Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel REVIEW

This carbon fiber snow shovel is the lightest, most versatile, and most beautiful on the market… but also the most expensive.

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by Doug Johnson | 2006-08-09 03:00:00-06

Introduction

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At just 16.4 ounces, the Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel is the lightest on the market. It is also highly versatile featuring a full-size blade, foam grip, an extendable shaft, left or right hand grip, and an innovative hoe position for scraping. In soft snow, it even passes as an ice axe in a pinch. At $159.95 it is also the most expensive shovel on the market. So, is it worth all that gold for this piece of carbon?

What’s Good

  • Full carbon fiber construction is light, stiff, and beautiful
  • Steel reinforcement protects the leading edge of the blade
  • Blade is strong enough for rain-soaked frozen Washington snow
  • Angled handle gives a more powerful position than standard flat handles and easily switches for left or right handed use
  • Hoe position is extremely useful for smoothing tent platforms or scraping out tight snow cave entrances
  • Padded grip is comfortable and non-slip
  • At just over 1 pound, it is the lightest extendable shovel on the market

What’s Not So Good

  • Steel reinforcement doesn’t protect the corners of the blade, leaving the carbon fiber susceptible to damage - especially from metal objects like snow stakes
  • Spring adjustment buttons sometimes stick (but are typically easy to repair)
  • Carbon fiber blade is strong but more prone to chipping than aluminum or Lexan
  • Narrower, curved blade is great for digging but not as good for cutting snow blocks as wider, flatter blades
  • Very expensive at $159.95

Specifications

  Year/Model

2006 Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel

  Materials

Carbon fiber blade with steel edge reinforcement, carbon fiber shaft with EVA foam grip and plastic handle junction

  Weight

16.4 oz (464 g) measured weight; 14.8 oz (419 g) manufacturer claimed weight

  Blade Dimensions

Width: 8.1 in (21 cm)
Length: 11.0 in (28 cm)

  Shovel Length

26.5 - 35.5 in (67 - 90 cm)

  MSRP

$159.95

Performance

The Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel features a beautiful carbon fiber blade with a steel-reinforced edge and molded ridges for strength and rigidity. The extendable shaft is also carbon fiber and locks with spring-loaded push buttons. When compact it locks into a right-handed angle but easily switches for left or right-handed use when extended.

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The carbon blade is reinforced with a steel insert along its front edge and is strong enough to pound through Washington’s frozen rain-soaked snow.

The handle is also carbon fiber and attaches to the main shaft with a plastic elbow. It is angled about 30 degrees up for an ergonomic and powerful hand position. A long EVA foam grip on the main shaft is comfortable and anti-slip.

An innovative hoe function, which can be used for scraping, is achieved by removing the blade and fixing it to the hand grip.

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The Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel is very versatile, quickly adapting between compact (left top), extended hoe (top right), or extended left or right-handed grips (bottom left and right) Further, you can remove the blade for a passable soft-snow ice axe.

Despite its light weight, the carbon Komperdell shovel is very strong. I used it to dig snow caves, tent platforms, and avalanche pits with solid results. Even when hoisting extra-large blocks of rain-soaked snow or smashing into glacial ice, the Avalanche Carbon Shovel held up well and showed minimal deflection. In situations where I’ve bent aluminum shovels, this ultralight shovel had no problems.

While the blade is a good width for most applications, its bend, width, and ridges aren’t the best for carving large snow blocks for an igloo or building large kickers for snowboarding. As an all-around shovel for digging avalanche pits, building snow caves, or building tent platforms, the medium-sized blade is a good compromise.

The hoe function is innovative and useful. It only takes seconds to remove the blade and attach it to the handle to set up the hoe, which can be used for scraping or dragging snow. I found this very useful for smoothing tent platforms, moving large amounts of powder snow, or clearing tight snow cave entrances. I love the hoe set-up and use it almost as much as the shovel.

Komperdell claims that the Avalanche Carbon Shovel can be used as an ice axe when the blade is removed. I tested this in the field and found that it worked quite well in soft snow conditions. Because the “pick” is round and blunted, it is definitely not for icy conditions and isn’t an ice axe replacement. Still, it worked great for self arrest and glissading in winter or soft spring conditions.

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The hoe function is excellent for moving powder snow or smoothing tent platforms while the shovel digs a quick snow cave or avalanche pit.

Despite being strong enough to handle heavy snow loads and chipping away at hard, crusty ice, the carbon blade is susceptible to sharp metal objects such as imbedded snow stakes. While the steel reinforced edge had no problem smashing into stakes while digging them out (except for some clear coat chips), the rounded edges of the carbon blade are not protected and chipped a bit. While this chipping has not affected the overall strength of the blade, extra care is needed when digging out frozen metal objects.

Assessment

At $159.95, the Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel is the lightest, most versatile, and most beautiful shovel on the market, but also the most expensive. With most shovels coming in at less than $100, it’s hard to justify the extra expense of the Avalanche Carbon. For the price, though, it’s possible to drop five or more ounces of weight while adding a hoe and a passable ice axe.

What’s Unique

This is the lightest extendable shovel on the market. Further, its hoe position and passable in-a-pinch ice axe option make it the most versatile of shovels.

Recommendations for Improvement

This is a great shovel. I do offer the following recommendations for improvement:

  1. Wrap the steel reinforcement further along the edge of the shovel to provide more protection for the carbon fiber.
  2. Offer a less expensive aluminum version of the shovel for those that want the versatility but want to save some cash.


Citation

"Komperdell Avalanche Carbon Shovel REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/komperdell_avalanche_carbon_shovel_review.html, 2006-08-09 03:00:00-06.

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