When thinking about purchasing a product I consider four factors.
1. Functionality: How well does it work
2. Durability: Will it last
3. Customer Service: If anything goes wrong how will I be helped
4. Value: The composition of price vs factors 1-3
When I first started using the Ortovox S1(older version of the S1+) it possessed the top of the line technology and innovations that other transceivers simply have not had in the past. In the touring world the S1+ is considered top of the line because of its tech dominance, usefulness, and price tag. I bought the S1 based on a recommendation from Exum Guide Nat Patridge. This beacon has 3 antennas, is analog and digital, and has multiple flagging ability. Not to mention a screen that visually positions the victims.
When I first took the S1+ out of the box I was excited to see a well designed bomber harness. This is very important. In an avalanche clothes and packs can be ripped right off a person. I have had my pants around my ankles before due to that type of violent experience. Another important feature is the tether which is connected to the harness. The tether on this harness looked strong and well secured. The waterproof zipper felt bomber, but I was worried about it slowing down reaction time. The beacon itself has a great feel and is easy to turn on and off. It is also easy to open and start using the screen. It reminded me of using an older flip phone before color screens in a good way. Simple, functional and intuitive.
This beacon has excelled in my personal use. It is very easy to use for single and multiple burial scenarios. It helped me pass my Avy 3 burial test no problem. In search mode (which activates by just opening) the screen is laid out in a way that makes following your signal almost natural. The hardest thing to do sometimes is just to look up. When searching for another buried triple antenna beacon it has an amazing range of 50+ meters. Distance, approx location, and all signals show up on the screen. But, the fine search mode is what I really like. Once you are within 3 meters of the signal the screen changes format to a circle. This tells your brain it’s time to start your fine search without even thinking about your distance numerically. If you know you have a deep burial you can manually enable the fine search up to 7 meters. Very cool. Yeah baby. This beacon is the best for a rescuer in a multiple burial scenario. In practice scenarios it has excelled for me with two and three burials. The flagging function is simple and smart. I have never tested the 4+ function which limits your search to 5 meter widths after flagging the first victim. The S1+ has some non-rescue functions that are also nice. The slope meter I have used a great deal and is accurate to +/- 1 degree. The partner-check function is a convenient everyday tool as well. As always, one still needs to practice with this beacon.
Durability and Customer Service
In the field I have had no issues with the S1+. The breathable case does a great job at preventing condensation; and I sweat a lot. The waterproof zipper that I had misgivings about when I opened the box has turned out to be rock solid and quick and easy to use. It is easy and reliable in finding other signals. However, with any piece of innovative tech things are bound to fail. Simple is usually the most durable. I have had to send my beacon back twice. The first time I sent the S1 back because the screen failed and Ortovox replaced my transceiver with a new S1+ model extremely fast, no questions asked. I have had no screen issues with the S1+. The second was the result of an Ortovox recall. Another pain free customer service action. This is a rarity in my experience. They even sent me new batteries along with the updated transceiver.
Do I believe this is the best beacon on the market? Well I haven’t used every beacon out there, but I can say that this is by far MY FAVORITE BEACON I have used. This transceiver has excelled in the field and outshined the competition in multiple burial scenarios. Having to send it back to the manufacturer so often is concerning, however Ortovox is probably more concerned. You know they are watching out for their products. The customer service has been outstanding. With a price tag $400-$500 this beacon is not for everyone. I believe the value is there. It is innovative, intuitive and functional. If you live, work, or play hard in the mountains I highly recommend the Ortovox S1+ transceiver. Just made the cut for the best avalanche beacon of the year as well.