An avalanche probe is a piece of equipment you’ll hopefully never need to use, but it is one of the most important things you can have on you while skiing or riding the backcountry. These are used to find buried victims in the snow after they have been located with an avalanche transceiver. When you have only minutes to reach a buried friend, you’ll be glad to have the best avalanche probe available.

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we want to make sure you are equipped with the very best safety gear before you set out into the backcountry. In this article, we will cover the most important features to consider when choosing an avalanche probe.

 

THE BEST AVALANCHE PROBE – QUICK ANSWER

  1. Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour
  2. Black Diamond Pieps iProbe I
  3. HMK HM4
  4. Voile Tourlight
  5. Backcountry Access Stealth
  6. Ortovox Light PFA
  7. Dakine SC
  8. Backcountry Access Stealth Carbon
  9. K2 Carbon
  10. Black Diamond QuickDraw Carbon

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide To Snow Sports

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE PROBE

PICTURE
AVALANCHE PROBE
BEST USE
MATERIAL
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
AVALANCHE PROBE
BEST USE
MATERIAL
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour
Overall
Aluminum
11oz (303g)
$$
4.9
Black Diamond Pieps iProbe I
Overall
Carbon/aluminum
13oz (369g)
$$$
4.4
HMK HM4
Budget
Aluminum
9.1oz (258g)
$
5.0
Voile Tourlight
Budget
Tempered Aluminum
9oz (266g)
$
5.0
Backcountry Access Stealth
Budget
Aluminum
9.5oz (270g)
$
4.6
Ortovox Light PFA
Budget
Aluminum
9.5oz (270g)
$
4.5
Dakine SC
Budget
Tempered Aluminum
10oz. (280g)
$
5.0
Backcountry Access Stealth Carbon
Carbon
Carbon
7.6oz (215g)
$$
5.0
K2 Carbon
Carbon
Carbon
8oz (230g)
$$
5.0
Black Diamond QuickDraw Carbon
Carbon
Carbon
10oz (271g)
$$
5.0

 

 

AVALANCHE PROBES 101

 

6 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE PROBES

 

1. LENGTH

After locating the area where the victim is buried using an avalanche beacon, you’ll use an avalanche probe to pinpoint them so you can dig them out with your shovel. The chances of survival for people buried in more than 6.5 feet (2m) of snow is close to zero, so most probes are just a little longer than this range.

Taking into account the part of the probe that you will be holding, probes generally come in lengths between 6.5-10.5 feet (200cm-320cm). Ideally, you should look for an avalanche probe that is between 8-10 feet (240-300cm).

Probes longer than 10 feet might find victims buried so deep that their survival chances are extremely low. Probes shorter than 8 feet risk not finding victims buried under less than 6 feet of snow.

The general reason for choosing a shorter probe is ease of transport. Check how heavy the probe is and how much space it takes up when folded.

Usually, probes fold into segments about a foot-and-a-half long (40cm), but some probes are different. Check if your particular probe fits into an accessible part of your backpack.

Probes for professional use are often longer, thicker and stronger. These are for recovery professionals who are trained in avalanche rescue and may be able to save people buried deep beneath the snow.

They are easier on the back and less likely to break since they allow for a more stable grasp. Longer probes are also useful for measuring the snowpack when doing research or choosing whether to venture further into the backcountry.

 

2. WEIGHT

Since you will be carrying your avalanche probe at all times when skiing in the backcountry, you will want a probe that is as light as possible while still being effective.

 

3. MATERIAL

Avalanche probes come in carbon, aluminum and steel. It’s important to get a durable probe that won’t break upon being stabbed repeatedly into the snow. All three materials listed here are extremely strong and resistant to breaking, but each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

 

CARBON

Carbon probes are the lightest of the three which make them practical to carry while you are skiing. They are more expensive than aluminum probes.

 

ALUMINUM

Aluminum probes are slightly heavier than carbon probes, which make them less convenient to carry but can actually be an advantage in harder snow. They are less likely to break than carbon probes.

 

STEEL

Steel probes are the most durable of the lot, but they are also the heaviest. They are usually favored by avalanche professionals who do a lot of rescue work.

 

4. ASSEMBLY METHOD

Probes can come as collapsible versions that fit into your backpack or as dual-function ski pole/avalanche types. You should choose a probe that is quick and easy to deploy. Ski pole probes seem practical because they double as ski poles, which reduces the number of things you have to carry.

However, since ski pole probes require more assembly time, collapsible probes are a better choice. Whatever model you choose, make sure you practice until you can deploy it quickly and efficiently before setting out into the backcountry.

 

SKI POLE PROBES

These are assembled by removing baskets and screwing pole sections together. This takes an extra minute or two and will reduce the victim’s chances of survival. Ski pole probes are also shorter, and they are not as optimal for plunging into the snow.

 

DEDICATED AVALANCHE PROBES

Collapsible probes are usually composed of several metal parts attached by a cord or cable. The best ones assemble themselves in a few seconds with minimal effort on your part. Designs vary; this is a personal choice depending on what you are familiar with and comfortable using.

 

5. PURPOSE

The rule of thumb for avalanche probes is the longer, the better. However, not everybody wants to carry a clunky, heavy probe. Ski patrol and other professional rescuers tend to favor sturdier poles which are longer and more durable.

The average backcountry skier will tend to use shorter, lighter poles. Within this category, people who plan to ski in conditions with heavier snowfall should lean toward poles on the longer side. People who ski in conditions with lighter snowfall can opt for poles on the shorter side (but still at least than 8 feet).

 

6. DESIGN

There are several other factors you might want to consider before choosing an avalanche probe. While secondary, these are also important.

 

DEPTH MARKERS

Depth markers are essential. They help you determine how deep a victim is and where to dig from. Depth markers are also useful if you are looking for more than one victim. You should always rescue victims buried under less snow first, as they have better chances of survival.

Depth markers also make it possible to measure the snowpack, which is useful when determining whether conditions permit you to venture further into the backcountry. Laser-etched markings are better, as they don’t wear off.

 

PROBE TIP

Every second counts! The pointier the tip of the probe is, the easier it will slice through the snow.

 

DIAMETER

Generally diameter of the probe will depend on the material and other design features, but thinner poles are lighter, while thicker poles are stronger.

 

PACKING

Avalanche probes often come with carry pouches, but many people don’t use these because stopping to take the probe out of the bag wastes precious time.

 

COMPATIBILITY

Make sure your folded avalanche probe fits into your backpack. Some probes are designed to work in conjunction with other equipment such as air bags; check compatibility before buying.

Conditions are unpredictable in the backcountry, and you should always be prepared. It is critically important to know how to use your probe and practice beforehand in real-life conditions until you are confident with all aspects of avalanche rescue and survival.

Consider taking a course from AIARE or the American Avalanche Association.

 

perfect avalanche probe must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/olga_gavrilova

 

AVALANCHE PROBE REVIEWS

 

1. BEST OVERALL AVALANCHE PROBES

BLACK DIAMOND QUICKDRAW TOUR

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST USE: Overall

MATERIAL: Aluminum

LENGTH: 7’10” (240cm), 9’8” (280cm), 10’6” (320cm)

WEIGHT: 11oz (303g), 12oz (342g), 14oz (385g)

PROS: Integrated stuff sack, non-slip grip, tip larger than shaft for better sensitivity when probing

CONS: Depth markers not laser-etched

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS IPROBE I

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST USE: Overall

MATERIAL: Carbon/aluminum

LENGTH: 8’6” (260cm)

WEIGHT: 13oz (369g)

PROS: Probe tip has an integrated receiver which picks up signals from avalanche beacons for faster rescue, deactivates compatible beacons once found for multiple rescues, quick closing latch, good grip

CONS: Requires battery, limited range, expensive, heavy

 

 

 

 

2. BEST BUDGET AVALANCHE PROBES

HMK HM4

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST USE: Budget

MATERIAL: Aluminum

LENGTH: 8’10” (270cm)

WEIGHT: 9.1oz (258g)

PROS: Rubber-coated stainless steel cable, storage bag with D-ring for maneuverability

CONS: None that we could find

 

 

 

VOILE TOURLIGHT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST USE: Budget

MATERIAL: 7075-T6 tempered alum

LENGTH: 8’6” (260cm) or similar model Voile Guide Probe in 10’6” (320cm)

WEIGHT: 9oz (266g)

PROS: Fast assembly, stainless steel cable, adjustment knob for cable tension

CONS: None that we could find

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS STEALTH

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST USE: Budget

MATERIAL: Unknown

LENGTH: 7’11” (240cm), 8’10” (270cm), 9’10” (300cm)

WEIGHT: 9.5oz (270g), 10.9oz (310g), 11.2oz (320g)

PROS: Very fast release, strong tip, compact, good value for money

CONS: Too long for some packs

 

 

 

ORTOVOX LIGHT PFA

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST USE: Budget

MATERIAL: Aluminum

LENGTH: 7’10” (240cm)

WEIGHT: 9.5oz (270g)

PROS: PFA quick-release system, soft ergonomic grip, Dyneema cord and quick-release cover

CONS: Depth markings are not laser-etched

 

 

 

DAKINE SC

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST USE: Budget

MATERIAL: 7075-T6 Tempered Aluminum

LENGTH: 8’6” (260cm)

WEIGHT: 10oz. (280g)

PROS: Color-coded segments for easy depth reading

CONS: None so far

 

 

 

 

3. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT AVALANCHE PROBES

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS STEALTH CARBON

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry

BEST USE: Lightweight

MATERIAL: Carbon

LENGTH: 7’10” (240cm), 9’10” (300cm)

WEIGHT: 7.6oz (215g), 9.9oz (280g)

PROS: Quick-Lock hardware for fast release with no loose cables, strong tip, compact, lightweight

CONS: Relatively expensive

 

 

 

K2 CARBON

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST USE: Lightweight

MATERIAL: Carbon

LENGTH: 7’7” (230cm), 9’10” (300cm)

WEIGHT: 8oz (230g), 10oz (280g)

PROS: Lightweight, stiff, easy to use

CONS: Relatively expensive

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND QUICKDRAW CARBON

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST USE: Lightweight

MATERIAL: Carbon

LENGTH: 7’10” (240cm), 10’6” (320cm)

WEIGHT: 10oz (271g), 13oz (342g)

PROS: Durable, ferrules optimized for quick alignment, integrated stuff sack, non-slip grip, tip larger than shaft for better sensitivity when probing, slightly lighter than Black Diamond aluminum equivalent

CONS: Expensive

Top 10 Best Avalanche Probes of 2017 – Skiing Tips for Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced - Best Ski and Snowboard Gear - Ski Clothes For Women, Men and Kids.
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