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How to choose your avalanche transceiver (DVA)

How to choose your avalanche transceiver (DVA)

How to choose your avalanche transceiver (DVA)

Find Snowleader's advice on how to choose your essential mountain safety equipment! Discover how basic avalanche search and rescue equipment works: Avalanche transceiver (DVA), shovel and probe.

How to choose your DVA


The evaluation of a DVA is subjective to say the least, so here are a few tips that will (hopefully) help you see more clearly through this flood of technical information. Without claiming to provide THE solution for choosing your device, this page is intended to give you some key information on how to choose your avalanche safety equipment.

Above all, the device you pick should be adapted to the extent to which you plan on using and training with the device. Avalanche safety equipment is used in a stressful emergency situation and it is therefore important to be able to operate it quickly, simply and intuitively.


'Finding and being found easily are the priorities.'


Choosing your avalanche transceiver (DVA)


This is the device's ability to pick up signals. The greater the signal range of your device, the sooner you will pick up the victim's signal.
The bandwidth corresponds to the search strip width needed to cover the entire area and pick up the first signal.


Digital mode: the received signal is processed by a processor. The digital mode displays figures and indicates the direction to the victim (arrows or LEDs).
Analogue mode: the received signal is not specifically processed. The analogue mode transmits the received signal as an audible tone corresponding to the signal from the transmitting device: each time the signal is transmitted, an audible 'beep' is heard. With the analogue mode, it is the searcher who manually adjusts the sensitivity of the sensor.
Digital devices are able to relay numerical information about the progress of the search.


The device receives several signals when in receiver mode. This function can be used to indicate a multiple burial situation. A list of transmitters detected can also be created. An avalanche transceiver list can also display the relative position of the victims.
The victim marking option enables the device to select and isolate a received signal, allowing you to continue the search for further victims.


The avalanche transceivers currently available on the market have 1 to 3 antennas. The greater the number of antennas, the easier it is for the searcher to orientate themselves in space.
Devices with a single antenna pick up the signal on only one antenna. They give a rough indication that requires much more intensive and continuous searching in order to locate the victim. They also have no directional indicator.
Digital avalanche transceivers with three antennas pick up the signal on three antennas. This allows them to indicate which direction you need to go in in order to reach the victim. It's simple: the searcher follows the direction and distance indicated by the device.
Devices with three antennas relay incoming information in three dimensions.


The largest X antenna (usually located along the length of the case) has the longest reception range and is also used for transmission. The second Y antenna (often along the width of the case) works in combination with the first antenna, allowing the processor to calculate and display the direction to follow to reach the victim.
The smallest, third Z antenna (often within the thickness of the case) is used to avoid the multiple spike effect and allows the receiver to be positioned fairly accurately in line with the transmitter (as long as the burial depth is not too great).
A device with three antennas not only has the advantage of indicating the direction, but is also more precise during the close search (final few metres).

Choosing your shovel

Along with the avalanche transceiver, the shovel and probe are essential pieces of avalanche safety equipment. However, given the large number of products on offer, how do you pick the right equipment? Recent findings of a Master thesis from the University of Innsbruck show that the right choice of shovel can reduce shoveling time in the event of an avalanche burial by up to 2 minutes.
Although weight and size are often emphasised, there are many other important factors to consider. The variation in price is not only due to the different brands. Here are a few tips to help you understand these differences.


The first and main difference is in the materials used for the shovel's blade and handle. There are two different materials commonly used for the blade: aluminum and polycarbonate. Plastic blades are lighter and less bulky than aluminium ones of the same size. For harder snow, however, aluminum is stronger and sharper. The materials used for the handle also differ.


A larger blade volume allows you to clear snow more effectively.


A telescopic handle not only makes a shovel compact, it also provides greater leverage, ensuring better grip and more effective shoveling.


Depending on the terrain you are about to shovel, shoveling as a team in a V-shaped formation allows you to clear snow more effectively than traditional shoveling. Two people stand at the front and shovel snow backwards, while the third person clears snow away. Working in rotation improves efficiency and the V-shaped shoveling formation allows you to create a flat platform which can be used to receive the victim, keep them warm and carry out first aid. There are also other factors which increase the price: a grip for better handling, the shape of the handle, the shape of the blade, its rigidity, the snow anchor function, rescue sled, etc.



The first factor to consider when choosing a probe is its length. The longer the probe, the greater the probing depth.


Commonly made from aluminium, brands are now developing more and more carbon probes in order to offer maximum strength at a minimum weight.

The material used for the tensioning system also varies depending on the model. Materials used for tensioning systems include kevlar, steel and dyneema. 


A large diameter increases the strength and sensitivity of the probe. The weight of the probe is primarily influenced by the preceding two points.


A simple assembly system saves the user time, allows them to feel more confident when deploying the probe and enables them to focus on the search.

The probe's depth markings, number of segments and grip are all additional factors which can add value to your probe.


It is important to keep in mind that avalanche safety equipment is intended for use in emergency situations. Although training is the first of our recommendations and will help you be better prepared for challenging situations, it is essential to choose equipment which is intuitive and easy to use in stressful situations.

Discover Vincent from Ortovox's advice for choosing your equipment and learning how to use it!