Outside Magazine, February 1995
An avalanche transceiver is a bit like bear repellent: best to know how to avoid needing it, but when you do need it, better be sure it works. And avalanche transceivers are about to start working a little differently. By the end of this year, at long last, American heli-skiing operators and search-and-rescue teams will have phased-out the old American standard frequency of 2.275 kHz. Folks who own transceivers that operate only on that frequency will have to switch to the international standard, 457 kHz, or they could find themselves beeping away in vain beneath a pile of snow while well-meaning rescuers tromp above, unable to receive the signals.
If you own one of the dual-frequency devices common in the States, it'll keep, but otherwise consider the German-made Ortovox F1 Focus, which boasts some strong advantages over previous models. Its built-in speaker eliminates the need for an earplug in all but the most windy conditions. It also offers an illuminated visual readout, with a signal-strength-indicating directional arrow that lets the searcher quickly suss out the buried beeper without having to walk a traditional grid, cutting search time dramatically. Operation is simple and smart: Accidental shut-off is nearly impossible, because the Focus turns on and off with a key, and switching from transmit to search mode is easy even with gloves on. For responsible winter travelers, the Focus could provide a last line of defense against a snowy demise.
$334. From Climb High, 1861 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT 05482 (802-985-5056), and from REI, Box 1700, Sumner, WA 98390 (800-426-4840).