Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Beacon Review – Production Model Follow-Up

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 21, 2010      
Avalanche Beacons

Avalanche Beacons

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My March 2010 post for the Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Beacon Review – Preproduction Model included an introduction from Lou that:

“Here at WildSnow.com we’re somewhat leery of reviewing pre-production beacons. But the cycle of development to retail production continues to compress, and with a trusted manufacturer it’s indeed possible to bring you a fairly “real world” accounting of what to expect.”

Now that I [finally] have a production model, Lou’s assessment rings true in both directions. Rather than rehash my entire review of the preproduction model, or append that initial review with new information, this follow-up review focuses exclusively on those aspects of my production unit that differ from the preproduction 3+ I reviewed in March 2010.

Interface and Controls

In March I wrote that:

The production model is anticipated to have a switch with three positions: On, Off, Battery Compartment Open.

And indeed it does. Some on-line commenters have complained about initially trying to turn the beacon off and instead opening up the battery compartment so that the battery falls out. Possible, yes, but any actual 3+ owner who can’t figure out how to correctly operate this switch after using the unit a few times is just not the person you want as your backcountry skiing partner, regardless of beacon choice.

I also wrote back in March 2010:

The 3+ performs a self-test upon start-up and will report any errors. (Unfortunately in four different codes — I hope the production version includes a “cheat sheet” sticker or something similar to affix to the back of the unit’s housing.)

That same button is also used for the companion beacon check, which like the S1 includes frequency drift, transmission On time, and transmission total cycle time. Unlike the S1, the 3+ reports any errors not with relatively intuitive graphics, but rather with one of seven error codes (i.e., representing all seven possible combinations of the three different failures) — I hope that the production model will provide a “cheat sheet” for the back of the beacon!

Unfortunately no such sticker comes with the beacon, so I suggest making your own, otherwise the potentially significant benefit of the detailed error reporting will be unavailable in the field.

How Well It Works: Initial Signal Acquisition > Secondary Search Phase > Fine Search Phase

In March 2010 I wrote:

Unfortunately I was unable to test initial signal acquisition because of the deliberately shortened range in this preproduction model. But once within its deliberately shortened maximum distance readout of 20m, the directional indicators and distance readout performed as they should.

Initial signal acquisition range is . . . well, as always, confusing to test! This is because of trials variation, differing opinions on the relative importance of optimal versus suboptimal coupling range, and exactly what to count as initial signal acquisition.

With those caveats aside, and focusing on suboptimal search configurations (which are important in setting the search strip width), in my latest round of testing, I found the 3+ to be roughly comparable to the Pulse and Tracker 2 (counting the T2’s directional indicators, not merely the distance/strength readout), which is at the lower end of the scale for current models, although still generally acceptable. (But note that although the 3+ usually started immediately with both directional indicators and distance readout, the sound didn’t kick in until a couple meters later.) And as always, the Pieps DSP is the range champ for suboptimal search configurations, although the Pulse in its rather obscure single-antenna backup-to-backup mode is a close match for pro users willing to delve into that optional search mode.

I expected the secondary search phase to be very straightforward: ever since BCA pioneered the use of two antennas to allow directional indicators in its original Tracker DTS way back in 1997, this has pretty much been a matter of just doing what the beacon tells you to. In other words, no difficult multi-burial scenarios, no dealing with spikes and nulls in the final fine search phase, no complicated test for perpendicular orientation upon initial signal acquisition, just the heart of a basic search.

But then I came across this video, starting at about 3:26 —

To attempt to replicate the erratic behavior shown in the video, I set up a very simple search in which the target beacon was pointed at the direction of the searcher’s travel. The 3+ always handled this just fine, engaging the solid center arrow as I walked toward the long axis of the target beacon.

I then tried a more difficult setup, although this was really just only a slightly less easy setup: I started 40 meters from the target beacon, but the target beacon’s transmitting antenna pointed about 45 degrees away from my direction of travel. Since I had to follow a curved flux line, I expected any beacon to swing me out to the side at first, then straight for awhile, then curve me back in toward the target. Of the limited control beacons I used, the BCA Tracker 2 and Barryvox Pulse did just that, and very reliably so. The Ortovox S1 took a more direct path, although its indicator arrow bounced around a bit, but this is very much at the quibbling level here.

Unfortunately, in some trials with some targets in some locations, some 3+ units provide potentially confusing readings for such a search, both for initial signal acquisition, but far more importantly right in the heart of the search.
Enough caveats for you? Okay, first the caveats explanation, then the problem.

Caveats: I have replicated this on the past three days in three different locations, one with obvious sources of generalized area-wide (as opposed to on-person) electronics interference (ski resort base area), one with no such obvious sources (edge of golf course bordered by forest, with any residences fairly distant), and one with conceivably suspect sources (college playing field). But Marcus Peterson, the head of Ortovox USA, was unable to replicate this on the fourth day in a fourth location, using my beacon, even though he experienced the same problems I did during our joint session on the third day. Furthermore, on those three prior days, not all targets produced the problem, and Marcus’s 3+ unit did not exhibit any problems when I searched with it. Plus even when I was using my unit to search for the targets prone to generating the problem, many searches proceeded flawlessly. [Dec 22 edit: here is a link to a video on one such search, with any back-and-forth being rather trivial.]

Now for the problem: the directional arrow can swing back and forth wildly (even at 90-degree extremes) when just at the point when a beacon should behave very reliably.

To help with visualizing this, I shot some videos. As for potential interference from my small digital camera (Canon SD1400 IS), I had plenty of flawed trials with the camera off in which exactly the same behavior occurred. (Plus because of the zoom function the actual distance between the 3+ and the camera is much greater than it appears.) Here are links for two such potentially confusing searches:

So how challenging a problem is this? As for how difficult it is when it actually occurs, watch the videos and judge for yourself. As for how likely it is to occur in a real search, I have no idea. Might it be restricted only to a certain batch of units? Maybe (since Marcus’s unit performed fine when I searched with it). Might it be restricted to only certain targets? Maybe (since some limited trials with other targets resulted in perfectly acceptable searches). Might it be restricted only to locations with area-wide electronics interference? Perhaps (since Marcus reports his test site turned up no such problems). I wish I could provide more definitive conclusions, but even if I conducted many thousands of trials with many different batches of units and many different types of targets in many different locations, I still probably wouldn’t have a definitive answer.

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

I answered the above question back in March 2010 with:

Many kinds!
The 3+ has similar functionality to the Pieps DSP and Barryvox Pulse in “Basic” user profile, but at a much lower price point (although I’m sure some users will still prefer various aspects of the DSP and “Basic” Pulse over the 3+ given how much personal preferences can vary). Those who want even more advanced functionality (and have some more money to spend on a beacon) will probably still favor the S1 or the Pulse in “Advanced” profile. And at the other end of the techno spectrum, those who want to keep everything even more simple and don’t feel the need for an automated marking/masking/flagging feature specific to multiple burials will probably still favor the Tracker 2. (And those looking to spend even less money yet still wanting a three-antenna beacon with multiple burial indicator might be attracted to the rebranded $299 Ortovox Patroller Digital.)

Despite all that competition (including from Ortovox’s own models!), the 3+ is likely to have very wide appeal: an easy-to-use interface combined with advanced multiple-burial-specific features, all at an attractive price point.

Yet possibly, the occasionally erratic behavior in some search configurations with the current firmware is a potentially significant caveat to my earlier conclusion.

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

In March 2010 I wrote:

“My partner should be a whiz at multiple burials.”
“I should still establish my search strip width based upon suboptimal antenna orientation, even though the 3+ eliminates the possibility of a vertical oriented transmission antenna.”

To that I now add, “My partner should be prepared for some potentially confusing back-and-forth directional indicators in the secondary search.”

Please see Ortovox comments about above testing and results, here.


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WildSnow Beacon Reviews Intro and Index

(WildSnow guest blogger Jonathan Shefftz lives with his wife and daughter in Western Massachusetts, where he is a member of the Northfield Mountain and Thunderbolt / Mt Greylock ski patrols. Formerly an NCAA alpine race coach, he has broken free from his prior dependence on mechanized ascension to become far more enamored of self-propelled forms of skiing. He is an AIARE-qualified instructor, NSP avalanche instructor, and contributor to the American Avalanche Association’s The Avalanche Review. When he is not searching out elusive freshies in Southern New England or promoting the NE Rando Race Series, he works as a financial economics consultant.)


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42 Responses to “Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Beacon Review – Production Model Follow-Up”

  1. Jonathan L December 21st, 2010 10:44 pm

    That LCD display has me seriously concerned. How is it in bright sun and low or no light? Is it backlit? I can see it against your dark green (healthy!) lawn. How is it going to be on all white?

  2. Jonathan Shefftz December 22nd, 2010 6:36 am

    Plenty of beacons have LCD displays. I’ve never had any problems with any of them, but I encourage potential buyers to check out any display at your local ski shop outside with your typical eyewear. (BTW, the dark green in the background is the edge of a golf course — oddly enough our own lawn is actually an even darker green, despite my best intentions to the contrary.)

  3. yuri December 22nd, 2010 8:08 am

    Interesting. I have not observed this with my 3+ but it almost seems like they may have a firmware update coming soon. There are papers on potential issues with 456MHz near field (http://www.backcountryaccess.com/images/documents/457andFuture_000.pdf) due to its complexity; seems like the 3+ software is too sensitive in deciding to change direction of the arrow…

  4. Nick December 22nd, 2010 9:25 am

    THanks for updating the review. I am going to try and get out with my 3+ next week (unfortunately in FL right now :() and try and replicate this issue. To the extent it is in my unit (or a wide variety of them), I hope Orthovox is able to fix the issue through firmware upgrade.

  5. Jonathan December 22nd, 2010 1:54 pm

    I edited the original post just now to include a link for a video of a search in which the 3+ performed just fine. I hadn’t bothered including it previously since I thought (and still do think) that my review was sufficiently clear that although the behavior shown in the video was replicated numerous times at three different sites on three different days and with different targets, it was NOT happening all the time, and is NOT consistently replicated in all locations with all targets.
    So yes, the 3+ usually performs just fine, but under some search configurations at least some 3+ units sometimes display erratic indicators. I wish I could quantify all those “some” conditional statements, but that’s the best I can do for now.

  6. Brenda December 22nd, 2010 2:21 pm

    Thanks Jonathan, I have seen my 3+ momentarily flop off-target coming into the 5m range as shown in one of the videos. It didn’t seem too disruptive in my searching in the park; it was a brief anomaly. In a real situation (which, knock on wood, I have not experienced), I would expect that a rescuer would be moving more slowly and erratically (over debris) than one would in a grassy park, so a brief anomaly would be perhaps less of a concern. My only small concern is that in a real burial situation, the victim might be a metre down, in which case that 5m range is reduced to a more critical 4m range.

  7. Lou December 22nd, 2010 5:27 pm

    I’ve spoken with Ortovox about this, and it appears to be a behavior that’s sort of like that squeak in your car that always disappears once you take it in to the mechanic. In other words, intermittent and difficult to evaluate. Also, from what I’ve seen in the vids and been led to believe in conversation, the behavior, if it does occur, only requires one to keep moving and the unit quickly locks back in and the search continues. Jonathan, please correct me if I’m wrong…

    Lastly, if the Ortovox engineers can replicate the behavior I’d imagine it’s something a firmware mod can take care of, that is unless it’s just incredibly intermittent, and also perhaps the result of EMI (electrical interference).

    Again, the take-away here is that this behavior is not a given, and also will not break a search. Important points, if I may say so.


  8. Jonathan Shefftz December 22nd, 2010 5:34 pm

    The frequency of this behavior (both with regards to search configurations and individual units) is too difficult to quantify.
    As for the impact on a search, the two videos show worst-case scenarios, so potential users will have to judge for themselves.

  9. Halsted December 22nd, 2010 9:08 pm


    I’m beginning to question your transceiver testing methods. If your going to test transceivers in the base area of ski area, don’t you think there will be a lot of underground high voltage cables? When I test transceivers I do it in an area that is devoid of any electronic interference for at least a half mile.

    After reading your “review,” I walked around the Loveland Ski Area base today and yes my 3+ was affected by high voltage cables between building. Gee, it really didn’t surprise me. But, then again I usually use my transceivers in receive mode in the BACKCOUNTRY. Next time I’d suggest that you do you’re testing in the real backcountry, where most (if not all) users will actually use their transceivers. .

    So far, I have tried out my 3+ with almost 20 searches the only time I have seen the arrow flicker or get “stumped” for a few seconds was with 3 transmitting transceivers (an F1, F2 and DTS) arranged in a triangle with them about 2.5 meters apart. But, the 3+ quickly solved the issue and found each “victim.” Lots of Nerfball searches have also proved the 3+ performs great under realistic conditions.


  10. Josh December 22nd, 2010 9:18 pm

    that’s not a problem at all in my mind.

    Back when we were following flux lines and dealing with beacon orientation, the cognitive skills necessary to find a buried victim were vital and we all expected each other to have these skills. In todays technologically driven age, the next generation of transmitters will evoke complaints that the “auto dig” function doesn’t work! This vary minor arrow variation is nothing compared to the challenges of searching with an F1.

    The vector arrows changing from one side to another were much like an exaggerated bounce of the Compass needle from east to west before it rests on dead north. The bottom line is, if those vector arrows, distance readouts and tones aren’t collectively enough to get you to your victim, then you have no business being in a situation where you might be relied upon to dig someone out.

  11. Skian December 22nd, 2010 10:38 pm

    I am a bit surprised that a pro would review a beacon at a golf course with electrical interference all around. Would like to see Lou do a review in the backcountry. Not an urbin environment?? C’mon Lou.
    Furthermore I feel this is a revolutionary tool with the 2nd sending antenna making every tranciever on the market better. It’s the first tool to put the technology into the buried victims hands.
    You guys ski in the backcountry in know you dont review skis at golf courses? 🙂

  12. Jonathan December 23rd, 2010 7:28 am

    If you guys want to get personal with the details of my testing sites, then you might as well have all the personal details of my experience with the 3+, especially since my choice of similar test sites has not been criticized previously by Ortovox, and since other beacons have performed flawlessly at those site.

    March 19 = Marcus wanted to meet up with me to demonstrate his 3+ preproduction unit. For a location that was convenient to both of us, I suggested (and Marcus agreed to) the base area of Wachusett ski area (two high-speed quads, a fixed-grip triple, a magic carpet, plus a large building complex), since I was going to be skinning up there in the early morning anyway. The 3+ preproduction unit performed just fine. I took it home with me, and performed some additional tests (maybe even just in my backyard – can’t remember though), during all of which it performed flawlessly. And I just remembered that the video I shot (posted in my preproduction unit review) is quite obviously indoors.

    November 14 = I had been told since around late August that my production unit was arriving any week, but unfortunately it was delayed. I was teaching the initial portion of an avalanche course on November 14, and had repeatedly emphasized to Marcus that this would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the 3+. He was able to send me his personal unit just in time for the weekend (with the condition that a student was able to personally hand the beacon back off to him immediately after the course). I was so busy preparing to teach the course that I didn’t have time to use it much at all. However, my impression is that it performed just fine. The beacon practice location was a large open field adjacent to a highway, on the fringe of a medium-sized nordic ski area, part of which is mixed in with the infrastructure for a pumped-storage electrical generation facility. Marcus has conducted beacon practice repeatedly here on prior occasions, as it has hosted a fall event for NSP instructors in avy, mtn travel/rescue, and nordic/backcountry skiing, at which he has participated (for which I again provide thanks from both myself and the NSP Eastern Division).

    December 16 = I returned home from work to find that my unit had arrived.

    December 17 = Between skiing and other matters, no time for testing.

    December 18 = Skied in the morning, then mounted bindings (Dynafit of course) for a friend, followed by beacon testing in which the erratic behavior was sometimes (but not always) noted, but then for the evening a standing social engagement so no time for additional testing. The Google aerial view of the playing field location is now linked in my review. I had previously used this site with no problems.

    December 19 = Skied in the morning, then went to the (closed-for-the-season) golf course (bordering a small forest), whose aerial view is now linked in my review. For the same search setups in which the 3+ sometimes (but not always) displayed the erratic behavior, the BCA T2, Barryvox Pulse, and Ortovox’s S1 all performed flawlessly.

    December 20 = I had contacted Marcus the prior evening immediately upon completing my initial draft. I was visiting Stratton not to ski but to have some new footbeds made at Green Mountain Orthotics Lab for my Dynafit TLT5 Performance boots. Marcus agreed to meet me there. After the testing in which my 3+ (but not his) displayed the erratic behavior, he took back my 3+ for testing at his own location.

    December 21 = Marcus reported that at his own test location, he was unable to replicate the behavior. I completely trust his observations on this. But given that I had already noted that his 3+ did not produce the same behavior, and given that my 3+ did not always produce the erratic behavior, but given that my 3+ had produced the erratic behavior during numerous trials in three different locations, and given that another tester had produced video that replicates my own experience, and given that numerous other commenters have replicated the same behavior, I decided that the my review should be published as receiving my 3+ back would not add any additional information.

  13. Jonathan December 23rd, 2010 7:28 am

    “This vary minor arrow variation is nothing compared to the challenges of searching with an F1.”
    — Agreed.

  14. Lou December 23rd, 2010 7:33 am

    In Jonathan’s defense, it’s standard procedure with beacons to do this type of detailed testing in a convenient location in civilization. Where you can lay out tape measures and such, and move around without becoming exhausted wallowing in deep snow. Heck, I’ve lost count of how many times reps have stopped by here and done range tests and such in my yard or out on the street.

    So, getting beyond questioning Jonathan’s procedure, I’d say the answers to this whole deal are simple:

    1. Jonathan simply needs to do the same test in a place that’s certain to have no underground power, and is a significant distance from above ground sources of potential EMI.

    2. The beacon industry as a whole needs to set a better example when setting up test scenes in civilization. All reps, for example, should carry EME (electromagnetic energy) detectors and scan their test course before commencing testing.

    3. I’d also emphasize that beacons ARE USED where there is EME that could produce EMI (electromagnetic interference), despite the Arcadian myth that they’re always used in the pristine backcountry. Thus, testing in areas with known EME could be a good thing, provided it’s clear that EME is present, and that the beacon is also tested where there is just background EME (the whole universe is full of EME, so you can never find a place where it’s totally gone). What’s more, EME is also produced by cell phones, music players and other gadgets people carry. Beacons need to be resistant to this as well, and should be tested to verify this. It’s a myth that in a live rescue you’re going to be able to make sure every searcher, and the victim, have all their electronics turned off. Even cameras produce EME that could produce EMI.

    4. Note that Jonathan did the test and replicated the behavior without the vid cam present, but I’m wondering if that guy from the UK was smart enough to do so. Also, Jonathan did replicate the behavior in multiple locations. It’s unlikely every one of those locations had significant EME that could produce beacon EMI.


  15. skian December 23rd, 2010 7:51 am

    Beacon practice can be done anywhere. IMO beacon testing should be done with a little better protocol. All beacon testing should be done with all beacons from every manufacture in the same exact areas as other units to replicate exact comparisons. Snow density, rocks, electrical inter, terrain all affect signal. If you test all your beacons at golf courses the tests are flawed in my opinion. I have used this tool extensively. I have used others extensively. I do work with Ortovox in the Rockies i don’t hide this. I have also worked with Pieps, Mammut, Arva, S.O.S., and this catagory for 20 + years.
    Testing protocol is the first priority in testing equipment. No one is getting personal , just critical of your testing protocol and the review of this tool. 🙂

    P.S. the F1 is a great tool in the hands of a professional. With superior range to any digital transceiver on the market. There are no bad tools out there just bad practitioners.


  16. Lou December 23rd, 2010 7:56 am

    Skian, good points. But I’ve seen bad tools, just grab a pair of blister card pliers out of the bargain bin at the hardware store… (grin)

  17. skian December 23rd, 2010 8:13 am

    LOU, c’mon it’s Christmas….When i state no bad tools i should clarify myself. Show me a transceiver on the market that should not be there? I don’t care if your a tracker man or a S1 guy. they are all good tools. My 10 year old can smoke have my friends in a search because he has been searching for Holloween candy in the backcountry for his whole life. i did a test with this tool just a fun test with 10 year olds. 10 minutes on flux lines, 10 minutes on the tool, and all of them found 3 multiples in under 2 minutes. It’s not rocket science and if a ten year old can do it so should most of my friends. Let’s get off the negative and talk about the real tech in this thing and that is the second sending antenna. I say one word
    REVOLUTIONARY.:) i have to always put my smiley face on this site so people don’t get upset. You know how hard that is for a Scotsman???

  18. mc December 23rd, 2010 9:09 am

    Ortovox 3+ or Tracker 2 Jonathan? (and others) And thanks for the reviews.

  19. Lou December 23rd, 2010 9:16 am

    Skian, I’d agree, the available beacons are incredible. Perhaps over hyped compared to shovels and the arms that run them, but yes, incredible.

  20. SteveG December 23rd, 2010 9:19 am

    What do people do for practice when you only have 1 beacon? Are there less costly “send only” devices available?

  21. Skian December 23rd, 2010 9:33 am

    Yes there are. Ortovox has a dog sender. I don’t recommend dogs in the BC. But that being said I had a dog for 15 years and worked her on search and rescue. The tool is designed for professionals. That also being said. Can we see a post on wild snow about beacon parks in the us. Resorts all. Over the country have them. They are great and resorts pay professionals to educate you to be proficient. Search out education and practice!

    Get outside have some fun and enjoy the backcountry!


  22. Ky F. December 23rd, 2010 12:22 pm

    Skian and MC, though I generally try to buy the latest American-made gadgetry, the Tracker2 is probably the only beacon currently on the market that is questionable, particularly when used with more sophisticated beacons from Europe. After several ski and mountaineering expeditions and iterations of various avalanche courses, the folks with Tracker2’s were the ones who struggled somewhat, chiefly due to problems with multiple burials and a strange and unfortunately consistent tendency not to work well with the Barryvox when the Tracker2 is buried. (NOTE: my critique does not include the Tracker DTS, which seems to have no compatibility issues) Ortovox, Mammut, and Pieps devices with marking capabilities have rendered the unnecessarily limited technologies and approach to avalanche rescue embraced by BCA less effective and therefore somewhat obsolete when compared to the newer devices. At the end of the day, I must admit that when I see a Tracker2 on a skier/mountaineer, I am disappointed and anticipate more drama if the group is unfortunate enough to encounter a multiple burial situation.

  23. skian December 24th, 2010 9:16 am

    My two cents…” At the upper end there are no bad tools on the market”, “There are bad practitioners.” Many of my friends have had lot of success with Tracker and Tracker two. I think they both are good tools. There is however in the technology game underground some other feature for safety that you can get in the market . I tell you what though if i am out with my friend Steve Christie from Backcountry Access and I go under, god forbid. I am just going to stay as calm as possible and think of what flavor of scotch I am going to buy him later at the bar. Because i know if their is any decision marking calls i have a pro who knows and i hope i am not too deep or too trauma tangled.

    I don’t want to get into our tool does this their tool does that on here. Not my job. Practice in the Backcountry away from interference. practice frequently. With my kids I have been burying Halloween candy for years. With your bros bury dinner or beers. Search out the local beacon parks and free education provided buy great resorts and guide services around the US. I know Squaw used to do e beacon clinic, Kirkwood, CB does and also many others And take a course that focuses with Search and Rescue. Getyour buddies informed buy your partner an Avi 2 course? for lack of a better phrase “you choose who you tie into on the end of the line” Are you prepared to be the one underground?
    I want more people out there. lets quit saying beacon shovel probe…go. Lets say Beacon ,Shovel, Probe, BRAIN!
    It’s like this… are you driving a Pinto? or a Porsche? (1973 911 SC lime green to be exact).Choose your tool and its features wisely. I know you cant always pick your BC team, God knows that has me still damaged when i walk. Use proper protocol when skiing and talk about lines before you ski them. As my friend Brady said Recently in the Tetons “We can get through the pinch and then Warren Miller it”. Nothing is more fun that 3 or 4 bro’s ripping the same line….There is a time and place.

    “Get outside have some fun and enjoy the Backcountry”


  24. Jonathan Shefftz December 24th, 2010 2:57 pm

    “[…] the second sending antenna. I say one word REVOLUTIONARY.:)”
    – Revolutionary in design concept, yes. But although the transmission shift does prevent a suboptimal vertically oriented transmisstion, it does nothing to prevent a suboptimal transmission in the horizontal plane – see my review of the preproduction unit for details. (Plus if the primary concern is maximum consistency in initial signal acquisition range, then just insist that your partners use the DSP.)

    “Are there less costly “send only” devices available?”
    – Although the Ortovox D2 transmitter-only device is still listed on the Ortovox website, availability seems very limited (at best), and the price probably isn’t that much different than a used analog beacon. (And even if you don’t have a second beacon, just practicing taking out your beacon from underneath your clothing, switching it to search, removing then deploying/assesmbling your probe and shovel, all the while wearing winter clothing and gloves, even just that is valuable practice.)

    “[…] a strange and unfortunately consistent tendency not to work well with the Barryvox when the Tracker2 is buried”
    – Both Barryvox and BCA have been unable to replicate this. Both companies urge any users experiencing any search problems to return their beacons immediately to the appropriate company. (See the press release that I copied into a comment in my T2 review.)

  25. Brenda December 24th, 2010 5:16 pm

    “Also, from what I’ve seen in the vids and been led to believe in conversation, the behavior, if it does occur, only requires one to keep moving and the unit quickly locks back in and the search continues. Jonathan, please correct me if I’m wrong…”
    My testing was nowhere near as exhaustive as Jonathan’s, but Lou, this is exactly what I experienced. The first time I saw it, I was a bit confused, but it hardly disrupted my search. Knowing that it may occur, I believe it to be almost a non-issue.
    And, my beacon practice was done not too far from a hospital. So lots and lots of EM interference there.

  26. Jordo December 24th, 2010 7:19 pm

    Anybody receive a 3+ that did not work? Seriously. Just got mine in the mail, Fresh batteries, turn it on, nothing. Not cool.

    Looks as if the box was opened and unit has enough marks on it to suggest that it may have been a demo item. Will hesitate in naming the retailer on the expectation that things are made right.

    Also, can anyone confirm whether their unit shipped with a battery in it? Mine came with an Energizer AA in it, which further leads me to believe that some dumbass shipped me a floor display model or something.

  27. Jonathan Shefftz December 26th, 2010 7:10 pm

    “Also, can anyone confirm whether their unit shipped with a battery in it?”
    – confirmed

  28. Jordo December 26th, 2010 9:53 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. Very strange to have a German engineered product simply not work!

  29. Zap December 26th, 2010 10:46 pm

    We purchased 2 units from REI and both units arrived with an Energizer battery installed.

  30. Jay December 29th, 2010 6:31 pm

    I am a avalanche safety educator. The 3+ is amazing! I can put it in the hands of a novice with minimal instructions on basic functions of the beacon and the student performs companion rescue without a hitch. In my opinion, that’s what counts. The units should not be tested in the urban setting. They should be tested in the backcountry where they are intended for. Last I checked golf courses don’t have a place in the avalanche triangle.

  31. Jonathan Shefftz December 29th, 2010 6:39 pm

    “The units should not be tested in the urban setting.”
    — As noted in the review, you can click on the link to see the “urban” nature of the [inactive in the off-season] golf course, which is just a large open field, with no activity in winter, bordered by a forest to the north, and open pasture land and conservation land to the south. Attributing the noted behavior to a few houses further to the north and several houses further to the southeast, and when three other beacons (including another model from Ortovox) functioned perfectly fine, is hardly reassuring.

  32. jeremy January 10th, 2011 9:31 pm

    I am trying to decided between the ortovox 3+ and the tracker 2 by bca. I am wondering if the feature of how the 3+ can transmit on one of three antennas to increase the range of tranmiting is significant or is it that of one or two meters? Also if you did any testing on the tracker and what your findings were on it. Thanks your your help

  33. Jonathan Shefftz January 10th, 2011 9:40 pm

    re transmit antenna shift, see the my original preproduction model review (linked at the beginning of this review) for a detailed assessment (quick summary: although the transmission shift does prevent a suboptimal vertically oriented transmisstion, it does nothing to prevent a suboptimal transmission in the horizontal plane)
    re Tracker 2, the index for all my reviews has a link at the very beginning of this review

  34. juju January 13th, 2011 5:31 pm

    Just a comment on this, as i am looking at choices between the 3+ and the pulse. in the field, i have had the exact same issues with the pulse. elecctro magnetic interference can effect the readout. however, the signal (audible pulse) nearly always is consistant. i feel people are putting too much faith in a visual indicator. the old f1 with its simple interface is a bombproof unit, but this new technology sure makes multiple burials easier.

  35. Jonathan Shefftz January 13th, 2011 5:36 pm

    “in the field, i have had the exact same issues with the pulse.”
    — I’ve never seen (or heard of) anything like that happening with the Pulse. (Well, with on-person electronics, sure, but that’s another issue entirely.)

  36. Z January 23rd, 2011 11:00 am


    I tried lots of search with 3+ today, other transmitter is a Pieps Freeride. I cant reproducate this problem. I saw your video before, so i tried the same way as you.
    I was far away from any electronical or other buildings.
    BUT I do not have other beacon model so my result is not perfect obviously.
    I still waiting what is a problem with your 3+.

  37. Astruso January 24th, 2011 3:49 am

    I bought a 3+ beacon 2 weeks ago and yesterday I tried it for the first time in an Ortovox Arva test field in Courmayeur, Italy.
    Well, I couldn’t find a way to use it because I had a lot of issues with the display.
    Basically I didn’t have a continuos image displayed, only beeps and some images shown randomly.
    I don’t think it’s a normal behavior and I don’t know if it can be due to the temperature, because later at home the display worked fine.
    It was not so cold, maybe around -10° celsius.
    I’m very disappointed of that!

  38. Z January 24th, 2011 3:44 pm

    Today I put 3+ outside for 3 hours. about -9 celsius no bags only just a beacon.
    After 3 hours still working, no slow-down or any errors on a screen.
    I cant try in extrame cold now.

    I think you need to contact ortovox.
    Please post later what happened with your beacon.

  39. Astruso March 5th, 2011 7:10 am

    So at the end the beacon was taken back to the alpine shop where I bought it and they gave me another one (f1) for the time needed for the repairing.
    After one month it was given back to me and it seems ok to me.
    I couldn’t test it yet, but the behavior is completely different than before.
    So, cross my fingers, I’m going to test it soon at the beacon test field.

  40. Lou March 5th, 2011 7:26 am

    That’s the way it’s all supposed to work.

  41. josh cole November 28th, 2013 5:31 pm

    OK, a completely different issue related to this beacon that I need some help with. I was skiing today with a new 3+ unit (warranty replacement with 3 days of use), and the screen would go intermittently blank in both send and receive modes. While the screen was blank, it appeared that the unit was still transmitting. Has anyone had a similar experience? I have some video of the screen error. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Ortovox about this yet.

  42. Nick February 17th, 2015 10:34 am

    Josh cole, I have had the same issue recently. The screen is blank randomly in both search and send mode. First time I noticed it was at the UAC beacon park at Solitude Resort while doing beacon drills. I’ve worked in shops and had it updated immediately (last Wednesday). The updates didn’t help, as screen is still occasionally blank.

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