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Ortovox 3+ Review

A solid triple antennae beacon that is easy to use, with most of the features that backcountry users are looking for without a lot of extras
Ortovox 3+
Photo: Ortovox
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Price:  $340 List | $279.37 at Amazon
Pros:  Easy to use, fast, good flagging feature, intuitive design, easy-to-interpret display, low profile
Cons:  Range isn't as good as most others, consistently produced a larger box while bracketing, flagging/marking function often got confused with more than three signals in close proximity
Manufacturer:   Ortovox
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 27, 2020
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 14
  • Range - 15% 7
  • Speed - 20% 8
  • Single victim search - 20% 8
  • Fine search - 15% 8
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 7
  • Features - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Ortovox 3+ is a solid beacon that is easy to use; it still has most of the features that backcountry users are looking for but without many extras. The 3+ has below average maximum range and proved to be just okay during the bracketing stage of our search. It's quite intuitive, which is something anyone can appreciate while dealing with the stresses involved in a rescue. The Ortovox 3+ used to be one of the better-priced three-antennae avalanche beacons and the former winner of an award. Now with beacons like the BCA Tracker S, Arva Evo5, and BCA Tracker3, the 3+ isn't the super deal it once was.

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Price $279.37 at Amazon$349.94 at Amazon$339.95 at REI
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Pros Easy to use, fast, good flagging feature, intuitive design, easy-to-interpret display, low profileVery fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low stress soundsEasy-to-use, configured with Bluetooth and an app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalityOne of the easiest beacon to use, lightning fast, great value, extremely intuitiveLightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface
Cons Range isn't as good as most others, consistently produced a larger box while bracketing, flagging/marking function often got confused with more than three signals in close proximityDisplay 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 signalA little on the chunky side for pant pocket beacon wearers, slider toggle is stiffNot as good for multiple burials, slightly below average range, not as low volume as other modelsMediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software
Bottom Line A solid triple antennae beacon that is easy to use, with most of the features that backcountry users are looking for without a lot of extrasTakes previous Tracker's top-notch ease-of-use, speed, and intuitiveness, and adds a marking function and a low profile designWill suit most recreational backcountry travelers well, from beginner to advancedEasy and intuitive for experts or novices, making it straightforward to help zero in on the buried signalAn easy to use capable beacon with a lightning-fast processor
Rating Categories Ortovox 3+ Backcountry Access... Black Diamond Recon BT Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Range (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Speed (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Single Victim Search (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Fine Search (15%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
Multiple Burials (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Features (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Ortovox 3+ Backcountry Access... Black Diamond Recon BT Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Weight 200g / 7.0 oz 215g/ 7.6 oz 225 g / 7.9 oz 255g / 9.0 oz 165g / 5.8 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 40 meters 50 meters 60 meters 50 meters 55 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Battery Life (send) 250 hours 250 hours 200 hours 250 hours 250 hours
Digital/Analogue Digital Digital Digital Digital Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ortovox 3+ was among the more intuitive beacons to use and scored reasonably well when it came to finding a single buried beacon. Its pleasant interface and easily decipherable displays are a welcome sight for most users during what is almost undoubtedly a high-stress situation. However, the 3+'s drawbacks of a relatively short maximum range (and thus a so-so search strip width) and consistently larger brackets (boxes), which were generally less precise during the fine search, kept it from scoring better.

Performance Comparison


Photo: Ortovox


Ease of Use in Single Burials and Speed


The 3+ beacon is among the simplest and easiest to use. It has straightforward controls and is a great beacon for a novice or less practiced backcountry traveler. Its ease of use and easy to understand displays are this model's strongest advantage.

Ian Nicholson testing an 3+ in the fine search.
Ian Nicholson testing an 3+ in the fine search.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in the Fine Search


We found the 3+ has slightly below average accuracy during the fine search; while bracketing our victim, we would consistently get larger sized brackets compared with other beacons in the same spot. We also found that it generally would take less practiced users longer to complete a bracket than with other models.

The 3+ showing that one of the victims/signals has been flagged...
The 3+ showing that one of the victims/signals has been flagged because the icon is in black. The "body" icon not in black is who the directional arrows and distance are leading us toward.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Multiple Burials


The 3+ uses an easy to understand display that shows 1-3 victims and puts an intuitive mark around each signal as that beacon has been flagged. We used to feel that the Ortovox 3+ had one of the better flagging features on the market, but now as technology has gotten better, it's pretty average. During real-world use, we rarely had to hit the flag button more than one time; as long as there weren't too many signals in close proximity, the 3+ marks the buried beacon easily.

Range


The range of the 3+ is toward the lower end of the spectrum of beacons and nearly the lowest of the three-antennae beacons we tested. The 3+ had a maximum range just below 40 meters. That means it has a few meters longer range than an original BCA Tracker DTS, Arva Evo4, and the Ortovox Zoom+, but not by much. It consistently came up meters shorter than the new BCA Tracker 2 and had a shorter range than the similarly priced Pieps DSP Sport and Mammut Barryvox beacons.

The 3+ avalanche beacon, during a multiple beacon search. The number...
The 3+ avalanche beacon, during a multiple beacon search. The number and directional arrow points to the closest beacon with the distance on the main display. The other beacons are indicated by body symbols in the lower section of the display.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Features


The 3+ is one of the few beacons to give buyers a color option. Like many other higher end beacons, you can update the software to help keep it running more smoothly. You can do this at some retailers or by mailing your beacon into Ortovox directly. The 3+ does have a group function feature, but it was complicated to access, and we didn't find ourselves using it very often.

Photo: Ortovox

Comfort

The 3+ harness system is not the most comfortable to wear. It moved around on our testers more than other beacons. That said, it is very light, and its thin profile was nice to wear in an inner zippered pant pocket.

Showing the controls that turn the 3+ avalanche beacon from Send...
Showing the controls that turn the 3+ avalanche beacon from Send mode to Search mode.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Revert to Transmit Mode

After 120 seconds of no movement, the beacon switches from Search to Send mode in case you get buried in a follow-up slide. Before switching back, this beacon beeps loudly for 10 seconds to alert the searcher that this function is taking place. This usefulness of this feature is sometimes debated, and you can read more about it in our main review.

Smart Antenna Technology

The 3+ was one of the first avalanche beacons to implement smart antenna technology. This technology is now being applied by more and more avalanche beacon manufacturers. This technology helps the beacon realize how it is oriented on the victim, who is buried in the avalanche. Using gravity, the beacon picks the antenna that is in the best orientation to broadcast its signal, maximizing the range that searchers might be able to pick up the buried beacon.

Showing the Power-on switch and dial on the 3+ Avalanche beacon...
Showing the Power-on switch and dial on the 3+ Avalanche beacon. This function is simple, but requires fine motor skills and is challenging with thicker gloves on.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The 3+ is a beacon that can be appreciated by everyone, from the most novice user to very experienced and avid backcountry travelers. Only professionals and the most demanding recreational users will wish the 3+ had more to offer.

Value


There is a lot of competition in this price range, and compared to similar priced models, the 3+ just doesn't perform as well in our tests.

Conculsion


While the Ortovox 3+ is simple and easy to understand, and has solid multiple burial functions, its downsides are average speed, okay bracketing, and a slightly below average maximum range. Similarly priced models like the BCA Tracker 2, BCA Tracker 3, Pieps DSP Sport, or Mammut Barryvox should also be on your radar.

Ian Nicholson