An avalanche transceiver/beacon, a shovel and probe are part of any backcountry skier’s emergency equipment. Any time you leave the secured pistes, you should always have a shovel and probe in your pack and an avalanche transceiver on your body.
Most good-quality winter backpacks will have a quick-access emergency compartment, with dedicated sleeves for a probe, shovel handle and shovel blade. In an avalanche situation, these can then be assembled quickly, ready for use.
Once you’ve carried out a self-test and group check with your transceiver, it should be switched to SEND mode and worn directly on your body. There are two basic ways to do this, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Transceiver in carrying system
Like most manufacturers and alpine organizations, PIEPS strongly advises to use the supplied carrying system.
All PIEPS carrying systems are worn diagonally across the shoulders and secured around the waist. Depending on the model, the transceiver is then either stored in a soft neoprene pouch or clipped into a hard plastic case, and (depending on the model again) additionally secured with a buckle strap. Either way, the device display must always be facing the body and the transceiver must be connected to the carrying system by the safety leash at all times.
The carrying position of the transceiver can be adapted according to body shape or preference.
The carrying system (and transceiver) must always be worn under at least one layer of clothing. This is the only way to prevent damage or loss during a fall or avalanche.
Which brings us to the benefits of using the supplied carrying system:
- The transceiver is protected against damage/loss.
- This style of carrying is clear-cut and is therefore easy to follow for beginners.
- The carrying system does not rely on clothing, so it doesn’t matter whether the pants you’ve chosen have pockets or what they are like etc.
- In the stress of an emergency situation/avalanche, the transceiver can be located intuitively, without having to ‘fumble’ around to find which pocket it’s in.
- By using this standard method of wearing the transceiver, rescue services/ first responders can immediately locate and switch it off, which is important during rescue operations.
- Victim probing is made easier (torso locating is easier than leg or arm).
- Once the transceiver is located in a search, it is close to the head and means the airways can be cleared more quickly.
But where there is light, there is also shadow, and although wearing the transceiver in the carrying system is advisable because it is the safest way, the following points should also be taken into consideration:
- In warmer weather, especially in spring, the transceiver must still be worn underneath a layer of clothing. But because it cannot be worn against the skin, a layering system still has to be in place.
- In cold temperatures, extracting the transceiver from under several layers of clothing e.g. for group checks, while wearing gloves can often be clumsy and time-consuming.
- When changing certain clothing layers, you might have to take the carrying system off and then put it back on again, which risks the transceiver functions being interfered with. And so, for beginners it’s advisable to carry out another check following a rest break or stop at a hut for example, to make sure that it is still in SEND mode.
- The safety leash must be long enough to reach the ground during a fine search. The design of the PIEPS carrying system means this is entirely possible.
Other electronic devices or metal items must be kept at a distance of min. 20 cm when the transceiver is in SEND mode, which means that some cell phone pockets are too close when wearing the carrying case. This point must ALWAYS be considered, no matter which method you choose! Find out more on the “Beacon knowledge” page.
”The benefits of using the supplied transceiver carrying case outweigh the drawbacks and offer skiers and winter mountaineers the highest level of safety and accessibility.
Transceiver in approved garment pocket
Like most manufacturers and organizations, PIEPS will endorse the wearing of some models of transceiver inside a garment pocket under the following conditions:
- The instruction manual clearly states that this model of transceiver can be worn inside a garment pocket.
- The garment pocket must be internal and zipper secured, but it must also be inspected by PIEPS and approved for this use. Such approved pockets are currently only available in Black Diamond touring/freeride pants and are indicated as such. They feature a special transceiver section which holds the device securely in place and provides sufficient protection.
- The transceiver must always be worn with the display facing the body.
- The transceiver must always be fixed to the pocket by the safety leash.
The benefits of this carrying method are the same as above, but in particular:
- The transceiver is quickly accessible for group checks or in an emergency.
- By leaving the transceiver in a sealed pocket throughout the day, there is no risk of it being mishandled, for example when changing layers.
- This way of wearing the transceiver can be more comfortable for some people than using the carrying system strapped around the torso.
If these benefits are significant and someone elects to wear their transceiver in one of these approved garment pockets, they must take into consideration the main drawbacks:
- A transceiver that is in a garment pocket is more prone to damage during a fall or avalanche than when it is worn in a carrying system.
- A minimum distance of 20 cm must be maintained between the transceiver in SEND mode and any other electronic device or metal/magnetic objects.