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Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Review


Avalanche Beacon

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Price:   Varies from $199 - $240 online  —  Compare at 5 sellers
Pros:  Easy to use, good price.
Cons:  Shadowbox effect, low operating range, not ideal for multiple burials, only two antennae.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Backcountry Access

Overview

The Tracker DTS was the first digital avalanche beacon and is still the most popular beacon ever. However, it is no longer the best. The Tracker DTS remains the easiest to use two antennae model but it is not that much less expensive than the Backcountry Access Tracker 2, which performs better in every way. Even if you are on a budget, spend a little more money and get a three antennae beacon. The Tracker was a great beacon when it was first introduced and for some time afterward, but since the advent of triple antenna beacons with great ranges, more precise fine searching skills, and vastly superior and easier to use multiple burial abilities, it might be time to upgrade. Check out our complete Avalanche Beacon Review to see how it scored against other models.

RELATED: Our complete review of avalanche beacons

Compare Side-by-Side

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
December 30, 2012

Likes


This is the easiest to use two antennae avalanche beacon. Just turn it on, hold down the big red button and it points you toward the buried person and counts down the units/meters to them. It is the ease of use that made it so popular, compared with manual dial down analog beacons with flashing lights and sound. We all like to think we can figure out how to use any gadget. But if you are only in the backcountry sporadically like most folks, chances are you are not always staying as current as you should on how to use your beacon. The reason this tracker is so popular is because it's so intuitive and doesn't take nearly as much training and practice to use effectively.
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The original Backcountry Access (BCA) Tracker DTS avalanche beacon.

This device can last a while, but check to see if any of the antenna are cracked (which the Tracker is more prone to than other beacons). You should strongly consider doing a range check at the start of each season and even during the middle of one.
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Showing an BCA Tracker DTS avalanche beacon. The backside of the beacon has antennas that can be cracked if the beacon is mishandled or dropped.

Dislikes


It has one of the lowest operating ranges (30 meters). It also doesn't do well with two beacons very close to each other and does not work great with multiple burials in any situation. Users found it confusing during the fine search (under three meters) when you start slowing down and forming your brackets. While most beacons' directional arrow shuts off and the rescuer should focus on keeping their beacon in the same orientation and looking only at the distance numbers, with the Tracker you need to ignore them. It's a simple task but one more thing that you have to remember.
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Showing the "SP" button the limits the range of single that the Tracker DTS can receive to aid in multiple burial situations.

It does not deal with signal spikes well. In multiple burial situations it requires a lot of practice to perfect. It doesn't feature a flagging/marking system and instead it focuses the "viewing" range. It is also susceptible to the shadow box phenomenon if a victim's beacon ended up in a vertical orientation.

When you are at the edge of its range in coarse search, the Tracker DTS can send you away from the victim. At that point it is up to you to notice that you are getting farther away by reading the distance indicator. By comparison, the other high end models (S1 and Pulse) have ways to overcome this shortcoming.
In our side-by-side tests the DTS came up far behind most other beacons in this review

Trackers can be durable but they can easily get a cracked antenna. If the user doesn't do anything more than a basic function check they will not realize an antenna is cracked until they try to pinpoint their victim. On the Tracker even a short drop onto a firm surface can damage them. In AIARE Level 1's we even teach a check that is mainly designed to look for broken or cracked antennae on Trackers.
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Comparing the older BCA Tracker DTS and the newer Tracker 2.

Other Versions


Backcountry Access Tracker 2
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  • Cost - $300
  • Best Buy Award Winner!
  • Easiest beacon to use of all tested
  • Super fast processing

Backcountry Access Tracker3
Click to enlarge
  • Cost - $335
  • Excellent in fine searching
  • Easy to use and very compact
  • Super fast processing
Chris McNamara and Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 75%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 25%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Apr 18, 2014 - 10:51am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Dependable, ease of use, good battery life, and not overly bulky - what more could you possibly want from an avalanche beacon? The BCA Tracker DTS is a stellar piece of equipment that has served me well on many ski tours when I lived near Tahoe, and even in the precarious Mojave snowpack down here in Southern Nevada. The BCA Tracker DTS serves the most important part of any piece of gear: you forget you even have it with you due to lack of hassle until you need it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 5, 2012 - 07:35pm
Tfish · Climber · La Crescenta, CA
Really basic and easy to use. Im not super into BC, but do try and get out a lot. Basicly the best beacon is the one you know how to use, so since this thing is really simple, I'm really comfortable with it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 24, 2010 - 06:33am
powderrush · Climber · Back of My Truck, CA
This device has given me the confidence to explore the mountains with an ease of mind that if I'm buried or if I need to find someone I'm more than prepared. I have had my tracker for over 8 years now and it's still chugging along. I do a beginning of season and end of season check where my buddies and I will bury our beacons in various locations throughout a snowfield and we're off the races. Those of us with the Tracker DTS seem to always find the beacons faster. I love the digital display, the device is very intuitive to use, it allows for multi-person rescues, and if you're buried while searching it switches from receiving to a transmitting mode so you can be found. I'm sure these are all common features on most devices now but they have been invaluable to me in my snowy ventures. The battery life is great, I still always keep an extra battery or two duct taped on but I've yet to need them.
All in all I think it's a simple, very effective, thus far bombproof Avalanche tracker and I can't recommend it enough

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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