The BT in the Black Diamond Guide BT refers to Bluetooth, as this beacon can be adjusted or updated via a smartphone app using Bluetooth functionality. You can configure it to analog mode via the app and can select alkaline versus lithium-ion batteries. Bluetooth aside, this is a capable beacon aimed at professionals or advanced recreationists as it is stacked with advanced features.
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to use
Bluetooth and smartphone app
Best battery life in our review
Excellent multiple burial and flagging features
REASONS TO AVOID
Battery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage
Some force required to toggle switches
Somewhat bulky to carry in a pocket
Material and Assembly Voluntary Recall — July 2022
Easy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging features
Super fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in our review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinations
Intuitive to use, very fast processor, excels at fine search, consistently produced quick rescue times with 1-2 burials, comfortable to wear in a zippered pocket
Fast processor, precise bracketing, compact size, good multiple burial functionality, Bluetooth capability, grippy exterior
Lightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface
Battery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, some force required to toggle switches, somewhat bulky to carry in a pocket
Expensive, more complicated than other models, somewhat complicated for novice users
Takes more practice to be proficient when searching for more than two signals, signal suppression "ends" after 60 seconds
Stiff on/off toggle is hard to use with gloves, less battery life than some models
Mediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software
This easy-to-use beacon is one of the best models for advanced users and beginners alike
One of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market
One of the fastest, most intuitive, and easiest to use beacons on the market
Don't be fooled by this beacon's small size; it's packed full of features and easily matches the performance of any full-sized model
An capable, easy-to-use beacon with a lightning-fast processor
Black Diamond Guide BT
Mammut Barryvox S
Black Diamond Recon LT
Single Victim Search(20%)
Black Diamond Guide BT
Mammut Barryvox S
Black Diamond Recon LT
210 g / 7.4 oz
210 g / 7.4 oz
215 g / 7.5 oz
158 g / 5.6 oz
165 g / 5.8 oz
Number of Antennae
70 - 100 meters
50 - 55 meters
50 - 55 meters
Battery Life (in "Send")
Show full specification detailsHide full specification details
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Guide BT is one of the more advanced models we tested. It offers great range, excellent features, and fast processor speed. It is Bluetooth enabled, making software updates and feature/option configurations a breeze. These elements make this beacon one of our favorite models, as it strikes an excellent balance of features and performance, combined with ease of use.
The Black Diamond Guide BT is functionally the same as the Pieps Pro BT, which is just branded and sold under the Pieps label. BD has owned Pieps since around 2012. Both beacons scored and performed identically in our review.
Speed accounted for 20% of each beacon's score and takes into account not only the processor speed, but speed in finding single victims as well as bracketing. The Guide BT performed very well here, and we found its processor to be very fast.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
The Guide BT uses five directional arrows, which can be displayed two at a time to help accurately keep the user on the flux line. We felt that when approaching the fine search on our final approach, users of all abilities consistently had a much easier time with this beacon than some of the other pro-level models, and could more frequently come in right over the buried beacon rather than off to one side.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The Guide BT rocks in the fine search, and was one of the easiest beacons to come in right over the top of our beacon as we started the fine search. Like many beacons, the Guide BT's directional arrows disappear at two meters and then just give the user an audible tone and distance numbers.
This beacon was consistently precise, allowing us to have a small bracket. This precision makes it more likely that an assistant who is probing out in front will get a probe strike. Precision and a smaller bracket also mean there is less area to probe once you finish your bracket.
The Guide BT was a high performer for multiple burial situations. It did well at differentiating between beacons in close proximity burials, rarely mismarking or flagging the incorrect beacon. It has a scan mode, allowing you to get a lay of the land by quickly browsing through multiple burial locations, which we go into more detail about in the Features section.
The Guide BT's max range and search strip width is 60 meters. Black Diamond notes that they have a larger circular range with this new model compared to their old one. The idea behind a better "circular" range is BD is implying that this new beacon has better range in perpendicular alignment, which is the orientation that you get the least amount of range in.
In our testing where we pitted the Guide BT against the older PIEPS DSP Pro, we found that their ranges were more-or-less identical in both maximum ranges, with near-perfect coupling and in perpendicular/worst orientation positions. Having a 60-meter search strip width is ideal when practicing in larger, more complex scenarios. We appreciated the 60 meter range, which is one of the longer ranges in our review.
One design aspect that every single tester commented on was how stiff the slider was to move up and down, toggling between off, search, and send. This is a response to the older Pieps version, which slid very easily and would occasionally switch back to search mode if bumped while shoveling or probing. We generally don't mind the stiff slider, but it's worth noting that transitioning between functions can be difficult with thicker gloves on. It's also easy to slide past your intended setting as you're figuring out how much force to use.
The Guide BT uses Bluetooth to connect with your smartphone via an application that is pretty much the basis for most of this model's unique features. This connection allows the user to easily configure many of the options and settings using the app.
Revert to Send
This beacon has a revert to send option. You can turn this on or off with the app via Bluetooth.
Group Check Mode
Black Diamond improved the Group Check function, which makes function/beacon checking with your group at the trailhead far easier, especially with more than three people. When the beacon is booting up, you can activate this function by holding the "flag" button when CH is displayed. This makes a "function check" go much smoother and faster, as you can go relatively quickly from one beacon to another while searching.
If you are running function check in typical search mode, the Guide BT takes far longer to jump signals than a majority of beacons on the market. The Guide BT's ability to lock onto a signal longer is an advantage in complex multiple burials; however, it can take 10-20 extra seconds per person (while waiting for the signal to jump) when function checking more than 4-5 people (without using the group check mode, especially if they are standing relatively close to each other).
Though it requires more practice to use, scan mode is a great and useful tool for avalanche rescue exams and complex rescue scenarios. The scan mode basically lets the user toggle through the buried beacons, giving a direction and distance for each; however, it is worth noting that you cannot mark/flag a beacon while using the beacon under this setting.
You can enable the Guide BT's ability to switch into an analog mode if done so ahead of time via Bluetooth and the app. To switch into analog mode, simply hold down the scan button. This mode is useful in complex rescue scenarios. However, this beacon's analog mode doesn't give a distance or direction (something other models' analog modes do), nor is the sound quality quite as good.
Alkaline or Lithium-Ion Batteries
This transceiver can be configured to use either alkaline or lithium-ion batteries; however, you must select the appropriate battery type while your beacon is connected to your phone (via Bluetooth) for it to accurately read the remaining battery life. The Guide BT already has an impressive 400 hours of send mode with normal alkaline batteries, but with lithium-ion batteries, that number jumps to around 600 hours. While lithium-ion batteries no doubt perform better in the cold and offer an overall superior battery life, there are currently only three other beacons where lithium-ion batteries can be used and the remaining battery power can be accurately read.
The Guide BT has a built-in inclinometer; however, it receives mixed results from both professionals and recreationists. The function of the application is fine, but with so many other tools to measure slope angle — from smartphones to compasses to lightweight and relatively inexpensive dedicated tools — our testing team wonders if taking out and exposing your beacon to confirm the slope angle is actually the best use of a beacon.
Should You Buy the Black Diamond Guide BT?
The Black Diamond Guide BT is an excellent and premium avalanche beacon. If you're a professional, we don't think you'll be let down. While we undoubtedly find this beacon to be sweet and easy to use given its advanced features, most backcountry users will not require a beacon with this level of sophistication. However, the interface is easy enough that even a novice will easily get the hang of it.
What Other Avalanche Beacons Should You Consider?
For guides and professionals, we'd also recommend taking a look at the Mammut Barryvox S, which is a fully-featured beacon great for industry pros. But for the majority of casual or occasional backcountry travelers, we recommend something a bit lighter-duty like the Backcountry Access Tracker S or the Black Diamond Recon BT. The Recon BT is very similar to the Guide BT. The major difference is that the Guide BT gives its user a handful of higher-end features geared towards pros or advanced trip leaders, such as a scan function to help survey complex multiple burials, the option of an analog mode, and a frequency drift check — features most novice users will never employ.
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