Overall: Five Stars for sitting nearly weightlessly in your pack to meet IMSF race regs (Section 10, Appendix 3). But as an avalanche safety instructor for AIARE and NSP (as well as an American Avalanche Associate governing board member), I feel compelled to subtract a couple stars lest anyone be tempted to bring along the CAMP Crest shovel for backcountry companion avalanche rescue, at which it would fare very poorly. So Three Stars overall.
Background on product familiarity: The Crest shovel mainly just sits in my pack for racing and training, but my, ah, assistant (?) has also tested it out thoroughly.
First, the first impressions out of the box: The shovel is small, very small. The blade size is adequate, but the shaft is only a bit longer than necessary to get one bulky gloved hand around the base of the shaft and another on the handle. The metal shaft seems sufficiently sturdy, and the small metal handle is okay for gloves (although probably not for mittens). The shaft inserts reliably and securely into the “neckless” blade, and the shaft end is nicely plugged.
The suspect element is the blade: soft flexible plastic without any sort of reinforced edge.
Second impressions, in use: If an avalanche did hit a rando race (which happened at the World Championships several years ago, though fortunately it missed any competitors), then perhaps a crowd of nearby racers could chip away enough at the avy debris to uncover and extricate a fully buried victim. But a single skier in the backcountry with only a CAMP Crest shovel to dig out a partner? Ineffective at best, and entirely impossible at worst.
The Crest does have another valuable application, which also demonstrates its size. Here is our daughter just a few days after she turned three years old: http://tinyurl.com/CAMPcrest
Note how it’s perfectly proportioned for her body (and she’s about average height for her age), and how it’s so light that she can one-handedly scoop up loose snow. She absolutely loves it -- I have to sneak “her shovel” away from here when packing for a race. Plus the blade is so flexible that she can’t inflict harm on herself or anyone/anything else.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: The leading edge of the blade is already dinged up from some minor use. But the blade’s flexibility will probably help to prevent any conceivable catastrophic failure. And anyway, this isn’t the kind of shovel you’ll be using frequently to actually, well, shovel.
Most entertaining gear review ever? Possibly. I almost spit up my lunch laughing! Great statement on a situation where reality and meeting the spirit of the rules gets ridiculous. While I guess the current rule is better than when bear claws were OK, what next, ISMF avy beacons that have a battery, blinking light, certain dimensions and nothing more to them? The possibilities seem endless.
And over six years later...
1. Here's the updated url: https://photos.app.goo.gl/THUJBCCTWCusYyzH8 ... for my daughter putting the shovel to good use just a few days after she turned three years old.
2. By the time she was five years old, she deemed the shovel far too small for backyard snow play applications.
3. After a race this past weekend, when discussing gear plans for a racer about to enter his first Euro race, we were all in agreement that he has absolutely has to get one of these shovels (and then just bring another "real" shovel for pre- and post-race touring), since it's still the lightest approved shovel for racing (plus it's nearly free too).
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