Chest or Pants? Where to Wear Your Avalanche Transceiver

christopher

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Avalanche Beacons
August 17, 2018

Chest or Pants? Where to Wear Your Avalanche Transceiver



By BCA guide ambassador Jordy Shepherd


Last season, a skier on the Bugaboos to Roger Pass traverse took a ride in an avalanche. He pulled his airbag and was fortunately not buried, and he suffered only a minor knee injury. The skier was quite shaken up though and early the next morning he realized that his avalanche transceiver was missing. He had been carrying it in the side pocket of his ski pants–and the avalanche had ripped the pocket and the transceiver was never located. They called for a helicopter and abandoned the rest of the traverse.


It has become fairly common for backcountry skiers and boarders to carry their transceiver in a pants pocket with the new outerwear styles and bib pants.


However, carrying your avalanche transceiver in your pants pocket should only be done if the pocket is designed accordingly: welded or stitched to the inside of the pants, with a solid, anchored clip for attaching the lanyard. If your pants pocket is sewn or welded to the outside of your pants and is clearly not designed for a transceiver, then we recommend that you carry it in the chest harness provided with your transceiver.





Several outerwear companies are addressing a more convenient and safe way to carry avalanche transceivers without a traditional harness, by providing a secure welded pocket in the pant leg. An example is OR’s beacon-friendly White Room Pants (shown below).



Backcountry Access encourages you to be extremely critical of the pant leg pocket function before leaving your avalanche transceiver harness at home. If the pocket is not sewn or welded to the inside of the pant, does not have a secure zipper, and a secure ring to clip your beacon to, you should not trust it to withstand the forces of an avalanche.


WHERE TO WEAR YOUR AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER
While some outerwear companies are meeting and setting safety standards for carrying a beacon, a harness is still the best method for carrying an avalanche transceiver. Here’s why:

  • Locating the avalanche transceiver high on your chest puts the transmitting antenna closer to your airway. If you’re buried in an avalanche and searchers are locating your transceiver, you want the probe strike and subsequent shoveling to bring them to the vicinity of your airway as quickly as possible.
  • If you’re ever in an avalanche, you will be quite focused on protecting your head, neck, and chest. If your transceiver is on your chest, you will therefore also end up protecting your transceiver as you fend off trees and rocks.
  • If your transceiver is on your chest, it will be kept warmer and will be less prone to getting knocked around as you move through the mountains. A transceiver in your pants or jacket pocket is more likely to hit things as you ski/board.
  • The manufacturer’s harness is more robust than a clothing pocket. Clothes can be ripped off in an avalanche.
  • You can still access the transceiver quickly when it is in a chest harness. The plan is to never pull out your transceiver for a real search, by using good terrain selection and paying attention to the local avalanche bulletin. However, if you do need to pull out your transceiver, most harnesses are made to easily access it in the event of an avalanche or for doing a group transceiver check at the trailhead.

Interference from electronics (GPS, radios, cell phone, headlamp, heated gloves, and socks, etc.) can sometimes affect the performance of a searching avalanche transceiver. Symptoms include random distance and direction readings and/or loss of receive range. Keep all sources of interference at least 50cm (20 inches) away when you’re in search mode. When searching, do not have any bluetooth, wifi or wireless functions enabled on your phone or any other electronic devices. For safekeeping, if you need to make an emergency call during a search, make sure you’re at least 25m away from the search area when you’re calling on your cell phone. While most cell phones don’t create harmful interference from this far away, there can be lots of variation between units, especially if a unit has been damaged.


In transmit mode, the effects of nearby electronics are minimal. However, many of these devices are metallic and metal objects can sometimes influence a transmitting beacon signal. While this will never ruin a search, nearby metal can slightly affect a transceiver’s transmit range and it can sometimes cause the transmit unit to use more power to send out its signal. Most manufacturers (including BCA) recommend keeping all electronics and metal objects 20cm (8 inches) away from your transceiver when in transmit mode.


Many shell jackets have a radio pocket on the left side of the chest and most harnesses also put your transceiver on the left side of your chest. When wearing a 5-watt VHF radio, I wear my transceiver high on the right side of my chest to gain the recommended 20cm separation from my radio and I put my cell phone in a pants pocket or in a left jacket pocket. Analog VHF radios seem to interfere less with avalanche transceivers than other electronics, but there should still be at least 20cm separation. Digital radios are becoming more common; be very careful to test the transmit and search functions of your transceiver and look for any signs of interference if you’re using a digital radio for communications. To date, BCA has not seen effects on any brand of transceiver in close proximity to the BC Link radio.


Watch out for slippage in your transceiver harness, and ensure it is located high on your chest. This will decrease the chances of injury to your hips, stomach, and ribs if you’re bent forward while skiing/boarding or in an avalanche. If you’re snowmobiler, consider the Float MtnPro Vest, which has a dedicated, insulated transceiver pocket located above your vital organs.


<hr>

Jordy Shepherd is an ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide and BCA ambassador/instructor, living with his family in Canmore, Alberta. Jordy has lived, worked and played in the mountains his whole life. His work experience includes: Canadian Avalanche Association Course Leader for Avalanche Search and Rescue Advanced Skills, Provincial Park Ranger, National Park Warden, wildlife-human conflict specialist, wildland firefighter, structural firefighter, mountain and industrial rescue specialist, heli-skiing operations manager and lead guide, and licensed real estate agent: www.PeakAlpine.com www.CanmoreRealEstate.ca
Jordy enjoys guiding and instructing clients to achieve their personal best, with a focus on safety and enjoyment of the mountains.
 

GSPLewie

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Dec 22, 2016
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Great stuff! I wear mine around my chest with deal that came with it.
 

Scott

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I had never zipped it into a pocket until I got my BCA Pro Mountain vest, they do have a transceiver pocket.
 

frntflp

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2007
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Plymouth, MN
Always worn mine on the left side of my chest using the supplied straps. Now moving to the dedicated beacon pocket on a Klim Lochsa suit. [Note - still has a full wrap around the body type strap built into the suit]. Tether to attach to and pull out, but not detach, etc. etc.
 

Matte Murder

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I wear mine in the right front pocket of my Klim pants. I have the Pieps Pro Dsp and I keep it in the chest harness style pouch for added protection and have modified the pouch so it’s clipped to the lanyard ring sewn to the pants right above the front pocket. The transceiver is secured to the pouch by the included leash. Very secure, easy to get to and I think it’s in a way safer spot than anywhere on my chest. I’ve smashed the crap out of a phone that I stupidly put in the chest pocket of my coat. I hit the bars hard at least a few times a year. If the transceiver is carried on top of my body armor it could get smashed on the bars. If I carry it under the body armor it’s going to get driven hard into my torso. I think the front pants pocket is a much safer spot for me and my Avy beacon.
 

Jason4

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Jul 31, 2014
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Fairhaven
I have a habit of carrying my transceiver in my right hip pocket in my pants, they are basically the same as the blue OR pants shown in the picture above. I'd prefer to carry it in the supplied/robust harness around my chest closer to my head but it's a lot more convenient for me when I'm teaching avalanche classes to have it very quick and easy to take out for transceiver checks and for scenario demos with students.

A competent searcher in a shallow burial should be able to get a probe strike very close to the beacon on the first or second try which in a real scenario would be followed by digging to the tip of the probe. If I have the transceiver higher on my chest in this case then the rescuer would be able to clear my airway quicker than if I have my transceiver down by my waist.

The other consideration is separation between the transceiver and other electrical/electronic devices and ferrous metal. I used to carry a screwdriver in the same pocket as my transceiver but now I keep my transceiver all alone in my right hip pocket.
 
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