As more and more people venture through the gates or choose to skip the resort altogether, outdoor brands are strengthening their commitment to snow safety for the the 2014/2015 season. Alongside game changing innovations like the Jetforce avalanche airbag pack, numerous improvements have been made to the essential three items that should be in any backcountry adventurer's pack: beacon, shovel, and probe.
Black Diamond Evac (7 – $80, 9): A multi-functional backcountry tool, the Evac's durable anodized aluminum blade simply flips to operate in either shovel or hoe mode from the same attachment point. A winter saw accessory can be attached to the dual collapsible shaft for clearing branches or cleaning sidewalls in a snow pit.
MSR Operator (T – $69, D) and Responder: The neckless, lightweight, and high-strength aluminum blade makes for ultra-packability. An aggressive, serrated edge easily breaks through hard pack conditions and ice.
Mammut Alugator Twist ($59.95): The pre-shaped rotating shaft offers two positions (shovel and hoe mode) in one compact unit for cutting blocks, digging an avalanche pit, and shoveling snow. The T-grip and hardened, anodized blade with integrated stabilization ribs make for confident handling when digging.
BCA Tracker 3 ($370): The Tracker3 is smaller and lighter than other models and is one of the most compact multi-antenna transmitter-receivers out there. With its intelligent multiple burial search mode and simple, intuitive operation, the Tracker3 is lightning fast. The real-time display enables swift and extremely precise searching.
MSR Striker (CX320, 320, 240-$59): The new MSR line of aluminum probes use a variable diameter construction to cut down on weight, with a thick, 13mm diameter lower section for maximum stiffness and efficiency. Locking together in a single pull, the Striker probes come with 5cm depth markings offset for 360 degree visibility.
Mammut Carbon Probe 240 Fast Lock ($74.95): A lightweight probe made from high-quality carbon and extending to 240cm. The Fast Lock Tensioning System which makes extending the probe easy and fast while wearing gloves.
Black Diamond Quickdraw Carbon 320 Probe ($80): Designed for deeper snow packs, the new Black Diamond probe features high-visibility cm shaft measurements for quick and precise depth evaluation. The probe's pull cord is integrated into the stuff sack for a super quick, one pull deployment.
I have a Pieps and Black Diamond snow safety setup that I have been testing this winter and am so far impressed. Full reviews to follow.