Gearbox: 2024 Avalanche Safety Gear

Whether you’re looking to dig a pit, need a new probe, or want to be prepared with a saw in your pack, this avalanche safety equipment will round out and level up your collection.

Mammut Speed Lock Probe 280

$48 |

“Elle Woods would not approve of this probe. It neither bends nor snaps,” joked our tester after yarding on Mammut’s Speed Lock Probe. “The 280 grams are negligible in your pack, but having an actual metal probe gives me a confidence boost for searching in hardened avy debris,” she explained. One way Mammut keeps its Speed Lock Probe light is by using a cord instead of a wire. This eliminates a failure point as the cord is much more malleable and won’t fray after continuous bending. “Having the supple cord helps finesse the segments into place when deploying it and allows the probe to collapse smoothly,” our tester said. “The button to collapse the probe requires almost no dexterity. You can get it with your thumb while wearing boxing gloves.”

Ortovox Shovel Pro Alu III

$85 |

For our tester, the highlights of the Pro Alu III were the rubber grip and the shaft, which extends to a whopping 33 inches. Ortovox claims this shovel can move 2.7 liters per scoop. Our tester simply called this a “metric butt-ton.” When it came to assembly, she explained, “I like to just slide the handle into the blade while still in my pack.” To fit in an avy pocket, the asymmetrical T-grip has to be oriented to fit with the blade. “And there are grooves on the shaft and blade that match up perfectly for a smooth slide.” The Pro Alu III has a hoe mode and is compatible with Ortovox’s Pocket Spike ($65), a pick and spike that can be added to the handle to turn it into an ice axe. It should be noted these add-ons do not meet the standard ratings of ice axes.

Backcountry Access Shaxe Tech

$180 |

“What’s in a name? That which we call a shovel, by any other word is also an axe,” our tester quipped. This portmanteau of a tool features a single, fixed-length shaft that attaches to a shovel blade or axe pick, allowing users to carry one handle for both tools. The shovel function is pared down, without helpful features like a hoe mode, and, while the Tech version we tested can be used as part of a rescue sled, the Speed ($150) cannot. Our tester carried it only for spring missions, when he didn’t expect to use the shovel, because the short handle makes digging cumbersome. “I thought it would be lighter,” he said, noting the 2-pound total weight was heavier than some ultralight shovel and ice axe pairs. Still, he found it to be a solid space saver when he needed room in his pack for overnight and mountaineering gear.

Black Diamond Equipment Snow Saw Pro

$115 |

Black Diamond Equipment’s Snow Saw Pro, according to our tester, plays double duty as a column cutter and LARPing weapon. “It’s huge,” he said, brandishing the 9-ounce, 30-inch cutter like a sword. When sheathed into its own handle, the saw halves in size. With a 35-centimeter blade, the Snow Saw Pro easily cuts standard columns, but the handle allows it to cut the back of an extended column as well. “For when my ECT cord can’t handle an ice layer, this is perfect,” our tester said. A spring-loaded button unfurls the saw and locks it at 90, 180 or 270 degrees, making tight column cuts manageable. If the extended reach isn’t enough, it comes with attachments that let it slide into most Black Diamond poles, offering Treebeard-type reach to shave off cornices or make long-range attacks in your next Lord of the Rings reenactment.

These reviews were originally published in Issue No. 153. To read more, pick up a copy, or subscribe to read our gear reviews earlier when they are published in print.

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