For information on our other favorite beacons, check out our Top 4 Favorite Avalanche Beacons.
For professionals who call the snow-capped mountains their second home, nothing but the best gear will suffice. Granted, top of the line rescue gear comes at a premium price. But when you work extensively in the alpine or backcountry landscape, there is nothing too expensive. This includes everything from basic safety equipment to the backpacks and the clothes on their backs.
But corresponding to the premium price tags, this equipment also comes with advanced features. And these features can be detrimental in rescue and emergency situations. To meet these demands, there is a constant need for beacons to be more user friendly since it is one of the primary safety devices on the mountain. It is not uncommon for snow gear companies to constantly upgrade their existing devices.
The need for a high spec avalanche beacon.
If you are a recreational skier or hiker, you may not find the need to use such advanced features. In fact, avalanche beacons meant for professionals require thorough learning in order to even use them efficient. So, instead of being helpful, the advanced features can be a hindrance for beginners. For beginners, we instead recommend something like the BCA Tracker S. In this regard, a first-generation beacon should be enough. But the situation is different for experts.
Experts, including snow guides, instructors, gear testers, and research scientists, need avalanche gear with high specs. The nature of their work, coupled with being constantly in the unpredictable landscape, demands it.
It is the same when it comes to an avalanche beacon. For those who work in emergency services, saving lives is not an option. They are constantly on call, and their gear must be able to withstand everything they throw at it. In addition, they need to find the avalanche victim as early as possible. And this can only be possible with top of the line avalanche beacons.
These avalanche beacons come with exceptional features. Some of these include lightning fast processors, multiple burial indicators, and extensive search range, among others.
One of these exceptional avalanche beacons is the Guide BT avalanche beacon from Back Diamond. The brand itself is not new to producing snow gear. In fact, they have been consistently producing some of the best snow and ski gear for decades. And this transceiver is just one of them. For instance, you may be interested in the Black Diamond Transfer 3 Avalanche Shovel.
The Guide BT avalanche beacon replaces the Recon BT and the Power BT transceivers. This beacon comes with a number of improved features, which makes this one a great choice for professionals.
However, there are some similarities between the Guide BT avalanche beacon and another beacon from Pieps. We will address this and more in the FAQ section towards the end of this review. So stick around for in-depth information.
Black Diamond Guide BT Avalanche Beacon Review
Product Name: Black Diamond Guide BT
Product Description: The Black Diamond Guide BT has three antennas and a range of 60 meters. It is Bluetooth compatible, as well as other analog beacons. The switch, as well as the contact points, are soft-touch housed inside a sturdy body. Its features include multiple burial detection, easy angle assessment, direction, and distance indication, among others.
Offer price: $349.29
Ease of Use
- It has a circular range of 60 meters.
- The beacon is compatible with Bluetooth and other analog beacons.
- Its soft-touch contact points inside a professional grade body.
- The beacon has multiple burial detections with mark and scan functions.
- It supports both alkaline and lithium batteries.
- Outstanding circular range.
- Excellent battery life.
- Compact and easy to carry.
- Compatible with multiple devices.
- Does not display the transmitting frequency.
- The pro/guide mode is not user-friendly.
- Carries a premium price tag
To kick start this beacon review, let’s begin by looking at the design.
This avalanche beacon has some improved design components. The most apparent one is the blue sliding lock on the right side of the beacon. This locking mechanism keeps the beacon from accidentally switching between send and receive modes. It also keeps it from switching off without your knowledge.
One of the best design components of this beacon is a soft touch on the contact points. It makes it effortless to use even while wearing mittens or gloves.
In terms of size, this beacon is quite small. The pictures in the advertisements are enormous by comparison. But in fact, this beacon has a dimension of 4.5 x 2.9 x 1.1 inches. Apart from the sliding lock’s substantial size, the other two buttons on the beacon’s front are the flag button and Bluetooth.
Although this beacon comes with a harness, it is different from the older beacons. In the older beacons, in particular the Pieps DSP Pro and Sport, a slight pull on the closure strap extracts the transceiver. But this design has been removed in the Guide BT, which is a bit of let down.
The display on the Guide BT is quite large. The numbers and information it displays on the screen are also very easy to read, so it is a huge bonus. However, we did notice something odd with this beacon. It does not display the transmitting frequency. Although we understand that it is standard for all avalanche beacons to work with the standard 457 kHz, it is a bit odd not to see it anywhere on the beacon. Thankfully, this has nothing to do with the beacon’s performance, so we didn’t mind terribly.
In terms of build quality, Black Diamond does not compromise on its products. And this beacon is not an exception. It is built with good craftsmanship and premium materials. The overall construction of the beacon is sturdy and reliable, which makes it durable as well.
In addition to its great design and build quality, the performance is outstanding as well. The fact that it has very innovative features facilitates the overall performance.
The first feature that makes this beacon a star is its digital range. It has a range of 60 meters of circular range as well as a search trip. This works in conjunction with the triple antennas to makes this beacon excellent during rescue operations. The circular range, in particular, assists its users in conducting symmetrical searches with precision.
In addition, the mark and scan function makes the rescue quicker. The mark and move feature will become especially helpful during multiple avalanche burials. This avalanche beacon is one of the few in the price range that has an integrated inclinometer. You will have no problem assessing the angles of the slopes, whether during a climb or a companion rescue. Similarly, the group check option will come in handy while skiing or hiking with a group of friends.
This avalanche beacon works with the Pieps app via Bluetooth connectivity. It is a great feature that you will find indispensable while changing the settings. You can also connect this beacon with other transceivers that have Bluetooth connectivity. The Bluetooth or BT feature is the reason why this beacon is named the Guide BT.
Another connectivity feature in this beacon is that it works with older beacons. It has a feature called the Continuous Carrier Mode, which allows it to be compatible with older analog beacons. If you have older analog beacons, especially ones from Black Diamond or Pieps, you can use them as a backup or simultaneously.
Despite the many advanced features, this snow beacon is relatively easy to use. We say relatively easy because while some components are very user-friendly, others are not as easy.
The soft touch on the contact points is one of the most user-friendly components. Similarly, the minimal buttons also make it easy to navigate this beacon. It can even be used effortlessly by beginners if they have undertaken a course in beacon use.
On the downside, the sliding lock can be difficult to use. It takes some effort to slide the lock, especially in the beginning, when it is new. But thankfully, it gets smoother with continuous use.
The “Pro” mode in the group check is also a bit tricky to use. While it may be very useful if you are familiar with the feature, it can be confusing.
Other than these two factors, the Black Diamond Guide BT is among the most seamless beacons to operate.
The battery in this avalanche beacon is another feature that you will appreciate. For use in the backcountry, a device with long battery life is always welcome. And the Guide BT’s battery will not let you down.
It is powered by 3 AAA batteries. According to the brand, it is supposed to last up to 400 hours in the search mode. We were able to get up to 380 hours in the send mode during the test, which is really a good figure.
An interesting thing about this beacon is its relationship with lithium batteries. Typically, avalanche beacons and lithium batteries are not a good combo. However, with this beacon, the lithium batteries lasted way longer than the alkaline ones. We were able to clock in about 550 hours in the transmit mode, which was impressive. In fact, this incredible power performance is something we haven’t experienced in any of our beacon tests so far.
Nevertheless, lithium batteries should not be the primary source of power for avalanche beacons. Besides, you should always stash spare batteries in any type of trip in the snow.
What is the deal with the Guide BT and the other beacon that you mentioned earlier?
As we mentioned towards the beginning of this review, the Guide BT has an uncanny resemblance to another beacon. The beacon in question is the Pieps Pro BT. Besides the similarities in features and functions, they are both enhancements of the previous beacons. These two beacons even share similar designs as well.
If you Google the specs about the Guide BT, it is almost the same as the Pieps Pro BT. So unless there is a picture of the Guide BT accompanying the description, you can get easily duped.
However, there is also a difference between the two beacons in terms of aesthetics. While the power button on the Guide BT is bright blue, in the Pieps Pro BT, it is yellow. So keep this color difference in mind, and you should be able to differentiate the two beacons.
What is the reason that Guide BT and Pieps Pro BT are so similar?
We get this question a lot online as well as offline, so while we do not know the exact reason why we do have our take on why these two beacons are so alike.
The brand names of the beacons are completely different – Black Diamond and Pieps. However, if you have some level of knowledge with outdoor gear, you must have noticed that Black Diamond beacons work with the Pieps app on smartphones.
Until 2012, Pieps was an independent company. They were primarily involved with producing ski and outdoor gear. However, the company was acquired by Black Diamond in 2012.
So the only logical explanation that we have is that they belong to the same mother company. Therefore, they have nearly identical features and designs.
Can I update the software in the Black Diamond Guide BT beacon?
Yes. The software in this avalanche beacon can be updated, which is also one of its best features.
You can use a USB via the port in the beacon to update the software. However, you need to purchase the cord separately. Alternatively, you can also do it using the Bluetooth option.
To update the software on the beacon:
- You need to download the app onto your phone.
- Connect the beacon via Bluetooth or USB cable.
- Hit update firmware, and you are done.
Can I configure the Black Diamond Guide BT avalanche beacon?
Absolutely. The Black Diamond Guide BT can be configured to make it truly personalized. This is one of the best features of the beacon and also what makes it really unique.
Some of the components you can configure in the Guide BT are:
- Set the time from auto revert to transmit.
- Opt whether you want to use alkaline or lithium batteries.
- Set the group check to kick in at startup.
- Transform multiple transceivers into a mobile beacon park.
- Update the software of the beacons.