Reception Range Tests

OverloadThis page discusses the range (distance) at which an avalanche transceiver receives a signal. Remember that during the signal search you can slowly swing your beacon from side-to-side to increase the likelihood that your antenna will line up with the transmitting beacon.

Rescuers Testing Beacons

The following graph shows the distances at which the avalanche beacons received a usable signal. The bars show the distance with the transceivers aligned (i.e., the best orientation).

This graph summarizes 269 range tests (view the testing details). I only tested one or two of some models (e.g., the Barryvox 2000 Ext and Pro, ARVA 9000/3Axes/Evo3, Ortovox Patroller, Ortovox D3, SOS, Pieps DSP Pro, Pieps DSP Sport, Pieps Vector, Tracker2, and Ortovox Zoom). The other models were tested extensively. You'll see the Pieps Pro shows a slightly shorter range than the older Pieps DSP, and the Tracker3 is slightly less than that Tracker2. That has more to do with sample size and a reasonable margin of error than the reception range. Even with this large sample of transceivers, differences of 5 meters or less are probably immaterial.

I also tested the range that avalanche transceivers can transmit a signal. You can read those test results here.

A transceiver's range will vary significantly if the transmitting beacon is not at the correct frequency (a rare occurrence). It will also vary based on other factors such antenna orientation and battery strength.

Remember that the transceivers with the longest reception range are almost always single-antenna analog. That means they report a signal at a long distance but do not provide a directional indicator that points toward the victim. As explained in the test details, the analog distances in the following chart were when an extremely faint (but undeniable) audio signal was heard. You will not get these analog ranges if there is any background noise. Likewise the digital ranges are with the best-case antenna alignment and the transceivers were given a long time (up to 10 seconds) to lock onto the signal.

Avoid the tunnel-vision trap of believing that transceiver range is the only important criteria—it isn't. Range is certainly important, but the difference won't matter if you fumble during your search (possibly due to spikes) or if you can't identify and locate multiple burials. Using an appropriate search strip width is more important that having a transceiver with a long range. As explained on the discussion on searching an avalanche, it is better to spend a few extra minutes searching a narrower path during the signal search than to end up at the bottom of the slide and have to repeat the entire search.

You can click on the transceiver names (or bars) in the following graph to read more about that avalanche beacon.

(Learn how to test your avalanche transceiver.)

Dual Mode Beacons

Mammut Pulse Avalanche Beacon
Mammut Pulse

The Barryvox 3000, Ortovox X1, and Ortovox Patroller start in analog mode and then automatically switch to digital mode. The ARVA Advanced, ARVA 3Axes, Barryvox 3000, and Mammut Pulse can be quickly switched between analog and digital mode. Older versions of the Ortovox S1 can be changed to analog via a menu option.

On beacons that support analog and digital modes, two distances are shown in the above graph. The analog distance is labeled "(A)" and the digital distance is labeled "(D)". You can see that there is only a 10 meter difference between the analog and digital range of the ARVA Advanced whereas the Ortovox Patroller has a 55 meter difference (the Patroller had one of the best analog ranges at 75 meters, yet in digital mode it didn't display a direction arrow until it was within 15 meters of the victim).

The Pulse has an "analog-only" search mode that significantly increases its range. Unfortunately, this mode was not used when measuring the Pulse's analog reception range as shown on the range chart. Learn more about the analog-only search mode.

Search Strip Widths

Learn about search strip widths.

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