Best Buys

Best Avalanche Transceivers And Backcountry Gear 2018-2019

Chosen by the Whitelines Test Team

  • UPDATE: Check out our review of the Best Backcountry and Splitboard Equipment for 2019/2020 by clicking here.
  • Heading off into the backcountry – or even the lift-accessed sidecountry – means that you should be prepared, and this means bringing along a load more gear that you ordinarily would for a day in-bounds.

    The essential avalanche rescue gear – transceiver, probe, shovel, and a decent backpack to carry the latter two items in – should go without saying, but beyond this there are more accessories and gadgets out there that you should consider investing in. These will boost your success and safety when heading off the marked runs.

    “Heading off into the backcountry – or even the lift-accessed sidecountry – means that you should be prepared”

    Things like splitboard bindings, skins and walking poles all come in handy in various situations, and depending on the riding you’re aiming to do will be just as important in terms of reaching your goal as the basics of hardware and outerwear is.

    As these items tend to be less trend-driven, many of them are effectively the same as last year’s models, there nevertheless are new developments and products released each season. As such we’ve presented you with some key models from both camps that should help you on your quest to snaffle up as much pow as you possibly can, as safely as possible.

    Scroll down to view all the best snowboard backcountry gear, or skip to a particular brand using the links below

    BCA B1-EXT Shovel | BCA Scepter Poles | BCA Stealth Probe | BCA Tracker 3 Transceiver | Black Diamond EVAC7 Shovel | Jones DSCNT Backpack | Jones Explorer Poles | Jones Nomad Skins | Jones Striker Probe | Mammut Barryvox Transceiver | Ortovox 3+ Transceiver | Ortovox Carbon Probe | Ortovox Freerider Backpack | Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel | PIEPS Aluminium Probe | PIEPS C 660 Shovel | PIEPS BAGJETFORCE Backpack | PIEPS Pro BT Transceiver | Spark R&D Arc Bindings | Spark R&D Ibex Crampons | Spark R&D Skins | Spark R&D Solid Pucks | Spark R&D Surge Bindings | Spark R&D Verts | Union Expedition Bindings

    The Best Snowboard Backcountry Gear For Winter 2018/19

    BCA B1-EXT Avalanche Shovel 2018-2019

    PRICE: £45/€49

    BCA’s bombproof shovels were the first in the industry to drop non-round shafts and neckless blades, and today they produce a wide range for any kind of snow digging you’d ever need to do. The neckless design eliminates weak spots while making the blade more comfortable in your pack, with oval or square shafts increasing rigidity.

    The B1-EXT is their most popular shovel. Strong, extendable and packable with a killer strength-to-weight ratio there’s no wonder why it’s so well-liked. The telescopic oval shaft connects to a 24.9 x 25.4 blade that hits the sweet spot between snow shifting, packability and weight.


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    BCA Scepter 4S Splitboard Poles 2018-2019

    PRICE: £99/€119

    The Scepter 4S is a collapsible pole for all seasons that would be an ideal choice for recreational splitboarders, or those who’re after a no-nonsense pole that will get the job done. Adjustable between 110-130 cm, the pole’s grip is made of soft EVA and is optimised for use with or without straps.

    A utility hook on the front of the grip makes mode changes on your bindings a cinch, and these will fold down for easy packing or storage, with the basket allowing the folded shafts to secure together to take up minimal space.


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    BCA Stealth 300 Carbon Avalanche Probe 2018-2019

    PRICE: £79/€89

    If you’re looking for a pro-level probe for riding and travelling through deep snowpacks, the Stealth 300 should be high on your list. This heavy duty 300cm probe reduces the number of segments (and bulk) by having the top-most nest stealthily inside the next one down, and it’s super quick to assemble, saving valuable seconds.

    The Stealth 300 has laser-etched markings for measuring the depth of the victim, or for using as a ruler when evaluating a snow pit’s layers. If shaving off the grams is a concern, there’s a also a carbon version that will save some weight but will cost you a few shekels more.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 BCA Stealth Probe here


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    BCA Tracker 3 Avalanche Transceiver 2018-2019

    PRICE: £279/€299

    BCA’s Tracker transceiver has been around since 1997, with the first iteration one of the first to use two antennae. Fast forward 20-something years and the Tracker 3 is has three antennae plus a bunch of features aimed at making locating victims easy should the worst happen, not to mention being one of the smallest and lightest transceivers on the market..

    The Tracker 3’s features include signal suppression and Big Picture modes for multiple victim searches, motion sensing that will automatically revert the beacon to transmit mode, and upgradable software. The two-digit display shows distance and menu settings, with direction indicated by five LED arrows, making this a fast, simple to use option regardless of your experience with beacons.


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    Black Diamond EVAC7 Avalanche Shovel 2018-2019

    PRICE: £69/€75

    This is Black Diamond’s top-of-the-range snow shovel, aimed at serious users, and features a special grip that has two configurations: to dig pits when performing snow analysis or building a kicker, or for rapid removal of snow should the worst occur.

    The large blade means you can quickly shift a lot of snow, and its flat-bottomed profile lets you get a clean face on your pit wall. It also has a large, dual-density D handle for comfort and a telescopic shaft, which is also compatible with a saw (sold separately) should you need to hack off tree branches.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 Black Diamond EVAC7 here


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    Jones DSCNT RAS 32L Snowboard Backpack 2018-2019

    PRICE: £230/€269

    This 32-litre backpack is the perfect bag for taking on technical backcountry tours when you need to mule your full kit. The shape evenly distributes weight and volume across the torso meaning you’ll have minimal interference both ascending and descending, and the main compartment can gobble up crampons, food, water, layers and anything else you’d want to bring.

    This main compartment can be accessed from the back panel if you have your board attached, plus there are also a separate accessories pocket and sleeves to organise your avalanche tools in. Jones make a regular DSCNT 32L, but the R.A.S. in this version means it’s compatible with Mammut’s Removable Airbag 3.0 system (sold separately).


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    Jones Explorer Carbon Splitboard Poles 2018-2019

    PRICE: £115/€129

    Poles are an essential part of a splitboarder’s armoury, and if making sure your rig is as light as possible is important, you should definitely pony up the extra wonga and invest in some carbon fibre ones. These, from Jones, would be an excellent choice, and measure up at 105-130cm, or 60cm when collapsed.

    The three-section collapsible poles have the upper two parts made of carbon for weight-shaving stiffness, while the lowe is aerospace-grade aluminium alloy for boosted durability. The tungsten/carbide tips have a basket that floats relative to the shaft, making planting on any angled slope easy, plus there’s a dual density grip and ergonomic padded wrist strap.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 Jones Explorer Poles here


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    Jones Nomad Splitboard Skins 2018-2019

    PRICE: £190/€225

    These premium splitboard skins are guaranteed to give you that winning blend of glide, grip and durability for long days skinning up peaks and touring around the backcountry. The Nomad skins use a durable blend of 70% Mohair and 30% synthetic nylon for superlative guide in a variety of snow conditions with extra traction for when the track gets steep or icy.

    Coated with an Ever Dry treatment to improve wet snow performance and keep the skins dry through multiple laps, these can be bought trim-to-fit with a universal tail clip, or pre-cut with a quick-tension tail clip that adjusts in seconds. Compatible with all Jones splitboards from 2016 onwards.


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    Jones Strike 240 Avalanche Probe 2018-2019

    PRICE: £49/€59

    Jones’ Strike 240 is a hassle-free, reliable probe that you can rely on to do what it needs to do should the shit hit the fan, or even less stressful situations like probing a landing for sharks.

    Six aluminium sections snap together at the flick of a wrist thanks to Jones’s Flash Lock tension system that utulises a kevlar cord, and there’s an ergonomic thermoplastic grip for a solid hold when you’re having to move fast.


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    Mammut Barryvox Avalanche Transceiver 2018-2019

    PRICE: £259/€299

    With improved user-friendliness and upgradable software, the newest version of Barryvox’s long-running avalanche transceiver has become one of the most popular models for riders venturing off the marked runs in recent years.

    The three-antennae give a search strip of 70m for powerful search and the interface has been designed to be as intuitive as possible, with the display showing distance, direction and number of buried subjects thus speeding up the learning curve and helping you quickly locate victims.


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    Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Transceiver 2018-2019

    PRICE: £219/€249

    This three-antennaed beacon features Smart-Antenna Technology which gives intelligent position recognition and automatically switches to the best transmission antenna. Ortovox state that this means you’ll be found easier, and beyond that there’s an illuminated real-time display showing direction, distance and number of victims when in search mode.

    There are intuitive search acoustics to help you in fine search mode and victims, when found, can be removed from the display using the flagging function. The 3+ also has a motion sensor that switches automatically back to send for additional safety, and like many of the new transceiver models it you can update the software easily via a computer.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 Ortovox 3+ here


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    Ortovox Carbon 280+ PFA Avalanche Probe 2018-2019

    PRICE: £85/€99

    This is a pro-level probe that’s both lightweight and rigid. At 280cm long, 13mm in diameter with a larger, interchangeable tip, this is both penetrative, accurate and durable. It’s also built with speed in mind: the PFA system is slim, compact and with the Quick-Assembly Strap you can assemble it rapidly straight out of the cover.

    You collapse the probe by pressing the system cap with you thumb and it features a thin rubber coating to improve grip. The Carbon 280+ PFA has a visual guide system to clearly show the victim’s depth, with colourful end segments and a contrasting depth scale allowing you to adapt your digging strategy as you work.


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    Ortovox Freerider 22l AVABAG Snowboard Backpack 2018-2019

    PRICE: £609 (+ £119 for cartridge)/€699

    This freeride backpack combines high levels of protection with a super lightweight airbag system. Ortovox’s SPS Flex back protector is built into the bag and comprises eight flexible pads that adapt to your body and harden on impact. There’s a wide waist belt and body-integrating silhouette to provide a stable, secure fit.

    They’ve engineered 22 litres of volume and board carrying straps around the AVABAG unit – Ortovox’s lightweight, compact take on the avalanche bag that comes with the backpack. This has a handle designed for optimised activation and is removable – it’s compatible with any of Ortovox’s AVABAG backpacks in case you want to get a different size in the future.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 Ortovox Freerider 22 here


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    Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel & Pocket Spike Snowboard  2018-2019

    PRICE: £110/€129

    Ortovox reckon that with their latest Pro Alu III shovel they’ve achieved the “best weight-to-rigidity ratio possible” by using innovative materials and cutting edge production methods. This includes stabilisation ribs and high sidewalls to give the anodized blade rigidity, and an integrated shaft socket to make packing easier.

    A quick-lock mechanism allows you to combine the blade with the telescopic shaft in one motion, while the T-Grip pro can be inserted for either left- or right-handers and makes clearing quicker. If you’re close to the summit or traversing steeps, you can also add the two-piece Pocket Spike to the handle and shaft to transform the shovel into an ice axe for extra support and security.


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    PIEPS Aluminium Avalanche Probe 2018-2019

    PRICE: £50/€55

    If you’re not looking for the weight-saving afforded by carbon construction or extra length of the poles geared towards profession use, Pieps’ Aluminium probe is a dependable, affordable option. It’s quick and easy to assemble, using their Speed-Cone-System and quick-closing latch, and at 260 cm it’s long enough to be effective in most situations.

    This probe has a centimetre scale to evaluate burial depth or when measuring snowpack profiles, and it collapses down to take up minimal space in your pack. While it’s not carbon, the aluminium alloy is far from heavy either.


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    PIEPS C 660 Avalanche Shovel 2018-2019

    PRICE: £65/€75

    Pieps’ Shovel C, with its distinctive C-handle, is built to be lightweight and give optimum stability. The C-shaped handle was designed to enable easy handling – even with thick gloves – while the telescopic handle has an oval profile that avoids twisting while digging.

    The Quick Lock system allows you to connect the shaft and blade without pressing the locking buttons, and you can quickly switch between the regular shovel arrangement and one for ‘hoeing’. The shovel also has a rescue sledge function and an integrated bottle opener.


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    PIEPS JETFORCE Tour Rider Avalanche Snowboard Backpack 2018-2019

    PRICE: £900/€999

    At 24 litres, this is the mid-sized offering from Pieps’ JETFORCE range of avalanche bags. Unlike many others, this system is electronic with jet-fan technology that fills the 200-litre airbag 315d Cordura with ambient air in less than three seconds. It’ll give subsequent periodic refills before deflating after three minutes to reduce pressure on the user and give some airspace.

    The system is powered by a compact Lithium-Ion battery that’s rated for four deployments per charge and works down to -30 degrees celsius. Aside from the JETFORCE tech, this has enough space for your essential layers, water and food, plus dedicated stash zones for your shovel and probe. You also get a helmet carrying attachment, compression straps and ones to carry your board, too.


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    PIEPS Pro BT Avalanche Transceiver 2018-2019

    PRICE: £360/€419

    A transceiver that has all the advanced features a pro would demand yet with the ease of use that a novice would appreciate, Pieps’ new Pro BT model crams in all the brand’s best beacon technology into one package with a large, easy-to-understand digital display.

    In addition to features like the three antennae, maximum circular receiving range, a marker feature for multiple burials, group check pro mode and an analog mode, the Pro BT can be wirelessly connected to the new Pieps app, within which you can perform checks, updates and access a bunch of knowledge and training procedures.


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    Spark R&D Arc Splitboard Bindings 2018-2019

    PRICE: £259/€299

    Spark R&D’s most popular splitboard binding, the Arc is a lightweight model with a medium flex that’s perfectly suited to tours both long or short and for tearing up all manner of terrain. This season’s model sees even more weight shaved off with the introduction of a new snap ramp and new fusion-moulded touring brackets, the latter also adding durability and smoothness.

    Other features present are their Tesla T1 system anatomy (which includes a built-in climbing wire, two-position heel rests and newly optimised snap ramps), a mid-flexing Rip ‘N’ Flip highback, and lightweight, hard-wearing Pillow Line straps.

    Check out our full review of the 2018-2019 Spark R&D Arc Bindings here


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    Spark R&D Ibex Splitboard Crampons 2018-2019

    PRICE: £99/€110

    If you’ll be hitting steeper slopes or approaches with more compacted snow on your splitboard missions, bagging yourself a set of crampons would be a wise thing to consider. Like with regular crampons you’d attach to boots, these will up your grip game significantly and get you to spots you otherwise couldn’t skin up to.

    Made of durable, lightweight aluminium, these Ibex crampons from Spark R&D can be easily attached on the fly and bite the snow with or without the dual position climbing wire engaged. Also noteworthy is that now one crampon is a touch wider than the other, for easier handling and reducing packing space.


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    Spark R&D Splitboard Skins 2018-2019

    PRICE: £189/€209

    In their mission to create some of the best splitboarding accessories on the market, it’s only natural that Spark would also produce their own skins. And they reckon these ones will help “get you to the top with less effort and more style.”

    Spark’s skins are made of high-traction material for the winning blend of stick, slide and grip, and come equipped with their patented tailclips. Available in small (147-161cm), medium (159-175cm) and long (172-186cm).


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    Spark R&D Solid Splitboard Binding Pucks 2018-2019

    PRICE: £65/€75

    Splitboard fans rejoice: if you have a quiver of boards you can now mount your puck-compatible splitboard bindings on them all of them, thanks to Spark’s Solid Pucks. If you’ll mainly be splitting but bringing along a board to ride in-bounds with, or riding lift-accessed pow, you can now get away with only bringing one set of bindings – or simply only owning one set.

    These can be used on boards with the 4×2 insert pattern, as well as those with the Channel system, and allow you to adjust your bindings as specifically as you’d conceivably need: angles in three-degree increments, toe/heel centring in 2.1mm increments, and stance width in 5mm increments.


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    Spark R&D Surge Splitboard Bindings 2018-2019

    PRICE: £421/€469

    The Spark system really can’t be beaten, and when applied to a stiffer model the result is an absolute powerhouse of a binder.

    The Pillow straps are lightweight and weatherproof, and the highback is as strong as an ox. If you want to gun it, this will have your back.

    Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2018-2019 Spark R&D Surge Bindings here


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    Spark R&D Vert Snowboard Snowshoes 2018-2019

    PRICE: £89/€99

    Despite huge advances in splitboard equipment over the past decade, there are still going to be some situations where skinning simply isn’t an option. Fortunately, Spark have partnered up with renowned ‘snow climbing tool’ makers, Verts, to offer a collab that’s the first ever splitboard-specific snowshoe.

    These lightweight shoes can be easily strapped to your pack and are made of a high-performance, non-stick, durable nylon. When you need to get up a steep pow face, you just slide your Spark binding straight onto the adapter and you’re set for a post-hole-free ascent.


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    Union Expedition Splitboard Bindings 2018-2019

    PRICE: £319/€349

    If you prefer your splitboard bindings to look and feel as much like a standard pair as possible, the Union Expedition is the pair you’ve been waiting for.

    Out tester went wild for these – read our full review to find out why.

    Check out our full review of the 2017-2018 Union Expeditions here


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