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Best Avalanche Safety Products 2019 – 2020

From transceivers to avalanche backpacks, here are some top products that'll help you stay safe out there

90% of avalanche victims release the avalanche themselves, or have it released on them by a member of their group. It’s therefore vital that we are able to read and make decisions on snow stability and, in the event of an avalanche, have the correct equipment and training with us to carry out a companion rescue in efficient, potentially life-saving, time. 

We’ve not selected this kit because of trends, or marketing pushes from the equipment brands, we’ve selected it based on its merits and ease of use when out in the backcountry.

“We’ve not selected this kit because of trends, or marketing pushes from the equipment brands”

When planning on heading out into the backcountry, your first thought should be on making the correct decisions to ensure yourself and your group are never putting each other in any unnecessary danger. After this planning, you should always ensure your safety equipment is correct and in full working order. The bare minimum of a transceiver, shovel, and probe should always be carried by each member of the group.

Saying that, it’s no good owning all of this equipment and not having a clue how to use it. Get yourself, and your mates, out there on an avalanche safety course to brush up on your skills. After this, ensure you’re always getting out there practicing rescue scenarios with your transceiver shovel and probe. You should be looking to refresh your skills on a monthly basis.

Staying Alive In Avalanche Terrain – Bruce Tremper

Price: £19

Website: brucetremper.com

We can’t put out an avalanche gear roundup and not include what is, to many, the bible of avalanche safety. There is, after all, no point in going out and buying all of this equipment while not having a clue how to keep yourself and the group you’re with away from avalanche prone terrain.

As mentioned already at the top of this roundup, be sure to spend time with a certified guide and learn about snow science and mechanics before heading out there. Then, when you’ve done that, be sure to grab yourself a copy of Bruce’s finest work so you can swot up on avalanche safety whilst at home. This book is even small enough to bring with you on your next hut-to-hut ski tour. Who knows? It might just save your life one day.

Mammut Barryvox S Avalanche Transceiver

Price: £350

Website: mammut.com

By far the strongest performing transceiver in our roundup of backcountry safety equipment, the Mammut Barryvox S continues the strong family tree of Mammut transceivers. In an effort to reduce companion search times, it now comes in a more user-friendly and streamlined package.

Chosen for the 2019/20 Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide – Take a closer look at the Mammut Barryvox S here

Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Transceiver

Price: £260

Website: blackdiamondequipment.com

Black Diamond have leant on avalanche safety equipment manufacturer Pieps to create the Recon BT Transceiver (see it as a rebranded Powder BT transceiver). This isn’t a bad thing at all as Pieps carry a strong reputation in the avalanche safety equipment industry. The clever use of Bluetooth here means you’re able to update this transceiver on the fly.

Chosen for the 2019/20 Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide – Take a closer look at the Black Diamond Recon BT here

Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Transceiver

Price: £220

Website: ortovox.com

Ortovox have done well to make a powerful and easy to use transceiver, all at a price point that’s not going to seem like a barrier for those who are looking to get into backcountry skiing. Three antennas, and Ortovox’s tried and tested Smart Antenna Technology, means that as long as your companions are on the ball and trained up they’ll have a much higher chance of getting the strongest signal lock on the transceiver. This, in turn, will make it easier for them to hone in on your location at speed.

Chosen for the 2019/20 Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide – Take a closer look at the Ortovox 3+ here

Ortovox Free Rider 20 S Avalanche Backpack

Price: £665

Website: ortovox.com

Comfort and a low weight are the main talking points of the Ortovox Free Rider 20 S Avalanche Backpack. At just 2,410g, with a carbon canister and form-fitting design, the Free Rider has made it possible for more people to feel comfortable carrying the extra weight of an avalanche airbag around. The Avabag system used in the Free Rider 20 is also removable, meaning that you’ll be able to swap it between compatible packs.

Chosen for the 2019/20 Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide – Take a closer look at the Ortovox Free Rider 20 S Avabag here

PIEPS Jetforce BT 25

Price: £949

Website: pieps.com

The Pieps Jetforce BT 25 carries a big lithium ion battery and electric fan, as well the potential for easy airline travel, test deployments, multiple deployments and an improved inflation / deflation cycle. Yes, you’re going to have to carry a little weight over conventional gas powered packs but we feel as the positives outweigh (sorry) the negatives in this case.

Chosen for the 2019/20 Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide – Take a closer look at the Pieps Jetforce BT here

Slope Angel Halo

Price: £45

Website: slopeangel.com

Whilst this product doesn’t replace the need for avalanche safety training and the mandatory avalanche safety equipment that is transceiver, shovel, and probe, it is a useful tool to help you and your party make informed decisions in the backcountry. Cutting straight to it, that’s the main reason we’ve included it in the Mpora Backcountry Ski Guide.

The Halo is able to provide you with five key bits of information that’ll help you make informed decisions whilst out in the backcountry: slope angle, current height, temperature, time and transceiver send checker. This is all achieved in a handy device that easily clips onto a pole or bag strap. Readings are instant, and it comes with a battery that, it’s claimed, will last for up to two years of moderate use.

Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel & Quickdraw Tour 320 Probe

Price: £70 (shovel) and £65 (probe)
Weight: 794 g (shovel) and 385 g (probe)

Website: blackdiamondequipment.com

We’ve long been fans of “hoe” features on avalanche shovels. Funny name for sure, but it just means that the shovel is able to be pointed directly down towards the snow to efficiently clear snow at a pretty staggering rate. This is most useful if you’re clearing the snow away from the lead digger in a companion rescue scenario. It also makes digging snow pits that bit easier.

We’re also big fans of the large D-shaped handle found on the Evac 7 Shovel, which’ll really come into play if you find yourself needing to rapidly clear as much snow as possible in the event of an emergency. Topping off this package is Black Diamond’s Tour 320 Probe, which features rapid deployment at a length of 320cm. We always recommend going for the longer length as you never know when it might come in use.

Ortovox Pro Light Shovel & Alu 320+ Probe

Price: £70 (shovel) and £70 (probe)
Weight: 440 g (shovel) and 430 g (probe)

Website: ortovox.com

Whilst the Black Diamond Evac 7 comes in at a weight of 794g, the Pro Light shovel from Ortovox comes in at a measly 440g. Whilst we’d always recommend avoiding getting dragged into worrying about the weight of avalanche gear, it’s heavy for a reason, we realise that many will be looking to shave weight from their pack weights – a lightweight shovel and probe is a great way of achieving this.

Not only is the Pro Light Shovel a lightweight number, it’s also pretty fast to put together with a locking feature that doesn’t require the press of a button (something that differentiates it from most shovels currently on the market). The Alu 320+ PFA Probe comes in at a low weight of 235g, and is also available in a carbon construction or 240cm length.

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