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Backcountry Access Tracker3 Review

Takes previous Tracker's top-notch ease-of-use, speed, and intuitiveness, and adds a marking function and a low-profile design
backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review
Backcountry Access (BCA) Tracker 3 avalanche beacon.
Credit: Backcountry Access
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Price:  $350 List | $339.89 at Amazon
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Pros:  Very fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low-stress sounds
Cons:  Display screen is so/so, multiple burial function un-flag the last marked beacon after 1 min, can only mark one signal
Manufacturer:   Backcountry Access
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 8, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Speed - 20% 9.0
  • Single Victim Search - 20% 9.0
  • Fine Search - 20% 10.0
  • Range - 15% 7.0
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 7.0
  • Features - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Backcountry Access Tracker3 is the older version of the functionally identical Tracker4 but in a lower profile (albeit less durable) housing. Both of these models are the top tier of BCA's extremely popular line of Tracker beacons. It keeps the friendly, focused design of all previous Tracker models, but is geared towards more advanced users, such as a ski guides, avalanche industry professionals, or other advanced trip leaders.

Updated Tracker3+
The Tracker3+ is available now, but BCA states there is no difference in performance between the two models. The + is only in reference to the software version. The circuit board's new hardware requires slightly different code than the Tracker3.

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Price $339.89 at Amazon
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Star Rating
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Pros Very fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low-stress soundsEasy to use, Bluetooth compatible, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalityGreat performance and features for the price, cool analog feature, very good at multiple burials, intuitive design, ultra long range, fast processor, super featuredEasy-to-use, configured with Bluetooth and an app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalityLightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface
Cons Display screen is so/so, multiple burial function un-flag the last marked beacon after 1 min, can only mark one signalBulky for a pocket, slider toggle is stiff, harness tether is somewhat shortBulky, bracketing takes more patience, tones are ear-piercing, old school plastic housing looks "cheap"A little on the chunky side for pant pocket beacon wearers, slider toggle is stiffMediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software
Bottom Line Takes previous Tracker's top-notch ease-of-use, speed, and intuitiveness, and adds a marking function and a low-profile designOne of the better basic beacons on the market, especially for the priceThis ultra-capable beacon packs in a ton of features and great performance at an awesome priceWill suit most recreational backcountry travelers well, from beginner to advancedAn capable, easy-to-use beacon with a lightning-fast processor
Rating Categories Backcountry Access... Pieps Powder BT Arva Neo Pro Black Diamond Recon BT Backcountry Access...
Speed (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Single Victim Search (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Fine Search (20%)
10.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
10.0
Range (15%)
7.0
8.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
Multiple Burials (15%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Features (10%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Backcountry Access... Pieps Powder BT Arva Neo Pro Black Diamond Recon BT Backcountry Access...
Weight 215 g / 7.6 oz 225 g / 7.9 oz 246 g / 8.6 oz 225 g / 7.9 oz 165 g / 5.8 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 50 meters 60 meters 70 meters 60 meters 55 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (in "Send") 250 hours 200 hours 250 hours 200 hours 250 hours
Digital/Analog Digital Digital Both Digital Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BCA Tracker3 is straightforward to use, ultra-quick, and very intuitive beacon. In our side-by-side testing with both novices and seasoned pros, the Tracker3 consistently produced some of the best times across the board for finding a single victim. It boasts a fast processor and helps its user to stay on the flux-line, scoring well during the bracketing/fine search, which is where users often struggle and where the most significant differences between models existed.

Its low profile design was among our favorite to carry, whether in a pants pocket or in its included harness. We loved this model's big-picture mode to help with complex rescues but weren't fans of its mark/signal suppression mode, because it would un-mask/un-mark the buried victim after one minute. With that said, as long as you were quick and the buried singles weren't too close together, this was not problematic. We had very few issues with this design in our tests.

Again, the Tracker4 has all of the same internal electronics and functionality as the T3, but the T4 features a brighter, more visible screen, a more durable housing, and a control switch that is easier to operate with gloves on.

Performance Comparison


backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - all of our testers appreciated the tracker3's simple but...
All of our testers appreciated the Tracker3's simple but lightning-fast design which offered exceptional precision. It's user-friendly and offered all the functions that most users seek.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

We agree with the concept thatsimplicity is speed while trying to deal with stressful situations. Minutes matter, and your friend or loved one could be dying under the snow.

Speed


Like the rest of the BCA Tracker family, the Tracker3 is one of the faster beacons on the market. After our extensive side-by-side testing, we found it was among the absolute quickest models available.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the tracker3 offers five directional arrows that can be used in...
The Tracker3 offers five directional arrows that can be used in combination to help the user stay on the flux line.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Finding a Single Victim


The Tracker3 is one of our quickest beacons at finding a single victim. Time and time again, even with a multitude of users, this model consistently produced the fastest rescue times. The Tracker3 uses two speedy processors and an easy-to-use interface to get to the buried beacon. It scored near the very top of our review in this category.

The Tracker3 uses five directional arrows and can combine arrows to help the user to better stay on the flux line. The Tracker3 uses audible sounds in addition to directional arrows. These sounds are useful, but they also sound like they were taken right out of Nintendo's Mario Cart, something our testers actually didn't mind as it was useful but not as stressful sounding as other models. The Tracker3 doesn't have a turnaround or back arrow, but we were still able to move noticeably quicker, specifically below five meters than many of the other beacons we tested.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the tracker3 offered some of the best overall precision in the fine...
The Tracker3 offered some of the best overall precision in the fine search.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Fine Search


Like the rest of the Tracker family, the Tracker3 crushes nearly all other beacons during the most crucial part of the search and is among the very best during the fine search and bracketing stages. During our side-by-side tests, we thought it was faster and more accurate than most of the other top picks during this stage of the search.

At two meters, the Tracker3's directional arrows disappear, at which point the rescuer should begin bracketing. We liked this compared with other beacons, whose directional arrows vanished at three meters, such as the Arva Neo, and found it was easier to come in directly above our buried victim. The Tracker3 also proved very precise and was among the best beacons for performance at centering the buried transceiver. More than nearly any other beacon we tested, we would get a probe strike first go, due to its ability to center the buried signal.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the bca tracker3 in search mode, taking us to the closer victim but...
The BCA Tracker3 in search mode, taking us to the closer victim but displaying that the beacon senses two signals.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Range


In our side-by-side tests, the Tracker3 averaged a real-world maximum range of around 40-45m. While that isn't mega far, it is pretty average among models in our review. More range is always nice, but the Tracker3's range is more than adequate.

While a longer range is nice, not one of our testers felt the Tracker3's range held them back due to a lack of range or that it added time to a search compared to other models. Many people like to make a big deal about maximum range, but in reality, most people are going to use the 40-meter search strip widths that are recommended to them in most avalanche courses, nullifying most time-saving advantages that a more extended range would give you. So while the range is a consideration when buying a beacon, it may matter less than overall speed and ease of use, which help you find a buried signal quicker. Even though this model was supposed to have the same range as the Backcountry Access Tracker S, we actually found it to be consistently 5-10m longer when tested side by side both on a football field as well as in the snow.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - through all the stages of the search, the tracker3 offered one of...
Through all the stages of the search, the Tracker3 offered one of the fastest processors in our review.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Multiple Burial Scenarios


We love nearly everything about the Tracker3 except its multiple burial functions, which we think are above average but not our favorite. The Tracker3, unlike both previous Tracker models, can suppress/mask a single (the Tracker S can do this), which is useful, but it is slightly different in design than any other model we tested. Thus, it can be confusing at first if you aren't aware of it.

The Tracker3 signal suppression works to "mark" a beacon by pressing the "options button" (the only button on the face of the beacon), and then the screen will flash SS (for signal suppression), displaying that it has suppressed/marked the closest signal. If you continue to hold down the options button on the Tracker3, it goes into BP or Big Picture mode, explained below. In our side-by-side beacon tests, the Tracker3 worked well, even if two beacons were close together. Once there were three beacons (while an even less likely situation), the Tracker3 didn't perform as well as some others models.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the bca tracker3 displaying ss (single suppression), representing...
The BCA Tracker3 displaying SS (single suppression), representing that it has just market/flagged a beacon. This feature is used during multiple burial situations with multiple searchers.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

What we didn't like about the Tracker3's multiple burial functionalities is the signal suppression mode only lasts for one minute. After that, the beacon goes back to normal search mode where the rescuer is directed to the closest beacon, regardless of which beacon that is. The obvious problem with this is if you haven't gotten close enough to a second beacon due to whatever reason (it could be far away, difficult travel conditions, you need to gather your rescue gear, etc.), it will bring you back to the first beacon you had been looking for, wasting precious time.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the "bp" or big picture mode was a fantastic feature for guides or...
The "bP" or Big Picture mode was a fantastic feature for guides or more advanced users. When enabled, it lets its user see multiple signals simultaneously, quickly switching between the direction and distance of each signal. To get to bP mode, just hold down the "function" button and let the beacon cycle through the SS mode. This was an excellent feature to help with guide examinations facilitated by the AMGA, ACMG, AIARE, and AAI.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

While the amount of real-life application is small where this could be a problem, we also didn't like that the Tracker3 could only suppress one beacon's signal, meaning if you tried to mark a second beacon, it would "undo" the single suppression/mark on the first, potentially bringing you right back toward it. While we feel this is a legitimate concern we must admit this issue didn't arrive during our testing.

The Tracker3 has an arsenal of marginally different displays to represent different things. While this isn't rocket science, it wasn't as easy to interpret as other beacons we tested. With a little practice, it was easy to remember how to use it, but we question the ease of use and understanding.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - multiple burial symbol breakdown on the bca tracker 3
Multiple burial symbol breakdown on the BCA Tracker 3
Credit: BCA

When the Tracker3 is picking up two beacons, it displays two people highlighted in red on the bottom of its screen. If there are more than three beacons, a plus "+" sign appears to the right of the people. If two beacons are six meters or less apart, a bracket "[ ]" appears around both of the people.

There is also a function that we absolutely loved and works to help with the potential problems of the 60-second mark/flag/signal suppression and only being able to mark one bacon at a time. This is the Tracker3's "BP" or Big Picture mode, a feature advanced users and guides will appreciate and that our testers liked. Big Picture mode quickly bounces between signals, giving distance and direction for each.

Micro Strip Searching

For Micro strip-searching and concentric circles methods, the Tracker3 was easily one of the best for its ability to easily jump between signals.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - as the bca tracker 3 boots up, it gives us a battery life...
As the BCA Tracker 3 boots up, it gives us a battery life percentage, a light check and then a TR for transmitting.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Features


Unlike the other beacons in the Tracker family, the Tracker3 has a USB port in the battery compartment of the beacon, which facilitates a software update. Currently, it is set up for PC users, but a Mac version is stated to be "coming soon". Updatable software is one of the two biggest differences between the Tracker3 and the Tracker S as the "S" doesn't have a USB port, and thus there is no option to update software.

If you don't like the Mario Cart-esque audible sounds to help you in your searches or beacon practices, you can turn them off by pressing the "options button" while switching from Send to Search. LO will appear on the screen, and all the sounds associated with searching will become muted.

When you turn it on, it boots up and flashes T3, then the battery life, then TR, for transmit. When you boot up the Tracker3, it sounds like an opening scene of Star Wars. When searching, the audible sounds are very helpful, but they sound like they may have been taken from the Mario Cart video game, which is a little different than we were used to, but intuitive and effective. One small but useful feature of the Tracker3 is it has a blinking light that is visible while it's in the chest harness; this helps the user easily identify that their beacon is on and sending without having to completely remove it.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the on-off-search-send dial on the top of the bca tracker 3. tr is...
The on-off-search-send dial on the top of the BCA Tracker 3. TR is transmit (AKA send mode), SE is search.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort to Carry

This is where the Tracker3 stands out in some ways and is subpar in others. It's dimensionally nearly the smallest triple antenna beacon on the market, and feels small. We really appreciate that the Tracker3 was designed for guides and backcountry skiers who like to wear their beacon in their pocket, which fits fantastically, and for that all of our testers love it. We also favored its coiled spring leash, designed with the idea of carrying the device in a zippered pants pocket.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the bca tracker3 was the smallest and lightest triple antenna beacon...
The BCA Tracker3 was the smallest and lightest triple antenna beacon in our review and was a favorite among our testers who preferred to wear their beacon in a zippered pant pocket. Here we compare the Tracker3 (always on the left) with the Tracker2 (next right) and original Tracker DTS.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

If you prefer to wear it in a harness though, the Tracker3 has an okay harness system. It is light and low bulk just like the beacon, but it uses padded one-inch tubular webbing that rubbed on a couple of our testers' necks. We liked the oversize glove-friendly buckle but thought BCA could have done a little better on their harness.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - we loved the bca tracker 3's stretchy, easiest-to-use in review...
We loved the BCA Tracker 3's stretchy, easiest-to-use in review keeper cord. This feature added to this beacon being a favorite among in-pocket carriers.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Revert to Send

The Tracker3 has a Revert to Send (Transmit) function or "Auto Revert" mode — if the beacon hasn't felt any movement for one minute, it will switch back into Transmit/Send mode. Even with motion, it will revert back to transmit/send mode after five minutes. Under both of these circumstances, the searcher is warned 30 seconds before the beacon switches by loud audible beeping and can be avoided by pressing the Tracker3's options button.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the tracker3 is easily one of the best overall beacons, capable...
The Tracker3 is easily one of the best overall beacons, capable enough for pros who train with complex multiple burial scenarios but simple enough for a true novice. Few beacons can match the T3's versatility to work well for a huge range of users.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

If you want to use the Auto Revert mode, you must activate it every time you turn on your beacon; otherwise, there is no auto-revert mode. To enable this function, hold down the "options" button while powering up the beacon until Ar appears confirming that the function has been turned on.

backcountry access tracker3 avalanche beacon review - the tracker3 and the tracker s are quite similar. the t3 offers an...
The Tracker3 and the Tracker S are quite similar. The T3 offers an internal USB for updatable software and an internal motion sensor, but otherwise they have the same feature sets. Both are fast, precise, and extremely capable; however, we like the T3 slightly better. During testing, the T3 had a consistently longer range than the Tracker S, despite BCA claiming they were supposed to be the same.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Should You Buy the Backcountry Access Tracker3?


The Tracker3 is one of the few beacons that we think can work well for nearly everyone. It's hard not to love its low profile size, coupled with its laser-like precision and lightning-fast speed, which consistently produced some of the fastest times in our review. It's simple and precise enough that first-time users generally do well with its short learning curve. Its ability to micro-strip search and differentiate two signals helps it with ski guides and avalanche educators who demand more from their beacon. Its slim profile is great for users who want to carry their transceiver in a zippered pants pocket.

What Other Avalanche Beacon Should You Consider?


Other members in the Tracker family are worth checking out. The BCA Tracker 4 is the upgrade to the Tracker3, with the main differences being a brighter display, a rubber overmold, and louder tones. If you are a pro, the Tracker3 is a great beacon for you. We also suggest the Mammut Barryvox S or the Black Diamond Guide BT (or the identical Pieps Pro BT). These models have even more features to help deal with complex scenarios (like beacon rescue drills/test/assessments), along with the ability to tweak those features to suit personal preference.

Ian Nicholson
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