Best Avalanche Shovels - 2020 Review
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Best Avalanche Shovels: Dependable, Portable Choices

Avalanche shovels offer far more utility than the name suggests. They’re great for moving mountains of tightly packed snow, both in the backcountry and in your backyard. If you want to stay prepared for any situation, add an avalanche shovel to your tool collection.

We dug through the market to uncover the best avalanche shovels available right now. Our favorite one is the Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel. It has everything anyone could want in a reliable avalanche shovel. For those who prefer military-style shovels, like the famous e-tool, our suggestion is the Rhino USA Survival Shovel.

Read on to find out more about these shovels, why we like them, and everything else you need to know about avalanche shovels, including how to pick the best one for your needs.

Our Top 5 Avalanche Shovels for 2021

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageLifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel
  • Max Length: 32 inches
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
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byb2-table__imageSOG Entrenching Folding Shovel
  • Max Length: 18.25”
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 24.5 ounces
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byb2-table__imageFiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool
  • Max Length: 19 inches
  • Multi-Tool: yes
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
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byb2-table__imageBomber B2 Shovel by Backcountry Access
  • Max Length: 31 inches
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.95 lbs
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byb2-table__imageSGP 100 Collapsible Survival Shovel
  • Max Length: 25”
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs
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Best All-Around Avalanche Shovel

Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel

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The Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel is a versatile avalanche shovel with a screw-type handle. The shovel breaks down into three pieces for easy storage. It also has extreme lightweight carry capacity, weighing in at just over a pound.

The shovel is usable at both 26-inch and 32-inch lengths, all depending on your specific shoveling needs. When unscrewed, it is under 12-inches in length and easily fits into all-weather bags, the trunk of your car, snowmobile saddlebags, and toolboxes for super quick and easy access in emergency situations.

As a great addition to an emergency roadside kit, this is a wider headed shovel that has a slightly pointed tip in its design. This feature makes it extra useful for helping break ice and getting into deeper snow. It’s also available in a wide range of colors, making it easy to match your survival bags.

Best Ergonomic Avalanche Shovel

SOG Entrenching Tool

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The SOG entrenching shovel is a high-end folding avalanche shovel that breaks down to just 7.25 inches for quick easy storing and carrying. The shovel opens up to a maximum length of 18.25 inches and promotes multiple functions. It also has a triangular-shaped handle for a secure grip in any situation.

This avalanche shovel is much more than a digger or scooper, you can also use it for chopping and ice picking. The unit, after folding down, easily fits easily into its thick canvas bag for both protection and easy transportation. It works wells in practically any emergency situation you could face.

The design is genuinely ergonomic, there are no parts to take apart. The handle dictates tightening and multi-function transitioning. Further, the high-quality steel blade is serrated along one edge for even more versatile use, both through the winter and in any other outdoor seasonal adventure you may partake in.

Best Avalanche Shovel Multitool

FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel

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The FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel is a true all-around survival shovel, perfect for all-weather outdoor activities and emergency situations. Made for the backcountry, it is a high carbon steel design for durability with a screw apart handle design that also holds multi-tools for versatile use.

At a total weight of barely more than a pound, the shovel is genuinely lightweight. Even more, the shovel features a strong foot-and-a-half-plus long handle with quick-dry anti-slip properties.

The shovel’s high-end head is lockable at multiple angles for shoveling, chopping, or chipping. It also comes with a sharp serrated edge good for cutting and sawing. And, for survival gear collectors, a whistle, magnesium fire-starting rod, and even a tactical knife are hiding-away in the handle. A pointed ruler is also situated on one edge of the shovel blade for emergency digging situations.

Best Telescoping Avalanche Shovel

Backcountry Access Bomber B2 Avalanche Shovel

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The Backcountry Access Bomber B2 Avalanche Shovel is built for moving snow and can be used in multiple lengths for leverage for whatever snow, or dirt, moving job you need it for. With a maximum length of 31 inches using a telescopic handle, at-grip allows you to hold tight for easy use.

The unit weighs just under two pounds, which is a bit heavier than other options on our list. But, it is still great for backcountry hiking and other seasonal uses outdoors.

The shovel is equipped with a high-quality aluminum head, built for years of digging and scooping snow. The telescoping handle makes the shovel even more appealing to those who don’t want to fold, unfold, screw, or screw together their shovel before use.

Best Folding Avalanche Shovel

Rhino USA Survival Shovel

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If you are the type who enjoys a military-stale (and military-grade) shovel tool like the famous US Army standard edition e-tool, then you will love this survival shovel from Rhino USA. Made by a father and son small family business in California, USA, this purchase guarantees a lifetime warranty and customer service that cares as well.

The shovel is made for survivors. It includes a whistle, fire starter, saw, hoe, bottle opener, fish scaler, and more, all in one sleek easy to use design. The shovel is well over two and a half feet long when fully extended and features a collapsible handle just over half a foot long.

More than just an avalanche shovel, this unit is great for backpacking, fishing, gardening, and carrying along for metal detecting adventures as well. The best part, aside from its general awesomeness, is the 100-percent refund, no explanation necessary.

What Is an Avalanche Shovel?

Backcountry snowboarder digging out his companion stuck in snow

Avalanche shovels were originally designed for backcountry skiing situations and other emergency situations that require the use of a shovel to dig out an avalanche victim (or possibly even dig yourself out of one). Today, the term itself is loosely defined and can refer to a wide variety of compact, easy to carry and store shovel designs.

The main thing they all have in common is that they are quickly packable and lightweight. In addition, they all come in handy in snow emergencies and are much different than the type of shovels you might use in the garden.

The best avalanche shovels are not necessarily specific to just shoveling snow either, they are definitely not the typical style snow shovels like you would clear snow from your sidewalk with. Although, some of the best ones made for snow do have a wider shovelhead for getting large amounts of snow moved quickly.

But, many are very much unlike normal snow shovel and rather include various features for chipping through ice, chopping, and even cutting. Some of them even have ice-breakers and seat-belt cutters built-in. That is why, by many nature and extreme sports enthusiasts, avalanche shovels are considered the all-around outdoor survival shovel.

How an Avalanche Shovel Works

As mentioned, one of the defining features of this type of shovel is the capability to become more compact. Screwable handle lengths, telescoping handles, and even folding handles and shovelheads are all various ways to help disassemble and make the tool much more compact for travel.

Once assembled, the tool works like any other shovel, with some even having a head that can be folded and secured at an angle to provide chopping motions for ice for hard-packed snowdrifts.

Why Would you Want an Avalanche Shovel?

Red avalanche shovel in powder fresh snow. Scenic snowcapped high mountain background. Winter season in the italian Alps.

Obviously, the term applied to an avalanche shovel is to help dig out large amounts of snow in the event of an avalanche. But it truly is so much more. As a compact shovel, they are designed to be carried in or on backpacks and, depending on the style you prefer, you can use them for much more than just snow removal.

The compact designs allow you to pack them into large satchels, as well as into the trunk of your vehicle for quick access. They move snow, and many can also chip away at the ice and packed drifts, like the kind left behind by plows, right behind your parking spot. If you choose a model that has various options for use, such as chopping, picking, or even sawing, you can most definitely find a use for it in other seasons.

Common Avalanche Shovel Handle Types

Avalanche shovels have one job, and one job only: digging snow. The designs differ slightly across the different models, one characteristic being the handle type.

Screw Handled

SGP 100 Collapsible Survival Shovel

Screw handled shovels typically have two or three lengths that all screw together to make a more full-size shovel. You can also typically fit them together to make a smaller shovel by leaving out a length. Once unscrewed you can store them all together in a much smaller package.

Telescoping Handled

Lifeline 4004 One Size Aluminum Sport Utility, 3 Piece Collapsible Design, Perfect Snow Shovel for Car, Camping and Other Outdoor Activities, Red

Telescoping handles fit within one another and unscrew to lengthen, and screw to secure for use. These, too, are usually adjustable and can be used on various lengths depending on your needs. When packed away there is no worry about losing any pieces.

Folding Handled

SOG Folding Shovel Survival Shovel – Entrenching Tool 18.25 Inch Foldable Shovel Camping Shovel w/ Wood Saw Edge and Tactical Shovel Carry Case (F08-N)

Folding handle shovels typically fold in half, hence the name. But, many models can fold a second time, folding the shovel head in as well. These models are called tri-fold. When folding shovels are unfolded they are easy to secure with a twist-up-and-tighten-type mechanism located right on the handle. These avalanche shovels are amongst some of the most compact shovels available.

Common Avalanche Shovel Head Types

There is no standardized avalanche style shovel design, but amongst backcountry skiers, when you mention “avalanche shovel,” you mean a broad-headed shovel that can assemble for more of a scooping and digging movement. But you can find all of the head types below on an avalanche shovel.

Broad Headed

Broad-headed shovels typically consist of extremely heavy-duty plastic or sharp and durable metal material and are wider than most other sorts of avalanche shovels. Broadhead avalanche shovels typically have a gently curved end rather than a tip. The purpose of the broadhead design is to easily shovel larger amounts of snow through both scooping and digging motions.

Narrow Headed

The narrow shovelheads often incorporate a much more severe curvature to their design. This makes them more ideal for breaking through snow and ice rather than shovel it in a scooping and throwing manner. That means they are great for survival and thus often double as axes and glass breakers.

Multi-Surface Headed

Most multi-surface shovelheads consist of at least one sharpened or serrated edge. They are extra useful with hard snow and ice, or even for outdoor activities such as mountaineering. Many multi-surface-headed avalanche shovels also include a pick for the extra potential to break through thick ice and packed snow.

How to Choose the Best Avalanche Shovel for Your Needs

The best shovel for you is going to depend on what you anticipate using your shovel for. They are all awesome to keep in your vehicle for extreme winter weather that may leave behind some unexpected accumulations.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you may want to consider something you can use all season, but if winter is your forte, then one specific to moving large amounts of snow may be your best bet unless you are often in the backcountry and do not want to be caught by surprise.

If your local climate calls for lots of snow and you are only considering a shovel to keep in a vehicle, then one capable of moving large amounts of accumulation quickly is going to be the demand. Most likely you will be anticipating snowy conditions that require scooping and tossing snow, which requires a broad head and a strong handle.

What to Look for in the Best Avalanche Shovel

Once you have a good idea of what sort of shovel you want, and why you are buying an avalanche shovel specifically, knowing exactly what to look for is the next step:

Head

There are many types of heads that come on shovels, avalanche shovels tend to be several inches wide and come to a point although some models may be rounded rather than tipped. In addition, many avalanche shovels double as make-shift axes and have sharp, possibly even semi-serrated, edges; at least on one side of the shovel blade.

Handle

Besides the head of the avalanche shovel, the handle is another crucial aspect to consider. A lousy handle will not stand much abuse, especially if it is a survival style shovel that converts into an ax. Chopping a few branches can be enough to permanently damage the handle and make shoveling snow much more unstable and awkward of a chore.

Also, you should know whether you prefer telescoping, folding, or stationary handles. Again, this is why you should be clear on what sort of shoveling you’ll be doing and any other activities you’ll be using this shovel for before you make a purchase.

Auxiliary Functions

For those who are seeking out the most versatile and multi-purpose avalanche shovel on the market, auxiliary functions are a big factor to count before purchasing one. Auxiliary functions are the shovel’s extra features, like the ability to convert into a hammer, cutter, and ax, as well as features such as being able to clip onto a backpack, belt, or a folding handle and collapsible body (like military-style survival shovels and expensive ultra-light backcountry shovels).

Ease of Use

Depending on how often you will be using your new shovel and for what exactly you will be using it for, the ease of use matters quite a bit. A shovel with five functions in one does you no good if it is really a broadhead snow shovel you need. Trying to dig your vehicle out of a snowbank with an ultralight hiking shovel is as absurd as putting a thumbtack in a corkboard with a sledgehammer, meaning, the right tool for the job ensures a decent level of ease.

Make sure you take into consideration exactly what you will be using the shovel for, where you will be storing it and carrying it. Also, reconsider the head and handle too. Will they make your job easier or harder? Let this help you determine which avalanche shovel is right for you.

Warranty

Warranty features can signal how reliable a product really is. For example, if the manufacturer does not provide at least a money-back guarantee and a one, two, or three-year warranty, let alone a lifetime warranty, the product is probably not actually worth your money. Manufacturers that believe in their products back them up with great warranties and guarantees.

Stay Prepared With an Avalanche Shovel

If you expect any sort of snow through the winter season, and if you want to be prepared for even the most unexpected situations, consider investing in an avalanche shovel. Even if all you need is an emergency shovel for keeping in your vehicle, most of our picks easily fit in the trunk, glove box, under the seat, or in a toolbox. They are also lightweight and portable enough to keep with a bugout bag or camping and hiking gear for all-year-long use.

All things considered, regardless of what your purpose is for buying an avalanche shovel, we recommend having a look at the Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel. But, if you are after a simple but powerhouse folding shovel, the RhinoUSA Folding Survival Shovel might be for you.

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