This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry. They’ve got deals galore these days, including avalanche transceivers.
Note from Lou: Folks, I messed up this review. In the heat of excitement about this new, compelling product, I failed to adequately vet how the mode switch functioned. Corrected below, and resulting in my not being able to recommend the Evo5. To be fair, I reviewed a pre-production sample. Let’s hope they re-design the switch action I describe so it either locks or requires increased resistance to move. If they do, I’ll edit this review once again.
It began at the dawn of humanity when flint knappers made the smallest knives and arrow points possible for their tribe’s non-mechanized hunters — and continues to the present, as phones thin, batteries lean, living space shrinks — and human power takes the moral highground. The quest for miniaturization: as part of human endeavor as, procreation? Not quite. But, almost?
We’ll leave the worldly questions to those of you who care for philosophy, and have brains with the resilience to handle universal questions of existence. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:
I got a package in the mail. It was a small package. Inside was an Arva Evo5 avalanche transceiver, by a long shot the most compact low-mass avalanche rescue transceiver the French company has ever made. At a palm and pocket friendly 11×7 centimeters, it’s also one of the smallest rigs in the entire market. 164 grams with battery, excluding holster.
Follow along as I do my first fiddle with this attractive but pesky little thing:
– First, Arva’s design philosophy here is obvious: Keep it simple, small, and light. In my opinion they achieved that, but sadly with one deal-killer problem I glossed over (palm to face) in my first version of this review, but have since re-written.
– You control the Evo5 on with a slider switch and a single button marked with a flag icon. While _in transmit mode_ a lock button prevents accidental switching. Slide farther, you hit search mode. Sadly the slider switch _does not lock in search mode_. Move it a small distance (requires minimal force) and bam, you’re back to transmitting. I measured the force required to move the switch, as illustrated above, minimal at an average of 14.72n measured with my force gauge.
A slider switch that operates this way can be knocked back to transmit while roughly handled during a search, and possibly while re-holstering. (For those new to avalanche companion rescue, non-victim beacons in transmit mode confused searches, sometimes terribly.) In my opinion the Evo5 slider moves so easily from search to transmit I can not recommend this beacon. Your take could be different, but please be aware of this and test for yourself the moment you have your hands on an Evo5. (It should be noted that at least one other brand/model beacon has had a similar problem, test test test, be unforgiving.)
I’ve done a few beacon drills lately where the main challenge was beacons somehow accidentally reverting to transmit (“auto revert” “AR”) and raining confusion on all but the most highly trained operators. Slider switch issues can contribute to that, but consider AR as well.
I’m a fan of configuring (or ideally, disabling) automatic AR so it’s unlikely to revert if, for example, left sitting still on a pile of gear, lost in the snow, or remains on a victim after they’ve been excavated during a multiple burial search. So, to that end, what about the Evo5 built-in automatic return-to-transmit?
– The automatic AR of the Evo5 is said to be configurable through a “settings menu” but for the life of me I could not suss this out (my pre-retail tester did not come with a manual). So for now, know that out of the box the Evo5 is set with an AR of eight minutes with no movement — about the time it takes to set your beacon down, change your clothing layers, and drink a cup out of your thermos. Thus, eight minutes is too short in my opinion. Apparently the time buffer can be increased, perhaps disabled. We’ll revisit that when I get more information.
– Let’s revisit the slider switch. When you’re in search mode, it takes minimal force (as detailed above) to slide the switch, which has no lock in this position, back to transmit. Doing this accidentally is in my opinion nearly a given. While I’m not sure I’d call this a defect (and perhaps Arva will claim it’s a “feature”), its enough for me to say I do not recommend the Evo5 as it stands with the review sample I have. Let’s hope Arva at least adds friction to the retail version slider so it’s difficult to flip/slide from search to send, but best, it should simply lock in all three positions. Come on beacon designers, get your act together! You’ve had how many years now? Nearly fifty!?
– Again along the lines of switch operation, it’s too bad switching the Evo5 from search to send isn’t as hard as turning it off. To power down, rather than simply moving the locked slider from “SEND” to “OFF,” you also have to hit the circular red “flag” button on the front of the unit. The idea here is to make accidental switching-to-off an impossible occurrence. I’m not understanding why the locking slider switch isn’t enough — it is solid when locked in send/transmit mode, impossible to accidentally switch off, and impossible to switch to search mode. And yeah, I think this “feature” is a concern. Why? Simply because it is “bad UI,” i.e., changing an intuitive interface to something that requires guesswork or memorization.
Rant from my web developer side: An extra button to push on a beacon is along the same lines as those obnoxious mouse-clickity-click cookie walls website developers worldwide have installed in an attempt to conform to the EU privacy law (GDPR), and are apparently unnecessary or actually do not conform with GDPR. (notice we don’t have one, enjoy the simple, clean interface of WildSnow.com, and check here for why).
– Now that I’ve satisfied readers who want BALANCED reviews, on to the good stuff. This is a three antenna rig. That means it works for “point and shoot” searching in the hands of nearly anyone. Further, it’s got a claimed 50 meter range (remember real-life “range” depends on a host of factors, some out of your control). Other beacons may boast of more range, but in my view 50 meters is plenty.
Of lesser importance to many of us, but still good so long as it doesn’t junk up the display (it doesn’t), you get a mark function for that time you’re in Zermatt and run across an avalanche that’s scoured twelve people off a ski run. Or can be used for the more common task of adding complexity and fun to your practice sessions.
– I like the use of a single AA battery. Simple, light, easy to replace. When you power up, you get a battery capacity percentage. Swap in a new AA when it reads below 50 percent, so you have plenty of juice for searching. Use the half-depleted cell in your cordless mouse.
Downside here: unlike certain other models-brands, the Evo5 battery compartment is not moisture sealed. I’ve never required that level of water resistance in a beacon, but it’s a nice feature if you tend to leave your rig buried in a rucksack full of wet gear, or you carry it in a pocket where it gets lots of humidity.
Conclusion: Though I love the form factor and simplicity of the Evo5, I can not recommend at this time because the slider switch too easily flips from search to send.
(Tips: With any avalanche beacon smear a small amount of dielectric grease on the battery terminals, to prevent moisture problems. And don’t forget the cost-effective zero-weight grade-64 waterproofing you get with a ziplock baggie.)
– Backlit screen (mandatory for any beacon, in my opinion).
– Group check (yawn).
– Audible signal (again, mandatory).
– “Interference Management” for those times you do a beacon search under power lines.
– Marking function.
Evo5 will be available fall of 2019, around $300.00 with a nicely appointed holster-harness. See it on the Arva website.