"World's Best-Selling Avalanche Beacon Saves Time, Saves Lives - The Pieps DSP"
By Mark Ellis, Outdoor Writer & Ski Patrol since 1992
Reprinted with Permission
You pause for a moment to clean your sunglasses and squint as the bright light reflects off the snow. You chuckle at the joke your friend makes behind you as you return the glasses to your face. Slowly you begin again, moving steadily across the terrain.
|Rated #1 By Search and Rescue Teams|
It's beautiful. The sky is crystal blue and the edges of the rocks create vivid shadows along the dark patches of green trees down in the distance. There are a few wispy clouds on the horizon. The air is crisp and your nostrils flare as you breathe in the fresh mountain air. You've been here before, but it was never quite this amazing. You turn to tell your buddy and you notice his eyes aren't on you, but instead he's looking up the face of the mountain.
Your enjoyment turns to confusion as his arms flail forward. "RUN!" he yells as he begins to move. You quickly glance up and see what has gotten him so excited. Your confusion melts into a large knot in your stomach as you gaze upon your worst alpine fear - an avalanche. Adrenaline kicks in and your heart begins to beat, hard. A moment later you hear a loud booming thunder and you have just enough time to realize it will only be a second before it hits. Suddenly you feel like you've been tackled by a 400 pound NFL linebacker. Sound becomes muffled and you feel yourself twist and turn for what seems to be eternity. Then, it stops.
Silence. Dead silence. You're dazed and your head is spinning, but you are conscious and aware. You feel the cold wetness of snow across your forehead and you try to move but there is too much pain. Panic strikes your body and you open your mouth to breath but are rewarded only with the taste of salty bloody snow. You've been buried alive and life's seconds are ticking by. Time has never been so important. Did your friend make it? Will you survive?
Other Beacons Are Obsolete, The DSP Makes Searching Easy
For decades now, avalanche transceiver beacons have been part of every backcountry winter gear check-list. The problem is that they have been somewhat unreliable and have never been very easy to use. They can be extremely frustrating, even during training, to the point where I have seen at least one colleague literally toss his beacon aside and start jabbing wildly at the snow with his avalanche probe, swearing up a storm and acting like a complete buffoon. When someone's life is at stake, seconds matter. And gear that makes you lose your cool equals certain death. If you have anything other than a Pieps DSP, take it from me, it is time to replace your old beacon.
The Must Have Beacon for your Entire Team
Wouldn't you like to have a beacon that you could trust your life with? The DSP was the first beacon that makes finding burials easy with a three pole antenna and digital signal processor thats enables you to quickly find the direction and distance to the nearest transmitter. The quicker you dig your friend out, the greater chance you have at taking them off the mountain alive. But you don't want just yourself to have one, you will want to make sure everyone in your party owns a DSP, because as I will show you, there is no substitute for the best. And if your friends are searching for you, would you want anything less?
|"Skiers and Snowboarders heading into the backcountry should pick up a DSP."|
The Basics of Searching
If you're unfamiliar with how beacons work, I encourage you to seek out training by qualified individuals and to practice with your beacon before going out. With that said, here are the basics. All transcievers work on the principle of following electro magnetic fields (known as flux lines) that a buried unit transmits. These fields contain an electronic signal that repeats at a given frequency, the international standard 457kHz. The Pieps DSP follows this standard, and will work with all other beacons in your group. Before going up, everyone in your party sets their transcievers to "Transmit." On the Pieps DSP, this is accomplished by depressing the lock button and sliding the grey indicator bar to the SEND mode. In the event of an avalanche, any members of your group who have surfaced or who have surfaced on their own should either turn their unit off or enter the search mode - both of which will disable the unit from transmitting and allow those capable to only search for downed individuals. Without going into all the specific details of the search pattern, the first step is to locate a signal from a transmitting beacon down the fall line.
|Ski Patrol prepares a victim for transport.|
Instantly Save Time Searching with the DSP
From the moment you begin to search with your DSP, you are saving seconds without even knowing it. Why? Because the DSP boasts a long reception range. Independent tests have proven the DSP to have as much as 300% Greater Range, enabling you to locate signals much quicker than other beacons competing on the market. Finding the signal in the first place is key, and the greater range means that you'll be on the trail to the victim more quickly, saving precious minutes.
Once you've located the signal, the next step is to follow the flux lines to the location of the burial. On older analog units, you follow them using audible and sometimes visual senses, in combination with your intuition. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where problems could arise with an analog unit. People's ears can easily deceive them when they're listening for increases and decreases in the sound of a repeating beep. When you're under stress and pressure, it makes it all the more difficult. On top of it, if you're not using a DSP, depending on the buried units location next to or on the burial victim, there may be what is called frequency drift. Frequency drift occurs due to temperature variations, and can throw the signal to a different frequency, almost like changing a channel on your television set, making it even harder to locate them if you have a substandard transciever yourself.
However, the DSP automatically calculates and displays a distance in meters, and a directional pointer that guides the way towards the location of the burial you're currently working on its large, easy to read LCD screen. It could not be much easier. You simply follow the arrows and watch as the distance indicator gets smaller, showing that you're getting closer and closer to your buried friend. If the indicator starts going up, simply turn around and follow in the opposite direction. Owning a Pieps DSP is like owning a good GPS. You'll never know how you lived without it.
The DSP Shines in Multiple Burial Situations
The highlight of the DSP is its ability to quickly and automatically sort and process signals from multiple transmitters. With a cheap transceiver, you will not be able to pinpoint each signal from the transmitters spread across the snow deposit. You'll be listening for not one signal, but two or three overlapping beeps. Imagine walking up to a small, still pond where someone had just dripped a few drops of water. The ripples are making their way out, mashing into each other, overlapping and making an overall mess of the once still pond. If you didn't see where the drops were placed, how easy do you think it would be to figure out where the ripples started from? That's just about what it is like if you're trying to find burials in a multiple victim scenario. Would you be able to figure out how many burials there are if you just came onto an avalanche scene or maybe some members of your party were out of view but okay so you weren't sure how many might be buried? Without the DSP, you'll be listening to beeps that overlap, are in some kind of strange pattern and you'd better hope you know what you are doing.
Here comes the DSP to the rescue. Like a NASA rocket scientist, the DSP quickly and automatically calculates signal trajectories, separating them and notifying you with the number of burials on the display. It immediately picks the strongest signal and leads you to that person. You can then choose to dig them out or mark their location so that others can work while you locate the next victim. After locating the first burial, you simply press the mark key to ignore that signal and the DSP immediately begins to guide you to the second strongest signal, and so forth until all victims have been located.
|"You may never know when an avalanche may occur. Be prepared."|
Now, let's say you are the one buried. Four other members of your party are buried as well and they're all transmitting too. What would that sound like to someone who didn't have a DSP? Well who knows. Signals could be overlapping, so you might hear "beep beep (pause) beep beep" - are there two or four repeating sginals here? Or you might hear "beep beep beep, beep beep, beep beep beep." Try figuring out how many burials there are in that situation if you're the rescuer! The Pieps Smart Transmitter automatically scans for other beacons that are transmitting, and instead of sending out its signal pulse (beep) at a set pace that might overlap with other beacons, it places its beep so that it is heard individually. Now that is a feature you won't find anywhere else. That feature alone could save the rescuer time and save your life. Now imagine everyone in your group had a Pieps DSP - that would just make it about the whole thing a relative cake walk for anyone, no matter what brand of receiver they were using!
Deals With the Difficult Parts
Make no mistake about it, finding someone buried alive in an avalanche is a difficult, physically grueling task. It is hard work, treking up or down the side of a mountain, in knee deep snow, searching for someone whose life may be on the brink. Even a seasoned veteran like myself gets exhausted. Throw in the gut wrenching emotion of the potential that you might have just lost your spouse, brother, father, mother, best friend or whomever and you've got even more to worry about. You should be worried, this is serious stuff. Now is not the time to go cheap. Don't get me wrong, it is possible to find multiple victims with an inferior beacon, it is just far from ideal. Any beacon is better than none, but why settle for anything but the best when it comes to someone's life?
Not all is as it seems. When you're moving across the snow deposit and you are on the track of a strong signal, you will get excited when you think you've located the spot where your buddy is buried. It's in our genes, we can't help but release adrenaline and start probing away when we think we're at the right spot. But are you at the right location? With analog beacons, or even digital one, two and even other brand three antenna beacons, your readings may indicate two or even three strong signal spots along your search path. Which one is right? The answer is, probably all three. Remember those flux lines we talked about earlier? They can play tricks on receivers. Flux lines flow in a circular pattern, as illustrated in the figure on the right. As shown in this figure, where the transmitter antenna is aligned with the surface of the snow, the strongest signals will be read where the outermost flux line meets the snow surface at the red dots. Depending on the depth of the burial, this could be a few feet (or worse yet, more) out. If your probe isn't long enough, or you fail to execute a probe search in the proper manner, you could be searching for your victim for a while. Some people call these strong signals that are not located directly above the beacon "spikes," "false positives," or "false signals." Call them whatever you want, but I like to call them death spikes.
|The DSP Handles Signal Errors with Ease.|
Because the DSP makes good use of its third antenna, death spikes are a thing of the past with the DSP. Under testing, the Pieps DSP beacon has shown to handle death spikes very well. Using the third antenna, the signal processor chip on the unit calculates the exact position of the transmitter and shows the strongest signal when you are actually above it, not off to the side.
Don't be fooled by other beacons on the market that feature a third antenna. The Pieps DSP is the choice you should make. Other beacons that have three antennas will not necessary eliminate death spikes! All transmitting beacons, including the Pieps DSP will send out flux lines that can fool other beacons, but only the Pieps DSP correctly compensates for these errors.
Extra Features You Won't Find Anywhere Else
The DSP is a workhorse. I mean it. I'm not just talking this unit up for no reason. I didn't promise to write some kind of puff piece so I could get my unit for free. My work doesn't have a deal with Pieps to get a pro discount. I paid for mine, full price, and it has been worth every penny. Aside from the important things that we've discussed above, let me tell you the extras that really put the icing on the cake for me.
|"It's easier to enjoy the mountain when you can be confident in your gear."|
Scan Feature - The Pieps DSP scan feature is a must have for anyone in the business of search and rescue. You should want and expect that your beacon can perform this task. When you are approaching a fall, it is helpful to know how many burials there are. You might need to call for backup. You might want to know whether to send someone further down the field because there are more victims 150 feet away while you focus on the one fall 10 feet from your location. The Scan feature does just that. Stand still, hold the unit steady in your hands and you'll get three readings - the number of burials within 5 meters, the number of burials within 20 meters and the number within 50 meters. One downside of this feature is that it also resets your marked burials, so I would suggest using it carefully.
Beacon Frequency Tester - The Pieps DSP is the only beacon that offers the ability to test the frequency drift of other beacons. This feature is great because you can test everyone's beacon at home and replace a defective unit, and it gives you that one last check right before you head out from your vehicle.
Extensive Self Test - When you power up the unit, the Pieps DSP uses its transmitting antenna to send out a weak signal to test the three receiving antennas. This test is extensive and will let you know if your device is working properly so you can enjoy the snow worry free.
Although I have given you so many positives at this point that you should already be headed to your shop or looking for the DSP on the web, I do feel that I should point out the few improvements that I feel the DSP could make.
Width - The DSP is just slightly wide in my opinion. The length and depth of the unit are fine, and the width is 3". Don't get me wrong, this is just a minor personal gripe and should not keep you from buying this unit. It will fit in anyone's hands just fine, I would just like it to be shaped a bit more like my cell phone because I like its width. Of course, the DSP is packing a lot of advanced electronics inside a little package, and it features a nice easy to read LCD screen which I would not want them to skimp on if they decreased the width.
USB Update - In order to update the firmware, you have to send the unit out to your local service center. The ability to update the firmware means that as they make improvements to the software that runs the DSP, you can benefit without buying a new beacon. It only costs about $20 to do so, which is cheap compared to having to purchase an entirely new beacon. Even so, I would love to see the unit feature a USB port so that you can update the firmware in the comfort of your home. Since 2008, the firmware has been stable at v6.2. Since then, no updates have been required and you will enjoy all the benefits that I've listed in the article if you're buying a new unit. To check the version of your DSP, you simply hold the scan button and turn on your unit.
|No matter who you are, or what winter sport you enjoy, you should own and use a beacon.|
Self Test Intereference - I don't know if this is really a negative or a positive, but it could be both, so I'll list it here. When the unit is self testing, it sends out a weak signal from its transmitter to put the three antennas in the unit through their paces. Occasionally, a radio or other electronic device might send out a short signal that is strong enough to interfere with the test. Of course, the DSP is well aware that there is a problem, and indicates an E on the display with an alert sound. So just realize that depending on what other equipment you have with you, you might need to re-run the start-up test. I can't speak to the susceptibility of other competing models to radios because I haven't owned one that runs such a deep self test. I should also note that this has never been an issue for me during regular usage (after self-test). Regardless, realize that any beacon, no matter the brand, might be susceptible to interference from other devices during normal usage, and all manufacturers will warn you to keep minimum distances between their product and your other electronic goodies.
The DSP is Easy to Carry and Use
So we've covered just about everything to do with the beacon functionality. What about the comfort and convenience? When the Pieps DSP was first released, the harness was admittedly terrible. It was stiff and uncomfortable. However, in recent years the DSP harness was redesigned, and fortunately for me, could be picked up for about twenty bucks from various sources on the web.
The new harness is soft, nimble, comfortable and lightweight. The harness shell itself is made up of a breathable type mesh material to help keep you cool, since you are supposed to wear the harness on your body on the innermost layer of your clothing. It wraps conveniently around your shoulder and is held in place by a second waist strap.
If you're a short person, you'll enjoy the convenience of not having long harness straps floating around your body, since the straps are continously adjustable and the harness provides a convenient loop to store the extra length. The buckle for the main strap is round and turns so that you can place the strap in the position most comfortable for you. It's also brightly colored to so it is easy to spot - helpful if you've your beacon and harness are mixed in with other items in your gear bag.
The DSP slides easily into and more importantly, out of the harness and is held inside by the very secure yet easy to open waterproof zipper. A well sized pull makes it easy to grasp with gloves or mittens to gain access to the beacon when needed.
The included safety line attached to the DSP should be clasped onto the appropriate strap attachment point. If the harness isn't your thing, the DSP can also be worn in a pocket, but be sure to attach the safety line to a place where the DSP cannot be lost from your person in the event of an avalanche. I have never gone without the new harness, as I have found it to be very comfortable.
Included Harness is Light & Comfortable
Click Image To Enlarge
The DSP is so light, you won't even know its there, because it weighs only 6.9 ounces (198 grams) including the 3 AAA batteries that it comes with. Even though it feels like a feather, the unit still feels very solid when you're holding it in your hands.
Pieps obviously wanted the unit to be operated easily with gloves on, because they designed the buttons on the unit nice and big. The receive transmit slider moves smoothly and can be easily unlocked with your thumb or a single finger.
Own another brand of beacon? There is no reason why you couldn't use the Pieps Harness with your beacon. The Pieps measures in at 4.5" long by 3" wide by 1" deep. If your beacon is anywhere close to this, the DSP harness should work well for you. This harness is also designed to fit the Pieps Freeride beacon, so if you are familiar with that beacon you can get an idea of the size of this harness.
iProbe Support for the FASTEST Rescues
Did you think if you were using the DSP, that you were searching for a victim as quickly as you could be? Well, you're right AND you're wrong. The DSP is the fastest search beacon. Combine it with the iProbe, and you have the ultimate rescue solution. Probing has its problems too. You could be very close to the burial and probing a rock or a tree trunk while the victim awaits their rescue. The iProbe solves this problem. It not only confirms that you're probing the right spot but indicates the depth as well. Plus, if the beacon you're probing features iProbe support, the transmitter temporarily stops transmitting, making it easier (and quicker) for other members of your group to search in a multiple burial situation.
|The DSP Supports the Pieps IProbe|
What is the iProbe?
The iProbe is an advanced electronic avalanche probe which works with any beacon to show when you're very close to the burial. It produces an audible and visual indicator that you are probing within 50 cm from the transmitter and if the beacon happens to have iProbe support, it will be temporarily disabled so that other members of your party can search for other victims. The iProbe features:
- Works with all standard transcievers
- Automatically displays the next strongest signal
- Visual and Audible cues indicate a probe "hit"
- Available in 7.2ft or 8.5ft lengths
|The DSP Safely Alerts You In the Event of Low Battery Power|
Power is Important
Power is important. You want to make sure that your beacon will be working at all times. Don't you just hate it when you buy a new device and it comes with some proprietary rechargeable battery that doesn't work in anything else, and when it dies (and they always do!) you have to go spend $50 buying a new one? Well, the DSP simply uses three standard AAA alkaline batteries, which is a great feature because you can find them anywhere, they're cheap to replace and its easy to have a few spares lying around.
You can expect to get well over 200 hours of usable battery life on a fresh set of AAA's. The DSP shows you the remaining amount of battery power as a percentage on the LCD screen to indicate remaining battery life. When you put a fresh set in, the screen will denote 100 when the battery% icon is lit. During the course of use, the batteries will slowly decrease and this number will go down.
When the battery percentage reaches zero, that means you should put a new set in. But - here's the kicker, the Pieps has been tracking the battery life during its entire usage, and when battery power reaches zero, there is an emergency 20 hour transmit buffer that still remains at 10 degree celcius, followed by one hour in search mode, again at 10 degrees. Just a warning here - if the battery is zero when you first power up the unit, you should put a new set in because there is no indication how far into the buffer you might be. Don't be stupid and try to guess how much time might be left!
If I'm at work, I always give myself an extra buffer and replace my batteries when I see them dip below 10%. According to the manual, as long as you see above 1% battery life remaining on your DSP, you can still do a full 1 day tour. Whatever you choose to do within the specs, just remember that you can trust your DSP to keep transmitting your position.
Save Money with Updatable Firmware
The Pieps DSP has what is called "updatable firmware" which is a fancy term which means when new software is released, you don't have to go out and spend another arm and a leg on a new beacon. You simply send your unit off to your local service center and for around twenty bucks you'll have the latest and greatest version in your hot little hands.
|"The World is a Beautiful Place.|
Get a DSP and Stay In It."
For the Gadget Guys - The DSP Advanced
You're one of those guys that just has to have the world at your fingertips, right? You buy all the latest gadgets and enjoy all they have to offer. You carry around your iPhone, your 1080p HD pocket camera and you secretly love it when others turn green with envy when they see your stuff. Well, my friend, Pieps made the special DSP Advanced just for you. For around an extra $75, your Pieps won't just be eye candy to all non-DSP owners, your Pieps will be the envy of everyone. With the Advanced model, you'll get all the features of the regular Pieps DSP, plus your unit will feature temperature, a compass, a bearing compass and an altimeter. Don't you just love having it all? Oh, by the way, you should probably pick up an iProbe too...
Let's face it, it sucks when you buy something and six months later it sh*ts out on you. (Excuse my language but you know its true!) The DSP features a generous two year warranty from the date of purchase. They cover repair or replacement (their choice) of any and all defects in material and workmanship. That's a warranty you can count on, from a company that has been around for more than 30 years. Of course, the warranty won't cover you if you put your ski pole through the middle of the screen, but hey, that was your fault! For what its worth, I bought my DSP back in 2004 and have been enjoying it ever since.
A DVD Instructional Video is Included With the Manual.
DVD Instructional Video Included
It's probably clear to you at this point that finding victims in an avalanche isn't a walk in the park, even when you have advanced technology like the DSP behind you. The instructional DVD that comes with the DSP is no substitute for real life training with your new beacon, but it is a fantastic primer.
You will get to watch real world rescue training with single and multiple burial situations, see a real avalanche, and learn how to test and train with your DSP. Probably more importantly, you will see and learn basic and essential avalanche search techniques. You'll also get to see what is likely to happen if you don't have a beacon.
This video, by itself, could easily be worth $30. But let me stress to you, its great to carry a beacon with you, and its great to watch this video. I wouldn't have it any other way, but I would also ask you to take a class through a local mountaineers club or other outdoor group.
Conclusion - Get a DSP
Having been a Ski Patrol team member for nearly twenty years, I have seen my shares of emergency situations. There are hardly any situations as scary as an avalanche. For me, there are just too many unknowns when you arrive on the scene. For you, getting caught in an avalanche could mean you won't be here anymore, or someone you care deeply about may not come home. If everyone had even an old beacon, and had it turned on (you wouldn't believe how often you'll find that someone's beacon has not been turned on!), that would go a long way. But I hope by this point I have convinced you that the DSP is far superior to the beacons of yesteryear. Yes, they cost a little more than single antenna beacons, but you'll have this beacon for years and the investment made in a quality beacon now is good insurance. I encourage you to get one and use it, it could just save your life the next time you're up.
Mark Ellis is an avid outdoorsman, father of two, a son and a brother. He has been a Ski Patrol team member since 1992 and spends the vast majority of each winter either working the slopes or skiing them. He has written articles for numerous magazines, safety journals and newspapers. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Offer for Mark's Readers
Mark really wants you to own a beacon, and as you picked up while reading his column, he wants you to buy a DSP. We do too. In exchange for permission to use Mark's piece, we have agreed to offer the readers of this article (you!) a limited time special bonus offer, which includes the Pieps DSP unit, the Harness, User's Manual, the DVD Instructional Video, a Fresh Set of Batteries and as an added bonus, a FREE Pieps DSP Checker (a $40 value!) that allows you and members of your party to quickly and easily check that your beacons are transmitting - works with any brand! Plus, you'll get FREE Shipping to locations within the US and Canada.
So to recap, you'll get with your package:
|Special Offer, Plus FREE Shipping|
All this for only
- Pieps DSP Unit, with the newest software, v8.2
- DVD Instructional Video with Essential Avalanche Rescue Techniques
- The New, Super Comfortable Harness
- DSP User Manual
- A Fresh Set of Batteries
- FREE Pieps Checker (a $40 value!)
- FREE Shipping
$449.00. Add to Cart to see our low price.
100% Money Back Guarantee - It's our pleasure to have you try the DSP out for yourself. As if a two year warranty wasn't enough, if you buy the Pieps DSP and decide it isn't the beacon for you, simply return the DSP, no questions asked, within 30 days and you'll get a full refund.
But Wait! Order from us now and we will throw in Another Free Gift, a set of Ice Walker Traction Cleats (worth $15) to help you stay safe while you're up in the snow, or while you're down at home traversing the parking lot. These things are great, they clip onto your boots or shoes and provide extra traction on ice and snow. They're small, lightweight and come with a handy storage pouch that makes them easy to carry. If you decide to return the beacon, keep the Ice Walker Traction cleats for yourself as a free gift for giving the DSP a try.
Due to the overwhelming response, we have extended this offer until
. Order Now to Take Advantage of this Special Offer!
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