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The 10 Best Backcountry Avalanche Shovels of 2022-2023

By: Jordan Berde: Assistant Ski Buyer | October 27, 2022
 

“Beacon, shovel, probe!” is a mantra that any backcountry skier should have memorized. No one has any business going into avalanche terrain without those essentials. But, beyond that, things get murky. A spade is a spade, right? Well, sort of. In the world of avalanche shovels, you’re always dealing with conflicting priorities. You want your shovel to be big and durable enough so that if the worst-case scenario occurs, you can move a lot of snow quickly and effectively. But, your shovel also needs to be small and light enough to carry comfortably in your pack with your other gear. That means that there’s no one “best” shovel. Instead, there are shovels that are better suited to different snowpacks and styles of touring than others. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best avalanche shovels.

New This Year:

And this year, this category is better than ever before. Research has long shown that in group rescue scenarios, having the ability to set up your shovel in “hoe mode” is very helpful for working with others to move a lot of snow quickly. And this year, more shovels than ever before come with the option to be used as a traditional shovel or a hoe. On top of that, brands have figured out how to make their shovels lighter without compromising durability or capacity. So, if your avalanche shovel is a little old and worn out, there’s never been a better time to shop for an avalanche shovel.

Ortovox PRO Alu III Shovel

Ortovox PRO Alu III

The Ortovox PRO Alu III Shovel replaces the top-selling Pro Alu II with only minor tweaks. It's still a great mid-sized shovel that's easy to carry, sturdy, has a hoe function, and now is compatible with Ortovox's Pocket Spike for a bit of added security in icy terrain. This is a very versatile shovel that’s got a lot of uses beyond just moving snow.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
770 gRescue sled compatible$85

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BCA Dozer 1T Shovel

BCA Dozer 1T

The BCA Dozer 1T Shovel is North America's best-selling avalanche shovel and for good reason. It comes in a perfect size, has a nice weight, and will last you a lifetime of use. This is a durable, simple, affordable shovel. It just plain works.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
595 gExtendable handle$59.95

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Black Diamond Transfer LT Shovel

Black Diamond Transfer LT

A superlight-but-not-super-wimpy shovel for fast and light touring pursuits, the Black Diamond Transfer LT Shovel is a new design crafted from 7075 aluminum with a unique riveted backup plate at the blade stress zone. At 405 grams, this is the lightest UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) certified shovel on the market. Oh, and it's chartreuse. Beautiful. If you’re trying to minimize fatigue without compromising safety, the Transfer LT is the shovel for you.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
405 gCompact T handle$99.95

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Mammut Alugator Light Shovel

Mammut Alugator Light

MammutThe Mammut Alugator Light Shovel is the lightest shovel offered by Mammut. With a sharpened blade and an oval-shaped telescopic shaft, this is a shovel you want to practice with and have at the ready. You’re not going to get much lighter than this while still having a full-strength shovel.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
475 gSharpened blade$69.95

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Arva Access Shovel

Arva Access

The Arva Access Shovel toes the line between packability and performance. The long oval shaft and T-grip handle give you the strength and comfort you need when digging quickly and sturdy aluminum is lightweight and ready for action. This shovel barely takes up any space in your pack but still makes it easy to move a lot of snow fast.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
510 gPin lock mechanism$49.95

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BCA Dozer 2T Shovel

BCA Dozer 2T

The BCA Dozer 2T Shovel is a mid-sized shovel for anyone serious about digging and snow safety. It's made of light and durable aluminum for easy travel and reliable use. It strikes a very nice balance between size and packability.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
680 gHoe mode$64.95

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Black Diamond Deploy Shovel

Black Diamond Deploy

The Black Diamond Deploy Shovel features a rapid-deployment design that saves you the hassle (and time) of having to connect various shovel pieces together before being functional. Instead, simply slide out the handle to its extended length and dig! With a curved handle that nests within the anodized blade, the Black Diamond Deploy Shovel is simpler, faster, and takes up minimal space in your pack. This is a great shovel to help you shave seconds off your beacon recovery drills.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
700 gQuick-deploy handle$84.95

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BCA Dozer 1T-UL Shovel

BCA Dozer 1T-UL

For the weight-counting crowd, the BCA Dozer 1T-UL Shovel takes the cake. This lightweight shovel is there for you when you need to dig but not get a workout in on the way uphill. This is one of BCA’s lightest shovels, but still has the quality the brand made its name with.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
435 gCored-out blade$79.95

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BCA Dozer 2H Shovel

BCA Dozer 2H

The BCA Dozer 2H Shovel has been around the block. Also known as the granddaddy of shovels, the Dozer 2H features a super usable Hoe Mode for paddling chunks of debris without lifting. This shovel is legendary for good reason. It’s reliable and versatile.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
465 gHoe mode$79.95

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Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel

Black Diamond Evac 7

The Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel is the smaller of their burly "professional" series shovels, meant to move a bunch of snow in a hurry with total dependability. The compact "D" handle is comfy and protects your hands, and the handle can be oriented vertically to use the shovel as a hoe. Burly enough for the pros, this is the shovel you want in your friends' hands if you get buried. This shovel moves more snow faster than anything else on this list.

WeightHighlight FeatureOriginal Price
807 gD handle$89.95

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The Selection Process:

Our ski buyers have an endless amount of knowledge on all things skiing stemming from years of experience in the ski industry in tandem with their countless hours spent on slopes everywhere from groomers to the remote backcountry around the world. evo's buyers assess all products coming to market, lean into this knowledge, and put together this selection of the best products. They have a unique perspective as they truly see everything offered across the category.

Jordan Berde

Jordan (she/her) is the Assistant Ski Buyer at evo. Before working in this role, she worked at the evo Denver store for two years, where she began as a bootfitter and quickly moved into Store Lead and then Store Supervisor roles. Prior to evo, Jordan worked as a bootfitter at other shops, a mountain bike instructor for kiddos in Colorado, a ski patroller in Alaska, and a liftie in Taos. She's an avid backcountry skier and ski mountaineer and recently summited Mt. Baker as a fundraiser for SheJumps, a non-profit committed to getting more women involved in the outdoors.

She started sliding on snow later than most (in her late 20s), but now she’s the friend getting up at 4 am to make sure she can get a dawn patrol lap in before work! Jordan is passionate about diversity and inclusion and making outdoor activities more inclusive to all genders, races, and ability levels. When she's not skiing, Jordan is likely on her mountain bike exploring all that Colorado and Washington have to offer with her wife. Some say she never stops moving…