I recently purchased a pair of these shovels on Costco’s website for $30. Because they came as a pair, I agreed with a friend to part out with one for $15 because I only needed a single one. The purpose of buying this shovel for me was to use in an emergency situation on a hike or traverse where I do not have a tent or sleeping bag and my only option is to dig out a snow cave. Also it can be used to dig a buried person out of the result of an avalanche, and with its 4 lashing holes, it can be used as a great dead anchor by burying it in the snow with cords and a runner attached. (I haven’t quite figured out the best way to attach it yet) It is advertised as an all purpose snow shovel to put in the back of the truck for an emergency such as a car accident. (Lifeline First Aid specializes in emergency kits for vehicles and such.) My hopes were that it would serve as a great all around mountaineering shovel.
My first impressions were very good. The finish on the aluminum appeared to be very good, and everything seemed to lock in quite well for a mere $15.
As I assembled the pieces, I noticed a slight wiggle in the mating of the pieces. I realized that unless special spacers made of acrylic or another plastic were placed on the end of each piece, one could not ask for better tolerances. Despite the small amount of slop, the shovel appeared to have a very sturdy construction.
Everything is made of aluminum except for the polymer handle. A word of advice is to never buy an avalanche shovel with a plastic scoop because even though they claim that it’s made of unbreakable Lexan or something similar, plastic simply doesn’t cut into the snow like metal because of its high flexibility. Back to the grip, it appeared to be quite sturdy with a rivet going through the shaft to attach it. It looks like it will hold its grip even full of powder or slush because of the deep holes and grooves used to texturize the grip on both the top and bottom of the handle. The plastic looks strong enough to do what it needs to.
The shovel is adjustable from 25″ to 32″(63.5-81.3cm) weighing in at 1.3lbs(0.59Kg). There are 3 ways it can be put together and I prefer full length for more leverage. If I had to dig out a snow cave with this shovel, I would be confident that it could be done without too much hassle. The scoop appears to be quite strong with a decent thickness and a slightly pointed edge for getting through the hard packed snow and layers of ice.
I haven’t been able to test the shovel yet, but it seems very promising. It is light enough that it is good insurance to have on the mountain, like an avalanche beacon (which I do not have.) Storing it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult. I just put it facing the back part of my pack and filled the space between my camelback and it with my other gear to make sure that it wouldn’t have any chance of puncturing my hydration bladder.
It might not be a Black Diamond Avalanche Shovel, but I have a good feeling that it will do the job just as well considering the difference of about $35. I will post an update soon on a field test to prove its worth.