Arva Reveals Evo5 Avalanche Beacon — Nice Try

Post by blogger | April 15, 2019      

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry. They’ve got deals galore these days, including avalanche transceivers.

Cam said don't talk about it unless you measure it.

Cam said don’t talk about it unless you measure it. This is WildSnow, we have instrumentation. Force required to move Evo5 slider switch from search to transmit averages a paltry 14.72 newtons, 3.4 pounds, 1542 grams. Note, during testing I did 5 measurements and averaged. To be sure other factors were not critical, I cycled the switch more than 300 times to introduce wear, and also added moisture. After that the required force remained the same, still too light IMHO, but at least it didn’t trend lower.

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.

The diminutive Arva Evo5 is exactly what we like in a beacon.

The diminutive Arva Evo5 is exactly what we like in a beacon. Mostly, anyway.

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, 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.

One AA battery. Easy to change.

One AA battery. Easy to change. But the case isn’t water resistant near as I can tell.

– 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.)

Other features:
– 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.


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19 Responses to “Arva Reveals Evo5 Avalanche Beacon — Nice Try”

  1. Sedgesprite April 15th, 2019 8:52 am

    Is there a reason no beacons have rechargable batteries? So convenient with headlamps amd com devices.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 April 15th, 2019 9:06 am

    Probably because Li batteries are quite cold sensitive, and also have a limited life span. If you’re diligent about using a freshly charged battery before each trip, nothing stopping one from using a third-party rechargeable AA in a beacon, though the battery life indicator would probably be useless. That said, alkaline batteries are not exactly the best in the cold. Regular non-rechargeable lithium AAs are the best, but again, unless the beacon specs them, use will result in the battery level indicator being useless. Lou

  3. XXX_er April 15th, 2019 11:54 am

    IME new batteries in a beacon at the start of season will last most people all season and non-rechargeable batteries are pretty cheap … not the place to save pennies

  4. nico April 15th, 2019 1:03 pm

    “but again, unless the beacon specs them, use will result in the battery level indicator being useless”

    This was a bit of “wait what” moment… I have a Barryvox Element and used Li batteries for years now. The manual states “cannot be used with Li batteries”.

    I never really experienced any weirdness that said, indicator was maybe going down from 90 to 60 in one step which made me change the batteries every time it happened but otherwise can’t think of anything else :-/

  5. Cody April 15th, 2019 2:16 pm

    Sedgesprite I’m guessing, other than the better temperate range of alkaline, it’s easier and more accurate to track the % left in an alkaline vs lithium chemistry due to their voltage drop off curves. This is a simplified chart that shows it well. So with alkaline you don’t get any nasty surprises at the tail end of that curve.

    Lou it takes you 4 minutes to change some clothes? You also changing pants? 😛 Not trying to shame you. But 4 minutes to me seems like a reasonable amount of time when paired with motion sensing, especially in the context of a rescue. Blister’s Gear:30 podcast with BCA starts talking about this a little bit.

    I am with you that the button press of the flagging, and the non moisture sealed battery compartment are weird.

  6. Tzed April 15th, 2019 2:20 pm

    It is great to see the miniaturization of beacons. For something that is rarely used but always carried I am psyched!
    Next year we will have three light beacon options that I am aware of

    Pieps Micro 150g (looking forward to the non proximity sensor version)
    BCA Tracker S 165g
    Arva Evo5 170g

  7. Lou Dawson 2 April 16th, 2019 8:36 am

    Tzed, the Evo5 I have here weighs 164 grams. Without holster or lanyard. In any case, the three beacons you mention are all close enough in weight as to be virtually the same as to mass. And yes, great to see. Lou

  8. Lou Dawson 2 April 16th, 2019 8:42 am

    All, the production version of Evo5 will have a default 8 minute return to transmit (when stationary). I had it as 4. Now edited. Whatever. I prefer totally disabling the RTT. I’ll do another edit and comment when I find out how the user can adjust the settings.

    RTT is controversial. In my opinion, it will result in more lost lives (due to messed up searches) than it will ever save. I feel it’s included in feature sets due to a factually unsupported theory about the likelihood of secondary avalanches. While the problem with confused searches due to transmitting beacons is related over and over and over again in accounts I’ve heard describing real-life accidents. Your opinion dear readers?


  9. Herf April 16th, 2019 8:50 am

    With just the one AA battery, I’d be surprised if it meets the EN 300 718 standard for operating time. The standard to be met is 200 hours of transmit, with one hour of subsequent receiving @ -10degC. The backlit LCD would also aggravate that.

  10. Kristian April 16th, 2019 9:11 am

    The Ortovox 3+ has used a single AA for many years and is rate at 250 hours of transmit.

    Lighter weight smaller beacons are designed to fit into the internal beacon zip pocket of skimo suits.

    Arva also makes excellent lighter weight shovels.

  11. Kevin Wieczorek April 16th, 2019 11:27 am

    Avalanche beacons do not use rechargeable batteries, particularly internal custom battery packs because it would not conform to the EN 300 718 standard for avalanche beacons. Clause 4.3.4 of part 2 of EN 300 718 2.1.1 states:

    “The equipment shall use a widely obtained battery type.”

    While that statement is vague, it is safe to interpret that as “off-the-shelf” alkaline batteries only. If you add in the operating time requirements, rechargeable batteries seem like a long shot.

  12. Rolf April 17th, 2019 2:30 am

    Hi Lou, MO about RTT: I am totally with you on the subject of hardly any victims in companion rescue due to secondary avalanches (I think 1 recorded case in EU) and indeed many searches will/might be screwed up by transceivers jumping back to transmit while in search mode. In training even advanced searchers don’t recognize the warning tone transceivers emit before reverting. Therefore the advice (by ICAR, SLF,, UIAGM, UIAA, etc) is to turn transceivers from people who are not searching OFF.
    All that said I do think that an RTT based on motion detection is a good idea. I don’t think it will harm any searches and adds a bit of extra safety. For experts, educators, rescue crews the ‘standby’, ‘rescue send’ , whatever name, function based on motion detection on some models are possibly an interesting option in that regard.
    @Herf: offcourse it complies with the EN 300 718 norm. But I noted that it burns up batteries very fast while in search mode.

  13. Mark Thomasson April 17th, 2019 6:53 am

    I have an Ortovox Zoom, it is small and light enough for me, though it is too bulky. A thinner unit would be much more comfortable to wear, and would avoid any temptation to put it in a rucksack. How is this one?

  14. Lou Dawson 2 April 17th, 2019 6:59 am

    Rolf, yeah, if we have to have RTT, then at least it should have motion detection. But it remains problematic. Beacons can end up stationary for a lot of reasons. For example, panicked searcher sets their beacon aside while digging or doing first aid, thing reverts to transmit. Or the example I used above, when a searcher needs to change clothing layers and take a break, and sets their beacon and complicated harness-holster aside, thus making the beacon stationary. And so on.

    Last scenario is perhaps a reason to throw away the holster and use a pants pocket (smile)?

    To be fair, I’m going off on RTT too much. The big issue IMHO is simply to keep beacons simple to use. Lots of brands-models do pretty good with that, including this one. And, if you tend to ski with larger groups or in populated areas, be ready to do beacon search with lots of confusing signals as you’ll never get every beacon turned off or switched to transmit, unless you want to spend ten minutes going from person to person making sure, when you should be searching and digging.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 April 17th, 2019 8:08 am

    Mark, Evo5 is 20.93 mm at thickest, down to just under 20. My Tracker3 is 23.58 at thickest. I’d call the Evo5 “thin” but not radically so. Lou

  16. Joel April 23rd, 2019 4:39 am

    How about comparing beacons to see at what distance they find the first signal.
    It will vary in real life, but comparo would be meaningful.

  17. Lou Dawson 2 May 4th, 2019 9:22 am

    Hey all, I messed up this review, actually had to not recommend this beacon based on my opinion of the pre-retail sample I got. I amended the review. Please note. Apologies for not digging into it as much as I should have. Lou

  18. RyanD May 7th, 2019 1:39 pm

    To be fair did you compare the same forces that would be needed on the Tracker2 or Pieps DSP? I have heard of similar issues with these models in the field and not just a lab. Also to play devils advocate the surface area on this Evo 5 appears to be smaller than the Tracker 2 which would require a more concentrated effort. In all practicality though having it locked in transmit mode is 99.9% of the function people use it for, and when in an actual or practice search it should be in ones hand, eyes on it, and dealt with caution anyway.

  19. Rolf May 8th, 2019 1:50 am

    Not that I am afraid that you are out of work, but (beside Ryan’s suggestions) I would love to hear about the forces needed to switch the ARVA ‘horseshoe models’ (EVO 3 & 3+, EVO 4, etc) back to transmit: they are known to cause havoc in rescuedrills, especially since they are awkward to turn off. And it will give an nice context for the quality of the EVO 5 switch.

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