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The 5 Best Avalanche Beacons of 2020-2021 Winter

Avalanche beacons are an important tool in the backcountry, just buying a beacon and heading out won’t keep you safe, however. Prerequisite to backcountry travel is knowledge and education. With that out of the way, whether you’ve signed up for your first avalanche class or are a backcountry veteran, you’ll need a beacon as part of your kit. Now, on to the tech nerdery. Avalanche beacons have come a long way in the past 8-9 years. Every year the tech gets better and the interfaces become more intuitive to use. If you’re still using your trusty Tracker DTS from a decade ago, or something even older without a digital display, now is a great time to upgrade and relegate the old guy to getting buried during early season training sessions. Not only is the tech much better and easier to use, but beacons can lose accuracy and range over time and newer beacons usually have better range, too.

Three-antenna technology is pretty much standard these days, as it provides better accuracy and more range than two-antenna tech of old. All of the beacons in this review have features to deal with a multiple burial scenarios and a few of them can pair via an app on your phone for customization and software updates. Read some reviews to get into the nitty-gritty of what users like you like and don’t like about certain models. These are the best avalanche beacons for 2021, meaning they all will be great options, the most important thing is to learn the ins and out of the model you choose, so you’ll be ready to go when it matters most. Have fun and be safe out there, friends.


BCA Tracker 4 Avalanche Beacon

The best avalanche beacons of 2020-2021
 

Building off the success of their incredibly popular and easy-to-use Tracker 3 beacon, BCA’s all-new Tracker 4 has a larger, brighter screen, a more durable construction, and the same fast, intuitive user interface BCAs Tracker lineup is legendary for. Tech aside, we kind of dig that the yellow and black color scheme, too, it harkens back to our trusty Trackers of old. For folks upgrading from older beacons, the smaller size will be noticeably smaller, too, at 4.7 x 3.0 x 1.0”, sitting less obtrusively in its included harness.

DimensionsUpgradable Firmware Original Price
4.7 x 3.0 x 1.0 inchesYes$389.95

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Mammut Barryvox S Avalanche Beacon

The best avalanche beacons of 2021 
 

The Barryvox S from Mammut sits at a premium price point, but you get some industry-leading features that professionals like guides and patrollers will really appreciate. First and foremost, it has a 70-meter search strip width, which is the widest of any beacon in this review, and you can extend that range to 100m by switching it to “analog mode” and searching audibly. And while most of the beacons here have the ability to “mark” a signal during a multiple burial scenario, the Barryvox S really nails this technology and makes it very intuitive. It’s not, however, just for professionals. Less experienced backcountry travelers will find the interface and functions easy to use—it will even tell you when you’re searching in the wrong direction. With these leading features, the Barryvox S is one of the best avalanche beacons of 2021.

DimensionsUpgradable Firmware Original Price
4.5 x 2.6 x 1.1 inchesYes$499.95

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Arva Evo5 Avalanche Beacon

The best avalanche beacons of 2021
 

Size isn’t everything, but it’s the most noteworthy feature of the Arva Evo5 beacon. While most beacons fit comfortably in a thigh pocket these days, the Evo5 is extra pocketable and lightweight, which is something the “skimo” crowd will really appreciate. Aside from size, it has all the features you’d want a modern avalanche beacon to have. The slider for switching between “off,” “send,” and “search” is well-positioned and easy to use, and it’s “U-turn” function will alert you when you’re moving in the wrong direction during a search. Intuitive multiple burial marking and a really convenient single AAA battery power source round out this compelling offering in the category. Take it all together, and Arva packs a punch in this small package.

DimensionsUpgradable Firmware Original Price
3.9 x 2.8 x 0.8 inchesYes$319.95

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BCA Tracker S Avalanche Beacon

The best avalanche beacons
 

BCA introduced the Tracker S last season as a more affordable, but stripped down, version of their top-of-the-line (at the time) Tracker 3. Basically, what you don’t get in the Tracker S (vs. the Tracker 3 and Tracker 4) is the ability to upgrade the firmware and a motion sensor. The former is not a big deal for most recreational users. The missing motion sensor is used in the more expensive beacons in a feature that will automatically revert the beacon back to “send” mode if it detects inactivity in the user after one minute. This is an extra measure of safety in the event a second avalanche comes down on you while searching. Like all BCA beacons, however, it will revert back to “send” after 5 minutes. All in all, it’s got all the basic features, and the excellent search performance anyone needs in a beacon.

DimensionsUpgradable Firmware Original Price
4.5 x 2.8 x 1.0 inchesNo$299.95

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Pieps Micro Beacon

The best avalanche beacons
 

Again, like the Arva, size is the story with the Pieps Micro. It’s roughly the same size as the Arva, making it one of smallest and most pocketable avalanche beacons on the market. It does, however, come with a big set of features. One of the most unique is a sensor that automatically detects when you pull the Micro from its harness or a pocket and automatically switches it into search mode. This may seem like something simple and unnecessary, but making things easier becomes incredibly beneficial in the high-stress scenario of a real life burial. Additionally, it’s got bluetooth functionality that allows for easy preference setting and firmware upgrades. Like the Arva, a single AA battery powers this little guy, so it’s easy to keep a spare in your pack. This is a fully-featured beacon at one of the smallest, lightest sizes available. The Pieps Micro is one of the best avalanche beacons for fast and light backcountry skiers and snowboarders.

DimensionsUpgradable Firmware Original Price
4.0 x 2.8 x 0.7 inchesYes, via Bluetooth$389.95

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