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Black Diamond Recon BT Review

Will suit most recreational backcountry travelers well, from beginner to advanced
Black Diamond Recon BT
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $340 List | $339.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easy-to-use, configured with Bluetooth and an app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionality
Cons:  A little on the chunky side for pant pocket beacon wearers, slider toggle is stiff
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 18, 2020
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87
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Range - 15% 8
  • Speed - 20% 9
  • Single victim search - 20% 9
  • Fine search - 15% 9
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 8
  • Features - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The new Black Diamond Recon BT is Bluetooth compatible, as is the Guide BT. This model can be kept up to date via your Bluetooth connection and an app on your smartphone. While we like the more advanced version of this model in the Guide BT; we think in reality, the Recon BT is well-suited and more than adequate for a majority of backcountry travelers. This is because most folks will never, or only rarely, take advantage of all the features of the Guide, whereas the Recon tends to have all the features that a majority of folks from beginner to experienced tend to look for.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $339.95 at REI
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$499.95 at Amazon$446.99 at Amazon
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$349.94 at Amazon$261.80 at Backcountry
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Pros Easy-to-use, configured with Bluetooth and an app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalitySuper fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in this review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinationsEasy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone based app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging featuresVery fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low stress soundsVery fast processor, excellent range, easy-to-use, comfortable to carry, top-notch multiple burial capabilities with excellent signal lock and marking/flagging functions
Cons A little on the chunky side for pant pocket beacon wearers, slider toggle is stiffExpensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced usersBattery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, some force required to toggle switches, can be chunky feeling if carrying in a pant's pocketDisplay screen is just okay, multiple burial function un-suppresses the last marked beacon in only 1 min, leading to confusion and wasting time, can only mark one signalNot as user friendly in the bracketing stage as other models, sometimes tells user to keep the orientation earlier than we would like during the fine search
Bottom Line Marketed as a more basic beacon, but capable and well featured, especially for the pricePerfect for pros or advanced users, this model is one of the best performing products in every categoryA high-end beacon that is packed full of features, with an interface that is easy to use for the less experiencedA fantastic all-around model that combines ease of use in a smaller than average packageHas better range and superior multiple burial capabilities while still being fairly quick in the fine search
Rating Categories Black Diamond Recon BT Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond Guide BT Backcountry Access Tracker3 Mammut Barryvox
Range (15%)
8
10
9
8
10
Speed (20%)
9
9
9
10
9
Single Victim Search (20%)
9
9
9
10
9
Fine Search (15%)
9
9
9
10
8
Multiple Burials (15%)
8
10
9
8
9
Features (15%)
9
10
10
8
7
Specs Black Diamond... Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond... Backcountry Access... Mammut Barryvox
Weight 225 g / 7.9 oz 210g / 7.4 oz 210 g / 7.4 oz 215g/ 7.6 oz 210g / 7.4 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 60 meters 70 - 95 meters 60 meters 50 meters 70 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (send) 200 hours 300 hours 400 hours 250 hours 300 hours
Digital/Analogue Digital Both Both Digital Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

Sold as the simplified version of the Guide BT, the Recon BT is a performance-oriented mid-level beacon. While the Guide is stacked full of features that many professionals may use, the Recon has all the functionality that most backcountry travelers are looking for. Solid fine search and precise bracketing, top-tier range, reliable flagging features, and an easy to use interface help make this beacon attractive to the majority of backcountry travelers.

Performance Comparison


The Recon is a solid all-around beacon that will suit the majority...
The Recon is a solid all-around beacon that will suit the majority of recreational backcountry travelers, from beginner to advanced, and has all the features the majority of folks are looking for.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Range


This beacon originally was stated to have a 50-meter search strip width and a maximum range with optimal coupling. This model's 50 meter range was meant to be a key difference between it and the more advanced Guide BT, which claimed a 60m range and search strip width. However, in our side-by-side testing, we found these two models to have a similar overall maximum range. Interestingly enough, Black Diamond recently updated the stats of these two beacons on their website, now listing both models with a 60 meter range.

The Recon was originally supposed to have around a 50 meter range;...
The Recon was originally supposed to have around a 50 meter range; however, after extensive side-by-side testing, we found it be closer to 60 meters, and was overall comparable to the Guide BT's range.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

While having a larger-than-average maximum range or providing a wider search strip width isn't necessarily the most important consideration, having a long range is preferable. Thus, we appreciated the Recon BT having one of the longer ranges for its price, which for the most part far outperforms the range of nearly every beacon under $350.

Despite being marketed as one of the more "basic" beacons, it's...
Despite being marketed as one of the more "basic" beacons, it's extremely capable and one of the faster overall models in our review.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Finding a Single Victim and Speed


The Recon has an above-average processing speed, and we were able to move at a fast pace with this beacon, operating with a high level of precision. Of note, the slider toggle that transitions this beacon from search to send to off is exceptionally stiff and can be challenging to move with thicker gloves on. We would also regularly overslide it since it took a surprising amount of strength to move. We suspect Pieps and Black Diamond did this in response to their older beacons, which could occasionally unexpectedly slide from search to send while digging or probing, potentially adding confusion to complex or multiple burial situations.

It's one of the best overall in the fine search, which is something...
It's one of the best overall in the fine search, which is something we feel deserves extra attention, as this is the portion of companion rescue that people struggle with the most. We appreciated its speed and precision, and it consistently brought us in right over the top of the buried signal.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Fine Search


This beacon performed very well in the fine search. The Recon BT uses five directional arrows that can be used two at a time to help its user stay on the flux line. Its arrows disappear at two meters, which tend to provide a little more precision for less experienced users than models that disappear at three meters.

Even while practicing with more novice and less experienced users, this beacon commonly allowed its user to find themselves over the top of the buried victim. The Recon had decent precision, which proved to be an asset in the bracketing stage of the fine search.

We found this model to have one of the better multiple burial...
We found this model to have one of the better multiple burial capabilities among beacons less than $350. It easily displayed how many beacons were flagged and marked the buried signals very accurately; it was difficult to trick (aka to mark two beacons at the same time or tell us it marked a beacon when it didn't).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Multiple Burials


Along with the Mammut Barryvox S, this is one of the best-priced beacons to perform as it does in complex multiple burial scenarios. It differentiated close proximity burials and was able to stay locked into one, even when two buried beacons were within three meters of each other. Its marking/flagging button was effective and easy to use and performed well with 2-3 buried signals.

Features


Bluetooth

The Recon BT uses Bluetooth and allows you to make a connection via an app on your phone. This is the basis for most the Recon's features. This Bluetooth connection allows its user to configure many of the settings and options in an easy-to-use fashion via an app.

Group Check Mode

The Recon has a "group check" function, which makes leading a function/trailhead check far easier than with the previous model. You can activate this function; simply hold down the flag button when CH is displayed.

Black Diamond Guide BT Versus the Recon BT


The Recon BT is the basic version of the Guide BT; however, the two share many similarities, such as comparable range, similar flagging/marking abilities, bracketing, and fine search functionalities. Both models can connect via Bluetooth and can be updated using an app on your phone. The Recon costs less, while the Guide BT offers features geared toward professionals and trip leaders.

The Recon is excellent for a novice to fairly advanced level users. Its interface is basic enough that even folks signed up for their first AIARE Level 1 avalanche course will find it easy to use; they will be able to practice companion rescue with it, but it still has the features to tackle a complex scenario.

Value


The Recon BT is a sweet beacon and is a great value, even if BD's price-pointed model costs more than others. Does everyone need the Recon's additional features? Certainly not, but it does manage to offer a few extras for not much more cost.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Recon BT is marketed as a more basic beacon, but is incredibly capable. The Recon holds its own; while it's not as advanced as some, it offers many excellent features and will satisfy most backcountry traveler's needs.

Ian Nicholson