The Best Backcountry Tools of 2013

Jeff Burke

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Ortovox 3+ Beacon

Three-antenna transceivers with signal analysis and separation are today’s standard, and the intuitive display and smart antenna of the 3+ (which senses the beacon’s orientation when buried) work as well for pros as they do for novices. Translation: This is one of the easiest-to-use, most effective beacons on the market.

G3 AviTech Shovel


Avalanche debris is thick, heavy, and hard, which is why your shovel blade should be high-strength aluminum, not plastic. The AviTech’s angled geometry is effective at biting into and scooping out large amounts of snow fast. Available with either a D- or T-shaped handle.

Gecko Skins


Instead of using glue, as other skins do, the Gecko employ a proprietary rubber-silicone adhesive that creates suction. Sounds like crazy talk, but we’re big fans. These skins stick equally well to dry and wet bases, can be pulled apart with greater ease than traditional skins, and are easier to maintain—snow, pine needles, and bark brush right off.

Mammut Expert Probe


Your probe should be sturdy and quick to deploy. We like this aluminum one because it slides easily through varying densities of snow, weighs very little, and is 80 centimeters longer than the average probe. The extra length helps not only in rescue situations but when crossing glaciated terrain, too.