Friday, January 11, 2019

Barryvox S Review by Kel Rossiter of Adventure Spirit Guides


For several years, I had been using the Barryvox Pulse.  I carried that beacon in the field for over 175 days and I used it for literally days of practicing single and multiple burial rescue scenarios.  I was impressed all around.  When I heard that the Barryvox S was coming out, I looked forward to updating my beacon set-up and seeing what improvements Mammut had lined up.


 In Fall of 2017 I started using the new Barryvox S, and I’ve now got a full season+ under my belt with it.  Below, I'll set the scene with my experiences with the original Barryvox Pulse, and then I'll describe that transition to the Barryvox S.  Bottom line, while officially the “S” stands for “Smart”, in my book it stands for “Solid.”

Barryvox Pulse Experiences

From the get go, I found the Pulse much easier to use than my previous beacon, with its larger screen, clearer signaling, and an easy and accurate bracketing sequence.  And the Pulse really shined with multiple rescues.  Once one beacon was located, it was simple to mark that signal.  Processing for the next signal would typically take about 10 seconds, but then it locked onto the newest/nearest signal, allowing the next search to begin.  After some practice, in real conditions (e.g., beacons buried at least a meter), working with a partner I was able to consistently locate, probe strike, and dig out three beacons in in well under seven minutes [seven minutes is the standard for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)].  I also appreciated the “group check” option offered by this beacon.  Upon powering up, the screen offers you the option for a group check and, if selected, enters that mode.  In the group check mode, the beacon only picks up the signal of a beacon that is within approximately 1 meter of of the searching beacon, making it very easy to check send signals when skiing with a larger group.  I typically just go down the trail 20 meters and when each person skins by me the Barryvox gives a simple “beep” to indicate they are sending.  Beyond simply the convenience of this check system (particularly at crowded trailheads with lots of competing beacon activity from other groups), is that by reducing the receiving range of the checking beacon to 1m it allows you to pretty accurately also check the range of the sending beacon (because estimating 1m distance by eye is pretty easy).  In essence, this quantifies the check, as opposed to only qualifying the check.



Barryvox S Experiences

When I upgraded to the Barryvox S I was eager to enjoy many of the same features offered by the Pulse, but with some additional benefits.  Although it comes in the standard user setting, I have turned ON the Pro Search function.  Here's what I've found so far, roughly ordered in terms of overall importance in terms of my field use purposes and priorities:



·         During multiple burial practice scenarios, after marking a found signal the Barryvox S seems to lock onto the second/third signal much more quickly than the Pulse.  Mammut attributes this to a faster processor and a different search algorithm.  Whatever the reason, I appreciate the result!



·         The button set-up is only a little bit different but so much better.  Whereas the original Barryvox had one button on each side of the beacon, the S has only one button on the right side, capable of scrolling both up and down, coupled with a big orange “Mark” button that serves as the select feature.  This makes menu navigation and marking/unmarking so much simpler and more intuitive. It’s simple to use out of the box or if you want to take advantage of the advanced menu functions, moving through and adjusting options is now a breeze.



·         There is an additional change in the button configuration for “On/Send/Search”.  Like the old Pulse, the new S model has a kind of “safety lock” button that you press to move from “On” to “Send” to “Search” which prevents inadvertent switching from send to search.This is much easier to operate with gloves on than the Pulse.



·         The larger size of the screen on the new S allows for helpful icons to guide users through the search process.  For example, the directional arrow now can bend slightly left or right to indicate a “soft turn” in that direction.  Additionally, there is a “searcher-person” that begins by running during the coarse search, then slows, then walks as the searcher approaches the burial.  Of course, we should all be practicing rescue enough that the processes are instinctual, but in the grips of an emergency these kinds of visual reminders could be useful.



·         Advanced users can turn on the “Pro Search” menu option to keep the digital distance/direction display, but with analog audio. In a multiple burial scenario the various beacons will “beep” at various times, and you can hear when more than 1 beacon is in range.  I find this helpful in creating a mental picture of what is going on below the surface as a tool to identify signal overlaps. It also helps to identify false-positives caused by interference.”



·         Out of the box, the “Smart Fine Search” uses an arrow to guide you through bracketing.  The arrows on the screen are followed by the “Mark” option, which makes it very clear what to be doing during the fine search.  But, if you decide you prefer the old Barryvox Pulse “cross” display, you can always key in “Classic” visual guidance and still enjoy all the other features the improved S offers.



·         If you make the mistake of leaving your batteries in over the summer or cause some other kind of corrosion problem, the terminals of the S are a little easier to replace and are less finicky about exactly what battery is used.  Or, you can use lithium batteries and have longer life, less weight and be free of worrying about acid leakage damaging your beacon.



Bottom Line

Quicker signal capture during multiple burials, easy to use buttons and large/clear visual icons, and for advanced users the ability to customize the visual and audio features to the user's preferred profile make the Barryvox S an important new addition to my backcountry kit.  The Barryvox Pulse is still a top-of-the-line beacon, but if you're in the market for a new beacon, the “S” is a strong, smart choice.  Kel




Kel Rossiter is a guide and avalanche instructor and the owner of Adventure Spirit Guides ( link ). In addition to guiding Kel is an adjunct faculty member for Northern Vermont University, the University of Vermont, and other institutions.  Kel is active with CRAG-VT, serves as a gear reviewer for Backpacker and Climbing Magazines, and his articles have appeared in the Seattle Times, Climbing Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.  Kel is also a Mammut ambassador.  If you have a question for Kel about his guiding or the Mammut Transceivers he’s using, he can be reached through his website or you can follow @adventurespiritguides on Instagram.  -Blog Admin-


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