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Best Avalanche Transceivers & Backcountry Products 2017-2018

This year's best backcountry snowboard accessories, reviewed by the Whitelines Team

As you must know by now, going snowboarding means accumulating a lot of gear first, but whereas a lot of it can be dismissed as capitalism gone mad – heated gloves, foot pads with bottle openers, £15 shoelace belts etc – the stuff you’ll find below is essential for safety and success in the backcountry.

“You’ll find that most of this backcountry gear has already been tested and refined to near perfection”


There’s kit that might just save your life or that of a friend, the essential trifecta of transceiver, probe and shovel (don’t forget to find the perfect backpack to stash them in) as well as a few gadgets that’ll help you get away from the crowds and find fresh powder long after the last snowfall.

Whereas a lot of snowboard kit cycles through fashions, you’ll find that most of this backcountry gear has already been tested and refined to near perfection and thus won’t have changed much from last year’s guide, though there are a couple of new developments we’re excited to share with you. For the very best of the best, head on over the Whitelines 100 2017/18 and find our top picks for this winter’s backcountry accessories.

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

Black Diamond | Jones | Mammut | MSR | Ortovox | Pieps | Primus | Spark R&D | Volcom


Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour Probe 280 2017-2018

In an emergency you want your rescue equipment to function perfectly, thus simplicity is a must. Black Diamond have stripped back and refined their 280cm probe to 342g of solid tubing, giving a good balance of weight and reliability.

Pulling the sturdy cord rapidly deploys the probe to full length in one motion and once in use the no-slip-grip works great even with wet gloves, meaning you can get on with using it without thinking about it – perfect.

It also doubles as a snow analysis tool, with very clear depth markings in 1cm increments. The pull handle cord, once extended, can be used to saw out snow sample blocks if your training is up to it. A great probe for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

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Black Diamond Transfer 3 Shovel 2017-2018

Sometimes basic is best, which is why Black Diamond’s Transfer 3 shovel made the cut for this year’s Whitelines 100.

It has a sturdy handle and a high-volume blade, meaning when it comes to shovelling snow as fast as you can this will absolutely do the trick, at a decent price as well.

For more details and a full review, head over to the 100 via the link below.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Black Diamond Transfer 3 here

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Jones Nomad Splitboard Skins 2017-2018

With a 70/30 ratio of mohair to nylon, Jones’ Nomad Skins are well-balanced for both skimming along skin tracks and attacking steep sections, with the natural fibers providing ‘slidy-ness’ and the synthetic some grip for when you need to dig in and go hard. There’s also ‘anti-glooping’ Ever Dry treatment unique to Jones, for a closer look head over to the Whitelines 100 and see why these skins made the cut for our top products of 2017/18.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Jones Nomad Skins here

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Jones Higher 30L R.A.S. Snowboard Backpack 2017-2018

The biggest of Jeremy Jones’ line of burly backcountry packs, the Higher has a 30-litre capacity that’s ideal for longer touring missions. 

A team-up with Mammut means that this pack can also be fitted with a removable airbag system. If you need something that can handle the backcountry one day and general resort riding the next, the Higher has you covered.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Jones Higher 30L R.A.S. here

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Mammut Alugator Light Shovel 2017-2018

If for some reason you’re put off wearing an avalanche pack on resort days (you shouldn’t be, but we’ve heard all the excuses before) you might want to look for the lightest kit possible. This, Mammut’s lightweight version of their aluminium Alugator series, weighs in at 460g, or less than a bottle of Coke, something you wouldn’t think twice about bringing.

They’ve shaved some of that weight by creating tactical holes in the blade that don’t affect the rigidity, but cleverly this also allows the shovel to be reassembled into a makeshift sledge should you need to get a pal out of danger fast.

The handle is collapsible for space optimisation in your pack and also is oval-shaped, meaning that it easily slides into the hole on the blade correctly orientated, shaving precious seconds off of a rescue time. Ideally for us, it could also have come with a D grip handle, though this can be found on their top-of-the-range Alugator Guide shovel.

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Mammut BarryvoxS Transceiver 2017-2018

Having improved the searchable area to 70m strips rather than 60m from previous models, Mammut have also created a larger and more intuitive display and navigation system.

The latter gives you directions to follow even in the fine search stage of a rescue, which hopefully will dramatically reduce time spent looking for victims.

We’re very excited about this transceiver, which is why we’ve included it in our Whitelines 100 for 2017/18. Hit the link for a full, in-depth review.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Mammut BarryvoxS Transceiver here

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Mammut Flip Removable Airbag 3.0 Backpack 2017-2018

Though it’s compatible with the Mammut Airbag 3.0 system (sold separately) meaning you can add to your backcountry security should you wish, on its own the Flip 3.0 is still a solid backpack for day trips in the backcountry.

This 22L pack has an easy-access front pocket for storing your avalanche safety equipment, a main compartment that will hold all you need for a day-long powder mission (including a pouch for a hydration system that feeds through to the shoulder strap) and everything in the main part can be easily got to through the full rear zipper access. There’s also a radio pocket and the aforementioned Airbag 3.0 compatibility.

Attaching a snowboard for when you’re hiking is easy, as is a split splitboard, and if you need to lug around more stuff externally there are two attachments for ice axes or poles and a daisy chain loop to lock on more gear. Lateral compression straps allow you to reduce bulk when not fully loaded, and the bag’s back, hip belt and shoulder straps are loaded with comfortable foam.

If you opt for the Airbag, there’s also a loop on the hip belt for a carabiner for easy attachment of a leg loop. But Airbag or not, this is a dependable, minimalist backcountry day pack.

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Mammut Probe 240 Short 2017-2018

Sticking with the small and lightweight theme, Mammut’s new 240 short probe uses seven rather than the usual six components to pack down their mid-length probe to 38cm whilst folded, rather than a standard 45cm, handy if you prefer rocking a smaller sized pack on your powder missions.

It also weighs in at just 185g, far less than comparably sized probes and about as much as two large satsumas. If you coupled it with the Alugator Light Shovel above you’d have absolutely no excuse not to have your safety equipment on you at all times – they weigh less than the snacks you’d take on an average tour!

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MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes 2017-2018

An absolute staple of most filming crews, when it comes to proper snowshoes there’s no getting close to MSR’s Lightning Ascents. Completely re-thinking the tennis racket-like concept of days past, the frame that holds the canvas on doubles as an insane amount of toothed-grip – the whole of the outer area carries strong and sharp aluminium teeth for rough or icy terrain.

Getting right out there in fluffy Japow or deep Canadian freshies? MSR have length-adding ‘tails’ you can affix, giving you extra float whilst marching up in the same way that powder boards have bigger noses.

Primarily though, they’re light. Really light. At just over one kilogram between the two shoes they’re far lighter than even a pair of normal bindings, meaning that as long as you don’t mind having your board on your back on the way up, you’ll barely notice these on the way back down. The strap system is basic but strong, meaning there’s no hassle whilst getting them on your feet in the cold, nor in powder if you fancy going up one more time for another go on that line…
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Ortovox 3+ Transceiver 2017-2018

Again, with backcountry gear the goal is always efficient simplicity, which is why the Ortovox 3+ only has two buttons – one to turn it on and between search and transmit, the other to mark of victims in a multi-person burial with the flagging function.

The ‘3’ in the name refers to the three internal antennas – the transceiver always switches to the most effective one for transmission depending on its orientation – and the plus is due to the motion detector and Recco reflector they’ve added. Both of these are additional backup systems should a situation become even worse, for example the device will automatically flip back to transmitting if it becomes motionless do to the owner becoming buried in a second slide.

The design is very ergonomic both as it sits against your body and whilst using it to search, plus the on-screen display and audio signals are about as intuitive as it gets whilst using it to search for other devices.

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Ortovox Alu 240 Light Probe 2017-2018

Another mid-length, short-when-packed-down probe, but compared to the Mammut 240 Short above, the Ortovox Alu 240 Light probe is a tiny bit weightier, coming in at 235g.

It’s a bit sturdier feeling and comes with a small adjustment screw at the top for optimising assembly. It flips out its hold all and gets straight faster than Quagmire in a sleeping bag, doing so whilst staying nice and discreet in your backpack. A great probe for touring.

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Ortovox Beast Shovel 2017-2018

The Beast is a mid-range and lightweight option for people after a decent spade without wanting to break the bank. Its handle is extendable which is of massive benefit when compared to smaller ones as you get a much better power-to-weight ratio and more hand placement options, all of which help you shift more snow faster.

The T handle is rubberised and the zone near the blade is textured, both of which providing a load of grip in something that packs down to 28x21cm.

Available separately is a snow saw that replaces the handle and fits in the shaft of the shovel, meaning that if you’re learning about snow pack structure this would be a great purchase to plug the gap between decent amateur and professional grade safety kit.

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Ortovox Free Rider Avabag 2017-2018

  • PRICE: £210 / €240
  • CAPACITY: 22 litres
  • ortovox.com

This freeride backpack from Ortovox not only comes with their proprietary, lightweight Avabag airbag technology, it also offers a bunch of back protection as part of the package – not to mention 22 litres of gear stowage.

Wanting to take the weight and size of airbags into their own hands, rather than just have to use what other manufacturers produce, Ortovox spent three years working on their AVABAG solution that’s both what they claim to be the lightest on the market and one that’s ultra compact. Beyond the airbag, they also introduced an SPA FLEX back protector – 8 pads that remain comfortably flexible in the cold – which hardens up upon impact and protecting your spine. All this is engineered into a low profile silhouette that also leaves room for 22L of gear storage.

As well as a main compartment, there’s a separate spot for your snow safety gear and a pouch for an hydration system. A broad hip belt (with a zip pocket), chest strap and shaped, cushioned shoulder straps ensure the bag is held securely on your back without interfering excessively with your riding. On the exterior there are straps to carry a board or snowshoes when hiking, and a helmet holder plus fastenings for an ice axe or hiking poles.

For serious backcountry enthusiasts wanting day-trip storage, a reliable fit, and airbag risk reduction, the Free Rider Avabag is definitely worthy of a closer look.

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Pieps DSP Pro Ice Transceiver 2017-2018

A perennial favourite in the Whitelines office, not just because of the Pieps TX600 support (a transmitter on a different broadcast frequency) that allows us to keep our furry four-legged friends safe in the backcountry as well as each other, though that is thoroughly rad.

It’s got everything a basic transceiver should have – a three antenna system, self-check software and auto search-to-send mode if the rescuer is buried in secondary avalanche – plus a whole host of very handy features.

It comes with an internal inclinometer, very handy for assessing slope safety before dropping in, plus it has a in-depth group checker that even measures frequency deviation in other devices. Basically, if you’re a professional working in the backcountry (or a dog owner), there’s not much else on the market that comes close to this.

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PIEPS iProbe II 2017-2018

With the iProbe, Pieps advanced the simple ‘poke holes until you find something soft’ technique by adding a receiver unit to the probe tip. That meant users could be sure it was a human they were the digging up rather than something like a branch, which can be easily confused.

Now the iProbe II has visual as well as audio signals to help search and turns on automatically when deployed. Clever stuff, and worthy of a place in our coveted Whitelines 100.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 PIEPS iProbe II here

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PIEPS Jetforce Rider Avalanche Backpack 2017-2018

By using a battery-powered system instead of gas cartridges, the PIEPS Jetforce rider is as user-friendly as avy bags come.

It’ll deploy multiple times on one charge, and automatically deflate a few minutes after activation to create a potentially life-saving air pocket. You can take it on a plane, too.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 PIEPS Jetforce Rider here

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Primus Omnifuel II Stove 2017-2018

It might not quite be small enough to fit in your standard touring pack, but if you ever go completely out of resort there’s nothing better than a good cup of char or Joe once you make it back to your car after that long-awaited run down.

However, if you ever get the chance to go winter camping then The Primus Omnifuel does that job perfectly too – as the name suggests it can be used with almost any fuel.

Having the option to choose between gas, petrol, paraffin or even jet fuel (?!) means you can tailor this one piece of kit to whatever your mission requires, be it car park cocoa or an igloo-side noodle bar.

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Spark R&D Arc Splitboard Bindings 2017-2018

Swapping out soft straps for their new, moulded Pillow Line straps increases stiffness, makes them waterproof and decreases weight, ultimately making the lightest splitboard binding available today.

A slightly softer highback than on the Surge, along with their Rip ‘N’ Flip forward lean tool, makes them more forgiving when you want but responsive and hard charging when you need. Our favourite splitboard binding of 2017/18.

Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Spark R&D Arc Bindings here

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Spark R & D Blaze TR Splitboard Bindings 2017-2018

The Blaze is Spark R&D’s longest production binding – possibly the longest serving on the market – and is aimed squarely at splitboarders who just want to get up and out there.

It comes with its own LT brackets (the bits that you lock the toes into) and dual height wires (the flippy bits under your heels) so that all you need to get going is a splitty and some pucks.

They forgo a lot of the bells and whistles that Spark’s higher-end bindings have, but what you end up with is a nicely weighted, stripped back binding that has a surprising amount of lateral looseness, perfect for riders who enjoy a bit of surfy freestyle flex on the way down rather than carbon ultra-stiffness.

Now with assistance from Burton on the buckles and straps it fits to your boot as snugly as anything, and the pin system is one of the smoother we’ve tested – overall this is one of the better split bindings we’ve ever tried.

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Spark R&D G3 Splitboard Skins 2017-2018

Once again Spark have teamed up with G3 to make these ascent tools, more king skin than a Rizla! They combine G3’s great offset nose clips and -30°C temperature resistant glue with their own tailclip system, meaning that little else will hold your skins in place as well as these. It also allows tool free adjustment of the skin’s working length, so you only need to get one set for a quiver of splitboards, should you be so lucky!

We’ve tested a bunch of skins in our time splitboarding, and it has to be said that nothing feels quite so ‘well on there’ as G3’s glue, and when in use they feel fast pushing forward and stable in place, even on steep and icy terrain. Well loved and highly recommended by team WL!

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Spark R&D Ibex Splitboard Crampon 2017-2018

These clever little things are designed to work with Spark’s Tesla and Tesla T1 bindings, but will also fit Burton’s Hitchhiker splitboard bindings, all great options. Lightweight enough to be stored in a pocket (though hopefully not near any crucial internal organs) on the way up, the best thing about the Ibex crampons is that they fit into your binding system fiddle free without the need to step out of them, meaning you can pop ‘em in place on the fly.

There’s a few different sizes so make sure you check your board width before purchasing, but for riders you like mid winter touring where the terrain can get a little technical these would make a great addition to your split kit.

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Spark R&D x Verts Snowshoes 2017-2018

If you’ve ever toured, snowshoed or splitboarded then you’ll know that there comes a point where the path becomes too steep for your equipment – on the back it goes and thus starts a bit of good old fashioned boot packing. Then along came Verts who created a simple plastic, puck-like boot attachment that increased foot surface area and gave a little extra dig, providing a low-cost and very efficient method of getting up the steepest bits of a backcountry mission.

Soon, people realised what great value these tiny and lightweight accessories are and started using them as regular snowshoes – you see them all over powder meccas like Japan – as barely anyone doesn’t have room for them in their pack.

Now, Spark have teamed up with Verts to do away with the weakest point, the fiddly straps and buckles, and create one that accommodates a splitboard binding via a brand new mount. Brilliantly simple, getting a pair of these makes getting to that summit that little bit easier. More ascent, more downhill, more fun.  

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Volcom Iguchi Slack Vest 2017-2018

Some people don’t like the bulk that comes with wearing a backpack snowboarding, but until now there’s been no other way of carrying essential backcountry safety kit other than in your hands. The Volcom Slack Vest, a pro model from Bryan Iguchi, has storage at the back for a shovel blade, handle, probe and not much else, keeping it slim and streamline for riding with.

The fact that it’s a vest rather than a pack means that should you wish, there’s a ton of storage space at the front for radios, sarnies and sweets, but crucially this allows you to carry the bare essentials for staying safe out of bounds in resort. You can even strap a board (or skis, boo) to your back if there’s a sweet line a short hike away.

The Slack Vest is made from nylon as there’s no need for breathability, so it won’t absorb water and weigh you down, and the drop tail fit means that not much snow can get in between the vest and your jacket, which was our main fear. In all, a great piece of kit that’ll hopefully make carrying avalanche kit a lot more attractive.

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Whitelines Buyer’s Guide 2017-2018

  1. Snowboards
  2. Bindings
  3. Kids’ Bindings
  4. Kids’ Snowboards
  5. Boots
  6. Goggles
  7. Gloves
  8. Mittens
  9. Helmets
  10. Jackets & Pants
  11. Backpacks
  12. Board Bags
  13. Avalanche Transceivers & Backcountry Products
  14. Technology
  15. Accessories

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