The Backcountry Access Tracker2 won our Best Buy award for its ease of use, a combination of intuitiveness and simplicity, and featuring what is possibly the fastest processor among all of the contenders that we tested at a below average price. It is a considerable improvement over the original (and now dated) Tracker DTS and stands out among all we tested for straight up processor speed and simplicity. While we recommend it for almost all users, it is especially useful for more novice, intermediate or less practiced 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 has long since fallen behind the newer three-antenna designs. Now we broader-line don't even recommend the original Tracker DTS except over no beacon at all.
Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Review
Cons: Not as good for multiple burials, slightly below average range, not as low volume as other models
Bottom line: An easy and intuitive beacon for experts or novices - this beacon makes it as straightforward as possible to help zero in on the buried signal.
Number of Antennae: 3
Manufacturer's Range: 50 meters
Manufacturer: Backcountry Access
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Avalanche Beacons
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Tracker2 scored at the top of our review for an avalanche beacon's number one job, finding a single victim. It is ultra-fast and assists its user exceptionally well during each stage of the beacon search. While it performs well at all stages of the search, all of our testers found it was among the very best during the fine or bracketing phase of the search, which is where most users, especially less practiced ones, struggle the most. While it was below average at multiple burials, we found that to be an okay trade-off as various burials make up less than 15% of total reported avalanche incidences and the percentage of time in which you have enough rescuers to use a beacon's multiple beacon function are extremely low.
During our side-by-side range tests, the BCA Tracker2 had a 40-45 meter range, which was slightly below average among the models we tested.
The Tracker2 does have around 6-7 meters better maximum range than its predecessor, the Backcountry Access Tracker DTS, and slightly better range than the Arva Evo4. While the Tracker2 has below average range, we sometimes thought people "put down" the Tracker2's field more than it deserved. The Tracker2 did have a slightly longer range than the Ortovox Zoom+ and Ortovox 3+, and it wasn't that much behind in range as the new Pieps DSP Sport. Most people will use the generic 40-meter recommended search strip widths that are taught in most avalanche courses, even if their beacon is more capable.
The processor on this model is 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 Tracker2 can keep up where other models can't.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
While range might be a small shortcoming of the Tracker2, ease of finding a single victim is its strength and where the Tracker2 comes to life. We thought it was one of the easiest and quickest beacons to use regardless of price.
Its user interface remains one of the most simple available and thus more straightforward in a high-stress environment. There are few buttons or controls, and for searchers with little experience, or who may be out of practice, the Tracker2 almost always scored the fastest. Going into search mode couldn't be easier, just pull back on the big tab labeled "Pull to Search." Once the Tracker2 picks up a signal, it uses five directional arrows to help the user stay on the flux line. The Tracker2 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 manufacturers have come out with a "simple beacon" that is similar to the Tracker2, like the Ortovox Zoom+, 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 and the final 5 meters before bracketing begins. The fine search is where the difference in processing speed becomes the most apparent and was also where the Tracker2 performed as well or better than other products costing as much as $200 more.
We also really liked that it turned off its directional arrows under 2 meters to help remind the searcher to soon start bracketing. This is something the older Tracker DTS did not do. The Tracker2 does not have a "turn around" button, so the user does have to pay attention to the numbers and listen to the sounds to figure it out. We didn't think this was a big deal, however, ecause 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 significant drawbacks of this beacon. 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 it's far better to find and dig up one victim rather than just "flagging" three), most other three antennae models that we tested do have some sort of flagging feature. Instead, the Tracker2 has two things: an indicator light showing that it is picking up multiple signals, and an 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 Tracker2'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 perform effectively and requires a fair amount of practice.
The Tracker2 is a relatively no-frills product, and its lightning quick processor, along with its simple, easy to use design and lack of controls are its best features.
The Tracker2 does feature a Revert to Transmit mode, where after five minutes of searching without picking up a signal it will revert to Send mode. The Tracker2 does make a lot of noise before returning to warn you that it is happening.
Tracker2 versus the Tracker DTS
The Tracker2 is better in every way compared to the older Tracker DTS. The Tracker2 has 6-7 meters more range and is almost 20% lighter. Most importantly, the Tracker2 is a triple antenna beacon, meaning that it can handle single spikes and deal with two buried beacons nearby better. If you like the Tracker DTS, we think it is entirely worth it to spend the extra $50 and get a Tracker2. Another nice feature that the Tracker2 has that the older DTS doesn't is that Tracker2 turns off its directional arrows at 2 meters to help the searcher start the bracketing stage of their search.
The Tracker2 is a good option for any backcountry user, from expert to beginner, because of its speed and ease of use. We think the Tracker2 is an especially good product for newer users or folks who just 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 Tracker2 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 recommend the Pieps DSP Pro, Ortovox S1+, or the Mammut Barryvox S. For folks who want a good triple antenna and a flagging featured beacon but don't want to spend a lot, check out our Top Pick, the Pieps DSP Sport.
This model retails for $300. It's not the cheapest beacon out there, but it is the best performing for the price and an easy choice for our Best Buy award.
The Tracker2 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. The only thing that kept it from scoring higher were its shortcomings in multiple burial situations and its below average range, but we would remind most users to not focus too much on additional features they are unlikely to use.
— Ian Nicholson