You may have heard some discussions about the Pieps DSP Avalanche Transceivers (a company owned by Black Diamond). I received a letter from REI (below) and have decided to post it here for anyone who may find it of interest. It includes an important Instagram video link (https://www.instagram.com/p/CGT6EzAlgLn/) from Pieps. If you’re using a Pieps, watch this video because it provides important use and inspection information about the devices that everyone needs to know.
A beacon is a personal safety tool which must be properly used and maintained. Any misuse may compromise its functionality. Please refer to the video on the fourth slide for how to inspect your beacon.
It may be that the problems are only due to misuse, but it is a concern if incorrect use as simple as described could cause the switch failure. Notice in the video he forces the switch and it moves. There’s no locking mechanism to prevent the device from moving to the off position when extreme force is applied.
I think most of the winter backpackers in our group, including myself, use Pieps Transceivers, but I’m considering replacing mine due to the concerns being discussed. I think the company may eventually issue a product recall, but there is no indication of that happening based on the REI letter below.
REI is dropping the product and Gear Lab is no longer recommending it. These actions may persuade Pieps to reconsider. You can read Gear Lab’s opinion here: https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/snow-sports/best-avalanche-beacon
I’m going to contact the company and I will update this post with what I discover. Currently, the Pieps website shows the DSP Sport with the same switch design that is raising concerns, but the Pro BT has a new switch design. Seems like they should do a recall.
The Pieps DSP Avalanche Transceiver Product Letter
Dear Valued Customer:
You are receiving this letter because our records show you bought a Pieps DSP Sport (#862050) or Pieps DSP Pro Avalanche (#862049) transceiver from REI.
It has come to our attention over the past few months Black Diamond, the parent company of Pieps, has received concerns from the backcountry ski community who believe the design of the lock-button slider on these devices can slide to the “search or off mode,” unbeknownst to the user. Recent social media discussions and news coverage center on two incidents in Canada that occurred in 2017 and 2020, where a backcountry skier perished, and another skier was caught in an avalanche and survived.
Black Diamond has informed REI that they, along with Canadian authorities, have performed extensive investigations of the incidents where the failure happened and did not detect any sign of the products in question having failed. Additionally, Black Diamond shared that they have since comprehensively tested the Pieps DSP transceiver and found through testing that they “have concluded that Pieps beacons perform above industry standards, unless the beacon is compromised.” Additionally, Black Diamond said these devices “have been sold globally since 2014 and have been used by countless backcountry users ever since.”
In October of 2020 Black Diamond issued a video (https://bit.ly/2GkfUEy) on proper inspection of the device to verify whether it has been compromised. For customers who were concerned about their device, Black Diamond also issued an upgrade to users of the Pieps DSP Pro and Pieps DSP Sport transceiver, to the latest generation of the Pieps transceiver.
Information on contacting Black Diamond:
If you have a Pieps DSP Pro or DSP Sport transceiver, please check the integrity of your device. If you are concerned that your transceiver may be compromised, please contact Black Diamond directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, for an upgrade to the latest generation of Pieps device that uses a different switch design.
For our customers:
The safety of our customers is our highest priority, and we care deeply about our customers’ satisfaction. Even though the products listed above are not subject to a safety recall, we understand that customer concern and confusion may still exist. As such, we are reaching out to our customers directly to ensure that you have direct contact information for Black Diamond and are aware of the actions they are taking to address the concerns regarding their Pieps DSP Sport and DSP Pro Avalanche transceivers.
Please note, REI no longer carries the Pieps models in question. Other Pieps and Black Diamond transceiver models, including current Black Diamond transceivers sold by REI, feature a different mode locking mechanism design and are not eligible for an upgrade.
If the transceiver is no longer in your possession, please share the information contained in this letter with the current owner.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. If you have additional questions after contacting Black Diamond, please contact your local REI store or REI Customer Service at email@example.com or 1-800-426-4840.
REI Vice President, Product