(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.
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).
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:
- Frequency Measurement (to see if other beacons in your group are no longer transmitting on exactly 457)
- Group Beacon Check
- Scan function
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.
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: