Gear Highlight: Backcountry Access BC Link group communication system


backcountry access bc link radio

If you spend any amount of time in the backcountry, you know how important it is to have a plan and be equipped with proper gear. We recommend a certain amount of safety gear you should always keep in your backpack.  Communication with your group is very important, for planning and sharing of information, in the event you get separated, and particularly when you need to call for help. Having a reliable, easy to use radio such as this one will mean you’ll use it more frequently and effectively.  It’s great for when the weather turns or when that pitch you’re skiing briefly goes out of sight. 

This radio is designed to work with BCA’s “Stash” series of backpacks. They are water and dust resistant, so they are very reliable in storms or cold weather.  

How it works

The radio is equipped with 22 channels and clips to your belt or backpack, or you can stash it in your back pocket. 

To use, clip the microphone to your hip belt, stick it in your pocket, or clip it to your backpack strap. Put the actual radio unit inside your backpack, the top of your pack is a good spot for it. 

This radio has excellent range (5 miles) and won’t freeze up on you, plus it’s easy to use.  It’s also good for up to 2.5 miles line of sight. The radio is better than others on the market for a few reasons, first of all, there is the ability to tuck the radio unit into your backpack and feed the chord out to attach the microphone to the outside of the backpack. This means you can use the unit without taking your helmet off, and able to hear your friends talk when you’re skiing (or riding). The radio also has a longer range than most other radios out there, and it’s very easy to use when wearing gloves. Program your frequencies ahead of time so you don’t have to do so in the field for the ultimate convenience.

The radios are water resistant, not waterproof. So in this case it’s important to keep them away from exposure to the elements to prevent water from getting inside and freezing, in particularly nasty storms. If it does get wet, dry the radio out when you get back to the car. Storing your radio in a warm, dry place when possible is recommended. 

Where to use

The units are designed to be used in North America, but can sometimes be used outside of it.  The BC Link has a until specifically made for European frequencies, called the BC Link EU edition. It’s optimized for frequencies used in Europe. Before you go, check the countries laws regarding radio usage to make sure you’re not transmitting on a non-approved frequency. Transmitting on an unapproved frequency can be illegal, so check before you go. 

The radio uses the FRS/GMRS frequencies, and won’t work with VHF or UHF frequencies. Though you can’t program FRS/GMRS frequencies to communicate with UHF frequencies, you can program it the other way around to communicate: you can program the UHF to work with the FRS/GMRS frequencies utilized by BC Link. This comes in handy in an emergency situation to be able to communicate with rescuers who usually use VHF and UHF frequencies if required.

How to recharge

The lithium ion batteries in the unit are recharged with USB cable. Battery life will vary, and depends on how cold it is and how often you transmit (speak). If you’re in the backcountry for an extended period of time without access to charging, consider buying a extra set of batteries, which can be purchased separately. Keep these spare batteries in a warm, dry place for optimum charge. 

Recommended uses

These radio units are the most useful for backcountry skiing, but you can use them for any backcountry adventure where you become separated from your group, such as backpacking. Skiing in the trees, it’s very easy to become separated from your party. Or what an emergency happens, such as a member of your party falls in a tree well, or someone observes an avalanche

The Backcountry Access BC Link radio in black. Image from BackcountryAccess.com

This communication system is a great tool to take with you in the backcountry and is especially important when it comes to coordinating in an emergency. I haven’t tested this feature, but reports show that the unit will last about 4 days in extreme cold. I assume this is about the lower limit of operating use, -20 C (-4 F).

Technical specifications:

  • Case is made of polycarbonate
  • Operating temperature range:  -4 F to 158 F which is -20 C to +70 C.
  • Maximum battery life: 140 hours
  • Dimensions of smart microphone: 3.3 x 1.0 x 1.8 inches
  • Dimensions of base unit: 2.5 x 2.0 x 6.0 inches
  • 22 FRS/GMRS channels, with 121 sub-channels
  • 3 year limited warranty

Where to buy

These retail for $149.95 and are available at Backcountry.com, and other retailers

Read about what every backcountry skier or rider should know.

Do you use radios for communicating in the backcountry? If so, which ones are your favourite, comment below!

Alicja

Alicja

Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts
Alicja
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