Backcountry Access

Backcountry Access

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England, Mike
Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon - $300

I have to admit, it took me awhile to embrace the Tracker DTS from Backcountry Access. I’ve always been quite happy with my old yellow Pieps, and I saw no reason to dole out another three hundred bucks on some highfalutin apparatus just because it was the hot new item on everybody’s backcountry wish list.

I soon found, however, that the Tracker DTS is popular for good reason: it’s incredibly easy to use. Traditional “beepers” are notorious for requiring enormous amounts of practice; the Tracker, on the other hand, can be mastered quickly. That’s not to say that proper education and training aren’t important—every backcountry traveler should take an avalanche safety course, regardless of equipment—but like a GPS versus a compass, the Tracker definitely moderates the learning curve.

It works like this: instead of just analog lights and beeps that increase in intensity as you close in on the victim, the Tracker uses flashing lights and a digital indicator to clearly reflect distance and orientation. A dual antenna tracks the flux line better and keeps you directly on the path to the victim—as long as the number in the distance indicator is decreasing, all you have to do is follow the directional lights to your target. The end result is less time pinpointing and probing, and more time actually digging out your buried friend.

The Tracker also has a filtering device that helps isolate multiple signals, and an automatic revert-to-transmit option in case you’re caught in a secondary avalanche or forget to switch back from search to transmit mode. All these things add up to “the cheapest life insurance I’ve ever purchased,” as a friend of mine put it. The Tracker doesn’t necessarily do anything that other avalanche beacons don’t, but it certainly does more for you. That means less opportunity for human error. And when it comes to life-or-death situations—both for you and your skiing partners—why not give yourself every advantage possible?
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