Ortovox F1

Gear > Avalanche Gear > Avalanche Transceivers > Analogue Beacons > Ortovox F1

This analogue beacon is still the mainstay of many heliski and backcountry guiding operations and is how Ortovox earned their reputation in the world of avalanche transceivers. However the main thing it has got going for it is, despite the emergence of digital beacons, is that it works. The transceiver is housed in a lozenge shaped box that has a slight curve on its flat side, this means that the beacon fits close to the body when being worn. The webbing shoulder strap is also part of the switch ensuring that if you are wearing the device properly it is switched on. The transceiver weighs 230 gramms and measures 130 x 80 x 25 mm. The housing appears robust and the device is powered by two AA batteries giving a 350 life in transmit mode and 40 hours in search mode.

Inserting the button at the end of the shoulder strap into a hole at the base of the beacon and giving a hard 90 degree twist switches it on. A flashing green LED by the switch shows that transceiver is transmitting. The beacon is worn on the side of the body below the arm. With the robust switch there should be no way that the beacon can accidentally get switched off or ripped off the body during an avalanche providing it is worn under a layer of clothing.

Ortovox F1 Focus

Ortovox F1 Focus

The only other control is a large round dial in the front of the beacon. This is held in transmit mode by a slider. Pushing the slider to the right lets the user move the dial through nearly 190 degrees in a series of five steps. Each step is marked with a figure, 80 - 35 - 15 - 8 2/0. These correspond roughly with the range of the victim's avalanche beacon. Effectively the dial is a volume control with five settings. This differs slightly from other analogue beacons such as the Arva 8000 which use a potentiometer giving a smooth control over volume but an additional row of three LEDs gives the signal strength for each range setting. The dial is easy to operate even with gloves and is sprung load, releasing the lock slider means it will spring back to transmit in case of a secondary avalanche.

To search for a victim the user should slide the lock slider to the right and set the dial to 80, the maximum range in meters in ideal conditions. If the victim's beacon is out of range static will be heard in the speaker and the first green light emitting diode (LED) in the centre arrow may flicker occasionally. In our tests we got a range of around 50 meters, still very good for avalanche transceivers although a much narrower search strip should be used when criss-crossing the avalanche site. The rescuer now simply has to zig-zag methodically across the avalanche debris starting from the point the victim was last seen, the transceiver can be oriented in different directions to try and pick up a signal. When the victim's unit is within range a faint beep-beep will be heard in the speaker. The searcher should now continue in the same direction, unless the searcher is walking tangentially to the flux lines the signal should get stronger to a point where the first LED flashes on and off in time with the victim's beacon. At this point the searcher can chose to use either a cross search or flux line search.

Flux Line Search with the Ortovox F1 Focus'''

Flux Line Search with the Ortovox F1 Focus'''

The single antenna Ortovox F1 is not a directional beacon in the sense of the Ortovox X1, Tracker DTS, Barryvox Opto 3000 or Pieps DSP but can still be used to perform a more direct flux line search once a reasonably strong signal has been obtained at around 35 meters distance from the victim. The centre arrow, consisting of three LEDs giving the signal strength within the current range setting, is very helpful. By moving the transceiver through an arc the searcher must locate the direction of the strongest signal, this is the flux line. The first green LED will clearly flash on the flux line and become more erratic as the beacon moves from one side to the other. Proceeding slowly but deliberately it should be possible to follow this line all the while moving the beacon through an arc and listening to the signal and watching the flashing LEDS. As the searcher approaches the victim the final red LED in the arrow will begin to flash, at this point the dial should be turned to the next setting until the user is standing roughly over the top of the victim (2-0 meter setting, arrow on maximum). At this point the searcher should perform a cross search just above the surface of the snow, keeping the avalanche transceiver in the orientation for this phase. The maxima points, shown audible and by the LEDs should be marked and probing begin from the centre of this zone.

Multiple Burials

As the F1 is an analogue beacon you can hear the transmissions of multiple beacons unless you have the rare scenario of all beacons transmitting at exactly the same moment for the same duration. As you home in on one beacon, adjusting the volume control, the transmission of the second beacon will fade out unless it is very close to the first beacon. If the two beacons are close a cross search on the lowest volume setting should be used to locate the maxima and a probe search used to localise the victims. Once all the beacons within the lowest range have been located the volume can be turned up and the searcher can start searching away from the first beacon. By orienting the beacon in different directions it may be possible to pick up the second beacon while masking out the first beacon. Multiple burial scenarios are complicated and safe travel protocol should usually ensure that there is only one victim to be searched for at a time.


The F1 Focus has a well deserved reputation for reliability and works effectively with a good overall range. The user has to do all the hard work with this beacon but with the advantage that nothing is hidden so there is less chance for misinterpreting the signals. Manipulating the centre dial at the same time as listening to the signals and watching the LED arrow while scrambling over avalanche debris on a 30 degree slope takes practise, lots of it to be effective. Professionals like the F1 for its reliability and to be honest, good price but they usually train once a week in realistic scenarios using deeply buried transceivers. However the time spent training with the F1 will pay off with greater confidence if the user is ever unfortunate to find themselves in a real search and rescue.

The LED signal strength arrow is very useful for flux line searches and is a good reason to favour this device over the cheaper Ortovox Retriever. The device can be disturbed by other electronic gear, our device could clearly pick up interference from mobile phones, taxi services (!) and power lines but, except close to the limit of range the signal from the transmitting beacon can be distinguished from this noise. There is a jack-socket for earpieces which are useful where there is more than one searcher.

(:bc http://pistehors.com/ski-shop/gear/P-2_4_130_ORT0012/F1-Focus-Avalanche-Beacon.html :) (:fw http://www.myreferer.com/cgi/?MERCHANT=facewest.co.uk&ID=pistehors&LINK=780816 :)


If you've tried the Ortovox F1 write up your experiences here.

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