The Arva Axio is packed full of rad features and is one of the most capable beacons in complex rescues and pro-level examinations. While on the spendier side, we feel it is a good value for advanced users and pros who will take advantage of this beacon's unique functions and design features. While this beacon works fine for novice users, they will be spending more money for features and capabilities they will rarely if ever use.
The Axio has a maximum range of around 50 meters and a recommended search strip with of 50 meters.
In our tests, we found it to have a similar maximum range to the BCA Tracker3, and both the Pieps DSP Sport and DSP Pro. The Mammut Barryvox S and the more basic Mammut Barryvox had a longer range than this one though.
The Axio uses five primary directional arrows coupled with four smaller sub arrows to help the user stay on the flux line. Once we got below 10 meters the beacon made a distinct tonal change, signifying that the user should move the beacon to the surface of the snow.
Overall we found this beacon's above average processor speed fast in-line with other top beacons, like the Pieps DSP Pro and the Ortovox S1+.
It wasn't quite as fast as the BCA Tracker2 when it came to finding a single burial, particularly for newer users who benefited from keeping directional arrows down to 2 meters instead of 3 meters.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
The Axio performed above average at finding a single victim. Its longer than average range helped us quickly acquire a signal and during the coarse search and the fine search the Axio's speedier-than-average processor enabled us to move quickly.
The Axio uses five primary directional arrows and four smaller sub arrows to help its user stay on the flux line. Once you get below 10 meters, there is a very distinct tonal change signifying that the user should move the beacon to the surface of the snow.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The Axio's directional arrows can be set to go away at either 5 meter or 3 meters. All of our testers much preferred to have the directorial arrows longer as they helped us to get closer before the bracketing stage/fine search.
Once inside 3 meters (or 5 depending on what you choose to set it at), the screen displays numbers in the middle and four arrows all pointing out in the main cardinal directions. This display signifies to the user that they should keep the beacon in the same orientation and proceed with the bracketing stage. While we like beacons that kept their directional arrows until 2 meters instead of 3, we rarely found that this one-meter difference slowed us down.
The Axio preformed above average in our side-by-side testing during the fine/bracketing stage of the search. The one thing worth noting is that unlike BCA and Pieps whose arrows disapear at 2m, the Axios arrows disappear at 3 meters. While not a big deal particularly with more experienced users, less practiced users would generally take longer to bracket than with other models.
Ease of Use in Mulitple Burials
The Axio is one of the best models for multiple complex burials and pro-level rescue drills.
The Axio will show up to five figures to show that it sees five signals and a plus symbol for more than five. After extensive side-by-side testing, it proved to have one of the more effective marking/flagging functions, and it rarely got confused even with several close proximity burials. This is at least partially due to its fold-out third antenna, which when opened instantly turns the beacon into search mode. The Axio's third antenna is much longer than any other model we tested, helping to differentiate between close proximity burials exceptionally well. Most model's third antenna length is limited by the thickness of the beacon; however, with this model, it is at least three times as long because of its fold-out design.
The Axio offers several features to help it more effectively deal with multiple burials. The first such feature is how the Axio easily lets you toggle between victims. This is nice in the event of lots of rescuers where you have several people digging, and you move on to the next beacon. In fact, in a pro-style rescue drill, we opted not to flag with this beacon and instead to toggle, so we didn't get confused. This feature can also help orient you to the situation because from a given point you can see how far each beacon is from you.
The Axio also has an analog mode to use when in close proximity to the buried beacons. It is activated when in search mode by pressing the power button, which prompts the display to ask you if you want to go into analog mode. This feature was also especially useful for micro-strip searching close proximity burials in pro-level exams.
Differentiating close proximity burials is the peak of difficulty with any beacon. That is why Arva designed their Axio to have a much longer, fold-out third antenna which did a fantastic job of managing close proximity burials. Opening this folding antenna is also what turned it into Search mode.
The Axio is loaded with features and received a perfect score for this category.
Group Check Mode
The Axio sports one of the easier to use group check modes. After you power the beacon on, the screen will ask you if you want to run the beacon in group check mode. To enable this mode simply unfold the third antenna which turns the beacon into group check mode. The screen will display GCHECK and significantly shorten its range. It will still display distance and give audible tones and once the other beacon being check is inside 2 meters you will have the option to flag it and move on to the next beacon you're testing.
Comfort to Carry
We liked a lot of things about the Axio but it is one of the bulkier beacons out there. It isn't huge and is similar to the Pieps DSP or Ortovox S1 it isn't near as small as several other models on the market.
The Axio is fine but is a little thicker than average among beacons currently on the market and as a result feels slightly chunkier. Its harness is above average in comfort so this more a small issue for those who like to carry their beacon in their pocket. Again, it's not way bigger, just slightly thicker.
Controls and User Interface
The Axio's basic functions are relatively easy to use. It sports an "On" button on the left-hand side of the main body and a single red joy-stick directly below the screen that helps you navigate menu options and function as a select/flag icon when this button is depressed. The red arm that turns the beacon into Search mode and contains the third antenna doesn't do anything else besides turn this model into Search mode, but it is easy to operate.
The Axio, similar to the Mammut Barryvox S, can transmit additional information on the "W-link" frequency to help keep from getting confused. W-Link frequency is essentially a separate, secondary frequency which operates on 868 MHz, the primary purpose of which is to reduces signal confusion. While this is a cool feature, it can only work with other W Link devices like the Barryvox. Unlike the older Mammut Pulse Barryvox and the newer Barryvox S, which contain the "Pulse" feature, the Axio doesn't send any movement information over the W-link frequency to assist in determining if the buried victim is dead or alive.
Revert To Send
The Axio is one of only a few beacons that allows the user to turn the Revert to Send feature on or off. It can be set-up to automatically switch back from Search to Send mode if it doesn't detect any motion for 2, 4, or 8 minutes. The Axio makes four loud beeps before reverting to let the user know it is about to revert. During this time, you can press the joystick to keep it in search mode. We liked this feature but preferred the Pieps Micro and Pieps Pro's design where they continually keep beeping after reverting back to Send mode.
Even novice users can use the Axio, but in practice, it is designed for more experienced backcountry users, trip leaders, or avalanche professionals who will take advantage of this model's many capabilities and functions.
At $470, the Axio is in-line with other very capable high-end beacons like the Ortovox S1+, Barryvox S, and Pieps DSP Pro. Similar to those beacons we think this beacon is a good value for advanced users and pros who will take advance of this beacon's special functions and design features. For beginners or more novice users this beacon is fine but is overkill, and these users will be spending more money for features and capabilities they will rarely if ever use.
The Arva Axio is one of our new favorite avalanche beacons on the market for pros and advanced users. It is a solid beacon for a beginner and works great for finding a single burial, but more complex situations and professional level rescue assessments are where the Axio really shines. It was one of our favorite beacons for this application along with the Mammut Barryvox S. We liked this beacon slightly more for these rescue drills than the Pieps DSP Pro or Pieps DSP Ice because of how much easier it was to manage multiple signals, particularly if they were in close proximity.