Beacon Philosophy & New Barryvox Units for 2017

Post by blogger | January 10, 2017      
Barryvox Pulse on left, new Barryvox S on right. Same size, new features.

Barryvox Pulse on left, new Barryvox S on right. Same size, same price, new features.

Okay kids, avalanche beacon theories of evolution. Operative word: “urgency.”

As one of the few, the proud, the brave who actually ski toured before widespread acceptance of electronic avalanche rescue beacons, I’ve got an overall sense of how things have progressed. My recollection is that early theory of avalanche rescue assumed buried victims had a longer grace period before suffocation than what we now know to be true.

For example, it was assumed you could tie into a brightly colored string known as an “avalanche cord,” which was then followed to your burial location as you lay there dreaming about your next Florida beach vacation. Presumably this was done by pulling the string up out of the snow, eventually tugging on the victim and interrupting their reverie.

As you can imagine, theory was not practice. The string could get wedged under snow blocks, and was 100% likely to get broken or tangled if any vegetation was present. Not to mention the challenge of skiing with a string whipping around your legs. I’d imagine the avalanche cord might have saved a life or two over the years, but not to any measurable extent of improving avalanche safety for the overall ski touring public.

Another example: It was not uncommon in the early days, when beacon use became more accepted, for skiers to not carry a shovel or a probe. The assumption was you’d just dig that Florida dreamer out with your hands and a ski. It took a few preventable tragedies to put a stop to this.

Thus, through past decades, specious theories of avalanche rescue have made way for real world vetted methods. Biggest events in that vein: Invention of the actual electronic locator, then, the digital multiple-antenna beacon. Both were quantum leaps. But one part of the equation still remains a challenge, though we continue to hone in on the solution. That being the fine search.

If a victim is buried near the surface, you can often walk your digital beacon into their location within the distance of a shovel blade or better. Increase burial depth, and you may reach a wall of confusion that despite all sorts of “fine searching” is ultimately solved using a spiral pattern with your avalanche probe. The fine search is time consuming and confusing for many people, often involving use of an archaic “grid” pattern method that isn’t much different than what we were doing 35 years ago. Only back then we had beacons with audio signals I remain convinced were easier to utilize than flashing lights and tiny confusing LED icons.

Yes, still room for improvement. Still room for beacons that make the search process as seamless as possible. Still room to better utilized hearing instead of eyesight.

Yesterday here in Utah, at Outdoor Retailer, we got to check out a couple of new beacon offerings from Mammut that clearly do continue the positive trends mentioned above. Efforts are being made to speed up that annoying and downright dangerous final fine search, and audio signals are not an afterthought.

Indeed, we were shown that “high fidelity” sound is part of most search procedures. Most useful is perhaps that of having two different beep tones when you’re tracking two buried beacons. Of course, noise is part of how other brand beacons operate, some with it more useful than others. In the case of these new Baryvox units, sound is most certainly not a cute racket pretending to be something useful, but rather carefully designed audio intended to be an integral part of how your brain receives information from the beacon.

Audible search beeps are available with both beacons. Mammut calls this “acoustic search guidance.”

BarryvoxS with larger icons. The running man tells you the victim is far away so get a move on!

Barryvox S with larger icons. The running man tells you the victim is far away so get a move on!

The new beacons are the Barryvox and Barryvox S. Mammut kept the basic functions of both the Element and Pulse beacons (respectively), with goals to improve the simplicity, ease of use and the performance of both beacons. On first glance, it appears they did a good job approaching those goals. Following is a combo of what we observed in a quick session, and what we were told by the marketeers. Our comments in parenthesis.

Barryvox S: Designed for single burials, or extremely difficult multiple burials involving signal overlap. Compared to its predecessor the Pulse, the Barryvox S has higher performance overall, a simpler user interface, and new background programming that makes searching easier and faster.

  • 3-antenna beacon with a marking function (but of course).
  • Search: 70m range, 70m search strip width (That’s somewhat the modern standard for range, in our opinion).
  • Same size and weight as the Pulse (shew, it didn’t grow!)
  • Larger screen, 2.2″, backlit, readable with polarized lenses (excellent).
  • Rescue: Fast signal pickup, improved signal retention in multiple burials, improved signal separation for reduced overlap. (Signal pickup is an interesting issue. It’s often not as slow as you think, but it interrupts the flow of your emergency procedures and can seem stiffling when you’re in panic tunnel vision mode.)
  • Smart-phone-like navigation. Easier user interface uses a scroll-bar in combination with one button (“easier” is of course a relative term, and smart phones are not always easy).
  • “Auto Guidance” offers continued search guidance during signal overlap. The beacon pre-maps the flux line and the motion sensor is able to tell where along that line the user is, so in the event of signal overlap the beacon is able to continue the search un-interrupted. (We are so over multiple burial features, but whatever, perhaps this helps in the event of spectators running around with their beacons still switched to transmit).
  • “Smart Search” uses sensor technology to optimize the fine-search for all users. The evolution of “intelligent fine search” is easier to use and reduces the fine grid-search to an absolute minimum. (This is the good stuff, Mammut says it works by telling you when to change direction while gridding, thus getting you to the probing stage faster).
  • “Pro Search” menu option activates user preferences along with “Alternate Search” mode to easily solve the most difficult multiple burial searches, as well as analog with 80m Search strip/90m range. Easier interface and “intuitively ergonomic” navigation opens this functionality to many recreational users. This function provides a definitive, reliable indication of when to switch to an alternate search strategy: i.e. micro strips, micro box.
  • Uses 3 AAA batteries, alkaline or lithium
  • MSRP: $490
  • Barryvox2 offers various features to pinpoint probe spot.

    Barryvox2 offers various features to pinpoint probe spot. In our opinion, speeding up the fine search is about a thousand times more important than your multiple burial features. Kudos to Mammut for addressing this, though we suspect there may be a time in the closer future when avalanche beacons work so well they eliminate the need for a probe. I know a few active backcountry skiers who feel this might already be the case, and have verified during practice sessions (with use of a single ski pole sans basket for quick probing after a properly done fine-seaerch). In our opinion jury is still out on that, but it’s food for thought. Dogma has no place in all this, everything is evolving at a rapid pace.

    Barryvox: a more basic beacon that will appeal to those who place the highest priority on simplicity and value. Again, this is the replacement for the Element model.

  • 3-antenna beacon with a marking function
  • Same size, weight and price as Element
  • Larger screen, 2.0″, backlit, readable with polarized lenses
  • Search: 70m range, 70m search strip width
  • Simplest user interface, operates with one button.
  • New firmware provides fast signal pickup and reduces the incidence of signal-overlap during multiple burials for a smoother, uninterrupted search.
  • Uses 3 AAA batteries, alkaline only.
  • MSRP, $350

    Both new beacons feature:

  • Large new switch locks in the center
  • When you switch the beacon on, it is already in group check mode. Push a button and it goes into transmit. (We assume it times out into transmit mode if you don’t manually switch)
  • Improved battery compartment. All terminals are replaceable in the event of battery acid corrosion. (Interestingly, the battery compartment is not hermatically sealed. Mammut says this has become the better option due to condensation problems in sealed battery compartments. We tend to agree, as we see little need for an avalanche beacon to be completely immersion proof, while funky battery performance due to corrosion or other factors are real issues.)
  • Available October 2017.


    Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


    57 Responses to “Beacon Philosophy & New Barryvox Units for 2017”

    1. Rar0 January 10th, 2017 7:38 am

      IMHO Mammut Barryvox are the best out there already. The ease of use, the dummy-proof design and the performances are juste great I’m curious to get my hands on one of these next year for a try. The “Smart Search” looks like a great improvement.

    2. Paul S. January 10th, 2017 9:56 am

      I have an older Barryvox (6-7 years?) that has worked very well for me, but it’s about time to replace it. I’m excited for the new Barryvox! The replaceable battery terminals is an issue I’ve had in several pieces of outdoor electronics over the years.

    3. Kristian January 10th, 2017 10:15 am

      Lithium batteries won’t corrode. Lithium are much better at low temperatures and last much longer.

      Avalanche beacon manufacturers do not recommend lithium batteries because they show good voltage until shortly before they die. Mammut has apparently engineered for this in these two new beacons.

    4. Matus January 10th, 2017 12:07 pm

      I agree with the multiple burial vs speed of pinpoint search. I doubt that there is more than 5% users that are actually able to use multiple burial mode in practice under stress.

    5. Jeremy C January 10th, 2017 1:46 pm

      I’m also in the Barryvox is best camp, but it sounds like they have improved it in every aspect.

      Since the 3.0 software the current Barryvox has had the ability to use lithium batteries, and since the 4.0 software it has had the intelligent fine search. If the new Smart Search is better than the current intelligent search it will be very impressive.

      The easily readable screen sounds like a great improvement, but I’m hoping they have improved the processor speed (no more stop messages), and also its susceptibility to electronic interference.

    6. Jonathan L January 10th, 2017 2:18 pm

      I feel like that guy, shouting, “Get off my lawn, kids,” but black on grey LCD screens, icons I have to remember, really? I took my AVI 1 with 9 ski patrollers and me. They had every known state-the-art beacon. I finished 2nd on the search course with my F1. Red, Yellow, Green. Progressive beeps. A curved form to sit on my hip all day. I’ve practiced with it, I know it, I don’t think about it.

      In inclement weather or darkness I don’t want to be trying to read a digital screen, I don’t even want to have to look at it. Then we had two of these magic new beacons switch from search to send on their own cause they were still too long or something gumming up the group searches. Call me unimpressed.

      And yeah, I am now an aging mountaineer. I need reading glasses to sharpen my ice axe. And I’m not going to be able to see any of the details these electronic wonders are showing me unless I stop to dig out glasses.

      Multiple burials? I am 99% out with a single partner. I’m not running a heli service

      Okay, I’m done ranting. But really, Lou, are they better? I’m no luddite, I’m carrying a PLB, I’m on Dynafit, I wear carbon fibre underwear with titanium underwire support, but the new generations of beacons seems to have abandoned good design and common sense for bells and whistles that will be an impediment 90% of the time.

      I get that if you were starting out now, you would have different choices. But KISS seems to be far more important than cute icons and metric readouts.

      I’m gonna go shout at some pedestrians now.

    7. Marc January 10th, 2017 2:39 pm

      How many “aging mountaineers” does it take to change a light bulb?

      None! They don’t want anything to change.

      Bring on the new Barryvox!

    8. Kristian January 10th, 2017 2:42 pm

      Jonathan L – best post ever.

    9. Kristian January 10th, 2017 2:50 pm

      I always really liked the BCA beacons with red LED lights, because I have had GPS LCD screens freeze up and not work at cold temps.

      Is that true also for beacon LCD displays or do they do some additional technology to prevent that?

    10. Jack January 10th, 2017 3:09 pm

      Ok, I’m an engineer, so I have a well known prejudice in the direction of complicated. That said why not a beacon that: pairs through blue tooth with other beacons. Drop beacon A on the snow at the center of the gross search. Walk around with beacon B in a circle, then a spiral around beacon A. Let the machines figure out the most probable burial position by exchanging messages over blue tooth. If you carried two beacons, a single person could do this. A guide could always carry two.

      Beacon manufacturers might like it as they might sell more beacons and a forward looking manufacturer might capture an emerging inter-beacon communication protocol.

    11. Paul S. January 10th, 2017 3:35 pm

      Jack, Bluetooth is a black hole. If any beacon company wanted to implement this functionality, they would want to do it with their own low-energy RF interface. The Bluetooth standard is always changing and does not actually do a very good job of providing interoperability.

      I am also an engineer, and think that the simplest solution that works is the best!

    12. Jack January 10th, 2017 4:07 pm

      I’ll stay neutral w.r.t. bluetooth and I admit that complicated isn’t always better and that’s a relative statement. For example, a personal rescue beacon talks to a satellite and identity and position information is processed through a complex rescue center. Pretty complicated. Leaving technology on the floor that might save lives would look pretty foolish, especially if somebody does it.

    13. Kristian January 10th, 2017 4:29 pm

      Ok, last post, I promise. Garmin Rino Radio/GPS’s have had this feature for many years. You can poll and see the location and tracks of other Garmin Rino users. Maybe Garmin could license this technology and/or create their own avalanche beacon.

    14. DavidB January 10th, 2017 4:33 pm

      Jonathan L. me too.

      Great post. I was the guy for my F1 at my avi course 8 years ago and it was old then. Damn airline just managed to smash it in my luggage last year. Need a new one and need glasses for reading but not for skiing, perhaps the icons are large enough.

    15. Paddy Mc January 10th, 2017 4:51 pm

      Johnathan, I owned an original F1, and have spent huge amounts of time practicing with it. I’ve also since owned and studiously practicing with a succession of newer beacons (Tracker, Tracker 2, and Ortovox 3+). I also played with the new Barryvox Pulse today. And I can say without question that yes, the new tech is worth it. Not only is the user interface insanely intuitive (I have a suspicion that even a nearly unpracticed/untrained person would have fast search times with it), but it addresses nearly every concern you have. It’s back lit (night search is fine), it is designed specifically to be impossible to accidentally mode change, and it even has an optional “Luddite” mode where you can switch it entirely to analog, shut off the screen and have it function exactly like your F1 but with vastly improved range, and a much better transmitting antenna. I guess the main question I’d ask is how my partners feel about betting their lives on being found with 20 year old tech?

    16. VT skier January 10th, 2017 5:02 pm

      I skied in those early days too, with 80 feet of red bootlace from Teton Mountaineering for my “find the skier” avalanche cord.

      Later, when I got a European avy cord, with the arrows and distance to victim metal clips on the cord, I thought that was state of the art !
      Had one of the early Pieps transceivers, an orange Pieps 3 with an integral earplug on the old frequency (257?)

    17. Hacksaw January 10th, 2017 5:28 pm

      I think I’m correct (I’m an old avy cord guy too) no one was ever found ALIVE in the USA, via a avy cord.

    18. Hacksaw January 10th, 2017 9:59 pm

      Oops, I’m wrong there was one live recovery with a an avy cord on 12/25/69.

    19. Jim Milstein January 10th, 2017 11:49 pm

      I still have one of my avvy cords . . . actually, pieces of it. It has been repurposed as a source of thin braided cord, especially when red is wanted. I don’t recall it ever saving my life or anyone else’s. We are creatures of our culture. We do what the other kids do.

      I still believe that the best approach to avalanches is to stay out of them. I grudgingly updated my Pieps 457 with a BCA 3 last year. I couldn’t take the scorn the old Pieps brought upon me. The BCA is more fun–I can say that.

    20. Mark Dumont January 11th, 2017 12:24 pm

      I own a Barryvox Pulse. Although I’m quite pleased with it, I’ve come to realize after some recent avy rescue refresher training, involving scenarios with two buried victims, that less is more for beacons. The Pulse at times needed time to figure things out, and I think the processor is too busy trying to refine what’s it’s learning from the signals and put it up on the screen. Instead of all kinds of features and a screen, processor power should be focused on quick analysis of the signals and a quick display of what it thinks – interpret (change in) distance and location as best as possible, and let the human work things out from there. I have limited experience with a Tracker II but believe they have the right approach with basic arrows, distance read out and sounds (where you can pick out more than one). It used to be all human with analog beacons which required a lot of practice, and then digital came along, and as with most things these days, they are trying to be all computer to take out the human intuition part. I think somewhere in between is the best approach, get close enough to be happy, then use a logical probing technique that systematically covers the area (was taught an arms bent/out, compass/clock points method in my training that found victims rather fast after letting my pulse get me “close enough”).

    21. Colin January 12th, 2017 12:48 am

      Lou, it’s actually “home in.” Just took a writing seminar with one of the country’s leading usage experts. That was one of the “common misnomers” examples he used. True story.

      New Barryvox looks sweet. Was debating between Pulse and DSP Pro to replace me Opto3000 in the next month or two. May wait until October.

    22. Martin January 12th, 2017 8:17 am

      Why is it that beacons are still more or less the same size as in the old days? We are supposed to wear the things close to the body, but they are way too big to just stuff them in a pocket. Wearing the designated pouches is a pain in the a, I think. Especially when you sweat a lot and wear only a tshirt.

    23. Mammut Dave January 18th, 2017 10:36 am

      Thanks Lou and Lisa! I think most of the questions in the comments have been answered, but a few notes here for some where I didn’t see a response.

      First, just so people are aware the “stop” message on a Pulse or Element is not a factor of processor speed, that is the beacon indicating that the signal it was locked onto is now overlapping with another signal. The signals of certain transceiver models, especially older ones (some of which are still being sold), make signal overlap more likely, so depending on the beacons being searched for overlap can be a common thing. No digital beacon can provide accurate distance or direction in this circumstance, so we tell you to wait until the overlapping signals separate, rather than send you off-course. (if you were to set up a search scenario using only modern 3-antenna beacons with a marking function to search FOR, you would find you got very limited overlap problems–most of these beacons have signals designed to limit the duration of overlap to begin with, and also each beacon model has many different signal-patterns specifically to reduce overlap–for instance, Pulse and Element beacons have 1 of 10 different signal patterns to reduce the chance of any two of them buried next to each other having overlap issues). There are various ways that different companies deal with overlap with regard to what you see on the screen of a searching transceiver, and there are pluses and minuses to each…but suffice to say we’ve tried to address this in the new beacons. Users will find that the improved signal separation will significantly improve this, and the auto-guidance feature on the BarryvoxS should all but eliminate this as an issue. I’ve had limited opportunity to really put these through their paces, but based on the 2-dozen or so practice searches I’ve done over the past couple weeks I think it’s is a pretty fair statement to make that users will see a LOT fewer “stop” messages–I have not seen one yet.

      With regard to size, beacon range is related to the length of the antenna–if you make the beacon too short, you limit the range. This is a simplification, but it’s essentially why you don’t see tiny transceivers. The carrying harness often has some features built in (to protect the screen and switch, etc), regardless I’m a pocket guy too. I carry my pulse in my pocket with the strap clipped around my belt, and have for years.

      We get asked about using GPS and other technology for avalanche beacons a lot. One main problem with this is that the GPS signals don’t travel well through snow (i.e. water), so it simply doesn’t work well for this application. Lou or someone with more radio savvy than I have could probably go into more detail, but there are a limited number of frequencies that deal with water well, and many of these are restricted by various government entities, so even fewer that work globally. This is the main reason why many of the technologies that SEEM tailor-made for this application aren’t being used already.

      With regard to complication–obviously simpler is easier, the question is whether getting the same capability from a simpler product is actually easier. Simple searches are super-easy for all beacons, it’s the (thankfully rare) difficult searches that require some alternate search strategy that require the practice becasue no matter what widget they are carrying they need to 1) identify there is a problem, 2) know what to do in that case and 3) actually execute on it. When this is all factored in, the playing field seems a lot more even in this regard, at least to me. It’s worth noting that much of the “stuff” on these new beacons talked about above is in the background, the user doesn’t have to “do” anything. The focus for us has been reducing the areas where a searcher has to “do” something without reducing capability, and then making any required navigation as intuitive as possible.

    24. Mammut Dave January 18th, 2017 11:25 am


    25. Bruno Schull January 18th, 2017 1:27 pm

      Hi Mammut Dave. I just want to say that I really appreciate your frequent, in-depth, well-reasoned responses on this thread. Thanks!

    26. Lou Dawson 2 January 18th, 2017 2:17 pm


    27. jonfats January 19th, 2017 8:45 pm

      Switching to analog eliminates the need to stop during signal overlap correct?

    28. joseph vallone January 25th, 2017 9:21 am

      Awesome response Mammut, +100 and then some.

      I was about to chime in and you were at the bottom of the thread with a more then thorough enough explanation and response to the concerns in this thread which immediately grabbed my attention.

      As for you F1 users, I won’t ski with you until you get with the times. Do you still use a walkman, or an mp3 player? Do you still have your miami vice hand bag cell phone or a smart phone? Do you still have a beta max player or did you finally get a DVD player which is practically dated tech as well? Get with the times.

      I wrote a piece a couple of years ago with a good friend about why you need to update your transceivers. Of course Backcountry chopped many of our words and part of our personalities along with photos and references that were more relevant to our message, but the article still sends a message we believe to be important.

      Out of respect for Lou and his amazing website, I will not post the link, but for the old guard that commented, if you are curious as to why you need to update your transceivers and why your argument for being so good and familiar with your F1 is not valid then I strongly suggest you find this piece.

      Do a search for:

      Mountain skills, Backcountry, Why you should upgrade your avalanche transceiver.

    29. Smooth_operator February 14th, 2017 4:16 am

      *** Joe, I’ll post it:

      totally agree with you. Get with the times oldies 😛

    30. Lou Dawson 2 February 14th, 2017 5:18 am

      Appreciate your kindness Joe, and your wisdom. I’d agree that most folks should pack a later model beacon. On the other hand, Smooth, you sound like your’e giving a helmet lecture (smile). Lou

    31. Chris Kantarjiev September 8th, 2017 6:21 pm

      I just bought a spare Pulse for my partners. Now I’m wondering if I should upgrade for myself 🙂 I have already had to send my Pulse in once for.bad contacts, so I’m excited about that.

      This is all hard because snow/water is a terrible filter of radio waves. BT signals barely penetrate the snowpack.

    32. Jeremy C October 22nd, 2017 6:46 am

      It appears there has been an issue or manufacturing delay, as the Barryvox S I had on order for delivery in October, will now not arrive until February.

    33. Mammut Dave October 22nd, 2017 8:30 am

      Hi Jeremy,
      We just shipped the first batch of the new beacons in the US and Canada. The issue is that we did not receive as many as we ordered on our first delivery, so we are being forced to fill orders in the order we received them. We are getting several deliveries over the course of the fall and winter, many of which are already sold on orders that were placed a year ago. If you want to contact me directly (email to info”at” and ask to be put in touch with Dave F) I can look into your order specifically.

    34. Jeremy C October 22nd, 2017 12:56 pm

      @Mammut Dave,
      I’m from the UK, and all the retailers (UK and Europe) had them advertised for preorder for delivery in October, which then changed to late Jan/Feb. It good to hear that the delay is due under production rather than a technical issue.

    35. Mammut Dave October 22nd, 2017 1:31 pm

      Gotcha. Sorry, I cant really help there. If its any consolation I am in
      switzerland with some of the UK crew right now, so I suspect they will make me pay for getting the first delivery.

    36. NIck November 18th, 2017 7:44 pm

      Tracker 3 vs Barryvox S?? Thoughts?

    37. benwls January 15th, 2018 8:28 pm

      One good reason to get rid of your old beacon is that modern beacons will sometimes interpret its signal as being multiple signals. Then there is the issue of signal drift/reduced range. I have seen both these issues using an old F2 for search practice.

      I would not ski with a partner using an analog beacon. Get with the times.

    38. Kristian January 15th, 2018 8:32 pm

      So how do you explain this direct quote from Mammut Barryvox S Beacon?

      “Pro search option switches to analog for an even greater range”

    39. GOB January 15th, 2018 8:44 pm

      Kristian – signal width of older analog beacons is huge compared to modern beacons. This can overlap with other beacon signals when multiple signals are present, which can make searching very hard.

    40. Mammut Dave January 16th, 2018 9:01 am

      The older analog beacons people are referring to are different–better to call them ANALOG-ONLY, as opposed to a Pulse or a Barryvox S that is digital and analog. My long post above details some of this–the older analog-only transceivers are all from an era when the hardware used to construct them sent off a lot of stray signal–think of it as a lot of constant “static” surrounding the “beep’beep’beep” signal of the transmitter. The “static” is a high noise-floor that essentially means there is some receivable signal EVEN DURING THE PAUSES between the actual sent “beeps”. (hope that makes sense). This “noise” can be interpreted by a multiple-burial algorithm as a “constant signal”, which makes it very difficult or in some cases impossible to differentiate between it and other signals–in effect it creates a constant signal overlap situation, which makes it extremely difficult to find ANY signal that is in range using any technique except micro-strips or one of the “alternate search strategies” that are not really taught until one gets to a higher level of rescue training.
      A modern transceiver like the Pulse or the Barryvoxs S has an analog capability, but it doesn’t have the problems that come with the older analog-only beacons. Even some of the early digital beacons and newer analog beacons, while they may not have a high noise-floor, have a signal-pause-signal-pause pattern that, by virtue either of especially long signals or especially short pauses, creates more-frequent signal overlap than modern beacons. In addition, most modern beacons of the exact same brand/model/age have very slightly different signals specifically to make it easier for a multiple-burial algoirthim to separate that signal and keep it separate–Mammut beacons all have one of 10 different signal patterns for instance, in order to reduce the chances that any two nearby beacons will overlap enough to cause a problem searching for them. The w-link used by Mamut beacons is also a tool to keep signals separate an pretty much eliminates overlap entirely when dealing only with them. Essentially, even if you have a new beacon, having one buddy in a group with an older beacon can actually create signal overlap should there be a multiple burial search involving that beacon, making that search more difficult. These reasons are all elements of why most (all?) avalanche education organizations are now recommending that all users upgrade to at least 3-ANTENNA beacons, because all of these have eliminated most of the signal issues that cause frequent overlap. The article written by Joe Vallone up there is a good one to check out if you have questions on this.

      With regard to the quote on the Barryvox S on pro search/analog, I didnt see exactly where that quote came from but I would phrase it a bit different–additional range is a possibility with the analog, but it’s not necessarily the main reason for it. All of the newer Barryvox beacons (Pulse, element, BarryvoxS and Barryvox) come set up optimized for using the marking function in a multiple burial search. Changing the user-settings on the pulse was a multi-step process, which is all combined into one menu option in the BarryvoxS, namely activating the Pro Search function. This puts the beacon into a standard operating mode where you still watch digital distance and direction indication just as always, but you HEAR the raw analog tones–no other modern digital beacons that I am aware of give you this option. The very brief explanation is that any time you ask the processor to interpret the received signals and put them into a digitized pattern, you run the risk of signal overlap fooling the processor–your brain is actually better at this than the processor is. This function is designed to help a rescuer recognize when the digital pattern recognition has failed so they know definitively when they need to use an alternate search method such as micro strips. When this happens, switching to analog in a pulse or to the Alternate search mode in a Barryvox S changes the search algorithms to optimize the beacon for performing micro strips or a micro box search. However, you can do this with some other beacons too through various additional functions (close proximity-icons, flip-floppy arrows, etc), the real advantage as Mammut would say is that it allows you to recognize when the pattern recognition has NOT failed so more of the time, even after you have identified a close-proximity multiple burial, you can continue to rely on the marking function for a faster and easier search. The analog function is also useful for very long range (for covering a very large avalanche path or doing a treewell search) as well as for identifying and dealing with the effects of high levels of interference as you might find under or near a lift line or near a radio antenna, etc.

      Hope that helps.

    41. Kristian January 16th, 2018 10:30 am

      Mammut Dave,
      Thank you for your very detailed explanation!

      Can you give a simple example?

      Example: A weekend backcountry skier who has gotten their avalanche certification about 5 years ago, has recently bought the Barryvox S Beacon and has just encountered their first avalanche with two now missing skiers. Fear, adrenaline, and lack of experience combined to reduce their thinking skills.

      What happens next and how do they best use the various Barryvox S features?

    42. Mammut Dave January 16th, 2018 11:55 am

      Kristian, I’d never suggest that anyone go into all of the advanced functions without practicing them–that’s the same with any beacon. In all probability the marking function of the beacon as it comes out of the box will make that search easy, and then it’s up to the rescuer to rescue, or if there is a safe party size on hand you may have sufficient resources to use the marking function to then search for the second subject while others dig for the first.

      What I would suggest is that regardless of what beacon you have, you think about where and how a burial could occur to your group (potentially to include an unknown # of buried subjects outside your group if you ski sidecountry terrain or popular backcountry), and practice with your partners ahead of time. Doesn’t matter what beacon you have or whether you have resources to excavate more than one subject at a time, if you have a rescue involving multiple buried subjects you’re going to attempt to find at least one of them quickly, which may require the use of an advanced technique–this requires you to act on previously practiced techniques and decisions, no way around that. The education curriculum now includes a specific 1-day rescue class, if anyone hasn’t practiced extensively or recently I would look into taking a rescue class–my understanding is that this class is designed to become more of a certification that a practitioner would take again every couple seasons, and there are a ton of them out there this season. I think at a minimum this is a good opportunity to get into a day of practice to work on all the various facets of a rescue, and I believe should help over time to get more people practicing more frequently.

      As far as how to use the advanced features of a barryvox S, here’s a couple quick examples:
      1) you can use the long range mode (analog/high gain in a pulse) to listen for interference. If you are in-bounds or near a ski area you can get interference issues. The area around any of the tunnels on I-70 in Colorado is a place where there is a lot of interference like this in proximity to popular backcountry skiing. Simply hearing the interference can help you to be wary of and act on issues caused by it which might prompt you to shorten search strip widths, etc. It’s also a good tool for a practice session in a public park, near a parking area, to see if you are likely to run into confusion due to interference from overhead or buried power lines, etc.
      2) During a digital beacon search with the Pro Search ON, a simple tone check at 10m and 3m (i.e. listen to the analog tone to hear if there is 1 signal, 2 signals or more than 2 signals within range) allows you to verify that the digital information on your screen matches the analog info you hear–if so, keep using the digital marking function as you would with any other modern beacon. If not, the digital signal separation has failed due to the overlap or interference, and you go to an alternate search strategy such as micro strips or micro box. This is detailed for a Pulse in a “mental map” post on the Mammut Avalanche Safety blog. These techniques are the same you’d use with any beacon, the analog tone is simply the tool to decide when you can continue to use the digital marking versus when you need to use a backup search method. Other beacon technologies require you to default to an alternate search strategy more frequently.
      3) you start a search and get a signal, but no analog tone. Usually this will have erratic digital readouts. The analog tone (or lack of) allows you to determine more easily that this is a ghost signal from interference. This happens to me most often in practice when i’m near power lines or the like but it can happen elsewhere too, especially near ski areas or if you have one of th eolder analog-only beacons in the mix. Scroll past it and search for a real signal.

      Again, the above are all special-case situations that happen most-frequently during practice sessions because safe-skiing techniques make them less likely. In most cases, the analog tone will simply allow you to verify the digital display is correct and indicate you should continue to utilize the digital distance/direction and marking to complete a search, whereas with another beacon technology you would generally switch to an alternate search strategy as soon as you identify a close-proximity multiple burial search and realistically might present more difficulty in identifying it in the first place.

    43. Kristian January 16th, 2018 2:33 pm

      Makes sense. Thank you again!

    44. tBatt January 21st, 2018 3:37 pm

      Is there an audible warning if it was accidentally left on and hasn’t moved in a couple hours like BCA and Ortovox beacons do? This feature has saved many batteries in my 3+.

    45. Mammut Dave February 1st, 2018 8:19 am

      I was not aware that either of the beacons you mentioned had a motion-sensor. Are you referring to the auto-revert-to-send function?

      The Barryvox and Barryvox S beacons both have an auto-revert to send function that is connected to it’s motion sensor. If the beacon is in SEARCH and hasnt moved, it will auto-revert after a few minutes. This prevents it from auto-reverting if yoiu are up and walking around, but will allow it to auto-revert if you are motionless (i.e. buried). There IS a loud tone to alert you that it is auto-reverting and you have a few seconds to push a button to tell it not to auto-revert if you’re just sitting there. However, there is no tone or function if it is in SEND. The saving grace here is that the new switch is far less likely to accidentally get switched on by accident than the Pulse and Element were. Also, the harness is designed to prevent accidental switching and I think it does a pretty good job of this, definitely better than Pulse/Element.

    46. Mammut Dave February 1st, 2018 8:20 am

      clarification: the standard Barryvox auto-revert is simply a timer, no motion sensor. Barryvox S is attached to the motion sensor.

    47. Ryan February 20th, 2018 7:07 pm

      I got one of these and am trying to learn to use it and its extensive features. Here is what I don’t follow.

      It seems like the default settings, the all digital non-pro search, is applicable in most single burial situations and most multiple burial. So I would think, and please correct me, even an expert would use the beacon in this modality.

      Now, lets say you run into a situation where you want to utilize pro-search. Maybe you want to use the extended range feature, or analog, etc.

      Am I confused, or do you literally have to turn the beacon off, turn it back on, got to the settings config and reconfigure it before you can switch to pro mode?

      If that is the case, this seems like a horrible design flaw. I assume I must be misunderstanding the proper use pattern. Because this seems like an obvious flaw for a very expensive beacon.

    48. Mammut Dave February 21st, 2018 9:03 am

      Ryan, hopefully this helps–if not my email is at the bottom, drop me a line and we can connect to go over it by phone.

      First, all users should put the beacon into one setting, and leave it–there is no changing of the USER SETTINGS (i.e. pro search on or off, etc) mid-search, ever.

      If you are practicing only single burials, leave it as-is out of the box. No settings required in this case, just follow the arrow/decreasing numbers.

      If you are practicing multiple burial searches, the marking function of the beacon will work most of the time. If you will rely on marking to deal with all multiple burial searches, leave the beacon in the out of the box settings.

      The exceptions where marking doesn’t work are:
      1) areas of high interference as you might find around power lines, radio towers, ski-area infrastructure, etc. where false-positives are likely, and
      2) situations involving signal overlap. For the most part it’s the TRANSMITTING SIGNAL of one older beacon in a close-proximity multiple search that determines how frequently you will encounter overlap between it and any other beacon. All modern beacons require using an alternate search strategy in this case–micro strips, 3-circle or micro-box–to solve these scenarios.

      BarryvoxS users who will practice alternate search strategies for situations involving interference or overlap should go into the user settings and turn the PRO SEARCH setting to ON. This will give you the exact same beacon as before visually, but you will be hearing the raw analog tones of all beacons within range, rather than a digital representation of 1 tone at a time. This allows a user to identify false positives (a subject on the display but no tone) or overlap (2 tones at your 3meter tone-check but no close subject after marking). This allows a searcher to identify when the digital processor IS working in a close-proximity multiple burial, so most of the time the searcher can rely on marking, while users of other beacons are usually forced to resort to an alternate search strategy earlier or may not recognize that they have a close-proximity situation at all.

      If you are only practicing single burials, leave it with out of the box settings

      If you are practicing multiple burials only using the marking function, leave it with out of the box settings

      If you will practice ALTERNATE SEARCH STRATEGIES (micro strips, micro box, 3-circle) then turn PRO SEARCH to ON, and use a quick tone check at 10m and 3m during every search to verify that the display information matches the analog tone to AVOID using an alternate search strategy, and only revert to the alternate method and switch to alternate search mode when the display info doesn’t match the analog tones.

      You can find a description of this in the BarryvoxS EXTENDED REFERENCE GUIDE, which is available online–this is not covered in the basic user manual that comes in the box. You can find the reference guide here:

      This is simpler than it sounds, but if you have questions drop me an email and we can set up a phone call to go over it. davef “at”

    49. Ryan February 21st, 2018 10:13 am

      Dave I will send you an email. I very much appreciate the response.

      But honestly it still seems like a real world use issue. You are describing use when practicing. Practicing is one thing. You are planning a practice strategy ahead of time, single burial vs multiple vs etc. You have time to think about the settings and turn off the beacon and get it in the correct mode.

      But when I go out in the backcountry I turn on my beacon and situations arise. Which means anytime a situation requires the extended range or there are signal issues then I need to turn the beacon off, turn it on, mess around with the configuration(with cold fingers mind you) and then restart the process while around me likely things are happening.

      This is not simple and certainly not a fast. Even in the warmth of my house, in the time I go through this process to switch the settings a lot of time passes and consequently a lot could be happening in the search process around me that I miss because I am staring at the beacon and navigating the configuration process.

      It almost seems like these features are a waste unless you are constantly practicing with this beacon so you are quick from one configuration to the next. It makes the beacon so specialized that someone who has experience with search techniques would not be able to figure out how to use this without a lengthy instruction and practice process. That kind of says it all.

      This is one of those situations where the features look good in the manual but the use is clumsy which is not ideal in a situation that requires speed, efficiency and preferably minimal thought.

    50. Mammut Dave February 21st, 2018 10:32 am

      Lets chat, that’s not at all the case.

    51. Ryan February 21st, 2018 12:26 pm

      Dave was kind enough to have a long offline conversation with me which was very eye opening. My interpretation of the intended functionality was not correct. I came away feeling much better about the use patterns. However, clearly barryvox needs to do a better job conveying this via the manual. Although this wasn’t explicitly said, I inferred this was partly because the manual could be better written and partly for legal reasons as in they want beginner users to use the most basic mode. I would guess this beacon isn’t the only one with this problem. I also think this in a sense holds would be advanced users back from becoming advanced users. But like many complex technological devices, sometimes the documentation doesn’t get the same budget/attention as the technology. Or per my other theory, lawyers are scarier than avalanches 🙂

      Here are some important Barryvox S Rules of thumb I implied from our conversation(Dave please correct me if I am wrong):

      1)You should never turn off the beacon ever. Whether you initiated a search in the default mode or the pro-search mode, you should stick with that mode through search completion.

      2)Despite the fact that the beacon default has pro-search mode off and the manual seems to steer users towards non-pro search mode; if you actually learn to use the features of the beacon, it is intended that you use it in pro-searh mode only.

      3)The main difference between pro-search mode and default mode is the audio.
      a)The pro-search mode audio features the analog beeping that relates the actual signal noise of transmitting beacon as opposed to the digitized/sanitized beep of the default mode. The beep in the default mode will sound the same no matter what type the beacon is while the analog mode will convey the subtle differences if you learn to listen for them.
      b)Additionally, the pro-search mode will not filter out the audio beeping of multiple beacons while the default mode will only play the beep from the nearest identified beacon.

      4)The other Pro-search mode additional features: 1)alternative search and 2)Extended Range are accessible from the menu while in pro search mode. But in most cases pro-search mode defaults are fine as is. Point being, if you can handle the auditory differences in point #3, if you don’t engage in these extras, the pro-search mode functions just like default mode.

      5)The main litmus test to use Alternative search is when what you are hearing in terms of the beeping differs from what you are seeing. Meaning if you hear more beacons(burials) than what the display on the beacon shows then Alternative search should be engaged. This litmus test basically points to some kind of interference or oddities in range such as two victims being in the same fine search area. While this litmus test might trigger at different points, you should specifically be looking for these indicators when at 10 meters and 3 meters.

      6)Extended Range is most likely used when after the very initial search effort no signal is found or you are know in advance that the possible burial location and search area is extremely broad.

    52. Mammut Dave February 21st, 2018 12:46 pm

      Sounds like you’ve more or less got it Ryan. Practice a bit and it’ll all make sense. Also remember that all of these beacons are very easy to use in a single burial and even in most multiple burial searches, but that any beacon is going to struggle in that scenario with close multiple burials + overlap. The difference between theBarryvox S and other beacons is in how you identify WHEN you need to stop relying on the marking function and switch to an alternate strategy. Some beacons have a close-proximity indicator that can work as long as there isn’t a long overlap, but many beacons dont have any way to indicate that you have a close proximity burial aside from maybe the arrow and distance indicator getting all screwy on you…if you recognize this you can resort to micro strips, but if you don’t recognize it then all bets are off. Bottom line is that this scenario is hard and no matter what beacon you use you have to to PRACTICE.
      There is a basic description of how to use this function on a pulse or a BarryvoxS on our blog here: (Lou and Lisa, posting the blog link seems on topic, but if that’s verboten please edit!)

    53. Lou Dawson 2 February 21st, 2018 1:17 pm

      Your company blog link is fine. Thanks for being here. Lou

    54. AAG February 26th, 2018 7:45 am


    55. Kevin S April 7th, 2018 10:35 am

      Lou/Mammut Dave- I’m finally retiring my 7 year old old Ortovox Patrollers and came to Wildsnow to learn the latest on Beacons. We rented a Tracker 3 for my youngest(16) to use last week as he is finally over his speed suit, ski racing days and caught the BC bug. Yes, we rejoiced and now we are debating whether we will even purchase season passes next season. Yes, the financial windfall is massive! Between the cost savings from no more ski racing and the possibility of not buying 4 season passes next year we can go crazy buying and replacing aging AT gear!

      I must say that the Tracker 3 left much to be desired possibly due to the lack of familiar functionality so here I am performing due diligence between Tracker, Barryvox and Ortovox. From reading your various reviews and the great posts from readers the Mammut Barryvox has the early lead in my quest to buy 4 beacons. Yet I fear being too much of a Mammut homer as it seems all of my clothing has the elephant on it these days…due to a loyalty to consistent quality. As always thanks for the depth your articles deliver and is there a possible beacon review coming in the next few months?

      On a non-related or distant relationship it was fascinating to see multiple BC Avy classes headed up Uneva last week with their shiny new backpacks, cool kid equipment and varied (suspect) skiing skills. So the uphill with my youngest was spent discussing tragic events like Sheep Creek, Ken Torp, Peak 7 and the Nottingham boys recovery among other eye-opening educational events of yesterday to hammer home the realities of the BC. Again, THANKS!!

    56. VT skier April 16th, 2018 7:06 pm

      Barryvox, versus Barryvox S. Thinking of a new beacon.
      Any opinions ?

      Also have a new Pieps Sport for my son

    57. Atfred April 16th, 2018 7:47 pm

      I would check out the review on I went with the simpler barryvox and am very pleased.

    Anti-Spam Quiz:

    While you can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box above, you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit. NOTE: BY SUBSCRIBING TO COMMENTS YOU GIVE US PERMISSION TO STORE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INDEFINITLY. YOU MAY REQUEST REMOVAL AND WE WILL REMOVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITHIN 72 HOURS. To request removal of personal information, please contact us using the comment link in our site menu.
    If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

    :D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
    Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

      Your Comments

      Recent Posts

    Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version