Recommended Safety Gear

If you want a bit of advice before you buy any safety gear, then read on. If you want to know what gear to bring on a course with us, then have a look lower down this page.

What avalanche safety gear are we currently recommending?:

Shovel: A shovel for avalanche rescue needs to be strong enough to do some serious digging. That means they must be metal, and well made. Therefore our two favourites at the moment are:

Ortovox Kodiak - This is a no-nonsense shovel for serious digging. It has a serrated edge to the metal shovel blade, with a flat-top to allow you to use your ski boot in hard snow. A trapezoidal, extendable handle, allows you to easily locate the pin holes when putting the shovel together. And the shovel handle is a D Grip - so it doesn't matter whether you're wearing gloves or mitts.

Voile T6 Telepro - This shovel is bomb-proof. Possibly the strongest shovel on the market for avalanche rescue, this will never let you down. A strong blade, with a flat top (for using your boot), and an extendable handle make this the choice of many avalanche professionals the world over. The D Grip handle is extra strong too, allowing an ultra strong grip regardless of what you wear on your hands. The only downside to this shovel is that they are hard to find on sale in Europe.

Probe:Probes need to be simple, strong, and long enough to do the job. Beware of ultra light probes designed to fit inside shovel handles - they will break when you need them most !We recommend the following:

Ortovox 240 Economic - This is a great probe that does exactly what you need it to. It's easy to erect, long enough to do the job (2.4m), and strong. It's also well priced, and at 210g weight it won't hold you back.

Ortovox 240 Carbon PFA - If you want quality, and don't care about price, then this is a must. A well made, but ultra light probe, using carbon to keep the weight down to an impressive 190g. The PFA system is basically a handle that you pull to tension the probe, meaning you can get to searching more rapidly.

Black Diamond Tour 265 - As the name suggests, a 2.65m probe. This is a strong and well made probe, with a steel cable for tensioning. A little heavy at 300g, but built to last.

Transceivers:The best transceiver in the world is the one you know how to use. Whichever one you end up buying you MUST train with it in order that searching becomes a slick drill. The following are all worth considering:

Ortovox 3+ - My personal favourite at the moment. This 3 antennae unit is super easy to use. The buttons are well thought out, and the whole system is just very intuitive, with a floating arrow and very audible tone to guide you in to the victim. There is a simple "mark" function for multiple casualties that works very well. It's also a slim-line design making it comfortable to wear. Finally, taking just one AA battery, you don't spend much on batteries at all.

Mammut Element - This is a simplified version of the popular Mammut Pulse. The Pulse is a great3 antennae unit, but many people just find it a little too confusing. The range of functions are a little complicated (and some feel unnecessary), so Mammut revised the product to bring out the Element. This unit works very well, is easy to understand, and very effective when searching. There is also a "mark" function for multiple burials. I still think it's a little bulky, but that's not really a big deal. Three AAA batteries reqd.

Ortovox Zoom - This is the latest unit from Ortovox. A three antennae, low budget option, that seems to have been designed to compete with the BCA tracker. LEDs and a tone guide you to the victim. The unit is small, well priced, and in our opinion far superior to the BCA Tracker (versions 1,2 or 3 !).

If you're looking for somewhere to buy this gear in Chamonix, then we recommend Zero G Sports. Visit their shop on Rue Dr Paccard, or go on-line at ZeroG

All courses require the following equipment:

  • Skis/Snowboard - All mountain.
  • Boots Alpine or touring type.
  • Poles - Fixed length poles preferred to adjustable. Komperdell Recommended.
  • Helmet Optional, but recommended for your own protection.
  • Lift ticket
  • Rucksack (Approx 20-30 litre capacity). Ortovox freeride series recommeded.
  • Shovel* - Metal only. DO NOT BRING PLASTIC !
  • Probe*. 2.4m length minimum. Ortovox recommended. Avoid ultra light poles that fit inside a shovel handle - they break easily.
  • Transceiver* - Ortovox 3+ and Mammut Element recommended. Only bring an analogue transceiver if you are slick when using one. All transceivers must have had their antennae checked within the past 3 years.
  • Warm gloves (at least 2 pairs). Gloves get wet when digging.
  • Warm hat
  • Goggles. Pale lenses for low visibility.
  • Sunglasses (Category 4 glacier glasses).Bolle, Vuarnet, Julbo and Cebe all recommended
  • Thermal shirt
  • Ski jacket and trousers (mountaineering clothing works just as well). Arc'teryx "Sabre" Jacket and Pants highly recommended.
  • Thick socks. Teko recommended
  • Lip Salve (SPF >30)
  • Sun cream (SPF >30)
  • Water bottle or flask - optional
  • Packed Lunch optional. If not, bring money for the cafe.
  • Pocket notebook and pencil

*These will be provided by Avalanche Academy, so don't worry if you don't have your own.

For more comparisons of different Safety Gear visit the Resources Area