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Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Review

Easy to use two antennae model, but also easily overshadowed by the newer beacon technology available today.
Tracker DTS
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Price:  $240 List | $213.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easy to use, good price
Cons:  Shadowbox effect, low operating range, not ideal for multiple burials, only two antennae
Manufacturer:   Backcountry Access
By Chris McNamara and Ian Nicholson  ⋅  Dec 30, 2012
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74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Range - 15% 6
  • Speed - 20% 7
  • Single victim search - 20% 9
  • Fine search - 15% 10
  • Multiple burials - 15% 6
  • Features - 15% 6

The Skinny

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.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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.

The original Backcountry Access (BCA) Tracker DTS avalanche beacon.
The original Backcountry Access (BCA) Tracker DTS avalanche beacon.

This device can last a while but check to see if any of the antennae 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.

A BCA Tracker DTS avalanche beacon. The backside of the beacon has antennas that can be cracked if the beacon is mishandled or dropped.
A 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.
Showing the "SP" button that limits the range of signal that the Tracker DTS can receive to aid in multiple burial situations.
Showing the "SP" button that limits the range of signal 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; 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.

Comparing the older BCA Tracker DTS and the newer Tracker2.
Comparing the older BCA Tracker DTS and the newer Tracker2.


Chris McNamara and Ian Nicholson