Essentials: Backcountry Tools

Oct 25, 2011
Outside Magazine

BCA A-1 Shovel/Saw    Photo: Courtesy of BCA

BCA redesigned its line of shovels this year and now offers an impressive 12 options. For overnights or more involved outings, we liked this version of the A-1 best; its extendable handle makes it great for digging out a snow cave, and the supersharp saw just might come in handy, if only for cutting firewood.

G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins

G3 Alpinist
G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins   Photo: Courtesy of G3

Hydrophobic synthetic fibers on G3's updated Alpinists help keep 'em dry and provide fast glide and high traction on daylong tours. Stainless-steel swiveling tip attachments work with any ski shape. And while the new tail-clip attachments are easier to adjust, they're also a bit bulkier, which introduced some drag on flat-tailed skis when skinning over harder snow. Available in five lengths (153 to 199 centimeters) and six widths (70 to 140 millimeters).

K2 LockJaw Carbon-Aluminum Ski Poles

K2 LockJaw
K2 LockJaw Ski Pole   Photo: Courtesy of K2

We like how K2's people think: you're way more likely to measure the angle of the slope you're considering skiing if doing so is quick and easy. That's why they put a small bubble-vial inclinometer at the base of the grip of one of its all-around solid (easy to adjust, sturdy) LockJaw ski poles.

Mammut Pulse Barryvox Beacon

Mammut Pulse Barryvox beacon
Mammut Pulse Barryvox beacon   Photo: Courtesy of Mammut

There are newer beacons in Mammut’s line, but we still prefer the simple, quick-on-the-draw Pulse. The LCD screen and acoustic cues are beginner-friendly, while the advanced modes allow guide types to customize settings. Only gripe: in bright sunshine, the display appears blurry when viewed through polarized lenses.

Brooks Range 240+ Carbon Pro Probe

Brooks Range 240+ Carbon Pro
Brooks Range 240+ Carbon Pro Probe   Photo: Courtesy of Brooks Range

The 240-centimeter Carbon Pro probe (300 centimeters with optional extension; $12) offers fast, efficient one-pull deployment with a glove-grippable T-handle cord and locking sections. And at just nine ounces, it's also one of the lightest probes on the market.

Voile Straps

Voile Straps
Voile Straps   Photo: Courtesy of Voile

We always keep a few of Voile's stretchy rubber straps in our pack. Use 'em to bind your tips together when hiking up with your skis clipped to your pack; to bundle your skis before dropping them in the cat or heli bin; to keep an ailing skin in place; to jury-rig a busted pack strp; to ... you get the picture. Available in five sizes (9 to 21 inches).

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