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.
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.
The following retailers sell this product: