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Avalanche Transceiver FAQ

See Also: Transceiver Review 2015-16

Are all transceivers compatible?

Yes. All transceivers made since 1992 work on 457MHz. Previously the USA and Canada were different but now have standardized with Europe (Since 1992).

Can you use a digital transceiver with an analogue one?

Yes. ALL transceivers are compatible. Please see the difference between analogue and digital transceivers.

What is the difference between analogue and digital transceivers?

The difference is in the way the transceiver interprets the signal it receives. When YOU are buried it makes no difference which transceiver you have. All transceivers transmit the same, at different rates but on the same frequency. Digital transceivers process the signal they receive and tell the user in which direction to head and they offer processing features like digital signal masking and transceiver counting. Analogue transceivers display the raw signal received and leave it up to the user to decide which way to head. For most people the digital ones are much quicker to use in search mode.

Which one is best?

That depends on you. Transceivers require practice to be quick. If in all honesty you will not practice, and will just wear it off piste each year then a simple to use digital transceiver with 3 antenna is definitely the most straight forward to use and the best choice.

If you will do some practice and use some of the extra features on offer then the top of the range transceivers are a good choice. For the majority of people we recommend a simple to use uncomplicated 3 antenna transceiver.

Please read our 2015/2016 Facewest Transceiver review for more information on many of the models.

Is there any point if only you have one?

YES. All ski patrollers and many guides and instructors wear transceivers. If your party is avalanched then the first action of the rescue team will be a transceiver sweep of the area. So you will be the first to be rescued. The ideal is that someone else in your party, who is not avalanched, will be able to start the rescue before help arrives. Persuade a regular off piste buddy to get one as well.

Are there any alternatives to transceivers?

Not really. Transceivers are the only 'active' system available and the only self help method available but there are inflating airbag packs Airbag Range which reduce or stop burial avalanched and reflector systems 'Recco' which rely on a rescuer armed with the machine to look for the reflector patches, so long as the victims reflectors are not being obscured. Recco is not available in all resorts and not recommended as your primary method of survival. We asked Recco to supply us any details of actual saves, and they did not respond to us. So don't rely on those patches.

How long do the batteries last?

About 200 hours or 25 full skiing days. All the transceivers use either two AA batteries or 3 AAA batteries. All units have a battery strength indicators. Battery strength affects the range of the transceiver so it best to change the batteries before absolutely necessary.

Which Batteries should I use?

Ortovox recommend the use of high quality disposable alkaline batteries. They have this to say on the use of Lithium batteries:

'We absolutely DO NOT recommend lithium batteries. Yes the life of them is much longer, and they are much lighter, but unless you know exactly how much power is left in them, they are potentially dangerous. When a lithium battery loses power, it drops off very quickly. In receive mode, the beacon uses less power. Switch to transmit, and you may find that although the beacon is working, there is suddenly not enough power to continue transmitting. Alkaline batteries fade more slowly, giving the user an indication of diminishing useability.'

Some trasnceivers are now compatible with Lithium batteries, if this is the case it will say in the user manual, however we still believe alkaline batteries are the best option. You should also never use rechargeable batteries in your transceiver.

Tests by Lyon Equipment (Petzl UK) have also shown that branded Alkaline batteries outperform non branded ones to such an extent that they are actually cheaper to use.