The two most popular places that people carry beacons are in the manufacturer supplied chest harness and in the pants pocket. Is one better than the other? More importantly, is one safer than the other? Does it really matter bro? Let’s have a look.
Wearing the beacon in the chest harness is the preferred location for most people that I see. It’s secure, warm, protected, and in a place that doesn’t have a lot else going on. It’s how I carry my beacon, but it has its problems.
A big problem I have is not putting my beacon back into the harness after I’ve completed my search. When every second counts, it’s too easy just to drop the beacon and get out the probe/shovel. Now it’s dangling out the bottom of my coat, in the snow, and in the way. I’ve temporarily stashed it in my pants pocket quite a few times while practicing.
That’s the huge plus for carrying your beacon in your pants – it’s always right there, one zipper away, easy in, easy out. There’s no harness to mess with, no worrying about layering, and in the case of a real-life rescue, it’s the fastest location to access when the time is critical. The pants pocket also might keep your beacon further away from other electronics, like your phone or radio, depending on how you carry those. Just make sure to properly secure your beacon to your pants with cord or lanyard.
The best argument I’ve heard for harness over pants is that the harness keeps the beacon closer to your airway. An IFMGA guide once asked me, “Do you want someone digging for your thigh or for your chest?” It would depend highly on burial position, but could be a big deal for a tall guy like myself. I don’t know if there’s any hard science to back that up, but it at least makes some practical sense.
In the end, the beacon is a tool and you need to be comfortable using it. Both locations have their issues and advantages, pick one you like and go with it. I’ve met plenty of ski guides who will argue for either side. Backpacks have been known to come off in avalanches, sometimes taking jackets with them, so neither one of those is a recommended location for your beacon.
With the northern hemisphere winter right around the corner, now is a good time to get out all your backcountry equipment, change batteries and make sure everything is in working order.