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Pieps Pro BT Review

This professional-level beacon has a robust feature set and still remains one of the most user-friendly
pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review
Credit: Pieps
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Price:  $450 List
Pros:  User friendly, Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalities
Cons:  Bulky for a pants pocket, slider toggle is stiff, harness tether a bit short
Manufacturer:   Pieps
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 8, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Speed - 20% 8.0
  • Single Victim Search - 20% 9.0
  • Fine Search - 20% 9.0
  • Range - 15% 9.0
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 9.0
  • Features - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Pieps Pro BT, which is functionally identical to the Black Diamond Guide BT, is a high-end beacon that is packed full of enough features to keep even the most demanding professional happy. It sports one of our favorite multiple burial functions, making it an ideal option for various transceiver drills and examinations. It has a super quick processor speed and precise bracketing, and it remains one of the easier high-end beacons to use. Some beacons with excess features become more complicated for a novice to use, but this is one of the few professional-level beacons that works extremely well even for less experienced users.

Voluntary Recall for Materials and Assembly — July 2022


PIEPS/Black Diamond issued an official voluntary recall notice for PIEPS and Black Diamond branded avalanche transceivers, as a follow-up for the Safety Check Notice the joint brand issued in April 2022. The issues in manufacturing are related to the device switch. PIEPS/Black Diamond states that these transceivers should be immediately retired, and they will issue a replacement free of charge.

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pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review
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Pieps Pro BT
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $450 List$499.95 at REI
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$479.90 at Amazon
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$360 List$284.95 at Amazon
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Pros User friendly, Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionalitiesEasy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging featuresSuper fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in our review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinationsGreat performance and features for the price, cool analog feature, very good at multiple burials, intuitive design, ultra long range, fast processor, super featuredLightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface
Cons Bulky for a pants pocket, slider toggle is stiff, harness tether a bit shortBattery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, some force required to toggle switches, somewhat bulky to carry in a pocketExpensive, more complicated than other models, somewhat complicated for novice usersBulky, bracketing takes more patience, tones are ear-piercing, old school plastic housing looks "cheap"Mediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software
Bottom Line This professional-level beacon has a robust feature set and still remains one of the most user-friendlyThis easy-to-use beacon is one of the best models for advanced users and beginners alikeOne of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the marketThis ultra-capable beacon packs in a ton of features and great performance at an awesome priceAn capable, easy-to-use beacon with a lightning-fast processor
Rating Categories Pieps Pro BT Black Diamond Guide BT Mammut Barryvox S Arva Neo Pro Backcountry Access...
Speed (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Single Victim Search (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Fine Search (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
10.0
Range (15%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
7.0
Multiple Burials (15%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
Features (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Pieps Pro BT Black Diamond Guide BT Mammut Barryvox S Arva Neo Pro Backcountry Access...
Weight 210 g / 7.4 oz 210 g / 7.4 oz 210 g / 7.4 oz 246 g / 8.6 oz 165 g / 5.8 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 60 meters 60 meters 70 - 95 meters 70 meters 55 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (in "Send") 400 hours 400 hours 300 hours 250 hours 250 hours
Digital/Analog Both Both Both Both Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pieps Pro BT is one of the most capable models in our review and is functionally the same as the BD Guide BT, but with different colored housing for branding and marketing purposes. The Pro BT proved to be one of the easiest beacons to use, even in the hands of novice and less practiced users. This is due to its lighting fast processor speed, precise bracketing, and intuitive user interface. This beacon is great for seasoned pros who will take advantage of its numerous features as well as novice users who are willing to pay for a higher-end beacon but still want a device that is easy to use.

Performance Comparison


pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - the pieps pro bt is functionally identical to the black diamond...
The Pieps Pro BT is functionally identical to the Black Diamond Guide BT. The main difference lies in the plastic housing.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Speed


Speed is an important consideration, and we weight this category quite heavily, accounting for 20% of each product's final score. Of the beacons in our test group, the Pro BT has a decently fast processor and didn't display any hiccups of note.

Ease of Finding a Single Victim


The Pro BT is on the faster side and in general was one of the best performers regardless of user ability. This beacon features five directional arrows, which can be displayed by themselves or in pairs to assist the rescuer to move efficiently along the flux line. We found that when approaching the buried beacon over the final 2-3m of the search, the Pro BT consistently set people up more squarely over the buried beacon than the other pro-level beacons.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - thanks to a combination of fast processor speed, precise bracketing...
Thanks to a combination of fast processor speed, precise bracketing, and above-average range, the Pro BT was among the absolute fastest at searching for a single beacon.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Fine Search


The Pro BT is one of the best overall beacons in the fine search. The arrows disappear at 2m instead of 3m, which helps set users up for success during the bracketing stage of the search. While bracketing, the Pro BT was consistently precise, frequently centering the buried model right in the center of the brackets regardless of user ability. It consistently had a smaller bracket, which means users were more likely to get a probe strike in only the first or second probe attempt, overall speeding the search up.

Arrows that disappear at 2m instead of 3m make it easier to come in...
Arrows that disappear at 2m instead of 3m make it easier to come in right over the top of the buried beacon, especially for newer or less practiced users.

Range


The Pro BT has a maximum range and search strip width of 60 meters. Pieps states this beacon has circular range. The idea behind this design is that it is able to maintain its maximum range regardless of beacon orientation (which would be the worst potential range in perpendicular alignment). We played with this extensively and didn't find much of a difference when compared directly with other beacons, but we should note that this model's 60m range is one of the best in our review. A 60m search strip width will allow rescuers to quickly cover more ground during the signal search stage of the rescue.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - the pro bt (along with the bd guide bt) had our second favorite...
The Pro BT (along with the BD Guide BT) had our second favorite overall multiple burial performance and differentiated close proximity burials well.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Multiple Burials


The Pieps Pro BT is one of our favorites for complex, multiple burials. When the Pro BT sees multiple signals, it informs its user by displaying little "people" symbols in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - this beacon's display is easy to interpret. here, two "person" icons...
This beacon's display is easy to interpret. Here, two "person" icons are shown at the bottom left side of the screen, indicating that multiple signals are being picked up. When one of these signals has been "marked", a box shows up around the "person" symbol.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

To mark/flag the closest signal, hold down the "flag" button and a box will be displayed around the person symbol. This beacon was one of the absolute best for differentiating signals, even in close proximity burials. It handled three signals really well but would start to struggle with 4-5 buried beacons if they were closer together. This is an unlikely scenario in real life but a quasi-common exam scenario for guides or other avalanche professionals. We also loved this model's "Scan Mode" to assist in getting the lay of the land and sizing up the scene for more complex burials.

Micro Strip Searching

We felt the Pro BT offered a nice balance of good signal lock to assist while bracketing with two beacons close together, but not so strong that we couldn't micro strip search during more complex scenarios where the flagging function might be compromised.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - despite having a lot of features, the pro bt is still very...
Despite having a lot of features, the Pro BT is still very user-friendly.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Features


The Pro BT uses Bluetooth (hence the BT) that can connect to your smartphone via the BD/Pieps app. This is pretty much the basis for most of this model's unique features and is used to configure its settings.

Revert to Send

The Pro has a Revert to Send option that can be turned on or off using the Pieps smartphone app. You are not able to switch it manually without your phone.

Group Check Mode

Pieps/Black Diamond improved the "group check" function on this beacon which makes function/trailhead/beacon check with your group far easier, particularly if there are more than three people. The group check function is activated by holding down the flag button when "CH" is displayed on the screen while the beacon is booting up. You then can move relatively quickly from one beacon to the next while searching. With lots of signals nearby, the Pro BT can take a while (20-40 seconds) to jump from one beacon to another.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - our testers love the "scan" mode for complex rescues and...
Our testers love the "Scan" mode for complex rescues and professional-level examinations. This function allows the user toggle through the buried beacons, giving a direction and distance for each.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Scan Mode

Scan mode is one of the biggest differences between the Pro BT and the Powder and for professionals, it is easily one of the biggest reasons to upgrade. While a little tricky to use, Scan mode can be extremely helpful for getting a lay of the land during complex rescue scenarios or professional-level avalanche rescue exams. Scan mode allows the user to toggle through the buried beacons, supplying distance and direction for each one. Note that you can't flag/mark a signal while in this setting.

Analog Mode

The Pro BT has the ability to switch into an analog mode ahead of time via Bluetooth on the smartphone app. Once in the field, switch into analog mode by simply holding down the scan button. The analog mode can be helpful in complex rescue scenarios as it takes away any "signal lock" functionality. We wish this mode's analog provided the distance and direction, but unfortunately, it does not.

Alkaline or Lithium-Ion Batteries

This device will accept alkaline and lithium-ion batteries. However, you must select the corresponding battery type in the smartphone app in order for the beacon to accurately tell the remaining battery life. With normal alkaline batteries, this beacon already has an impressive 400 hours in Send mode, but with lithium-ion batteries, that time jumps to around 600 hours in Send.

Comfort to Carry


The Pro's harness is one of the more comfortable we tested, and its molded foam pouch resisted pressure points and proved to stay in place better than most other models when adjusted appropriately. This is one of the thicker beacons we tested and is a bit bulky to fit comfortably in a zippered pants pocket.

pieps pro bt avalanche beacon review - this professional-level beacon is stacked with features while...
This professional-level beacon is stacked with features while remaining easy for casual backcountry travelers to operate. Few beacons can match its balance of speed, performance, features, and overall ease of use.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Should You Buy the Pieps Pro BT?


The Pieps Pro BT is an ultra-capable, professional-level beacon. It boasts one of the faster processors and among the most consistently precise bracketing of any of the models we tested. It also featured one of our favorite multiple burial functions. It is packed full of features and is capable enough to keep any professional or trip leader happy, but isn't so cumbersome that a novice user would have trouble operating it.

What Other Avalanche Beacons Should You Consider?


This is an incredible beacon, but most recreational users would be spending more money than they to need on features that they will never use. Most novices (read: not avalanche professionals) would be well suited with a BCA Tracker4, Black Diamond Recon BT, or Pieps Powder BT. However, if you are in the market for a professional-level beacon, we think this is one of the best you can get, along with its functionally identical twin, the Black Diamond Guide BT. The Mammut Barryvox S is another advanced beacon that we love for its capabilities in multiple burial scenarios, its long range, and its added pro-level features.

Ian Nicholson
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