Backcountry Access Tracker2 and Float 30 Airbag Backpack — When?

Post by blogger | October 26, 2009      

Please see our BCA Tracker 2 avalanche beacon review here.

And the BCA Float 30 airbag review here.

I was harassing Bruce Edgerly of Backcountry Access to give us the lowdown, so he filed the following. It looks like Edge is risking his behind by commenting under his real name here at WildSnow. Perhaps he’d entertain a few questions via our comments. But then, the guy’s job is to make beacons so don’t be surprised if he’s not switching careers to blogging anytime soon.

Avalanche safety guru Werner Münter checking out the Tracker2 at the recent ISSW-Europe conference in Davos, Switzerland.

Avalanche safety guru Werner Münter checking out the Tracker2 at the recent ISSW-Europe conference in Davos, Switzerland.

“We know many of you are interested in the status of our Tracker2 beacon and Float 30 airbag. Here’s an update from BCA: We expect to start shipping the T2 in early December and the Float in late December. We have made several limited production runs of both products and have spent the summer and fall testing (and tweaking) them to the hilt. We have locked down the designs and are gearing up for production.

It would have been nice to deliver the Tracker2 several years ago and to deliver the Float 30 on September 1. But product development is a little like mountaineering: you’re asking for trouble if you force the schedule. When you’re climbing a peak, the ultimate goal is to come home safe, not to risk it all in a dangerous summit bid. Being in a strong financial and marketing position at this time, we have not felt it necessary to risk all the marbles on a premature product release. With safety products, the bar is very high.

If you’re interested in tracking our progress, we plan to start posting updates on our blog and our Facebook page ( And I’ll be monitoring Lou’s site to make sure everyone’s questions are answered. Fire away!

Thanks for your patience. Of course, there are still no promises; but we’re optimistic.”

(Bruce Edgerly is a founder and boss at the Backcountry Access sweatshop in Boulder, Colorado. When he’s not whipping workers in the shovel plant, he likes to ski powder, and was once buried in an avalanche but his factory workers dug him out.)


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20 Responses to “Backcountry Access Tracker2 and Float 30 Airbag Backpack — When?”

  1. Dan October 26th, 2009 8:49 am

    “his factory workers dug him out”…he probably had the car keys in his pocket, or owed them money. I try to always cover myself both ways as we know that ski partners can’t be trusted on powder days. So, that air bag will likely be a really big seller.

  2. Mark Billingsley October 26th, 2009 9:08 am

    Looking forward to the release of the Airbag 30. I will keep my tried and trusty Tracker DTS for now.

  3. Jonathan Shefftz October 26th, 2009 10:39 am

    Just to clarify on the Float 30, my understanding from a post at another forum is that for this season it will *not* have any sort of ski carry system or integration hydration system. So for this season, it’s targeted more toward snowmachiners, and then for the following season the plan is to add a ski carry & hydration while maintaining compatibility with the air bag deployment and structural integrity, etc.

  4. Henry Hagood October 26th, 2009 2:49 pm

    Bruce and Lou,

    Fun story example that we live in a wicked small world. My name is Henry, I am a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wa. First off I am rooming with Lou’s son Louie this year which has been great. Secondly, my girlfriend is from Kodiak, AK and I went up there to visit this summer and met her best friend Maya Edgerly, who I understand is your niece. While I was up there I met her folks, Andy and Niera along with the rest of the family. Anyhoo, when I learned from Maya (who is now in school here in Bellingham) that her uncle was the founder of BCA I told Louie about it and sure enough he knows you! Oh the random connections we make, thought it was too good to not share!


  5. Lou October 26th, 2009 3:06 pm

    Henry, that’s great!

    Bruce, what say you?

  6. Matt October 26th, 2009 4:01 pm

    Was their an article comparing the Tracker and the Tracker 2? I remember it but I haven’t been able to search it out. I was going to get a Tracker, but now I wonder if I should wait for the Tracker 2.

  7. Lou October 26th, 2009 4:12 pm

    Matt, we’ve been waiting to get a production one to really wring out. Jonathan has tested one, but it was pre-production. Nonetheless, I’m sure he’s got a few words. Jonathan?

  8. Lou October 26th, 2009 4:14 pm

    BTW, for those of you who saw that post about Denali boots briefly appear, I was writing it and published by mistake so took it down. It’ll be back up in all its glory in a few days. Sorry about that.

  9. Tim M. October 26th, 2009 5:03 pm

    Definitely curious to check out their new beacon. Though clearly opinions differ here about which beacon is best, my experience with the Pulse and S-1 has convinced me that triple antennae trumps two… so looking forward to the wildsnow appraisal of the latest triplet whenever she comes along.

  10. Mark October 26th, 2009 5:04 pm

    Tracker good. Tracker 2?????

  11. Jonathan Shefftz October 26th, 2009 5:27 pm

    I had been hoping to check out a pre-production unit when Steve Christie and I were both in the PNW in early summer, but alas the timing did not quite work out.
    I might have one in November, but no promises.
    Until then, some preliminary thoughts here:
    Given that the design improvements over the original Tracker seem to be very straightforward, I doubt we’ll have any surprises.

  12. Edge October 26th, 2009 10:37 pm

    Right on, Henry. Kodiak rules! There are some diehard skiers on that rock in the North Pacific. That’s where I went for spring break last year. I got to ski waist deep on Pyramid Peak one day, then surf Pacific glass (whales breaching outside) all in one weekend!! Glad you got to meet my awesome niece, Maya. I hope she gets after it with your crew this winter.

    Jonathan, you’re right that most of our Float 30 airbags are going to snowmachiners this year. That’s where most of our preseason orders came from. We have indeed opted to hold off on ski straps and Stash hydration this season, as these two systems still need more testing. The rest of the system has been hammered and fully verified and will soon be in production. Here’s a little clip from a sledding event (Hay Days) this summer in Minnesota:

    We’ll have a Float 30 and some of our Tracker2 transceivers at the National Avalanche School at Snowbird this Wednesday (10/ 28), if anybody can make it. Jonathan, are you going?

    Thanks for posting my guest blog, Lou.


  13. Jonathan Shefftz November 12th, 2009 5:03 pm

    The Tracker 2 has arrived – or at least, *a* Tracker 2 has arrived at my house.

    Initial impressions:

    – About half an ounce light than the original, a wee bit shorter length, about the same volume overall, but housing is nicely cut away in the center to allow for enhanced grip. (I don’t have the harness – this unit is still officially marked as a Demo model and is for now owned by BCA, not me.)

    – The pull-out tab for switching into Search has just the right amount of resistance. The tab is easy to grasp for switching into Search. (The design concept is very similar to the Arva Evolution/A.D.vanced/3 Axes models, but a bit better executed in my opinion.)

    – Search tab is mechanically blocked from being pulled out while beacon is Off, and power switch is mechancially blocked from being turned Off while beacon is in Search.

    – The beacon will beep if kept in Search for more than 30 minutes or if kept in Transmit for more than 8 hours.

    – Fine search phase seems perfect, with directional indicators down to 1.5 meters (as displayed, not as actual distance, given the usual flux line issues), with distance indicators down to 0.0 and elimination of all nulls/spikes

    – Testing for accuracy of multiple-burial indicator light is ongoing.

    – Range test is pending.

    – Testing for any increase in processing speed is pending.

    Details to be published in upcoming blog.

  14. Lou November 12th, 2009 6:37 pm

    Nice Jonathan, thanks for the update!

  15. Jonathan Shefftz November 12th, 2009 6:59 pm

    Correction to prior comment: although my demo unit shuts down its directional indicators at a 1.5m distance display, this point is not yet determined for the final production version. In general, keeping on the directional indicators into the fine search phase has its pluses and minuse – the competition ranges from 2.0 to 3.0, with the Pulse offering a 3.0 default and a 0.3 option.

  16. Larry January 7th, 2010 5:51 am

    Do you have plans to review the Tracker2 now that it’s available?

  17. Jonathan Shefftz January 7th, 2010 7:57 am

    Larry, yes, the draft review was written in November, but it was embargoed until the T2 hit the retail shelves. Unfortunately, I still need to wait on the review since my demo unit has the pre-release firmware on it — once I get the final retail firmware on my demo unit, I’ll be able to publish the review.

    Overview of other upcoming reviews and updates in a comment at the end of this blog:

    I’ve copied below some excerpts from the introduction and conclusion of the draft review, since those section won’t be affected by any slight changes in the final firmware.


    The long-awaited new Tracker 2 addresses some of the Tracker’s shortcomings, while still remaining true to the Tracker’s original ease-of-use intentions. I have greatly enjoyed handing my Tracker 2 demo unit to students at avalanche courses and responding to their standard question of “how do I use this?” with a quiet stare intended to convey “just look at it for a few seconds to figure it out.”

    Now what about the Tracker 2’s lack of a multiple-burial marking/masking feature, like from the competition (Ortovox, Barryvox/Mammut, Pieps, ARVA)? BCA’s two-pronged answer is that such a feature inevitably entails additional design complications that can confuse a user, and that such a feature is highly unlikely to be needed. For the former, read my other reviews of the competition, try them out, and decide for yourself. For the latter, this is a far more complicated issue, involving statistics, tradeoffs, and personal travel tendencies. Some interesting articles on the subject are available from the American Avalanche Association in this issue of The Avalanche Review:


    Overall: To What Kind of Person Does This Beacon Appeal?

    The original Tracker appealed to a user who wants a relatively simple and straightforward directional beacon, and doesn’t want to bother with any special multiple-burial features or other complications. As such, its only direct competitor has been the D3 (plus the ARVA Evo3 where available).

    Or, to quote an often-used — and unfortunately rather sexist — line, “The Tracker is the beacon you give to your girlfriend.” In other words, if you’re not going to practice (and if you don’t place a high priority on close-proximity multiple-burial features), get a Tracker, or D3 (or ARVA Evolution+ if you can find one).

    The Tracker 2 is a significant improvement along these same lines. As a user of the original Tracker said upon trying the Tracker 2: “they made it even more idiot-proof: I didn’t think that was possible.”

    Overall: What Thoughts Go Through My Mind If a Partner Has This Beacon

    “My partner had better be well-practiced and skilled for a close-proximity multiple-burial scenario.”

    “Otherwise, although in general I sure hope my partner is not an idiot, this is the most idiot-proof beacon ever, even more so than the original Tracker.”

  18. Bryce March 1st, 2010 11:41 am

    Looks like T2 availability may have finally turned the corner. Up until now, we’ve gotten them 20 at a time and sold out in less than a day. But we got 60 on Friday and it looks like they’ll probably last a little while. Maybe Jonathan can finally get an updated version and finish this review. 😉

  19. Jonathan Shefftz March 1st, 2010 12:26 pm

    I mailed back my demo unit the other week, and UPS says my updated unit is scheduled to arrive March 5.

  20. Jim Sogi March 10th, 2010 12:05 pm

    I just got 2 Tracker2’s in the mail and am testing them. They are sooo simple. Good in an emergency situation when your hands are shaking. The harness is a bit dinky looking. They rated pretty high in some comparison tests. Seems the 3 beam helps with direction finding. They say change batteries above 20%.

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