by Ryan Jordan | 2006-01-28 03:00:00-07
Black Diamond is making significant changes in both look and engineering to their avalanche shovel product line.
The most significant feature of the two new models (the fixed length Deploy and extendible handle Transfer) and two blade sizes (denoted by a "3" and "7" in the product name) is a handle that fully retracts into the contours of the shovel blade, simplifying storage in the pack (no longer does your shovel handle stick up above your pack's headline; or, stow the handle and blade separately).
Retractable shovel handles are nothing new, however, the concept having been pioneered already by Indigo a few years ago in its composite-materials shovel line. Black Diamond's shovels, however, are 100% aluminum and appear to be both stronger, and lighter, than the Indigo models. BD's new shovels weigh 20-27 ounces.
The handle has a trapezoidal cross section, where most avalanche shovels are made with circular or oval cross sections. The claim, of course, is that it's stronger. The reality, however, is that a trapezoidal cross section is easier to form into a curved handle, which is required for optimal storage of the retracting handle into the blade form.
In addition to its stowability, the new shovels are very fast to deploy and retract. The trapezoidal cross section of the handle means that there is no fiddling with turning a circular handle to find the locking buttonholes, or in accidentally inserting the handle with the male and female locks on opposite sides, as sometimes occurs with oval handles.
Bottom Line: Fast to use, compact to store, and light (but not light enough). Manufacture the Deploy 3 to a specification that makes it less than a pound, and you have a five star backcountry avalanche shovel. As is, the improvements are predominantly aesthetic and its specifications get lost in the shuffle with other brands. My pick for saving weight: the BCA Tour (16 oz in the 2006-2007 model).
"Black Diamond Deploy & Transfer Avalanche Shovels (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2006)," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/black_diamond_deploy_transfer_3_7_shovel_orwm2006.html, 2006-01-28 03:00:00-07.