Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Super long range, excellent multiple burial functions, good price for what you get
Cons: Fast processing but not the fastest.
Best Uses: Backcountry skiing, backcountry snow boarding, snowmobiling.
One of the overall best preforming beacons in our review the Mammut Element Barryvox was a top scorer in nearly every category. It is the more "Basic" version of our OutdoorGearLab Editor's Choice the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, with all the same basic features including the best maximum range for an all digital beacon, a solid flagging feature and one of the faster processors. It doesn't have as many of the more advanced features like the pulse feature, the analog function, the ability to number and scroll through victims during multiple burials. The Element doesn't give the user as much control or give as many options with each feature as the Pulse does. With that said, calling the Element "basic" would be misleading because it has more features and functions than most of the other products in its price range and below.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mammut Element Barryvox along with its big brother the Pulse Barryvox features just below sixty meters of maximum range which was the among the best maximum ranges of digital beacons in our review. Not far behind are the Arva Pro W, the Arva Neo, Ortovox S1+ and the Pieps DSP Pro which have only a couple meters less range. The Element has no analog only functions like the pulse feature and this feature can increase the beacons maximum range by 17-20 meters but we thought it was more confusing than it was worth for all but the most experienced users.
Ease of Use and Controls
Turning the Element from search, to send, and turning the beacon on and off isn't super complicated but it is one of the more complex among the products we tested and requires the most fine motors skills and can be difficult with thicker gloves on. To turn it on, the user simply presses one of the buttons and slides the switch to the send position. To offer some safety both buttons need to be pressed if you want to turn the Pulse from send mode to off, or to search mode. While moving, going through the primary features requires a little more fine motor skills compared with other beacons. Once in search or send mode the Element Barryvox menu is easily accessed using a single button on the side. We found we could easily operate this button even with thick gloves or mittens on.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
The Element with its super long range and above average speed processor was one of the top scorers in the Ease of finding a single victim comparison. After our side-by-side tests we think the Mammut Element Barryvox has one of the quicker processors compared to most options on the market today.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The fine search is the final part and includes the bracketing stage. For our comparisons we compared the last five meters during our search as well. The Ease of use in the fine search is again where the Element scored among the best in our tests. There were a few instances during our side-by-side while bracketing comparisons where we could move the new Pieps DSP Pro and the Tracker 2 at a slightly faster rate, where the Element or the Pulse Barryvox would display a stop sign, showing that the user needed to slow down, the difference in speed was very small, but still there nevertheless. We did think the Element was a little bit faster during the fine search than the Ortovox S1+. The Element Barryvox uses nine directional arrows to help the rescuer stay on the flux line, this is more than all others except the S1+ and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox which use a completely free floating arrow. This was more than the seven directional arrows that the Ortovox 3+ or most other models that use five. The Element comes with a default of having the directional arrow go away at three meters, at which point it shows four arrows, reminding the rescuer that is about time to start bracketing. In addition to this icon the Element displays a distance accompanied by sounds.
Ease of Use in Multiple Burial Situations
The Element Barryvox flags beacons in multiple burial situations similar to other top beacons like the Ortovx S1+, Pieps DSP Pro, and the Arva Pro W, where the Pulse Barryvox "blinds" one beacons' signal from the search. Unlike the Element's big brother, the Pulse you can't go back and "unmark" previously flagged beacons.
Revert to Send Mode
The Element will revert to sending mode from search mode after eight minutes of searching. The Element gives a loud beep before switching back over; alerting the rescuer that this function is happening. To stop the revert from happening the rescuer simply presses the side button during the "about to revert" mode. Read our primary Best Avalanche Beacon Review for the full story, current debates, and the pros and cons of the "Revert to Send" function.
Comfort to Carry
The Element Barryvox is one of the lighter and smaller beacons on the market today and is 25% smaller than the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 and around 20% smaller than the Ortovox S1+. The Element's harness which is near identical to the Pulse's are some of our favorites, and are top scorers for comfort and simplicity, that are among the easiest to use. For users who like to carry their beacon in an inside zippered pants pocket, the Element was also one of our favorites, if not our favorite and better than our other Top Pick's the Pieps DSP Pro or the Ortovox S1+. We did think the Element was about as nice to carry as the Arva Neo or the Arva Pro W.
The Element versus The Pulse
The Pulse and the Element have all the same most basic search and operational features with the Element having very few of the extra's. They both have the longest range of any all digital beacons and one of the fastest processors. They both have similar icons and controls with the exception of the Pulse having two side buttons, compared to the Elements one, to help the Pulse navigate through more complex menus. The Element lacks the Pulse's analog mode to increase range, the "Pulse" feature, the ability to scroll and number victims along with several other features. The Pulse is also nearly $150 more than the Element, which you certainly get more features for, but we think that only very advanced users and backcountry professionals will benefit from.
At $350 the Element is on the more expensive side of the more "basic" products but offers better range, an above average speed processor and more features than other options costing $200-$375. Compared with the Zoom+ ($300) or the BCA Tracker 2 ($330) the Element has a longer range and a vastly superior multiple burial function. The Element does compare closely with the Pieps DSP Pro model, a "professional" level product which offers more functions in multiple burial situations, has maybe a marginally faster processor but less range and is bulkier than the Element. The Arva Neo compares very closely in most situations to the Element and is the same price.
Best Application and the Bottom Line
The Element is marketed as a more "Basic" product which it is when compared to the Barryvox Pulse. With that said, it is more complex and has more features than almost all the other contenders in our review and certainly in its price range. Compared to other "Basic" beacons like the Ortovox Zoom+, the BCA Tracker 2 or the Pieps Freeride the Element has many more features, longer range and better multiple burial features, but is a little more complicated. It compares very similarly to the Pieps DSP Po Avalanche. The Element is more than almost any other, a good choice for most users with the exception of most novice users who are likely not to take the time to practice or properly use their beacon.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 31, 2013
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