Jun 02 2011

Review: Ortovox Patroller


The discontinued Patroller combines the best elements of Ortovox’ steady but slow progress in beacons prior to their development of the S1. You get superb range due to analog detection, with digital processing to help with alignment with the flux line when you get close. In case you were wondering, yes, it’s really an X1 with three antennas, a translucent case, and all the bugs worked out.

Perfect for the budget conscious, especially in the used market. To be useful in panic mode regular practice is highly recommended.


As with the majority of Ortovox beacons, the Patroller uses the classic integrated harness to turn the beacon on. To switch to search mode, pull back the tab and rotate the center knob counter clockwise, then release the tab to lock it in receive mode. The digits will read CH temporarily indicating you’re in suCHen, or searCH mode. Don’t ask me, it must be a German abbreviation thing.

The battery check is done by counting the number of times the transmit light pulses in rapid succession. If it gets to at least 20, you’re doing okay, but running low. 30 pulses is with a fresh, fully charged AA.


Audio Visual

When you first begin receiving, the Patroller acts like an S1, echoing any signal it hears audibly. Inside of 30 meters it acts like an M2, continuing to echo the analog beeps, but also indicating distance to the victim. When you are inside 10 meters, the audio switches to digital beeps that get progressively faster as you get closer and the three LEDs become active, telling you what direction to move. Beware that inside of 10 meters response time slows down, so move slower, WAY slower, so you don’t accidentally think you’re closer, or further, than you really are.


Pinpoint Search

When you get closer than three meters the directional LEDs cease to light up, and the cadence of the audio beeps dominates your senses, giving excellent resolution for locating the victim. The numbers will change too, but aren’t as obvious as the sounds. Again, slooooow down here. Fast movements will give erroneous results.

A good check on accuracy at this point is to hold the beacon in one position for at least two seconds. This will allow you to check accuracy. If it is the same on successive pulses, you can count it as an accurate indication of distance, and move again. If it changed from the previous burst of tones, wait another second or two. Yeah, I know, that’s what I mean by slow WAY down. The response time of this beacon compared to a real time analog beep is pathetic. Best plan is to start probing when the direction lights go away, especially if the audio signals get confusing.


Multiple Burial

The Patroller does not have a multiple victim idiot light, but aficionados of this design will know if there is more than one signal due to 1) a priori knowledge as companions and 2) the audible signature of multiple, “dancing” real-time analog beeps. When you are in digital mode, you may also notice the LEDs and concurrent distance reading toggling between two very different readings. With this beacon you need to know enough to back away from the first victim after locating it, and then use your favorite search strategy to resolve further victims.

Do you use a Patroller? What’s your take?


  • Andy Carey

    Just got 2 patrollers to replace our F1 Focus, just because the F1s are getting old (and we lost a couple of old F1s during a multiple beacon search when our spares were used as victims and then, once buried, died).

    I tested the two today; nice! I placed two beacons 30 m apart. No problem detecting multiple burials, even without the indicator light – compared to the F1 Focus. The Focus lacks precision close in, the Patroller is great! The Focus has the ability to reduce gain and thereby discriminate amongst multiple burials, but still lacks precision close in. The Patroller might cause some indecision equidistant from two beacons, but if the user recognizes that there are two or more beacons and takes thoughtful steps it is no problem. The S1 may (or may not) be more idiot proof, but I found the Patroller to be very quick, even from 40+m out, and very easy to home in on the beacon when close. Of course, I am one of those old gray-bearded dudes who has spent decades with analogs (and with locating wild animals via telemetry); you younger know-nothings with only on-line cyberspace experience, YMMV!