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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Not as good for multiple burials, slightly below average range.
Manufacturer: Backcountry Access
The Tracker 2 is Backcountry Access' three antennae offering and wins our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for Ease of use, best combination of intuitiveness, simplicity, and featuring what is possibly the fastest processor among all of the contenders we tested. It is a huge improvement over the Tracker DTS and stands out among all we tested for straight up processor speed. While we recommend it for almost all users it is especially good for more novice, intermediate or occasional backcountry travelers looking for a great value and a super easy to use product.
While the Backcountry Access Tracker DTS was the first digital avalanche beacon and one of the best sellers of all time, it is has fallen behind the newer three-antenna designs. The Tracker 2 brings Backcountry Access back toward the front. While the Tracker 2 did not score near the top, because of its shortcomings in range and multiple burial situations, it is a solid option that is super fast, especially for novice or unpracticed users. It was also possibly the fastest during the fine search or sub-three-meter stage of the search and barely edged out some more expensive options like the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Arva Pro W, or the Ortovox S1+ at a much better price. The Ortovox Zoom+, Arva Evo3+, and Pieps DSP Sport also have near as fast a processor but are less expensive.
RELATED: Our complete review of avalanche beacons
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
During our side by side range tests we found the BCA Tracker 2 to have slightly below average maximum range among the models we tested, with the Tracker 2's maximum range being around 43-45 meters. The Tracker 2 does have around 6-7 meters better maximum range than its predecessor the Backcountry Access Tracker DTS, now also sometimes called the Tracker one. While the Tracker 2 doesn't have the best range we thought sometimes people "put down" the Tracker 2's range more than it deserved. The Tracker 2 did have a slightly longer range than the Ortovox Zoom+, Ortovox 3+, the Pieps Freeride, or the Arva Evo3+ and it wasn't that much behind in range as the new Pieps DSP Sport.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
While range might be a small shortcoming of the BCA Tracker 2, Ease of finding a single victim is where the Tracker 2 really comes to life and overall we thought it was one of the easiest and quickest beacons to use. The user interface remains one of the most simple available. There are few buttons, screens or controls and for searchers with almost no experience, or who were out of practice the Tracker 2 almost always scored the fastest. Going into search mode couldn't be easier, just pull back on the big tap labeled "Pull to Search". Once the Tracker 2 picks up a signal it uses five directional arrows to help the user stay on the flux line. The Tracker 2 will also use two arrows at the same time to further help the users stay on the flux line. This combined with a faster than average processor allowed users to move quickly and stay on the flux line and not get bounced around. While other manufactures have come out with a "simple beacon" that is similar to the Tracker 2 like the Ortovox Zoom+ and the Arva Evo3+ none are as easy or as fast to use.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The fine search typically refers to the bracketing portion of the search, but we also included the final five meters before bracketing begins to be also part of this category for our beacon comparison. The fine search is where the difference in processing speed becomes the most apparent and was also where the BCA Tracker 2 preformed as well or better to other products costing as much as $200 more. The processor of the Tracker 2 is maybe second to none and was possibly the fastest we tested. Even searchers who weren't as "smooth" can stay on the flux line because the Tracker 2 can just plain keep up where other models can't. We also really liked that the Tracker 2 turned off its directional arrows under two meters to help remind the searcher to soon start bracketing. This is something the older Tracker DTS did not do. The Tracker 2 does not have a "turn around" button and the user just has to read the numbers and listen to the sound to figure it out. We didn't think this was a big deal however because it is such a good beginner beacon and that is one feature that some less experienced users might want to have.
Ease of Use in Multiple Burials
Multiple burials are one of the major draw backs of the Tracker 2. There is no way to suppress or "Flag" a transmitting beacon to let you search for the next one. While some people argue as to the level of importance of this feature because its far better to find and dig up one victim rather than just "flagging" three, most other three antennae models we tested do have some sort of flagging feature. Instead the Tracker 2 has two things, the first is an indicator light showing that it is picking up multiple signals. The second is the SP or "Special Button". The special button essentially limits the field of "search vision" from your beacon. Instead of searching all the way around you it drops the Tracker 2's "field of vision" to only 75 degrees of vision. Once the button is pressed you rotate the beacon 375 degrees in an attempt to get it to "jump signals" and then you can go on to looking for the next beacon. This works but is difficult to preform effectively and requires a fair amount of practice.
The Tracker 2 is a pretty no frills product and its lightning quick processor along with its simple, easy to use design and lack of controls are its best features.
Tracker 2 versus The Old Tracker DTS
The Tracker 2 is better in every way compared to the older Tracker DTS. The Tracker 2 has a 6-7 meters more of maximum range and is almost 20% lighter. Most importantly though the Tracker 2 is a triple antenna beacon being it can handle single spikes and deals with two buried beacons in close proximity better. If you like the Tracker, we think it is completely worth it to spend the extra $50 and get a Tracker 2. Another really nice feature that the Tracker 2 has that the older DTS doesn't is the Tracker 2 turns off its directional arrows at two meters to help the searcher start the bracketing stage of their search.
The Tracker 2 is a good option for any type of backcountry user from expert to beginner, because of its speed and ease of use. We think the Tracker 2 is an especially good product for newer users or folks who just plain don't practice enough and will likely find their victim faster with this beacon in the moment of stress. For guides or group leaders the Tracker 2 is a good option, but not a great one. For more advanced users who need or want more out of their beacon than simple search and send functions we would recommend the Pieps DSP Pro, Ortovox S1+ or the Mammut Pulse Barryvox. For folks who want a good triple antenna and a flagging featured beacon but don't want to spend a lot check out our new OutdoorGearLab Top Pick the Pieps DSP Sport.
The Tracker 2 is one of the quickest and easiest to use for finding a single beacon, which is the situation that most backcountry users are faced with most of the time. Because its the quickest and easiest to use it earns one of our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick awards. The only thing that kept it from scoring higher were its short comings in multiple burial situations and its below average range.
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 28, 2012
Credit: Backcountry Access
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