March 15, 2017
Backcountry Access changed the avalanche beacon world when they introduced the first digital beacon at the Outdoor Retailer show in 1997. This beacon was named the “Tracker” and was a huge leap from the analog beacons being used since the 1960s, and BCA hasn’t stopped improving their technology. BCA sells their avalanche transceivers by themselves, and in packages for the backcountry enthusiast looking to renew their old gear or skiers and riders looking to take their skills from the chair lifts to the skin track. Included in the Tracker 3 package is: Tracker 3 transceiver, B1 EXT shovel, and the Stealth 270 probe.
Let’s start with the Tracker 3; one of the smallest and lightest transceivers on the market is surprisingly easy to use and fits comfortably in your hand, regardless if you’re wearing gloves or not. The LED screen is easy to read, and when you are in “Search” mode, arrows will point you in the general direction of the transmission(s) it finds. One of the largest upgrades to other Tracker models is the multiple burial function. This can be critical if traveling in larger groups, or working as a professional guide. It looks like BCA did it again with this beacon, keeping the ease of use and reliability from their iconic Tracker and Tracker 2 beacons while shedding weight and adding the multiple burial function.
B1 EXT Shovel
The BCA B1 EXT Shovel is BCA’s most popular shovel, and rightfully so. This lightweight and compact aluminum shovel fits great in even the smallest backcountry packs or vests. The collapsible handle helps the shovel pack into organized compartments and is easily deployed in emergency and non-emergency situations. I used this shovel in an avalanche 1 course as well as a few days in the Southern California backcountry and was surprised how easily is broke through hard packed cruddy snow. I dug 4 different pits and two different real life burial scenarios and was consistently one of the first ones with my shovel out and ready to go. The only drawback is the size of the blade, and for a full grown man, this can feel on the smaller size. But there is always a compromise for weight, and with how sturdy the entire shovel/shaft/handle combination is, I would highly recommend this shovel to anyone who asks.
Stealth 270 Probe
The BCA Stealth 270 Probe has been redesigned by BCA for the 2016/2017 season. The upgrade includes making the depth markings easier to read, strengthening the tip to make penetrating debris easier, and adding minor upgrades to the quick locking hardware making it one of the easiest probes to assemble on the market. I was surprised how well the probe moved through icy, hard packed snow, and how sturdy the probe felt while in use. There wasn’t any questions regarding the integrity of the probe, and would choose this over a carbon probe any day (This probe is made from aluminum). The one thing I would change on this probe is lengthening it to a minimum 300 cm. Personally I would prefer to carry more weight with me knowing it could be used in a life saving scenario.