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What’s the best avalanche safety gear? Get the right kit for 2020

Does leaving the slushy pistes and tracked-out sidehits behind sound good? Hell yes, it does.

Head into the hills this spring and find yourself some stashes, you’d be surprised how close the fresh lines are. Just make sure you stay safe with the right knowledge and avalanche safety gear.

Choosing the best avalanche beacon or transceiver is the key to your backcountry safety system. Without a transceiver and the knowledge of how to use it, there’s very little chance of finding anyone in a burial situation. With that in mind, remember that the high-spec avalanche transceiver might not be the best one for you. There’s no point getting kitted out with all the latest technology if you aren’t comfortable using it in all situations.

OUR PICK
BCA Tacker 2 Avalanche Beacon

BCA TRACKER 2 AVALANCHE BEACON

BCA’s best-selling avalanche transceiver of all time, the Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon Transceiver, is one of the fastest, most precise units available.

USE THE SAME TRANSCEIVER THAT YOUR FRIENDS DO

Another big consideration with avalanche transceivers is the kit your touring partners use. In a situation where you have to use a different beacon, familiarity is going to make everything easier. We’ve got a heap more information about choosing the right beacon over in our avalanche safety gear buying guide.

Read more about beacons in our Avalanche Safety Gear guide.

WHAT’S THE BEST AVALANCHE PROBE?

CARBON VS ALUMINIUM AVALANCHE PROBES

Carbon poles are good for fast and light ski mountaineering where the risk of avalanche is typically very low. Rescue professionals use steel avalanche probes that are longer and more substantially constructed. Avalanche probe weight doesn’t matter to them, but reliability does, and steel avalanche probes are pretty strong. Everyday backcountry skiers and snowboarders normally opt to use aluminium avalanche probes that fit somewhere between superlight carbon poles and heavy steel avalanche probes. Read our Avalanche Safety Buying Guide for help on how to use an avalanche probe and more detailed information.

AVALANCHE PROBE FEATURES

Depth markings are essential to know how exactly how deep a victim is buried. Poles with laser-etched markings are ideal as these won’t rub off with prolonged use. Depth markers are also useful in multiple burial situations when the victim closest to the surface would be dug-out first. Have a look at the tip and diameter of each avalanche probe. A sharper tip will penetrate dense snowpack easier and a thicker pole is more robust but weighs more. Around 11mm is often good for everyday skiers and snowboarders.

OUR PICK
BCA Stealth 270 Avalanche Probe

BCA STEALTH 270 AVALANCHE PROBE

With its simple and rapid assembly, the BCA Stealth 270 Avalanche Probe is ideal for emergency situations.

HOW LONG SHOULD MY AVALANCHE PROBE BE?

Make sure you get the right avalanche probe length. You’ll see manufacturer’s make probes between 200-300cm, so you’ll want to go for something between 2.4-2.8 metres long. Unfortunately, if the victim is more than 2m (6 and a half feet) deep, then the avalanche survival rate drops to almost zero.

Remember: check the folded length of your avalanche probe to make sure it fits into your backpack.

Read more about probes in our Avalanche Safety Gear guide.

WHAT’S THE BEST AVALANCHE SHOVEL?

Not just a small spade. Avalanche debris is notoriously solid, so choosing the best avalanche shovel is key. Your avalanche shovel should be lightweight in your backpack and efficient at shifting snow.

When choosing an avalanche shovel, it’s important to consider that you’ll be using it for a whole host of things aside from avalanche survival. Hopefully, you’ll never really have to use it in a real burial situation. Your snow shovel is crucial for digging snow holes, Rutsch Block tests, using as a sledge, and loads of other things (building jumps). So, remember that the lightest and smallest shovel might not be the best choice for you. A top-quality shovel should last for years potentially, so look for something that fits you just right.

OUR PICK
Black Diamond Deploy 3 Avalanche Shovel

BLACK DIAMOND DEPLOY 3 AVALANCHE SHOVEL

A rapid-deployment shovel designed for daily use, the Black Diamond Deploy 3 Snow Shovel is a must-have for any alpine expedition.

WHAT ARE AVALANCHE SHOVELS MADE OF?

A good avalanche shovel will be made almost exclusively from aluminium, except for plastic trimmings. Shovels made from steel will weigh a lot. Too much for even short sidecountry adventures. Fully plastic-made avalanche shovels are also out of the question, they’re just not tough enough.

Read more about shovels in our Avalanche Safety Gear guide.

AVALANCHE SAFETY PACKAGES

Buying an avalanche safety package is great if you’re just getting into backcountry skiing or snowboarding. They provide all the essentials we’ve picked out in this blog, and normally include a shovel, avalanche transceiver and avalanche probe. Avalanche safety packages don’t necessarily only include entry-level kit, the Arva Evo5 avalanche safety package contains some serious safety kit at a great price.

OUR PICK
Avalanche safety package Arva evo5

ARVA EVO5 AVALANCHE SAFETY PACKAGE

The Arva Evo5 Avalanche Safety Package provides all the essentials for a rapid and successful rescue, in one handy box.

We’ve gone over the basics here. At the very least you’ll need a decent avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver and avalanche shovel. However, there’s always more gear to buy. An avalanche airbag backpack is an easy contender for the next bit of kit you should buy. But check out our full range of snow analysis tools and mountain safety equipment.

And remember, don’t head out without the right knowledge of what to do in a survival situation.