Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides Reviews the BCA Tracker 2 Beacon, BCA Tracker 3 Beacon, Stealth Probe, and B-1 Avalanche Shovel
BCA Avalanche Gear Reviews by Professional Mountain Guides and Avalanche Educators.
The backcountry can be beautiful, serene, and filled with miles of untouched deep pockets of powder. But in between this lush powder paradise, we want to stay prepared should the unthinkable happen. Every year, nearly 40 people die in avalanches in North America. Many die because they didn’t have the education, decision-making expertise or framework, or the gear to travel safely in the backcountry. We at Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides have put our preparedness in another Boulder originated company, Backcountry Access (BCA), that has helped develop durable, efficient, and lifesaving avalanche safety gear. Participants in our AIARE Level I and Level II Courses, can demo the BCA Tracker 2 Beacon, the Stealth Probe, and the B-1 Avalanche Shovel. After many missions in the backcountry, they’ve become some of our favorites.
As our owner and lead guide, Joshua Baruch, always says each day:
- The summit or line is optional, getting down safe is mandatory;
- Just because you love the mountains, does not mean the mountains love you.
- Make sure everyone has a voice and All to say GO and only 1 to say NO. Lets check our egos at the car. We are all on same Team.
Check out our review of the best of BCA’s backcountry safety setup.
BCA Tracker 2 Avalanche Transceiver
The BCA Tracker 2 Beacon is a no frills, easy to use avalanche transceiver that’s user friendly, quick to adapt to, and functional, with a quick switch from receive to search. The Tracker 2, while not the lightest piece at 9 ounces, has a receiving range of 50-meters, can transmit for 250-hours and search for 50 hours. It uses 3 standard AAA batteries, which are quick to swap out and replace. The numerical display tells you instantaneously how much life is left. It also comes with a 5-year limited warranty. While the transition from transmit to search is quick, the big pull-out switch is cumbersome while using large heavy gloves or mitts. However despite it’s bulky appearance, it is the standard bearer for ski patrols across the nation.
What we like: Easy to use (especially for beginners) three antenna beacon, quick transition between transmit and search mode, designed with the majority of backcountry accidents in mind (90% of avalanche burials are single burial accidents, 5% are two person burials, and 5% of burials involve more than two person burials in the same incident), and this has been very durable safety devise with hundreds of days of use each year by our guides and guests for many years of service.
BCA Tracker 2 Avalanche Transceiver – $285.00 Click here to purchase a BCA Tracker 2
BCA Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver
Another great beacon option, our guides use, is the BCA Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver. The newest BCA tracker has been put to the test with our professional ski guides and avalanche educators. Some of the new function that we really like include the following:
- Big Picture Mode: Updated icon for multiple burials – 2 # ion for two burial victims; 2+ # icon for more than two burials; and (2+) for close proximity burials. This is a great update for recreational users because of its ease of use for multiple and more complex burials. Professionals will appreciate this function while taking exams when not using the marking feature for reducing errors with close proximity burials.
- Simplified direction of travel arrow.
- Transition button location and ease of transition between transmit (TR) to search (SE) mode.
- Black color for standing out in a stark white environment.
BCA Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver – $335.00 – Click here to purchase a BCA Tracker 3
BCA Stealth Probe 270
The BCA Stealth probe is designed for quick deployment and use, making it perfect for avalanche drills, measuring depth, and rescuing companions. Weighing in at 10.9 ounces, the Stealth Probe extends out to 8 feet, 10 inches, and features a numbered depth chart on its aluminum frame. Collapsed, it measures 17.7 inches. To extend the probe fully, simply toss and simultaneously pull the handle at the end to lock in place. Once locked, the probe is very sturdy and easy to use. It’s not the lightest in BCA’s lineup as they also make a lighter carbon version. Furthermore, some users have said that the numerical markings wear off after long use. It’s one of the most reliable and sturdy avalanche probes on the market.
What we like: Easy to assemble (for beginners and experienced backcountry users), height marking for data pit layer assessment observations, and overall durability.
BCA Stealth 270 Probe – $59.95 – Click here to purchase a BCA Stealth 270 Probe
Whether digging a snow pit, or digging out a companion, you need your shovel to be sturdy and up to the task, able to cut through ice and the thick snow of avalanche debris, and this is where the rock solid B-1 Snow Shovel delivers. While taking up minimal space in the pack, the sturdy shovel is ergonomic, workable even with the thickest gloves, and extendable, using little weight to efficiency so you’re getting your deepest dig with every stroke. With a large handle and end cap, it prevents snow from building up on the inside. While sturdy, it does tend to have the locking mechanism freeze in extremely cold temperatures, but if you’re looking for the right weight to durability value, the BCA B-1 Snow Shovel is a great companion.
What we like: Easy to assemble (for beginners and experienced backcountry users) especially in cold weather, flat back of shovel (great for making a flat wall for observation on the obs wall for snow layer id and other observations in a snow pit), strong blade (that doe not break or bend when chopping very hard snow or slabs), and great overall durability.
BCA B-1 Snow Shovel – $49.95 – Click here to purchase BCA B-1 Snow Shovel
BCA Avalanche Airbags
For those of you venturing into avalanche terrain, especially in the sub alpine and alpine environments, airbags are now considered standard travel gear. We do not want to dial up our risk scale because we have an airbag, but they give travelers that are caught in an avalanche a marked increase in survivability compared with users without an airbag. Our guides like the BCA FLOAT 42™ AVALANCHE AIRBAG 2.0 due to its size to carry all guide gear, separate pockets for rescue gear, small day items and larger pocket for all day clothing and food. New in 2018 the 2.0 air cylinders with are 30% smaller and 15% lighter than their predecessors with will be a great addition to these great packs.
Where to Go once you get your BCA avalanche gear?
Backcountry Avalanche Education for skiers, snowshoers, hikers, and climbers
As with all travel to the backcountry in Colorado, we recommend all outdoor users to get basic and above avalanche education. Please check out and register for our 2018-2019 avalanche education classes (AIARE Level 1, AIARE Level 2 and AIARE Avalanche Rescue). Join us and increase your outdoor avalanche decision making under professional guidance and mentoring! Click here for dates, courses and to register for 2018-2019 Colorado avi courses and education
Free 2-hour local Colorado Avalanche Lectures – Know Before You Go
We have partnered with The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) and local outdoor retailers (Jax Sporting Goods, Moose Jaw, Topo Designs, and Rab Denver) to offer free Know Before You Go, 2-hour, avalanche lectures for the following communities: Boulder, Denver, Golden, Lafayette, Arvada, Broomfield, Westminster, Loveland, Berthod, and Fort Collins. Get out, get educated and join us! Click here for locations and lecture dates.