You may have noticed that Black Diamonds avalanche transceivers look very similar to those manufactured by Pieps and this is because Black Diamond acquired Pieps in 2012. Since its founding in 2006, Pieps has been a technology leader in the design and manufacturing of alpine safety equipment, specifically those related to avalanche safety such as transceivers, probes and shovels. This made Pieps a natural fit for Black Diamond to purchase and after selling Pieps products in North America, Black Diamond has recently launched their own line of transceivers based on the Pieps models. Until now, Black Diamond offered only the Guide BT and Recon BT transceivers which are based on Pipes DSP Pro and Sport models (which underwent a voluntary recall last season) and new for this year is the Black Diamond Recon LT Beacon.
Small, light and packed full of technology, the new Black Diamond Recon LT is an effective and easy-to-use transceiver.
Given that a ‘beacon’ by definition only emits a signal I’ll be referring to the Recon LT Beacon as a transceiver going forward since transceivers can both send and received a signal.
One of my favourite transceivers, the Pieps Micro Button BT (the successor to the award-winning Pieps Micro Transceiver) is essentially now available in a Black Diamond version and it’s called the Black Diamond Recon LT. Like the Peips Micro, the Recon LT is a lightweight, fully-featured three-antenna transceiver.
Measuring just 11 x 7.5 x 2.5cm or 4.3 x 3 x 0.98”, the Recon LT is impressively small and easily fits in your pant pocket or the provided lightweight chest harness which is one of the most minimalist yet well-designed on the market.
The top locking slider allows you to turn on and off the transceiver and select either send or search modes. The textured slider is spring-loaded so you have to ensure it is disengaged in order to switch modes. This also helps eliminate unwanted changes from the current mode.
If you spin the selector switch counterclockwise then it will expose the battery compartment revealing the single AA battery which is able to power the Recon LT for over 200 hours. On the face of the transceiver, a large display uses the same graphics as those found on the Pieps Micro with the addition of a mode indicator on the left-hand side. Below you can see that the Recon LT in send mode and it’s using the X antenna to transmit a signal.
In search mode, the display shows the number of signals being received along with their distance. The Recon LT also emits a high-frequency pulsing tone that changes depending upon your distance to the signal source. Pressing the mark button located at the bottom of the display (which is the only button on the transceiver face) surpasses the signal so you can then focus on other possible signals close by.
Black Diamond touts the new Recon LT as the "Lightest fully-features Avalanche Transceiver on the market” and weighing in at just 137g or 4.8oz (158g / 5.6oz with battery) is indeed light. However, if you read our review of the Pieps Micro BT Button Transceiver which shares all the same technology and features, you’ll see that it has a weight of 150g or 5.2oz including the AA battery. Not wanting to get picky over a measly 8 grams we'll simply call them both lightweights since transceivers typically weigh north of 200 grams and are also much bulkier in size.
The main reason that the Recon LT appeals to me is that I am one of the many backcountry skiers who now stow their transceiver in their ski pant pocket rather than in a chest harness. There are many reasons for this and you can learn all about them in the video below. Essentially a smaller and lighter transceiver is much more comfortable to stow in your pant pocket than a heavier and bulkier one.
Given the Recon LT’s size and weight, you would assume that you'd have to give up features found on most other transceivers and that performance would be inferior but the Recon LT is just as good as those larger/heavier transceivers on the market. With 50 meters of range in both search and transmit modes, three antennas, 200+ hours of battery life and a mark function you get everything you need to stay safe skiing in the backcountry. Pretty impressive for such a small package.
While the Recon LT doesn’t have vibration alerts like the Pieps Micro it does use a similar interface, display graphics and shape. Black Diamond, however, has flipped the Recon LT upsidedown when compared to the Pieps Micro so it fits more naturally in the palm of your hand and the ergonomics are much better. There is also only one button for marking signals since the main locking selector switch located on the top of the unit is used to turn the device on/off and from send to search mode. This separation of functions makes the Recon LT transceiver really easy to use and also prevents any unwanted or inadvertent switching from send to search. These are both very important features when the stress and anxiety of a real search have you flustered.
Given the recent trend to stow transceivers in a ski pant pocket and distance it from a phone and/or radio, it makes the most sense to have a light and small transceiver such as Black Diamond’s new Recon LT. But even if you still prefer to wear it in a chest harness, there is no sense in adding any extra bulk and weight for those long days on the skin track. So be sure to check out the Recon LT, I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.
Price: $459.95CAN / $349.95US
Weight: 137g / 4.8oz (158g / 5.6oz with battery)
Dimensions: 11 x 7.5 x 2.5cm / 4.3 x 3 x 0.98”
Range: 50 meters (search and transmit)
Marking function: Yes
Frequency: 457 kHz (EN300718)
Batteries: 1 AA
Battery Life: 200 hours
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