Gear Review: Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon

(Last Updated On: December 22, 2016)

Avalanche beacons aren’t sexy. Buy a new pair of skis and everyone will ooh and ah and ask to borrow them. Buy a new beacon and most people will mutter “meh, cool”. But if your beacon is more than a few years old, like each of ours was, or if you’re just getting into backcountry skiing, a good beacon is a smart purchase. I had the opportunity to try the Pieps DSP Pro beacon, and I’m definitely happy with it.
Pieps DSP Pro beacon

The first thing to notice about the Pieps DSP is the harness. In my opinion, it’s the best in the business. Not only does it fit comfortably, but the beacon itself pulls out nicely when the buckle is undone. It’s hard to explain, but the basic idea is that when you pull on the retention strap, the beacon practically pops out, ready for search mode. Additionally, this beacon comes with a lanyard for those choosing to wear the beacon in their pants (several models of Black Diamond pants are specifically designed for the beacon, though any solid pant pocket will do).
Pieps DSP Pro avalanche beacon harness

The Pieps DSP is available in a Sport model as well as the Pro, that I’m using. The Sport is an excellent model in its own right, but there are a few features that may make the Pro worth considering. First, the battery life on the Pro is longer than the Sport- in fact, the battery life is rated as double that of the Sport (and most other beacons, for that matter). This isn’t a big deal, but it does make it less likely to head out with a beacon on low battery power. Second, the Pro claims a search radius of 60 meters, one of only two beacons with a 60 meter range. In a large avalanche, your companions will be happy about the increased range, since the DSP Pro should pick up the signal before other beacons. Finally, the Pro reverts back to send mode when the beacon stops moving, as in the case of being trapped in a second avalanche (the Sport is on a timer). Other features not found on the Sport are less important, in my opinion. These features include:

  • Inclinometer
  • Frequency Measurement (to see if other beacons in your group are no longer transmitting on exactly 457)
  • Group Beacon Check
  • Scan function
Pieps DSP Pro Inclinometer
Inclinometer function on the DSP Pro

While these features are nice, they certainly aren’t necessary. For me, the increased range and battery life makes the Pro worth the extra money, but otherwise I doubt I’ll use any of the extra features of the Pro. You won’t go wrong with the Sport if that’s your choice, however.
Pieps Avalanche Beacon

In my testing, the beacon works quickly and accurately when searching, and the flagging mode is more intuitive than my old beacon. Ease of use is an important feature in a beacon (perhaps even the most important one?), and my first tries with the Pieps DSP Pro went well. Few non-professionals (i.e. guides and patrollers) spend enough time practicing searches, so beacons need to make intuitive sense when inexperienced users are under pressure to find their partners. (And take that as a message to go practice, practice, practice- no matter which beacon you use).

I’ll be honest- I don’t have a fleet of beacons to test. But I do know that the things that are important to me in a beacon are all there in the DSP Pro. Add in the long battery life and range, and it’s a beacon that should certainly be at the top of any avalanche transceiver list. Shop now:

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.  He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing.He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

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Review Date
Reviewed Item
Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon
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Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.    He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing. He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

4 thoughts on “Gear Review: Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche Beacon

  • February 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Agreed, Frank. I had a minor warranty claim on my Pieps DSP and the good folks over there hooked me up with a new DSP Pro to replace it – no questions asked. I am very grateful. Also, I like how the selector slider switch is more secure in this newer model, and I don’t have to worry about it moving when going in and out of the harness.

  • February 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks Ben!

  • February 2, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Great review, Frank. My wife and I just upgraded to this beacon. I mostly agree with all of your points above. I have two things to add:
    1. I actually find the group beacon check mode useful. With the restricted search range of just a meter in check mode, it’s convenient to check everyone in our party without forcing everyone to spread out.
    2. I’ve been very unhappy with the harness. I agree that the beacon compartment on the harness is very nice, as you described. However, neither my wife nor I can get the length adjustment of the shoulder loop to work properly. Setting it to a desired length is cumbersome because three straps have to be equalized. Plus, the loop loosens throughout the course of the day, leaving it dangling so far that it eventually interferes with my pack’s waist strap. In particular, the buckle itself slides down super easily. Have you encountered any of these issues?

  • February 3, 2017 at 8:15 am


    Thanks for the comment! Good point on the group check mode, thanks for mentioning it.

    I have not had any issues with the harness as you describe (but see below). I don’t know why that is, because Brittany has the exact same problems that you describe. I guess if you have the length just right, you might want to tape or even sew it in place. Brittany also thinks that the harness is too bulky and gives her the dreaded “third boob” in an unflattering way. But she hates all harnesses.

    I’ve actually been using the Pieps pocket on my Black Diamond pants this season. I don’t think I’ll ever use a harness again if I can help it. Keeping the beacon in my pants is probably safer (since it’s never on the outside), and it’s easier to reach when it’s actually time to start a beacon search. But mostly, it’s just a lot more comfortable. No more straps interfering with my pack, or digging into my neck. Plus I’m a HUGE weight weenie 😉 so I’m stoked on all those grams I’m saving by forgoing a harness.

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