Top 5 Best Avalanche Shovels

An avalanche shovel is one critical piece of equipment that every backcountry skier should bring with them on their treks. The packable tools are helpful for various reasons, but they are instrumental because they can save your life in the event of an avalanche.

While I’ve never been in an avalanche myself, I still always try to be as safe as possible whenever I go into the backcountry. I know how to find high-quality avalanche shovels and understand what makes the best options you’ll see here stand out. 

The MSR Responder Snow Shovel is my pick for the best avalanche shovel of the season. This one is small enough to carry with you strapped to your backpack while still providing a very effective way of digging out deep snow. 

There are plenty of shovels out there to choose from, but not all of them are the top recommended choices. I’ll provide you with a detailed list of all the best avalanche shovels in this post so you can stay ready for anything that comes your way on the mountain. 

Let’s dig in. 

Who Should Get This

If you’re a backcountry skier, you need to be educated on and prepared for anything that might come your way. One of the worst things that can occur off-piste is an avalanche. 

While the moving mountains of snow can be unstoppable, if you want to stand any chance for survival if you encounter one, you need the proper equipment. An avalanche shovel can allow you to dig yourself or your friends out of a slide.

These portable shovels are not just for skiers. If you live in any location that sees considerable snow, having an avalanche shovel in your car can be helpful if you get stuck or have to dig through slush or ice. 

They are portable, affordable, and a highly recommended accessory out in the backcountry. If you’re an inbounds skier and just visiting from a warmer location, you probably won’t need an avalanche shovel.

Best Avalanche Shovel: Top Picks

Here are all of my top picks for the best avalanche shovel of the year. All of the models you see here are strong, lightweight, and very valuable in a snow slide situation. 

1. MSR Responder Snow Shovel

  • Best for: Overall 
  • Key features: Lightweight, compact, strong, easy to pack, low profile handle 
  • Weight: 1.31 pounds 
  • Style: Collapsible 
  • Cost: $$ 

The MSR Responder Snow Shovel is my top pick for the best avalanche shovel of the season. This is a very effective option that is also small and compact to attach to your backpack easily. 

I like the collapsible design that lets you lower the already small profile even smaller. This one is small enough to fit inside a large pack or trim enough to be strapped outside if needed. 

It has a strong and durable construction that will give you excellent digging power when you need it most. The T-handle gives you a good grip that lets you get a little more leverage when you need to spring into action.

It doesn’t have the largest blade, but I think the compact design makes up for that.  

2. Overmount Folding Emergency Shovel 

  • Best for: Budget Option 
  • Key features: Affordable, lightweight, long handle, strong construction, includes ice scraper 
  • Weight: 1.42 pounds 
  • Style: Collapsible 
  • Cost: $

The Overmount Folding Emergency Shovel is a good budget option that will still provide you with excellent performance. 

The collapsible design easily packs down into a smaller size for quick transport. It also has a strong blade that will cut through even hardpack snow without any problems. 

A longer 32-inch handle lets you get a lot of leverage for extra digging power, and it also comes with an ice scraper that you can throw in your pack for the car for any needed reason. 

This one isn’t quite as compact as I like for a backcountry shovel, but it’s still small enough to transport pretty easily.  

3. Demon Escape Ally 

  • Best for: Features 
  • Key features: Strong design, snow pick, thermometer, ergonomic handle, lightweight 
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds 
  • Style: Collapsible 
  • Cost: $$$

The Demon Escape Ally Shovel is another great avalanche shovel that comes with a few additional features that make it stand out. 

It has a forged aluminum shaft/blade, which makes it strong and lightweight, and the handle is fully adjustable. 

Extra features include a thermometer, snow pick handle, and hidden snow saw. This is a multi-tool avalanche shovel option that’s highly effective.

The extra features add a little bit of weight, which can be a factor if you are on an extended backcountry trip. 

4. Yukon Charlie’s Collapsible

  • Best for: Low Profile 
  • Key features: Small profile, lightweight, adjustable, slip-proof ABS handle 
  • Weight: 1.12 pounds 
  • Style: Collapsible 
  • Cost: $$ 

The Yukon Charlie’s Collapsible shovel is an excellent option for anyone looking for a very low-profile model. 

This one is the lightest shovel on the list, and it also packs down to a small size that will easily fit into a backpack or be strapped onto it. It also extends to a nice length that gives you plenty of digging power when you need to use it. 

I also like the slip-proof ABS handle built into the shovel, and it makes holding onto it with gloves very doable. 

The total blade volume is a little small, but that’s what you would expect with a low-profile option. 

5. Backcountry Access T3 Rescue Package 

  • Best for: Total Safety 
  • Key features: Comes with beacon and probe, strong construction, collapsible design
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds 
  • Style: Collapsible 
  • Cost: $$$$$

If you are venturing into serious avalanche country, you need to be ready for the worst. The Backcountry Access T3 Rescue Package will help you do just that by providing you with a shovel, probe, and beacon. 

The shovel is compact, strong, and collapsible, making it easy to pack along when you ski. And the probe also folds up for easy storage. 

The beacon can help other skiers or rescue crew find you if you get stuck in a slide, and it’s a crucial life-saving device. 

The downside of this added safety is that the package is very expensive. 

How to Choose an Avalanche Shovel

This section will provide you with some essential things to consider when choosing an avalanche shovel. 

Size

While you could, in theory, use any type of shovel or digging device to burrow through snow and debris, the options you’ll find here are built specifically to allow you to be able to carry them while you’re skiing. 

You aren’t going to want a huge shovel on your back while you’re cruising down the slopes. As such, a shovel that’s smaller in size and built for such a purpose is ideal. All of the shovels you’ll see below are collapsible or portable enough to take skiing.

Strength

Even though an avalanche shovel may be small in size, you still need it to be strong. The snow you will encounter if you dig through an avalanche is much different from freshly fallen powder. It can be more like digging through rock or concrete.

A flimsy little snow shovel just won’t do. The options you’ll find on this list are made from strong, durable materials that will last for years.

Adjustability

Similar to size considerations, an adjustable handle is a nice feature to look for in an avalanche shovel. That makes it easier to pack and ski because you can make the shovel smaller for more leverage when digging through the snow. 

Look for shovels with several handle size adjustments or a removable handle to make it easier to pack.

Additional Features

You might not think that a shovel could have additional features, but some options do. If you want more tools in one, look for a shovel that can function as an avalanche probe or ice pick. A thermometer or snow saw is nice as well.

Useful Tips & Resources 

Everyone knows how to use a shovel. However, the avalanche shovels listed above are not just for digging. 

You can also use them to check snow conditions, build a shelter, get a vehicle unstuck, and do other purposes. Here is a good video on using a shovel to conduct important snowpack tests to check avalanche conditions.

Final Verdict

The MSR Responder Snow Shovel is my pick for the best overall avalanche shovel of the season. This is a simple but effective tool that can save your life. It’s easy to attach to your backpack but will also deliver a lot of digging power.

All of the shovels you see here will work well in any backcountry situation. They are strong, durable, and reliable. It’s always best to play it safe when in avalanche country, and these shovels will give you just that.

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