Best Avalanche Shovels: Dependable, Portable Choices

If you live where snow abounds then you probably have caught yourself wishing you had a shovel handy a time or two while away from home. Even if you don’t experience a lot of seasonal snowfall, a shovel can often come in handy while traveling, or even when enjoying the great outdoors.

If you still aren’t convinced that carrying around a portable shovel is for you, read on to see what some of our top avalanche shovel reviews say about their worth. These are a tool well worth investing in and having handy to help both yourself and others out of snowy, icy predicaments. Plus, many have a dual purpose for other outdoor endeavors.

5 BEST AVALANCHE SHOVEL COMPARISONS

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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What Defines an Avalanche Shovel

Backcountry snowboarder digging out his companion stuck in snow

The term avalanche shovel relates to the use of a shovel in backcountry skiing situations that, in an emergency, requires the use of a shovel to dig out an avalanche victim. The term itself is loosely defined and can refer to many sorts of compact, easy to pack shovel designs. The features they all have in common is that they are packable and lightweight, and 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. Although some of the best made for snow does have a wider shovelhead for getting large amounts of snow moved quickly, others include various features for chipping through ice, chopping, and even cutting. Those types of features make them an all-around outdoor survival shovel as well.

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 shovel heads 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 snow drifts.

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, can be used 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 (you know, 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.

Types of Avalanche Shovels

There is no true ‘traditional’ avalanche style shovel design upon which all avalanche shovels are based, but amongst backcountry skiers when you mention ‘avalanche shovel’ you mean a border headed shovel that can assemble for more of a scooping and digging movement. These are made for one job, and one job only- digging snow. But, it is important to also mention other shovel styles and designs that fall into the same category.

Common Avalanche Shovel Handle Types

  • Screw Handled

SGP 100 Collapsible Survival Shovel

Screw handled shovels typically have 2 or 3 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 handles fold into one another, and also may have a folding shovelhead as well. When these unfold they can be secured with a tightening mechanism usually located right on the handle. These are amongst some of the most compact shovels you can find.

Common Avalanche Shovel Head Types

  • Broad Headed

Broad-headed shovels are typically made of either a heavy plastic or metal and are wide with a gently curved end to help move large amounts of snow through both scooping and digging motions.

  • Narrow Headed

A more narrow shovel head often also has a more severe curve to the end to provide easier digging motions and loosening of snow than scooping.

  • Multi-Surface Headed

Multi-surface shovel heads will have a sharpened or even serrated edge. This can be helpful with hard ice, or even in other outdoor activities. Many time they may also have a pick head that can fold flat for when the surface you are working on needs a narrow force to help break up.

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 any inclimate weather, or surprise snow storms 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.

Top 5 Avalanche Shovel Reviews

The following shovel picks are some of the best mountaineering shovels, and all around outdoor choices that provide both compact sizes and durability. Consumers have reviewed these in length to allow for an excellent overview to help narrow down your choices- and showcase what options you have available.

Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel

Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel
  • Max Length: 32 inches
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Storage bag: no
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The Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Snow Shovel is a screw type handle that can break down into three pieces for easy storage and lightweight carry capacity. At only 1.3 lbs, this shovel can be used at both 26 inch and 32-inch lengths depending on your needs. When unscrewed it is under 12 inches in length to fit into all-weather bags, the trunk of your car, snowmobile saddlebags, and tool boxes for easy access.

As a great addition to an emergency roadside kit, this is a wider headed shovel that has a slightly pointed tip for helping to break the ice and get into more packed snow. It also is available in a wide variety of colors in case you want to match to your survival bags.

Pros:

  • Very sturdy for heavy snow
  • Nicely compact for small spaces and urban living
  • Perfect for emergency situations

Cons:

  • May have weak weld where the blade meets the handle
  • T-top handle small and may be uncomfortable

Pro Tip

This is a great shovel choice for areas of high snowfall. The pointed tip is good for an ice pack, and the slightly wider head works well for moving large amounts of snow when digging is a must.

SOG Entrenching Folding Shovel

SOG Entrenching Folding Shovel
  • Max Length: 18.25”
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 24.5 ounces
  • Storage bag: yes
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The SOG trenching shovel is a true folding shovel and can fold to 7.25 inches for an easy to store length. It can retract to a full 18.25 inches and can be locked into place for multiple uses- such as chopping, or even to fold the head forward to expose a pick head as well. This all fits easily into a thick canvas bag for both protection and easy transportation in any situation you want to bring it along in.

There are no parts to take apart as everything folds and tightens as part of the handle. The steel blade is also serrated along one edge for even more versatile use – both through the winter and in any other outdoor seasonal adventure you may have. It also has a triangular handle for easy grip in any situation.

Pros:

  • Solid construction and very durable feel
  • Quite compact when folded for carrying and storage
  • Great diversity of use

Cons:

  • Smaller to use overall than other similar designs
  • Can create pressure on hands – glove are recommended with use

Pro Tip

This is an incredibly compact and lightweight design for all year use. It is the perfect tool to tuck into a vehicle for easy access, and also to take along whenever you are camping, hiking, fishing, or enjoy a multitude of winter sports.

FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool

FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool
  • Max Length: 19 inches
  • Multi-Tool: yes
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Storage bag: yes
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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 and is a screw apart handle design that also holds multi-tools for versatile use. At only 1.2 lbs total and has a 19-inch handle length with anti-slip quick dry handles.

The shovel head can be locked into multiple angles for shoveling, chopping, or chipping and also includes a serrated edge for sawing and cutting. Tucked into the handle are a whistle, magnesium rod, and tactical knife. A ruler is also found along one edge of the blade which is pointed for difficult digging situations.

Pros:

  • Useful and easy to use ergonomic design
  • Perfect size and weight for packing
  • Incredibly strong shovelhead

Cons:

  • The rubberized handle does not hold up well over time
  • The screwed handle can become loose with heavy use

Pro Tip

This is an excellent all-around shovel perfect for hauling around on a backpack, in a survival bag, or even on a belt. It also is the perfect shovel to tuck into a vehicle for digging out of snowstorms of for other various emergency situations.

Bomber B2 Shovel by Backcountry Access

Bomber B2 Shovel by Backcountry Access
  • Max Length: 31 inches
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.95 lbs
  • Storage bag: no
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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. It also only weighs 1.95 lbs- making it easy to carry on a pack for seasonal use in backcountry situations.

With a wide 10-inch aluminum head, this is built for digging and scooping snow. The telescoping handle ensures you don’t have to take anything apart, plus it is easy to carry on the outside, or inside of a pack.

Pros:

  • Works well in dirt, sand, and dirt
  • Well made and durable
  • Packs nicely

Cons:

  • Top handle a little flimsy but gets the job done

Pro Tip

This is a great shovel for snow removal and can be easily kept in the car or taken along on outside trekking adventures. It also works well for dirt and sand – making it good for when you may need to free your vehicle in emergency situations or off-road situations.

SGP 100 Collapsible Survival Shovel

SGP 100 Collapsible Survival Shovel
  • Max Length: 25”
  • Multi-Tool: no
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Storage bag: yes
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This is a simple design that has both a screw type handle as well as folding shovel head design to provide compact packing. With a maximum length of 25 inches, it can be unscrewed and folded into a 7-inch storage bag. The durable steel design also includes an ergonomic, rubber grip for a steady grip and quick dry surface.

The head can be locked into various positions to work for shoveling, chopping, or even locked forward to expose a pickaxe. A serrated edge on one side of the blade provides a sewing surface as well and can be used in multiple situations. Plus, it only weighs 1.5 lbs to be carried in any situation.

Pros:

  • Very simple in design and incredible durable
  • Handle length can adjust to the job you need it for
  • Compact design makes it very portable

Cons:

  • Materials create a strong offgassing upon opening

Conclusion

The bottom line is- if you expect any sort of snow through the winter season, and would like to know you are prepared for unexpected situations, then an avalanche shovel is a good choice considering. Even if all you need is something dependable for your vehicle, these compact products can be stashed away in the trunk of your car or in a toolbox for when it might be needed. All are also able to be packed in for various outdoor activities for all season dependability.

If you have any favorites from above, or a certain go to you count on, we’d love to hear about it below. Our winning description includes easy to store, easy to pack, and easy to use features And, as always, please share.

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