Do phones interfere with avalanche beacons?

Submitted by Mark Staples on Wed, 11/06/2013 - 16:45


YES. Portable electronics like phones, radios, GPS, cameras, etc. will interfere with an avalanche beacon (aka avalanche transceiver).  Is it a problem? The interference is significant and may prevent you from finding a buried partner. These electronic devices typically need to be turned on to cause interference. Snowmobiles with running motors and electrical circuits will also cause interference.

Most solid, non-electrical, objects will not cause interference. These objects include snow, trees, rocks, clothing, skis, etc.  Another common object is a RECCO reflector which is often built into jackets, and this object will not cause interference.

Studies have shown there is little interference with a transmitting beacon. If you’re buried and you forgot to turn off your iPhone, don’t worry. Just to be safe keep your iPhone or other device about 8 inches away from your beacon. Interference mostly occurs when beacons are in search mode.


  1. Turn off all electronics and put them in your backpack.
  2. If you need to keep a phone or radio on your body, keep it 8 inches from your beacon. Keep the phone in “airplane mode” if possible
  3. If conducting a search and you suspect interference, simply extend your arm to get your beacon about 1.5 feet away from any electronic devices.

Watch this video. See how interference starts as the beacon gets closer than an arm's length away from the phone.

Read the attached articles for more information

Interference Myth NOT Busted” by John Barkhausen, former GNFAC intern, provides a concise overview of interference and a simply study John conducted while a student at Prescott College.

Interference Issues Concerning Avalanche Rescue Transceivers” by Manuel Genswein, a Swiss engineer and rescue consultant. This article provides very detailed information on beacon interference as well as a few practical recommendations.