Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Lexan shovels blades
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  • #576141
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    So I’ve heard this before and now I’ve just read it again in the latest issue of Backcountry – not to use shovels with lexan blades.

    My question is why?? I’ve had a couple of Life Link shovels forever and they are guaranteed for life against breakage. I’ve beat the living hell out of these and never had an issue. I’ve never (knock on wood) had to use it in an emergency avalanche situation, but it seems the argument is that they are ineffective in hard snow? I’ve shoveled plowed, iced over driveways with the thing, chopped small branches, along with the usual pit digs and kicker builds.

    What have others experiences been with lexan shovels? Should I really be concerned? My experience seems to suggest otherwise.

    #650214
    summersgone
    820 Posts

    If your not concerned, trade with your partner every tour.

    The argument is that they can’t get through avalanche debris. And it makes sense to me. Do your partners a favor and get a metal shovel.

    #650215
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    That’s the thing, there hasn’t been anything I’ve come across that I haven’t been able to get through. And I’ve taken it to frozen, debris like chunks of snow.

    I hear you on the argument, but I’m seeking someone with practical experience of lexan not doing the job.

    Why would Life-link continue to sell them if this was truly an issue, wouldn’t it be a severe liability to the company?

    #650216
    fustercluck
    668 Posts

    Valid question. I used to use a lexan shovel, with no apparent problems. After having a few partners that weren’t too stoked on me using it, I switched to metal. I have seen metal shovels that are bent at the edge from trying to dig through ice. I would like to see some sort of test, would be interesting. I’m thinking if either type of shovel can’t dig through debris, it’s not likely the victim would survive anyway.

    #650217
    ieism
    298 Posts

    Has this ever been tested?

    I know The Avalanche Review tested all the metal shovels, 6 out of 10 failed! Only Voile and G3 were good.

    ( TAR nr. 27-3 you can download it here: http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/pub_archives.php )

    ” Plastic shovels were also not studied since they usually break in cold temperatures and hard debris before the first buried subject can be excavated.”

    There is a German test with very similar results. But i’d like to see plastic tested too.

    http://flatlandsplitfest.com/

    #650218
    nedrapier
    235 Posts

    Plastic shovels were also not studied since they usually break in cold temperatures and hard debris before the first buried subject can be excavated.

    This seems to be a remarkably punchy statement, given the number of plastic shovels on the market.

    Would e.g. Ortovox really continue to sell a product that ‘usually breaks’ in the course of its intended use?

    I fond the problem on my old plastic Ortovox was the flexibility in really hard snow, sometimes the blade would bend, rebound and bounce back off the snow.

    Now got a G3, which is much nicer to work with, and feels more efficient and sturdy (only had to do avy drills and building with it), but I still managed to snap the plastic D handle by heaving on it whilst digging a snow cave.

    #650219
    nedrapier
    235 Posts

    Just read that test. My question seems a bit irrelevant now! There are clearly plenty of sub-standard shovels out there. I would like to have seen just how much beef they were giving them, though.

    #650220
    aliasptr
    282 Posts

    @nedrapier wrote:

    Just read that test. My question seems a bit irrelevant now! There are clearly plenty of sub-standard shovels out there. I would like to have seen just how much beef they were giving them, though.

    Well that’s just it. They say that improper use of pretty much any shovel out there will break it. In the German test I believe they cite that the proper technique is chopping blocks and then shoveling them out. They say that if you just dig in and then try to lever blocks out that will break just about anything.

    So,as always, the devil is in the details. As a poster above also said one of the reasons people do not prefer the lexan blades is because of how they bounce off hard snow.

    In the end I carry a Voile Telepro. Sure it’s not the lightest but that thing kicks ass in all shoveling scenarios. Building caves and snow furniture, pits, digging out a car and yes digging through avy debris. Sure I may not use it often, if ever, in a real rescue scenario but when, and if, I do I want my shovel to be burly. :rock:

    #650221
    wasatch surf
    979 Posts

    @nedrapier wrote:

    Plastic shovels were also not studied since they usually break in cold temperatures and hard debris before the first buried subject can be excavated.

    This seems to be a remarkably punchy statement, given the number of plastic shovels on the market.

    Would e.g. Ortovox really continue to sell a product that ‘usually breaks’ in the course of its intended use?

    I fond the problem on my old plastic Ortovox was the flexibility in really hard snow, sometimes the blade would bend, rebound and bounce back off the snow.

    Now got a G3, which is much nicer to work with, and feels more efficient and sturdy (only had to do avy drills and building with it), but I still managed to snap the plastic D handle by heaving on it whilst digging a snow cave.

    Euro brands sell a lot of smaller shovels that are plastic due in part to the popularity of skimo racing in europe. ever looked at a shovel pocket on a dynafit pack? I could barely get a kitty liter scoop in there, nevermind my telepack shovel. thanks to the 19 avalanche paths that cross little cottonwood canyon there is a never ending supply of avalanche debris from transportation bombing. some of these have to be crossed to access popular touring areas. that shit sets up rock hard. there is no way I would use a plastic shovel on that. now for longer spring tours, or a race one of the smaller lexan shovels seems like a good option.

    #650222
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    Found this response by BD to the German test on TGR…

    January 13, 2009

    Subject: Recent European Shovel Review.

    A few of you have brought up this shovel review conducted in Europe by the Austrian Alpine Club (published in Europe by Bergundsteigen) and I want share my thoughts on why we disagree with both the objective and the results, as well as share what some other shovel manufacturers are saying about this flawed test.

    Just two years ago in Europe we were credited with bringing improved safety and reliability to avalanche shovels by bringing to market metal shovels that competed with the popular plastic models without compromising weight or cramping space. Reviews were stellar. In the attached shovel report carried out by Manuel Genswein and Ragnhild Eide of the Austrian Alpine Club, a seemingly non-existent bar was raised to which our shovel and our competitors’ models were benchmarked to ditch-digging type of utilitarian shovels.

    In our view, the technique used in the test involving hammering down with ski boots onto the back edge of the shovels is only used for and should only be used for, dead body recovery. We have questioned several seasoned professional patrollers about this technique just to be sure, and none of them have ever dug in a rescue search in the manner described in this test. Most commonly, rescuers are down on their knees chopping and shoveling very quickly. Digging with feet in a rescue scenario is very dangerous for a buried victim and such a test advocates and promotes an unusual, dangerous method.

    We concur with these official statements about the test by other avalanche shovel manufacturers:

    Pieps: “Basically you can destroy any piece of equipment, if you want…The strike with your foot method is dangerous for the victim…For this test to use this method and call it correct blade use is dangerous to publish…Such articles contribute to unjustified insecurity for many alpinists and are not consistent with the information and knowledge with which this journal has become popular.”

    Ortovox: “…We believe that so-called tests like the one…by Manuel Genswein and Ragnhild Eide only create uncertainty for consumers…. The results of this test are not comprehensible.”

    In an extreme case, when there is a very big avalanche that’s packed so cement-solid that avalanche rescue shovels would break when pounded on by boots, rescue crews are using steel bladed, wood handled shovels to dig out dead bodies. This is not what our shovels are designed to do. They are not for digging ditches in glaciers. They are for snow pit and avalanche emergencies, they are rapid response tools. With this in mind, we’ve designed our shovels for optimal snow volume capacity, ease and quickness of deployment, ergonomics, lightweight, and strength (within parameters of safe and realistic use).

    Several of these other design points were brought up in the test and here’s a little information on each:

    Grip design: Modern versions of the T grip handle like ours with rounder, ergonomic shaping were complimented in the article “except for rescuers with small hands”. Just like glove fitting, there is such a wide range of hand sizes and shapes that it’s impossible to cover the whole range in one design. We did a lot of testing when designing our shovel grip, including a range of smaller hands and created our grip to fit the widest range. The advantage of an ergonomic T grip over a D grip, are many. T grips fit better in packs than D grips. D grips that are carried on the outside of packs are dangerous as they can get caught on objects such as tree branches. While shoveling, T grips offer far more control to the grip hand where D grips, because they can rotate in the hand, offer little control making the shaft hand do all the control work.

    Blade shape: The back edge of our shovels is not designed to be smashed on by boots. It is designed to hold and move a lot of snow, quickly. Shovels in the test that did well with boots, which have a flatter back edge design, simply do not hold the volume of snow that our shovels do, which we find, in normal rescue digging situations, to be most important.

    Shaft shape: Our Trapezoidal shaft shape was found to “…exhibit more resistance while mounting, removing or adjusting the length, but will not waste time aligning the push-pin with the extension hole”. When it comes to quick deployment, we’ve found that pin alignment during extension is far more important than the very slight resistance one may feel over a round shaft while extending. When every second counts, the importance between these two things is not even comparable.

    In the criteria mentioned above, we are the best on the market and we will continue to create shovels with these criteria in mind, which we feel best cater to the true needs of rescuers, not for the very extreme, dangerous, subjective, and unusual criteria of this latest magazine test.

    Thanks for reading our response and passing it along to anyone concerned.

    Tor Brown
    Black Diamond Equipment
    Product Line Manager – Ski Category

    #650223
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    So far from what I’ve read today, it seems like when you have heavy, set up avy debris, that any of the avy shovels we carry may have difficulties of varying degree whether it is bending/breaking metal or bouncing/breaking plastic. Lots of conjecture back and forth with opinions and not a lot of facts.

    I would be good to have someone do some non-emergency testing on a “fresh” slide from a digging position more associated with companion rescue. Maybe someone teaming with patrol to do testing right after avalanche control is finished and something slid.

    BTW, I’m not advocating my use of Life-Link at all. I never heard of this prior to this year and if it was “proven” to be unsafe, I’d gladly retire these to car digging. just trying to have a productive discussion.

    Gonna fire off an email to Life-Link to see if they’ve done any testing.

    #650224
    splittilps
    154 Posts

    I’ve used a lexan shovel to dig a fire pit in frozen dirt with no issues other than sore hands, so I don’t fully accept the idea that lexan is more fragile – aluminum breaks too.

    But, that issue aside, I do carry a metal shovel (BCA) in the BC for 3 reasons; 1) it’s the biggest I can fit in my pack and that makes for faster less tiring digging when excavating snow pits – and presumably when excavating a partner, 2) I can sharpen the edge to make it more effective at cutting through branches if needed, and 3) in an emergency, I can use it to melt snow or cook ptarmigan.

    #650225
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    @splittilps wrote:

    I’ve used a lexan shovel to dig a fire pit in frozen dirt with no issues other than sore hands, so I don’t fully accept the idea that lexan is more fragile – aluminum breaks too.

    But, that issue aside, I do carry a metal shovel (BCA) in the BC for 3 reasons; 1) it’s the biggest I can fit in my pack and that makes for faster less tiring digging when excavating snow pits – and presumably when excavating a partner, 2) I can sharpen the edge to make it more effective at cutting through branches if needed, and 3) in an emergency, I can use it to melt snow or cook ptarmigan.

    I find that I can dig faster with the smaller shovels. For me I think its the balance of speed of digging versus the weight of the snow on the blade.

    You can sharpen blade edge on the lexan too, helps a lot with the chopping – but I think I’d skip cooking on it 🙂

    BTW – I sent an email off to Garmont (parent company of Life-Link) on this topic, but I haven’t heard anything back yet. I’ll post the results if I do hear anything.

    #650226
    seeknpow
    87 Posts

    all i can say is my 5 year old broke one last winter.. no joke. my wife says hey look it says life time warranty she sent it back and they sent out a new one, i put it right back in the hands of my now 6 yr old. if it ever snows ill let you know how it works out.

    #650227
    Jason4
    443 Posts

    I’m split on this one. I carry a plastic shovel for my sidecountry/inbounds riding because that pack doesn’t have much in it and it’s more comfortable to fall on a blade that flexes. I carry a metal shovel in my bigger pack that I use for touring. There is more padding between me and the shovel so I can’t feel it if I fall. I’ve never broken a plastic blade and have used then a lot. I have bent several metal blades. My room mate has a broken Life-link in our gear room but I don’t know the story behind it. I’ve bent plenty of shafts on both types of shovels.

    I think the biggest problem with lexan is going to be with temperature and since I’m in the NW I never have to worry about it dropping below 15F or so. I’ll stick to the system that I use.

    #650228
    lernr
    234 Posts

    I remember Stevens Pass BC was below 15 around New Year’s Eve 2010 – 2011, so it does get cold here too.

    I carry a metal shovel. Hope I never need to use it in an emergency, but still.

    Cheers
    Ivo

    #650229
    ieism
    298 Posts

    Some more info:

    http://www.telemarktips.com/TeleNews69.html

    http://flatlandsplitfest.com/

    #650230
    Jason4
    443 Posts

    @lernr wrote:

    I remember Stevens Pass BC was below 15 around New Year’s Eve 2010 – 2011, so it does get cold here too.

    I carry a metal shovel. Hope I never need to use it in an emergency, but still.

    Cheers
    Ivo

    Haha, below 15 isn’t cold, 15 below is cold. In the NW it usually doesn’t drop below the teens but in other places I’ve been as low as -40 (C or F, take your choice. 😉 ) and stuff starts doing weird things when at those temps. That said, I do carry an aluminum bladed shovel in my touring pack.

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