Ortovox 3+ — New Avalanche Beacon for Fall 2010

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 5, 2010      

(Please bear in mind that the following “first look” is for a pre-production tradeshow avalanche transceiver “beacon.” Our policy here at Wildsnow.com, after being burned numerous times, is to only do in-depth reviews of beacons that are in production. Nonetheless, nothing wrong with hitting the highlights of the sweet little unit Ortovox is planning to release this fall.)

Ortovox 3+

Ortovox 3+ demo unit, production unit will have rubber armor.

There’s a new avy beacon coming that promises something truly different for backcountry skiers and others dodging the white beast. Ortovox’ 3+ (production planned or this fall) has the ability to automatically switch which antenna is transmitting, depending on which of the two largest antennas is most horizontally oriented. Result, since beacon searches are done with the beacon held horizontally, is that the two beacons will “talk” to each other as loudly as possible since their antennas will always have the same orientation. Thus helping improve the performance of every beacon on the market. But read on, there is more.

The 3+ does not use the grid display of the Ortovox S1, so finding multiple victims is not as graphically intuitive, but the same set of multiple sensors that allow the S1 to mark found victims so reliably is retained. An LCD display uses the now classic mix of distance numbers and five direction arrows to guide you to the strongest signal first. Up to three victims can be easily marked. (I know there is a trick for doing more than three, but you’ll have to wait until we can vet a production unit before we’ll comment on this rarely needed feature.)

Ortovox 3+ Battery

Another unique feature of the 3+ is the use of a single AA battery, which should be music to the ears of individuals such as Lou who are always struggling to simplify and standardize their gear. How did Ortovox do that? They have a special power supply circuit that artificially doubles the voltage of the single battery and is extremely efficient in its sparing use of power.

All these are great, but my favorite feature for backcountry skiing is the harness. Most beacons on the market come with a nice pouch for the beacon and some webbing to strap the unit to your torso. At the end of the day though you take the beacon off, wrap the straps around the pouch and toss it in your pack for next time. Next time you take it out, what inevitably happens? You get to untangle the straps before putting it on; a minor inconvenience to be sure, but an inconvenience nonetheless. The pouch for Ortovox 3+ comes with a pocket that you fold inside out to hold the pouch and straps in a smart, self contained sack.

Ortovox harness

Ortovox 3+ haness and beacon stashed away in the self-contained sack. Sweet.

Things like multiple victim recognition, even switching the transmit antenna are very cool rescue features but ones that frankly I hope I never need. However, the smaller form factor, storage pouch. and single AA battery power consumption of the 3+ are things I can appreciate every time I use a beacon. The projected price will be a competitive $349.00 MSRP, available Fall 2010.

More here.

Shop for the Ortovox beacon here.


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21 Responses to “Ortovox 3+ — New Avalanche Beacon for Fall 2010”

  1. Njord March 5th, 2010 10:58 am

    Very cool… looks like Orthovox is using a MEMS/INS chipset to adjust antenna output.

    Was there a requirement to hold the beacon level when you turn it on to calibrate the MEMS?

    Wonder if Orthovox is working on a software hack to use the slopemeter on the S1 to do the same on the S1…


  2. Rob Fullmont March 5th, 2010 11:56 am

    I found this review interesting. Interesting on a couple of fronts.

    First – I’d like to think that they would spend time on making the product they actually have out on the market work before investing money and effort into a totally new unit. The S1 just came out a few years ago and I bought one. I’ve had some “difficulties” with my beacon searches causing me much frustration…so much so that I went to Ortovox’s website to see if it was something I was doing wrong or if there were any suggestions on how to handle what I was experiencing (essentially going in circles). I was surprised to find the following alert somewhat downplayed on their site:

    “Please check if your S1requires a software update, especially if you have a new unit (identifiable by its orange on/off switch and “Version 2.1” on the display), which was purchased as of August 2009.”

    “Random S1 units of the latest production run may show an automatic flagging within the fine search boundaries due to undefined impulses.  That is, the S1 unit is flagging a signal even if the user did not press the marking button…this break within the search process is an unwelcome interruption.”

    Hmmmm….Toyota is getting some heat right now, but I guess that is a much bigger scale. As a public service announcement…if you have an S1 you may want to check it.

    The second front I found interesting was the fact that this is a review on a concept. Don’t get me wrong…I want to be in the loop…up-to-date of things to come, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I know that the elusive Tracker II has been rumored about for a couple of years now….I’ve even heard of friends who’ve held one, but the local shops in my area have yet to receive one.

    The final point I think was interesting was the downplay of the need for the technology of finding and marking multiple victims. Maybe I’m crazy – but as our backcountry and sidecountry areas get more and more crowded due to increased popularity, better equipment and the desire for more adventure – I want to have the best technology that is out there. I may be able to control some of the risks of the party that I’m traveling with, but I can’t control the actions and circumstances of parties around me….and there are more and more of these. When / if the #$@# hits the fan I want to have the right tools for the job. I guess that is the boyscout in me…always be prepared.

    On a more positive note, I do like the idea of the pouch – the tangled straps and need for gradute level work in physics to figure out the harnesses of different beacons has always been a nag.

  3. Colin in CA March 5th, 2010 1:44 pm

    I still think one of the best “features” is the relatively low projected MSRP. $350 for a transceiver that capable is great. I may replace my Opto3000 with this.

  4. Jonathan L March 5th, 2010 2:18 pm

    I get it, it’s a demo. But that screen leaves me cold. Unless I can read it in full sun and in pitch darkness, it won’t be on my shopping list.

    And old-school curmudgeon that I am, I’m looking for the ergonomic curve that makes me love my Ortovox now and not seeing it. Last time I checked, my body didn’t have any flat surfaces.

  5. Mark W March 5th, 2010 9:22 pm

    Wow. Smaller size, one battery, next-generation features, and a price that is reasonable. Nice. So, Craig, how ’bout an update on that Dostinator?

  6. Lou March 6th, 2010 8:17 am

    Rob, for some reason your comment got held in my que but I saw it and approved it. Good points.

  7. Jonathan Shefftz March 6th, 2010 7:39 pm

    Rob, addressing your various points in turn:
    – Ortovox has indeed been significantly improving the S1 model over the last couple years. My review at http://tinyurl.com/am73gu was originally written for the second firmware release (which had significant improvements upon the initial firmware release) and the “JANUARY 2010 UPDATE” at the end of the original review provides some feedback on the Fall 2009 firmware release.
    – As for the Ortovox 3+ “review of a concept” I did the same thing in my initial preview at http://tinyurl.com/yasokd3 but the U.S. distributor is now expecting to receive a batch of units any day now, so once that happens I should be able to complete a round of actual in-the-field testing and draft a review.
    – I’ve had a Tracker 2 since early November, but unfortunately only this past Friday did I get mine upgraded with the final retail version of the firmware. I’ve been busy putting on a rando race this weekend, and then I’m teaching an avy course next weekend, but I should be able to finish all my final testing pretty soon, and then my review that’s been in draft form since the fall can be published.
    – Regarding multiple burials and flagging/marking/masking features, that has been heavily emphasized by Ortovox, Barryvox, and Pieps (as well as by ARVA – if you can find any of their models in North America), but BCA has a different perspective. This can be debated forever, and the available statistics can be interpreted in many different ways. (I wrote an article on the subject for the American Avalanche Association’s “The Avalanche Review” and I’m still not absolutely sure what conclusions to draw…)

  8. Lou March 6th, 2010 8:49 pm

    I had a Tracker 2 for a while, but wasn’t certain it was the retail version. So considering that the retail version was already being shipped, I’ve delayed my own review till I’m certain about what I have.

  9. XXX_er March 7th, 2010 8:15 pm

    “Unless I can read it in full sun and in pitch darkness, it won’t be on my shopping list.

    And old-school curmudgeon that I am, I’m looking for the ergonomic curve that makes me love my Ortovox now and not seeing it.”

    last time I went touring with an old bud (actualy a young 55 ) while it performed flawlessly in the shop buddy couldn’t read the screen on his fancy new beacon unless he took out his contacts and put on his reading glasses … I am pretty sure I would have been dead by then

  10. Nando March 8th, 2010 6:13 am

    I’d like to know if there is any kind of beacon for dogs. I usually go ski touring with my dog, and think its intereting to have something to detect her in case of avalanche.
    Sorry for not commenting nothing about the new orthovox, I have an arva 3 axes and hope its works for some more years. Congratulations for the blog,
    cheers from Catalonia (spain, pyrenees) :biggrin:

  11. Alex March 8th, 2010 6:43 am

    I know the owners of a guiding company in Chamonix put a regular single antenna beacon on thier dog when they take him into the mountains. I believe they just rigged it on a harness that was made for dogs. They used the smallest most basic beacon they could find since the dog would not be using it for any kind of searches.


  12. Jonathan Shefftz March 8th, 2010 7:13 am

    “They used the smallest most basic beacon they could find since the dog would not be using it for any kind of searches.”
    — Yes, and in addition to the dog not contributing to the search, the dog might also complicate the search, since the dog’s signal would turn a single-burial into a multiple burial . . . and even worse, if the dog were *not* buried then the owner would have to waste time chasing after the dog to turn off its beacon, and until then the dog’s signal would be moving around.

  13. Lou March 8th, 2010 8:03 am

    For reasons Jonathan suggests, it is incredibly unwise to place a standard beacon on a dog. It could even be considered unethical or even criminally negligent in some circumstances (while guiding, for example). If someone brought a dog along on a trip and attached a beacon, I’d go home.

    Just imagine chasing a dog around to try and turn off the broadcasting beacon after a slide buried the dog’s owner. Or what if the dog and your wife or husband were buried, and you dug up the dog first while your spouse suffocated? That would be an interesting burden to carry the rest of your life… PETA might put you on a poster, but then…

    Incredibly ignorant to beacon a dog.

    I had a beacon on my own dog many years ago, and can’t believe I was that stupid. Or, come to think of it, actually I do recall doing some rather stupid things back in those days. (grin)

  14. Frank K March 8th, 2010 10:20 am

    The only way to safely beacon-up your dog would be to find 2 old 2.275 beacons that still worked (not dual frequency ones, either). You could hook up your dog and leave the other one in your pack until all your human ski partners were safely accounted for. Good luck finding those beacons.

    I think one could argue that a 80lb dog bouncing down a slope is every bit as effective an avalanche trigger as a person twice the weight on some big fat skis or a board. Just sayin’..

  15. roca March 8th, 2010 11:52 am

    Will S1 still be in production?
    is this supposed to be a lower model or top of line?

  16. Jonathan Shefftz March 8th, 2010 11:55 am

    Full line-up description at the beginning of this review:

  17. Lou March 8th, 2010 12:01 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for remembering that, I should have linked from Dostie’s article. Will do so now. Lou

  18. Bar Barrique March 8th, 2010 2:19 pm

    I was touring last week with a friend who has recently received his Tracker 2 from MEC. One thing I like about the Tracker over the Ortovox; is that it uses LED’s instead of an LCD screen. In my experience LED’s are more rugged, and, reliable.

  19. Halsted March 8th, 2010 5:40 pm

    Yes, the S1 will still be produced.

    Sounds like your buddy better stick with the analog transceivers.


  20. Kevin November 4th, 2010 1:32 am

    “If someone brought a dog along on a trip and attached a beacon, I’d go home.”

    A friends dog kicked a fist sized rock off a talus slope, above and behind me, while I was enjoying the view looking out from the top of a 200 ft drop. The rock passed about four feet away from my head. If the dog had better aim I’d be dead now. I leave the dogs at home.

  21. Lou November 4th, 2010 7:39 am

    Kevin, yeah, if you want a beacon for a do you can use older analog beacons on the old frequency, or use something like the SOS Sled Bug. Very poor form to show up with a regular beacon on a dog.

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