BCA Tracker DTS ReviewMarch 17, 2012
- X-patterned dual antenna configuration that yields a virtual antenna indicating the critical element of direction lacking in single antenna analog beacons.
- Low price and reliability as new techology has entered the market.
- The maximum range is on the low side of what is available, 40m on a good day when the virtual antenna is parallel with the victims transmitting signal, but only 20m when cross-polarized.
- Strap system is not intuitive.
- As a dual-antenna beacon the signal is prone to 'spiking' an erroneously high distance when you're about 2 meters away. A disconcerting anomaly but when understood it is simply another clue that you're pretty close. This 'spiking' phenomenon is why triple
Although more advanced technology is available you will still be in a good position to find a buried friend if you carry a Tracker DTS. It may not be politically correct to admit, but Tracker DTS remains a beacon that requires very little practice time to be proficient with. When you admit that you won't practice much if ever, the intuitive power of the Tracker DTS is a reassurance worth every penny of the price.
The best selling avalanche transceiver in the North American market. Pioneer in multiple antenna, digital transceiver technology, Tracker created a new paradigm for searching technique through an intuitive mix of directional LEDs and distance readings. In single victim searches, this remains the standard by which all other beacons are judged.
Thankfully the current version of the Tracker comes with a simple, padded, easy to use harness. The beacon sits in the harness with the front panel cradled by a padded pouch and the on switch visible on the outside. After you’ve strapped it around your torso, don’t forget to turn it on by rotating the on switch on the back side a full 90 degrees.
To begin searching, with the beacon removed from the harness, simply press the big red button in the middle of the front panel for a full second and the display flashes SE indicating you’re in search mode.
Once a signal is picked up, five bright LEDs indicate in what direction to move, and how far away, in meters, along a curved flux line you are from the victim. The Tracker will beep in time with the signal it is receiving (although not in real time due to digital processing delays) when you are more than 15m away. As you get closer the number of beeps per cycle will increase, until, when you are less than two meters away the train of beeps will begin to run together and rise in pitch, like a shrill child screaming that you’re really close.
Typically as you get within three meters you will be following the flux line directly in line with the transmitting beacon’s antenna. You can grid the beacon for the minimum distance but I find the audio beeps give a faster response. At this point you should switch to probing.
Be aware that as a dual antenna beacon you may run into a phenomenon called a “spike” or shadow point. This is common with buried beacons that are horizontally oriented and occurs because at that specific point the flux lines are actually perpendicular to the plane defined by the beacon you’re searching with. You’ll notice the beeps skip a beat, and go quiet for a moment, and the distance number will jump up 2-4 meters from the previous reading. Keep moving in the direction you were, albeit a bit more slowly because this can happen when you’re only 2-3 meters away.
Where Tracker DTS takes heat is dealing with multiple victims. True, it doesn’t have an idiot light indicating the presence of more than one signal, but it does give solid clues to the experienced user. It also expects you to know how to deal with this unfortunate circumstance by using search methods which narrows the field of reception to help separate and locate multiple signals.