This past summer I was delighted to find Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles at Costco for Amanda. The twist-style locks are failure-prone, but for $27 they were by far the best value on the market, featuring carbon fiber shafts, faux cork grips, carbide tips, and several types of baskets.
This past weekend I found another fantastic deal at Costco: a two-pack of 21-oz telescoping aluminum backcountry shovels for just $20. They are made by Lifeline, a brand that I don’t recognize, that has no website, and that should not be confused with Life-Link, an Italian brand that is distributed in North America by Garmont.
While the shovels are not marketed for “backcountry” use, this appears to be a feasible application based on their size, weight, materials, and build quality — with a major caveat, discussed below. I’ll assume that Lifeline’s owners determined that they could sell shovels by the pallet by marketing them as “ideal for your car, truck, SUV, recreational vehicle or snowmobile,” instead of catering to the tiny community of human-powered winter enthusiasts.
The Lifeline shovel has similar specs to those made by Backcountry Access, Black Diamond, Voille and other reputable outdoor brands, with one notable difference: its blade is 1-3 inches narrower than most models, making it more packable but reducing its shoveling capabilities.
Full assembled shovel
- Length: 27″-33″
- Weight: 21 oz
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Length: 16″-22″
- Weight: 10.5 oz
- Width: 8.625″ tapers to 7.75″
- Length, front tip to shaft cup tip: 11″
Is it really backcountry worthy?
It’s 60 degrees in Boulder today and the mountain snowpack is still very thin, so it may be weeks (or, dread, months) until I can test out this shovel. If nothing else, it will be a great $10 product to keep in the trunk of our vehicles (e.g. if we were to get stuck) and to use for winter camping (e.g. digging out footprints and setting shelter anchors).
As for an avalanche shovel, this video review gives reason to be optimistic, but this one is rather discouraging. If you need to carry a shovel for possible avalanche rescue, it’d probably be wise to invest in shovel of higher quality.