By: randosteve|Posted on: December 31, 2009|Posted in: Gear | 15 comments

So, for the first time this year, my Ortovox S1 avalanche transceiver went from a battery indicator of 3 beeps…to 2 beeps. The S1 has three settings to indicate battery life. 3 beeps means the batteries are at 100-75%, 2 beeps mean 75-50% and only 1 beep means a battery power of below 50%. The S1 also has gives an overall battery power level when you turn it on with the screen flipped open. After I got only the two beeps, I did this and it stated that my batteries were still at 84%.

Ortovox S1 seft-test start-up screen.

I used to change the batteries in my transceiver all the time. The minute it would show signs of decreased power….I’d be running to the shop, spending $6 and popping in three new AAA batteries to assure that I was running on full power…using the slightly degraded batteries for a headlamp or whatever. These days, I tend to be a bit more bold I guess, and usually wait for my batteries to be at about 50-60% until I change them. Most manufacturers suggest you change them before they get below 50%…so I feel like I’m still within the margin of safety.

It’s tempting to stick fancy-pants lithium type batteries into transceivers. Lithium batteries tend to be lightweight, resistant to cold temperatures and have a high power output which tends to be a benefit for electronic devices. Problem is that most lithium batteries have a high power output for a given period of time, but then suddenly drop off dramatically. Most transceiver units are rigged to specifically test the power output of only alkaline batteries, so you could easily get hosed with some pretty bunk battery level results some morning at the trailhead if you use lithiums. Alkaline good…lithium bad!

Anyway, how often and at what level do you change your transceiver batteries? And when are they gonna come out with a rechargeable battery pack of some sort for transceivers? I know this would be hard to recharge in the field, like on longer expeditions, but it seems like there could be an option or something to have regular batteries…or a rechargeable pack? BTW, Ortovox just put out a new firmware update for the S1 (yes…even since this fall), so get ‘er updated if you can. Ciao for now!