The great appeal of backcountry skiing is the ability to get away from the crowds of ski resorts and truly appreciate nature. But the isolation of the backcountry is also its most significant drawback. If something happens to you or someone in your party, it can be difficult or impossible to get in touch with emergency services. That’s why it’s important to stock up on survival essentials. Avalanche shovels are one such essential.
Since all of your gear is going on your back, survival gear has to do double (or triple) duty — it needs to be versatile, lightweight, and durable. The more functions it can perform, the better. And if you’re carrying a lot of gear, the seemingly small difference in ounces starts to add up quickly. After all, you’re probably only bringing one of each survival tool, which means it needs to not break when you need it most. The best avalanche shovels check all of these boxes.
An avalanche shovel can mean a lot of different things — they are not subject to any sort of standardization. But generally, avalanche shovels are lightweight and have collapsible handles. The handles can telescope, fold, or twist off. As the name implies, avalanche shovels can be used to help extract someone who has been covered in snow. Avalanche shovels should be coupled with other survival gear like probes, beacons, and an airbag. Some shovels are modeled after military entrenching tools, and these are designed to suit a variety of settings such as mud, sand and dirt.
Of course, an avalanche shovel can double as a regular snow shovel for clearing snow. You can also keep these in your car when the snowy season hits to help clear snow if you get stuck. And on a lighter note, these shovels will give you a leg up if you’re building a snowman. With that in mind, these are the avalanche shovels to get.
1. Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel
Rhino’s survival shovel is designed to suit different survival situations. You can use these shovels for off-roading, camping, digging dirt, or clearing snow. It has a pointed blade shape and serrated edges, making it well suited as a multi-tool. The blade can be folded to use as a pickaxe. The handle completely folds in on itself for compact storage. There’s also a carrying bag.
Pros: Affordable tool that suits multiple situations. Serrated edge for cutting. Folds down to a highly compact shape. Good for moving snow or breaking up ice.
Cons: The handle is very short.
2. FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool
This shovel is modeled after tactical tools. But beyond just digging or cutting, FiveJoy packs a lot into its compact tool. The secret is that multiple tools are built into the handle. There’s a whistle, a magnesium rod for starting fires, multiple cutting surfaces, and even a bottle opener. The blade of the shovel has a serrated edge and can be folded for various types of digging.
Pros: Multiple tools built into one, making it ideal for emergency settings. There’s a whistle, various cutting edges, and a magnesium rod.
Cons: More expensive than some other options.
3. Lifeline 4004 Red One Size Aluminum Sport Utility
If you’re looking for something with wider blade that can clear more snow, consider this shovel from Lifeline. It’s designed specifically for snow, and can be used as an all-purpose snow shovel. It’s also good for a car or a backpack, because it easily separates into three parts. This is great because you can easily vary the length depending on your needs.
Pros: Inexpensive. Versatile tool that can be separated into three different parts. Lightweight.
Cons: Somewhat larger than other options, so it may be harder to carry in a bag.
4. YUKON Sport Utility Shovel – Orange
This option from Yukon was specifically designed with snow in mind, but it can suit camping and hiking as well. The handle easily extends and collapses for easy adjustment and storage. The shovel is made out of lightweight but sturdy aluminum, and it can be a good option to store in a car or in your bag.
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, collapsible handle design.
Cons: Can be more time consuming to adjust the handle than with some other options.