I have used a lot of different back-country shovels over the last 10 years of avalanche courses and last year I had the opportunity to review a Brooks-Range Sharktooth Pro Shovel. This year Ortovox sent me a Kodiak Shovel to demo and I’ve been extremely pleased with it, so much so that I have tried convincing fellow Mountain Rescue Service members to pick one up.
There are a lot of positives to this shovel and only one negative, so let’s get that negative out of the way first.
Weight: At 1lb, 12oz (790g) this shovel is a bit on the heavy side for someone who only visits the back-country occasionally and doesn’t do a lot of pit work. However it still breaks down and easily stores in the avalanche gear front pocket of my EMS Wintergreen Backpack.
And now for the positives that make this shovel a digging machine;
Blade: This large blade, (11.8 x 9 x 2.4″), has almost 2 square feet of volume. It easily moves more snow per stroke than any other shovel I have used. The sharp serrated blade cuts through hard debris (and parking lot snow banks) like no other edge I have used. It also is flat on the bottom axis allowing for smooth pit walls to aid in quality snow-pack observations. Finally the top of the blade has some non-slip step grooves to facilitate using your ski boots on the blade to cut through cement if need be.
Shaft: This telescoping shaft extends from 20″ to 28″ but still fits easily in my avalanche gear pocket when collapsed. The oval shape of the shaft is really comfortable to dig with compared to traditional round shafts and the rubberized portion adds control when wearing iced up or slippery gloves. The shaft quickly inserts and self locks into the blade due to a well designed self-feeding slot that guides the locking button into place with little effort.
Handle: While D-shaped handles add a little weight to a shovel they add a ton of control, especially if wearing mittens. T shaped and J shaped handles are very hard to operate with mittens on, and since our avalanche terrain is often brutally cold and half of my students often have mittens on this style of handle should preferred, especially if you deal with cold hands alot.
Added functionality: This is the first shovel I have used that has a 90 degree clearing function, essentially making it an entrenching tool (memories of USMC Boot Camp coming back). While using this mode did not feel effective at first I quickly realized this is a great mode for secondary shovelers moving snow further back from the main shovelers in a companion rescue scenario. I think it would also be quite handy for digging a quick snow cave while on a mountaineering trip.
I put a quick video review of the shovel up on my YouTube Channel:
Final thoughts: This is an aggressive powerhouse of a shovel perfect for avalanche professionals, search & rescue teams, and hard-core mountaineers. While slightly heavier than other models it makes up for it in utility & durability. Final grade: A