(Last Updated On: March 7, 2012)
This is our final report from SIA. We were, happily, distracted up in Alaska. Pieps is coming out with some great innovative products, and they’re definitely worth checking out. First up, one of their newest beacon offerings- the Vector.
The Vector is different in several ways from most beacons. For one thing, it’s a 4-antenna beacon, and for another it uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The multiple antennas should decrease the “thinking time” during a search, and the rechargeable batteries should let you start every tour at full power. As long as the battery lasts a long time (so charging it isn’t an issue on an extended multi-day hut trip or expedition), I’m all for it. As a side note, and most people know this, don’t use rechargeable batteries in other beacons!
But the big thing with this beacon is its’ GPS capabilities. While this can be used just for fun tracking your tours’ mileage and vertical, it also adds some great features for searching and rescue. Assuming you have cell or satellite phone coverage, you’ll be able to use the GPS function in an emergency to notify rescuers of your position. Then there’s the “dig-dug” screen, as some have taken to calling it:
Sadly, this is a bad picture, but those of you who remember the old video game Dig-Dug will quickly understand it. If you’re searching a large avalanche debris field, this mode will keep you from retracing your steps as you work to acquire a signal. Just watch the screen and make the screen turn from black to white as you cover ground. Definitely a useful feature if you’re searching a large area.
This seems like a really great beacon, but it’s a bit bulky and not exactly cheap (though it has more features than most).
Up next is the Global Finder. The best way to describe this product is a cross between a SPOT/PLB rescue beacon and a satellite phone, plus everything you’d find in a GPS unit. If you were way off the beaten path, you would be able to use it to communicate- to say hi to loved ones, or to ask a weather guru what they thought the next week might be like. And if an accident strikes, you can send out an emergency signal like a SPOT/PLB, and also receive messages from Search and Rescue or a doctor’s advice. Pretty sweet. You might notice that it’s the exact same body as the Vector. Coincidence? Or a sneak peak at the super-beacon of the future?
Finally, there’s the iProbe. Here’s Carl killing Carl:
The iProbe is really cool to see in action. Basically, it’s a beacon on a probe that assists in your final fine search. A few extra seconds can be saved by using the iProbe, and if everyone in the party has an iProbe-compatible beacon like the Pieps DSP, it can turn them off automatically once it hits them. In a multi-person burial, this would be a really useful tool to have, especially if everyone was using Pieps. I would imagine some of the heli and cat operations would find the iProbe very useful. For the average recreational user, it might not be worth the cost and slight additional weight (compared to a regular probe). Nevertheless, hats off to Pieps for coming up with such an innovative product.