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If you want to ensure you can help in the case of an avalanche, you need to be equipped with the best avalanche probe. While nobody wants to think about a fun ski trip turning into a potentially life-threatening situation, it is always better to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Avalanche probes can be literal life-savers, allowing you to probe through the snow in an aftermath of an avalanche to find someone buried underneath. Keep reading for our avalanche probe reviews and ratings.
In This Article
Like an avalanche airbag or waterproof walkie-talkies, an avalanche probe is one of those tools that you definitely want to have before you need it, but there are many different brands and styles to consider before you get on your way. To make your search easier, we found the top five best avalanche probes.
The Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe is the best avalanche probe because the integrated stuff sack and one-cord-pull means incredibly fast employment in emergency situations. The non-slip grip means you will be able to keep your grip in the wet snow.
The Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe is a great option for an avalanche probe because it is easy to use and fast. The recently updated Quickdraw feature means the probe can be set up more quickly than ever with just one pull of the cord. The ferrules have also been updated to lock within each other more easily, saving precious time fumbling with the probe. The Black Diamond also has a non-slip grip, which is vitally important when dealing with melting snow and wet gloves. It comes in 240cm, 280cm, and 300cm lengths.
The oversized alloy tip at the probing end is slightly larger than the width of the pole itself, allowing greater sensitivity by giving the shaft more space to flex when it hits something or someone beneath the snow. The shaft of the probe is marked with high visibility 1cm markings the whole way up to easy check the depth that the tip is hitting. The Black Diamond also comes with a stuffsack that integrates with the pull cord to deploy as quickly as possible in an emergency.
- Non-slip grip
- High visibility markings
- Extremely easy to assemble
- Pull cord style avalanche probes can potentially get caught on things
The PIEPS iProbe One Electronic Probe is the best avalanche probe because it can probe both mechanically and electronically, and it has the capability to mark and deactivate pieps beacons in multiple-person searches.
The Black Diamond Pieps iProbe Electronic Avalanche Probe is simple to use with intuitive activation and deactivation, so it is easy to operate. The receiver integrated into the probe tip helps aid in avalanche beacon search, and this probe has the capability of marking and deactivating pieps beacons that it has detected, which is extremely helpful in situations where multiple people are buried under the snow.
At full length, this probe is capable of probing to from 7ft 2in to 8ft 7in, but the mechanical plus electronic probing range is 11ft 9in to 13ft 1in. The ergonomic handle makes it easy to grip even with heavy gloves so you don’t have to worry about losing your group, and the iProbe has both an optical and an acoustic target indicator to make detection easier. The full weight of the unit is between 350 and 390 grams (approximately 12oz-14oz), so it shouldn’t add very much weight to your supplies.
- Marking pieps beacon capability perfect for multi-person searches
- Quick-closing latch
- Detects mechanically and electronically
- Start-up sequence printed in the instruction manual is incorrect
The DEMON UNITED Snow Probe 270cm Avalanche Probe is the best avalanche probe for beginners because it is lightweight, affordable, easy to use, and has a convenient warranty and return policy.
The DEMON UNITED Snow Probe 270cm Avalanche Probe has a lightweight and easy-to-assemble aluminum construction. It also comes with a carry bag, so it can be packed away easily without getting tangled with all the other gear in your backpack. It extends up to 270cm (8’10.3″), but only weighs 7.9 oz, making it one of the lightest options on our list today. Not only that, but it is covered by the Demon United warranty and 30-day easy return policy.
This is an excellent basic probe for beginners for testing the depth of the snow or for rescue searches after an avalanche. This probe breaks down into four segments for easy storage, and is quite affordable for avalanche probes making it even better for novices.
- More affordable than many avalanche probes
- Covered with Demon United’s warranty
- Extremely lightweight
- Aluminum is less durable than other materials like carbon
The Backcountry Access Stealth Avalanche Probe is the best avalanche probes because it has a cordless design that saves precious times during a rescue and is longer than standard recreational probes, giving you more flexibility in searches and everyday routines.
The Backcountry Access Stealth Probe Avalanche Probe is easy to spot and easy to read when in use due to the alternating colors. Each segment is 17.25″ long, and the full length is 270cm, or 8’10.3″ long. This probe is slightly longer than standard, making it a good fit for slightly more advanced recreationalists in deep snow. Redesigned a few years ago for the 2016/2017 season, this version features easier-to-see depth markings, quick-locking hardware to allow for both easier backing and deployment, and a stronger tip to penetrate debris and hard-packed snow more easily.
Many avalanche probes operate on a cable system, which works but can sometimes create issues with the cable getting caught on part of the pack. This clearly isn’t ideal if you’re frantically trying to get it out for a rescue. It is also possible to hit yourself in the face with the cord while snapping it straight. This cordless design is a great way to avoid those inconveniences and save precious time.
- No loose cord
- Longer than standard probes
- Bright colors are easy to see
- Only one size and color
The K2 BCA Stealth 270 Avalanche Probe is the best avalanche probes because it comes in three different lengths and two different materials, allowing recreationalists and professionals alike to find the perfect avalanche probe for their needs.
The Backcountry Access Stealth Avalanche Probe is geared towards advanced recreationists. It comes in 240cm, 270cm, and 300cm lengths, so there’s a variety to choose from based on the type of terrain you’re working with. The 270cm version weighs 12oz so it doesn’t add very much weight to your gear. The collapsed length (or the length of each segment) is 19.7″ (50cm), so you will need to make sure that you have a place to store it that is long enough for the collapsed length.
The 270cm and 240cm are both made of aluminum, and the 300cm version is made of an aluminum and carbon alloy. The 270cm is the best for the average recreationalist and is the most mainstream probe from Backcountry Access.
- No loose cables to catch in your pack
- Comes in a variety of lengths and materials
- Laser-etched markings won’t wear off
- Longer segments may be difficult to fit into a bag
Features to Consider for the Best Avalanche Probe
As you’ve just seen in our avalanche probe reviews, there are a lot of different options available. Although all avalanche probes serve the same basic function, there are several features to consider in order to ensure that you pick the perfect one for your gear setup.
Length of Segments
For an avalanche probe, it is important to consider not only the length of the total probe when it’s folded out, but the length of the individual segments that it folds into. Most of the time, your avalanche probe will be safely folded up in its pouch, so the immediate concern is that it fits in the pouch or pocket that it stays in when not in use. This is a separate matter than the length of the entire probe assembled, so if you’re limited on pocket space it may be worth it to invest in an avalanche probe that breaks down into smaller portions.
While avalanche probes tend to be very lightweight overall, every ounce is an important consideration when you have to be carrying it on your back every day. Since you will want to keep an avalanche probe on you at all times while skiing in case an avalanche does happen, this is an important consideration. If you have a certain weight limit for all of your gear, check it beforehand so you don’t go over and make your bag difficult to carry.
Avalanche Beacon Search
While most avalanche beacons operate with just the physical or mechanical portion (trying to reach down to hit something solid in the snow), there are also avalanche probes that interact with the avalanche beacons that many snowboarders and skiers wear in case they get buried in the snow. This extends the probe’s reach by allowing it to sense avalanche beacons that are several feet lower than its tip. Having a probe like this can be extremely helpful in multi-person searches.
Though avalanche probes can be made in a variety of materials, the most common are aluminum, carbon, or a mixed aluminum carbon alloy. Generally speaking, carbon is lighter and stronger but more expensive as a result. Aluminum is a bit heavier (though still lightweight) and often significantly less expensive. Because of this, shorter avalanche poles (geared more towards recreationalists) will often be made of aluminum so that they are more accessible, and the shorter lengths mean that it is still not too heavy.
The longer avalanche probes are generally geared more towards professionals and rescue searchers, and are more often made of carbon or a carbon/aluminum alloy (and more expensive as a result) to avoid adding too much weight with the added length.
Benefits of Using Avalanche Probes
An avalanche probe is one of those things that you don’t think about needing until you find yourself in a position where you really need it. If you’re still not sure of all of its uses, here are some of the benefits to having an avalanche probe.
The most obvious—and arguably most important—use of an avalanche probe is helping to rescue people who were buried in the snow under an avalanche. It is vital to find someone who has been buried as soon as possible because it is a situation where every minute counts. For this purpose, an avalanche probe is something that you want to always have on you in the snow but hopefully never have to use
Avalanche probes have numerous non-emergency applications, as well. With their clear measurement markings, avalanche probes can be used as a ruler in a snow pit to test the depth, check the temperature of the snow at different depths to get a better idea of stability, or find weak layers of snow that should be avoided. In this way, it is a valuable everyday safety tool when out snowboarding, skiing, or snowmobiling.
Precautions of Using Avalanche Probes
When searching for someone buried in the snow, an avalanche is great tool to search deep in the snow. However, there are certain techniques that work better than others, and there is also different techniques for someone who has an avalanche beacon versus someone who doesn’t. If you have never used one before, make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use the avalanche probe. A probe in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it is a probe that may as well not exist in the first place, so make sure you know what to do in the event of an avalanche.
Of all the great probes I got to look at, the best avalanche probe was definitely the Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe Tour Avalanche Probe. This avalanche probe is easy and quick to use with its single pull-cord action and non-slip grip. And because it comes in three different lengths, it is easy to customize this avalanche probe to your specific needs.
Enjoy all of your time out in the snow, and make sure you stay safe with the proper safety gear. I hope these avalanche probe reviews have helped you make a decision!