Gear Review: Mammut PULSE Barryvox Avalanche Beacon
Weight: 7.4 ounces / 210 grams
Frequency: 457 kHz (International Standard)
Batteries: 3 AAA – 200 hours
Antennae: 3 Antennae – Digital and Analog Modes
Range: 60 meters digital / 95 meters analog
Warranty: 5 Years
Summary: The Mammut PULSE Barryvox transceiver is a smart and sophisticated avalanche beacon designed for recreational and professional backcountry travelers. It’s capable of efficiently solving both simple and complex avalanche burials due to it’s huge range, variety of features, and 3-antennae analog and digital functionality. This one gets two giant thumbs up!
The Mammut PULSE Barryvox is an award winning, Swiss designed, proven avalanche transceiver. It always puts a smile on my face when my backcountry partners use a PULSE because they’ve bought one of the best beacons on the market. As long as you practice with it regularly, this thing rocks.
There are lots of beacon options on the market. They are all designed to do the same thing and operate on the same frequency (457 kHz), but some seem to stand out from the competition. One of those is the Mammut PULSE transceiver. Buying an avalanche beacon is expensive. But if you want to go into the backcountry it’s a mandatory piece of gear. Don’t skimp on something that can save your life.
I have used BCA Tracker and Tracker 2, Ortovox S1+, Pieps DSP, and many other avalanche beacons. By far I feel the Mammut Pulse is the best beacon choice for me, but it may not be the best beacon for everyone. It’s wide range of features make it ideal for intermediate to advanced recreational users, avalanche professionals, and guides.
Let’s take a closer look:
The Mammut PULSE Barryvox retails for $490 making it more expensive than many other beacons on the market. It is smaller and lighter than other beacons though. It weighs in at 7.4 ounces / 210 grams and measures only 113 x 75 x 27 (mm). It operates on the international standard 457 kHz which makes it compatible with all other avalanche transceivers on the market.
The PULSE runs on 3 AAA batteries, which I like as this is the same size I use for my Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp. Even though the PULSE says you can use lithium batteries, always use alkaline batteries in your beacons. I find the batteries last a long time – supposedly 200 hours in Send mode. Searching eats up batteries quickly though. The PULSE must be calibrated by turning it 360 degrees every time you change batteries.
Featuring a fast processor the PULSE is ideal for single or multiple burials in simple or complex scenarios. Plus, the PULSE has an exceptional range of >60 meters. This improves when paired with another PULSE or in analog mode.
The PULSE is a 3-antennae beacon that allows for a 360 degree directional indicator. It also features both digital and analog modes which makes it more versatile. There is also a headphone jack, which I have never used.
Overall, the interface and controls are well laid out. A slide button on top of the beacon allows you to change from Off/Send/Search. The button must be depressed and slid to the appropriate function. It’s a little finicky, but is glove friendly. It’s wise to double check you are in the correct mode. When in send mode the light flashes on this button to verify that the beacon is sending a signal. It’s easily visible when wearing the beacon in its harness on your chest.
I find the harness is comfortable and easy to adjust. I barely notice it under my Patagonia Triolet Jacket. A lanyard attaches the beacon to the harness so you won’t drop it in the snow while searching. It does not move around and the beacon is always in easy access. Some people like to put their beacons in their pockets. I’m not a big fan of this as there are legends of avalanches ripping people’s clothes off.
Once you turn the beacon on, the PULSE runs through a self check and automatically displays the battery percentage. This is also the best chance to switch into the menu mode if necessary. If not, 3 reassuring chimes tell you the beacon is in send mode.
The menu of the Mammut PULSE beacon is complex. There are almost too many options. Luckily, once set, you do not need to adjust them very often. The main menu options are:
- Group Check – This quickly and accurately checks the other beacons in your group
- Language – Choose from 8 options
- Profile – Choose from Advanced or Basic (more on this below)
- Screen Contrast – Make the easy-to-see display lighter or darker. When adjusted properly, I find the screen can be seen in any conditions – even with sunglasses.
- Owner Info – Insert your contact details. They are displayed on start-up.
- Maintenance – Find out when you need to update your beacon
- Analog Mode
- Audio Support <3m
- Pinpoint View <3m
- Auto Revert To Send
- Group Check Distance
- Vital Data
- Vital Sensor Test
- Calibrate Device
The menus are navigated by pushing the two buttons on the side of the beacon – the Diamond Button (left) and the Circle Button (right). It’s fair to say that the number of options can be overwhelming.
Mammut addresses this by allowing you to choose from Basic or Advanced Profiles. I use the advanced profile. Below are the differences between the Basic and the Advanced Profiles on the Mammut PULSE beacon:
- Basic – Digital Mode, Overview of # of victims, Digital Audio Signal for rapid and simple location, Marking of Located Buried Subjects
- Advanced – Digital and analog mode, Allows manual scrolling of the list of buried subjects, Overview of distance, direction and number of buried subjects, Manual selection of the search object based on distance and probability of survival, Marking of located buried subjects, Analog search using acoustic signal playback via an integrated loudspeaker (full analog mode with manual adjustment of receiver sensitivity)
If this sounds like too many options for you, Mammut also sells the ELEMENT Barryvox. It’s basically a cheaper, simpler version of the PULSE. Find the best price on the PULSE or the ELEMENT near the bottom of this page.
To begin searching, push and slide the top button to search mode. I find the search function to be fairly intuitive. The processor is quick, although some other beacons are quicker. The search mode works great for single and multiple burials. It’s quite safe as the beacon will revert to send (a menu option) in the event of a secondary avalanche. I won’t go into how to search for buried victims as that is an entirely different subject, but let’s take a look at the how the PULSE works in search mode:
- Search Mode – The processor of the PULSE can theoretically separate 16 transmitters at a time, but will only show 3 beacons on the easy to read LCD display. The display changes depending on distance to the next beacon. Once the beacon is successfully probed, the beacon can be flagged or marked and you can switch to the next beacon. It’s wise to scroll through all displayed beacons using the side buttons to find the closest beacon so you don’t walk over one beacon to focus on another. You can mark and unmark beacons as necessary.
- Digital/Analog – The PUlSE can switch between digital and analog by holding both side buttons. The range of the beacon increases from 60 meters to 95 meters (give or take) in analog mode. Analog also helps in complex burial scenarios and makes it easier to use micro search strips, 3-circle method, and fine search methods. Range improves when paired with another PULSE.
- Vital Data – A highly sensitive motion sensor can detect subtle body motions of the heart/lungs/organs. This only works effectively when worn in the chest harness. These signs of life can help a searcher identify people with increased chances of survival. The Vital data tracks both time and movement. This function only works if both searcher and victim have a Mammut PULSE.
- Firmware – The Mammut PULSE features update-able firmware. This is basically software embedded on the hardware. Mammut offers updates regularly and all users should update their beacon annually. Mammut has a 5 year warranty on the PULSE. When upgraded annually at approved Mammut retailers, the beacon will perform flawlessly for its life. Five years is the general life of an avalanche beacon.
There is a reason why the Mammut Barryvox PULSE is one of the best beacons on the market. It consistently gets high marks in speed, accuracy, and versatility. This review just scratches the surface of the PULSE. There is plenty more to learn about the PULSE Barryvox. Spend time reading the User Manual and Reference Manual to learn about all of the functionality of this avalanche transceiver. Play around with settings. And PRACTICE!
I’ve trusted my life to the Mammut PULSE Barryvox avalanche transceiver for years. It’s my constant companion in the backcountry. I trust it. I use it. I practice with it. And I recommend it. The Mammut PULSE gets a big double thumbs up from this guy.
Disclaimer: Just because you have an avalanche beacon, it does not make you invincible. You and you alone are responsible for learning how to use that beacon, making smart decisions in the backcountry, picking good backcountry partners, and assessing your own risk. A Mountain Journey highly encourages everyone to take an avalanche course and to practice with your beacon regularly. Be safe in the backcountry.
Find the Best Price on the Mammut PULSE Barryvox
Find the Best Price on the Mammut ELEMENT Barryvox
Watch this video about the Mammut PULSE:
Official PULSE Barryvox Specs from Mammut
- Analog-digital 3-antenna device with digital and analog modes
- 3 antennas for simple pinpointing in close range and for deeply buried victims
- Digital signal processing in the event of several buried victims
- Acoustic search guidance
- Intuitive and easy operation with clear instructions and a fully graphic display as well as fast and precise navigation thanks to a 360° real-time directional display
- Analog search using acoustic signal playback via an integrated loudspeaker (full analog mode with manual adjustment of receiver sensitivity)
- Overview of distance, direction and number of victims, including selection of search objects by manual scrolling in the list of victims
- Reverse direction function
- Marking of found victims (mark) and removal of previously set markers (unmark)
- Intelligent group test
- Automatic self-test on start up
- 3D movement sensor to analyze and transmit vital data
- Automatic switching without user intervention from search to send mode based on a 3D movement sensor and for rescuers who are not actively involved in searching in the event of a subsequent avalanche (rescue-SEND)
- Two-button operation
- Suitable for use with gloves
- 457 kHz (transceiver frequency)
- Search strip width: 50 m (digital) and 80 m (analog)
- Operation with alkaline (LR03/AAA) or lithium (L92/AAA) batteries
- Battery life: Alkaline: typically 250 hours SEND, at least 200 hours SEND, followed by 1 hour SEARCH
- W-Link: Additional communication channel for improved search performance
- Scalable software platform; easy updating, configuration and testing via the W-Link
- High resistance to impact and breakage
- 100% Swiss made, developed and produced in Switzerland