A Tale of Two Shovels: Brooks Range Compact and Hauler Lines

If there is an eternal tool in backcountry travel, it’s the shovel. Skiers, mountaineers and backcountry guides share this common denominator as much as the freedom of the hills. Beyond the obvious role of avalanche rescue, where shovels are essential, they have myriad functionality in the backcountry, whether it’s snow pit studies, winter camping, glacier travel—the list is long. Brooks-Range has produced two lines of snow shovel that can be tailored to meet the varying demands of those who journey into the snowy mountains.

Ski tour equipment and avalanche safety tools

The primary distinction between the two shovels is the size of the blade. The Compact is a relatively square 24.5 x 24.5cm configuration that’s intended to be ever ready, fit in any pack, whether it’s for a day of ski touring or a long technical winter climb—one that excels in efficiency. The Hauler line’s blade is larger and more rectangular at 28 x 25cm. Think maximum scooping for snow pit tests, winter camping duties, or digging out your buddy’s car at the trailhead.

Bear in mind, avalanches don’t care what size blade you have. When an avalanche comes to a stop the entrained snow settles like concrete, and debris can be hard. Your shovel needs only to be reliable. Both Brooks-Range shovels are made of high-tension aluminum for maximum strength, minimum deflection, and long-time durability. They are also anodized to repel oxidation so the blade remains strong for years of dedicated use. And the yoke of the blade is extended to create a stronger interface between the blade and handle. It doesn’t matter if you scoop or paddle when it matters most, they won’t break down on you in the event of an emergency. All shovels feature slots cut into them to rig with BR’s Ultralite rescue sleds in the case of emergency. There are also laser etched rescue reminders in the back of the blade.

The Compact (L) and the Hauler (R).
The Compact (L) and the Hauler (R).

In addition to blade size, there are two types of blade edge: smooth and sharktooth. Both offer different strengths. The straight surface excels in the snow pits, which depends on making smooth planar surfaces when isolating columns and for seeing weaknesses and discrepancies in the snow pack. The sharktooth is adept at breaking down harder snow and ice, ideal for ski mountaineers and alpine climbers who spend time dealing with more potentially adverse conditions. The top of every blade is flat so you can kick them like a spade.

Smooth vs. Sharkstooth blades
The smooth vs. sharktooth blade edges.

For those who dig a lot of pits, the choice of a telescopic handle makes it easier to scoop large amounts of snow, craft consistent pit walls and columns with ease. Not to mention saving your back. The larger Hauler scoop and extended handle combo also shines with expedition-style winter camping chores. The shorter handles often paired with the Compact series are sought after for their simple virtues and ease of use. T-handles are low profile and fit well into packs, whereas D-handles are good for folks who like mittens for colder exploits, as well as those who shovel a lot, i.e., expedition guides, pit nerds and patrollers.

Brooks-Range believes everyone has his or her own quirks when it comes to gear. And shovels are no different. Big blade, little blade, smooth or serrated—that’s up to you. The thing we believe matters most? That’s simple. We want it to work.

Leave a Reply