35 minutes, the survival rate drops to 35%.
If there are enough rescuers to locate and uncover multiple people simultaneously, locate the first victim, then begin another signal search for the additional victims. The Tracker will always direct a searcher to the strongest signal in the area. In very rare cases (approximately 1% of complete burials) the victims might be in close proximity to one another (less than ten meters). In these rare instances, it can be helpful to use advanced techniques such as Special mode or the Three Circle Method, which are explained in the Tracker2 owner’s manual. For more information on multiple burials, see our Tracker2 Advanced Manual (pdf).
Will cold weather affect the performance of the digital display?
No, cold weather will not affect the digital display. The LED display of the Tracker2 increases in efficiency with decreasing temperature, unlike LCD displays, which can become sluggish in the cold.
How do I test my beacon to make sure it’s functioning properly?
Before each use you should make sure your beacon is transmitting and receiving properly and that your digital display is lighting up correctly. The best way to conduct this is with your partner before you head out. This is commonly referred to as a “Trailhead Check.” We recommend that you take an avalanche course and learn how to do this.
Do I need to send my beacon in to be recalibrated?
The Tracker DTS should not need to be calibrated at any time. However if you happen to notice misleading signals or any other problems, send it in immediately as a precautionary measure. Please visit our warranty service page for a return authorization number. Generally, problems are usually physical, not electronic, and are related to trauma. But rest assured that the Tracker is the most robust and strongest beacon on the market!
What is a flux line?
Avalanche transceivers emit a signal in a so-called “electromagnetic flux pattern.” The shape is similar to the curves of an apple or onion, converging at both ends of the core. When searching with any beacon, you will often find yourself traveling on a curve rather than a straight line. This is because the beacon leads you along the curving “flux lines” or “field lines” of the transmitting beacon.
Why does the Tracker have “auto revert” (AR) and “non revert” (NR) options?
The Tracker is equipped with an auto-revert function as well as non-revert function. In all versions of the Tracker except 1997-98 and 1998-99, the default mode is non-revert. To engage auto-revert on all modern Tracker DTS and Tracker2 beacons, you must press the Options button while turning the Tracker on, until the display flashes “Ar”; otherwise it will remain in non-revert mode.
The auto-revert function will revert your Tracker back into transmit mode after 5 minutes of searching. This is beneficial when having to perform a search in a dangerous area where a second avalanche is still possible. But remember: you need to determine if the situation is safe for you before you begin any search! More likely, auto-revert will come in handy if you do a trailhead test at the beginning of your tour, but you forget to go back into transmit.
What is Special mode?
Special (SP) mode is an advanced feature designed to assist expert searchers in specialized multiple burial situations. In standard search (SE) mode, the Tracker2 only displays the strongest signal (the Tracker DTS shows the strongest signal once you’re within about ten meters of it; outside that range, it shows all signals). In SP mode, however, the Tracker will display all signals, regardless of their strength–providing they are within Special mode’s reduced search window. In special mode, the search area is reduced from 180 degrees–front and back–to about 75 degrees: signals will only be displayed if they are captured within the center three directional lights. Think of Special mode as a spotlight that only detects signals within it’s narrow beam.
Special mode is designed for so-called “special case” multiple burials, which are extremely rare. These include multiple burials in which the victims are buried so close (less than 5-10 meters) so their signals are difficult to differentiate-and where there are enough rescuers available so some can start shoveling with the best beacon searcher moves on to the next victim. Special mode was mainly designed for use by professional guides.
Need more information?
If you need more information or have other questions that were not addressed here, please check out the Tracker2 Advanced Manual (pdf) or contact BCA at 303-417-1345. We’ll be glad to help. Stay safe this winter!