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The SnowClaw Backcounty Snow Shovel

SnowClaw and Voile Telepro Avalanche Shovel

I bought a 5 oz SnowClaw snow shovel this year as a weight saver to replace my 30 oz  collapsible Voile Telepro avalanche shovel. But after some winter camping and a lot of snow shelter practice, I've concluded that the SnowClaw isn't a good substitute. It has its uses, but when it comes to down and dirty ditch digging, snow carving, or avalanche rescue, it doesn't measure up.

The Snow Claw

The SnowClaw is a 5 oz. high density plastic disk. It has two handles which you grip firmly, narrow side down. It's good for digging shallow trenches, a foot of two deep at most, in loosely packed snow, for constructing an emergency wind break or a depressed sleeping platform under a pyramid shaped tarp. If you need to dig deeper than that, or punch through crusty or compacted snow, the SnowClaw is no substitute for a proper avalanche shovel.

Avalanche Shovel Comparison

The chief advantages of an avalanche shovel over the SnowClaw is it's carving ability and the extended reach provided by the handle. This can be seen clearly when it comes to carving out a basic snow shelter, tunneling under the surface of the snow to create a small cave at one end of a pit or trench, so you can shelter your legs and torso under the snow's crust.

The edge of the SnowClaw is simply too blunt for proper carving when compared to a shovel, which is designed for this purpose. Moreover, you really need to be able to grip the Snowclaw with both hands to use it. If you're lying prone in a cave, like I am here, trying to burrow sideways into the snow, it really helps to have a sharper edge like a avy shovel head, that you can wield with just one hand.

Furthermore, if you consider the snow conditions that will exist after an avalanche, where the surface of the snow will be littered with consolidated pieces of snow slab, you really need the edge and leverage of a proper snow shovel to effect a rescue. I've tried to dig through this kind of snow using a SnowClaw and it's a non-starter. The blade bounces of off crusty snow and it's very difficult to break consolidated slabs by levering the plastic disk under them.

Conclusion

While the SnowClaw is adequate for digging out shallow trenches for benign winter camping, it is not a substitute for a real avalanche shovel. If you plan on digging snow shelters or are traveling through avalanche country and want to be properly equipped for a rescue, buy an aluminum shovel instead.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. So, for early winter unconsolidated snow, the snow claw might be adequate.

    I got an LL Bean snow shovel that works well. The elaborate canvas organizer that came with it makes me think the target market was as an emergency shovel for the owners of expansive cars

  2. Couldn't agree more. The snow claw is OK for fast and light trips where you don't plan to do much shovelling, just some clearing and a little landscaping, but for anything more extensive, a real shovel is invaluable.

  3. I just took a 3 day avalanche rescue and prediction course. You can't do either with a snow claw – the run out to an avalanche sets up as concrete. In fact, a lot of smaller collapsible shovels are tough to use too. The larger blade size on the Voile however is ideal. I may upgrade to the one with a snow saw in the handle.

  4. I would agree with you. I use my snow claw for day trips to clear snow, as a seat, and just in case of emergency, because it is light and easy to pack. But for snow camping there is no way it could replace my snow shovel, despite its lighter weight.

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