North Side of Castle Peak

North Side of Castle Peak, photo: Brennan Lagasse

Give Your Avalanche Beacon the Batteries it Deserves

Tips and tricks from guide Jules Hanna.

We caught up with Jules while he was teaching an AIARE rescue course last weekend. Here’s his rundown beacon battery protocol.

Alkaline or Lithium?

Short answer: Alkaline. BUT, check your manufacturer, while it is likely that you should only be using alkaline batteries, some beacons accept lithium batteries. (Do not use rechargeable batteries though!) What’s the big deal? Alkaline batteries slowly discharge their power.  Lithium batteries will go from 100% to 0% – yikes!

ALWAYS:

Change out all the batteries at the same time. The variance in voltage can promote leaking in alkaline cells.

Stick with the same brand/type (e.g. all alkaline). Don’t mix brands. It doesn’t matter so much in a headlamp but digital transceivers can be affected by differences in amperage across the cells. 

Make sure battery size matches up exactly. Believe it or not, battery size can vary slightly, check that the brand you buy cannot shake loose. Negative and positive terminals should be proud of the casing and covered by insulation at the edges. I would recommend using a good quality brand and steering clear of budget brand batteries. 

Replace the batteries before they get too low. This means generally before 50%. Check with the manufacturer’s advice for your model. 

Remove your batteries over summer. The batteries should be removed if you are not going to use the transceiver for a long period of time (e.g. at the end of the winter season) to prevent damage due to battery leakage. You should also remove the batteries if you ship your transceiver, because the cells may be exposed to extreme temperatures and pressure changes during shipping, this includes putting the beacon in hold luggage on airline flights.

Remember: With all this in mind, there is value in checking the batteries and contacts not only of your own transceiver but also those in your group. As it may be their unit searching for you.

Keep practicing! I hope to see you guys out in the Tahoe backcountry.  Reach out at any time for advice, travel tips, etc. We are a community in the backcountry and need to watch out for each other as well as be strong and capable independent travelers ready for self-rescue, a tall order!