Avalanche Safety Buying Guide
These are the pieces of equipment that you're trusting to save your life. Choose them confidently by reading our buying guide.
Beacons are a necessity in the backcountry, and even something you should carry in some areas in-bounds. While all beacons achieve a similar goal, they all have different specifications and abilities. Below are some of the following features you might consider before deciding what model is best for you.
- Three antenna beacons have better readings and more direct routing than older, single antenna beacons by taking signals from all axis. You will find nearly all beacons are three antenna now as it is the new standard.
- Bandwidth is different with every beacon. Choose a beacon that has the best bandwidth as this will make starting your search quicker.
- Marking functions allow you to mark someone off once they have been located so that you can continue your search for other victims while someone else digs them out.
- Multiple buried indication shows you how many people are buried. Some beacons have a higher capacity for how many people they can locate at one time.
- Updateable software gives you the capability to keep up with the latest revisions to software, as well as getting rid of any bugs if problems arise.
- Group check makes it easy to check that everyone’s beacons are working before heading off for the day.
Shovels are often put down low on the hierarchy of gear, but when it comes down to the crunch having a shovel that you can move large amounts of snow can make all the difference in a rescue. Here’s a few things to consider when buying one
Collapsible vs Non-Collapsible
Most shovels now have an extendable shaft. Trying to move snow quickly and efficiently with a shorter shaft can be hard work. Choose a shovel that can extend in order to get better leverage and dig quicker.
Most shovels are aluminum which is relatively lightweight and cuts through the snow easily. Plastic shovels can sometimes be lighter, but are more prone to deflection and cracking. If you are trying to go lightweight, make sure the shovel can still perform like it needs to in emergency situations.
Many shovels have multiple functions now. Some will offer an axe function, allowing you to chop up harder snow to dig through it quicker. Some shovels also come with a stowed snow saw. This saves you space in your pack and keeps you at the ready.
Probes are a very basic piece of equipment, yet they can be crucial to performing a rescue in time. These are some of the things to consider when purchasing a probe.
Probes come in a range of lengths with 2.40m and 2.80m being the most common. For New Zealand, a 2.40m probe can often suffice. Our snowfall totals are far less than some places causing the depth of a buried victim to be relatively lower. If you are touring overseas in places with high snowfall, a 2.80m is necessary in order to reach deeper burials.
Most probes are made from aluminum. It has a great weight to strength ratio without being too costly. If you are looking to save a bit of weight consider a carbon probe. These are offered in all lengths and typically are a bit lighter.
All collapsible probes have some sort of mechanism to lock them off when extended. Choose a system that is easy to use and can be done quickly in a rushed/stressful situation.