An avalanche shovel is a critical piece of any kit. If it breaks during a crisis, somebody could die. Yet for the weight-obsessed, choosing a shovel that is adequately durable has meant accepting compromise to shave those extra grams -- often meaning carrying a shovel with a shorter handle. For those who can afford it, the Komperdell Carbon Shovel offers a better solution.
The blade and shaft of this ultralight shovel are almost 100-percent carbon fiber, which gives it great strength at minimal weight. The blade has a steel-reinforced tip and is very stiff for chopping in hard snow. Plus, it just looks cool to other gear heads. In terms of surface area, it is 10 percent smaller than the Life-Link molded shovels, so not huge but adequate.
The detachable handle extends, giving the shovel a handle length that ranges from 26 to 35 inches; longer is much better if you have a lot of digging to do, especially for larger people. Unlike most other shovel handles, this has a nice foam-padded grip that is warm and doesn't slip with wet gloves. The Komperdell (and Ortovox) shovels have an L-shaped handle that work with mittens and can be rotated for lefties. This also allows the shovel to function as a trenching tool with the blade at a right angle -- a handy feature, though, some may wish to forego it for a normal T-grip.
In our testing, the shovel is quite capable of moving a lot of snow and had no problem chopping through hard stuff. It tends to have less bounce-back than most Lexan blades we've used. Obviously, this isn't the same as using a steel-bladed grain shovel, but it's as efficient as most others in its class.
So the big deal is the weight, or lack thereof. The entire Carbon Shovel with the extendable handle weighs just 15 ounces. That is 40 percent lighter (9 ounces) than a comparable Lexan shovel. It's even lighter than a standard shovel with a short handle. And the fanatics can leave behind the upper section to save an additional 5 ounces and still have a functional shovel (an optional short T-grip would be nice).
Of course, the elephant in the room is the price. At $160 retail, the Komperdell Carbon Shovel is vastly more expensive than any other shovel (typically $45 to $65 for a decent one). But considering that people are gladly paying $625 for a Dynafit TLT Titanium Race binding and $670 for the Scarpa F1 boot, the price isn't unrealistic. This shovel is ideal for hardcore alpinists and ski mountaineers who are assembling the lightest gear that doesn't give up performance or durability.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $160
For more information: www.komperdell.com