Backcountry Access B1 EXT shovel
$50, 1 lb. 5 oz.
BCA’s light and compact B1 EXT has a great strength-to-weight ratio. Its small but solid aluminum blade chopped easily into consolidated snow and icy crust in test pits I dug while backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains. The two-section, straight shaft and blade assemble as quickly as most traditional shovels of similar design, and the shaft compresses short enough (16 inches/40.5 cm) to fit into a pack’s snow-gear pocket without separating its two sections. Extended, the shovel’s length (22.25 inches/56.5 cm) allows for digging without being uncomfortably hunched over. But that compact blade doesn’t move snow as quickly as a larger shovel; it’s designed for users who prioritize low weight over snow-moving performance.
Black Diamond Deploy 7 shovel
$70, 1 lb. 9 oz.
The name says it all—this shovel is designed to be ready for use instantly and easily, a big advantage in an emergency. Its curved, trapezoidal shaft slides behind the blade for storage, meaning no assembly required: Depress buttons once, extend the shaft, and you’re digging in a second or two—much faster than with most shovels, which require extending the shaft and reattaching it to the blade. The Deploy 7’s 0.7-gallon (2.65 L), lightweight aluminum blade moved snow fast when I dug pits while backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains; the blade also penetrated readily in a variety of snow conditions. Compact when collapsed, the shovel stores easily in a pack. The short handle means you’re bending over more when digging, but also makes the shovel ideal for tight situations, like a small pit or a snow cave. Its hardy, big blade and compact, quick-deploying design make it an excellent all-around backcountry shovel.