Expert Review: Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel

This review is my honest opinion of the avalanche shovel, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2019.

The Black Diamond Evac Shovel.

All photos courtesy of Hunter R.

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the avalanche shovel, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2019.

My take

The Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel is a sturdy backcountry shovel to keep in your pack when wandering out of bounds at the resort, touring in the backcountry, or for anyone looking to have an easy time digging snow pits.

A shovel and some other tools in a Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L backpack.

How it fits in my touring pack - the Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L

About the gear

  • Model: Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel 2020
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Blade Size: 12” x 10”
  • Handle Shape (D, T, hybrid): D

About me

  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 115 lbs
  • Experience: 5 years

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: December 2019
  • Days tested: 50
  • Backpack: Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L Backpack
  • Where I’ve carried it: Utah
  • Terrain: Backcountry, sidecountry

How it performs

Durability
5/5
Ease of Use
5/5
Packability
4/5
Setup Ease
3/5
Versatility
5/5
Weight
3/5

What I was looking for

I was looking for an avalanche shovel to bring along on backcountry ski days. I wanted something that wasn't terribly heavy and was both fast at digging and fast to set up. I was looking for a dual mode shovel that could be used in either regular shovel mode, or in hoe mode where the head of the shovel can be locked-in at an angle similar to a hoe. I preferred this because shovels with both of these functions are more versatile. Though it wasn’t a deal breaker, I also wanted something that had holes in the head of the shovel so that it could be used as an anchor or sled if need be.

Why I chose this gear

I chose this gear because it fit all of the requirements of what I was looking for. It is easy to use, can be set up in hoe mode, has a handle that feels easy to use, and is really durable. On top of that, it even has holes in the head to be used as an anchor or sled.

I considered a few other shovels. One was the BCA Dozer, which is a decent choice but the shape of the head is a bit flatter and seemed less efficient to me. I also looked at the Black Diamond Transfer Shovel, but this one was a bit bigger and heavier and the trade off for adding the extra weight to my pack did not seem worth it. At 5’ 3”, I am a smaller individual so a larger shovel would be less efficient and more cumbersome for me to use in an emergency.

The Black Diamond Evac 7 shovel in Hoe Mode.

Hoe mode

What I love about it

  • Packability: This shovel is quite easy to pack. I carry it in my Patagonia Snow Drifter 20L backpack and it fits well in the internal pocket. There are also two areas of the shaft that can be disconnected to make it smaller. I keep one of them locked-in so that it’s quicker to use if I need it to get it out, but it still fits in my pack well.
  • Reliability: It’s pretty reliable. The aluminum is a bit heavier than other shovels made of carbon, but I never worry that it will break. It is also really great at moving huge amounts of snow very quickly.
  • Durability: The aluminum helps with the durability component too. It’s a pretty bulletproof shovel. Though I have used it quite a bit, mostly for digging pits, it has no signs of wear or tear and still functions just like the day I got it.
  • Length/Size: This shovel is perfect for my size. A larger shovel would be difficult to use since I am a smaller person, but at the same time, a smaller shovel would be inefficient. The blade volume is 112 square inches and is fast at moving snow. The collapsed length of the shovel, even with one of the shaft pieces connected to the head, is 78 cm. At this size, it fits comfortably in most backpacks.
  • Grip Comfort: The handle on Evac 7 is D-shaped which I find gives me more leverage than a T-shaped handle. It is easy to grip with gloves or mittens, and fits my hands perfectly. I do have smaller hands though, so there might be a different experience for those with particularly large hands.
  • Versatility: Aside from rescue and snow pits, I have also used this shovel to dig tires out of snow when a friend was stuck in the parking lot at a ski resort. It was fast and easy to use. I think a lot of smaller shovels would have taken quite a bit longer to free the tires!
  • Features: I really like that this shovel has hoe mode. It’s a feature I was looking for in a shovel because in multi-person rescues, it is helpful to have one person move the snow quickly with their shovel in hoe mode, while another person tosses the snow away with a shovel in regular mode. Hoe mode has been proven to reduce rescue times so I knew that if I ever had to use it and didn’t have that feature, I would really be kicking myself. The Evac 7 also has holes so it can be used as a small sled if you need to carry something out, and it can also be used as an anchor if you need to rappel. I have never used this feature but it is a nice one to have, just in case.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Setup Speed: Although it’s normally fine, there have been times where the pegs that lock the handle into place have refused to move. This occurred a few times when it was really cold and I was looking to dig a snowpit. It’s not a huge issue and I have always been able to get it to work after some messing around, but it just takes a bit more effort. It only happens when it is really cold, but this could be a problem in an emergency situation because it might waste valuable time that could be spent rescuing my touring partners. The model I have is the 2020 version, but this issue has since been fixed on the 2022 version.
  • Weight: It’s not the lightest shovel in the world. At almost two pounds, it definitely adds some weight to the pack. If I were looking for an ultralight setup, I would have gone with a carbon shovel since those are lighter. However, I wanted something both versatile and durable so I don’t mind carrying the extra weight.
  • Ease of Use: Though it’s easy to use once it’s set up, that setup issue that I mentioned before is especially annoying when you have gloves on. If I were to rate the ease of use once the 2020 Evac 7 is set up, I would rate it 5/5, but I think the shaft lock is a problem.

The Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel broken down.

Breaks down into three parts, though I can leave the two handle pieces together in my bag and it still fits well!

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with this gear was taking my first avalanche class shortly after getting it. It was an Avalanche 1 class in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah on the snowiest day of the year. A few people in the class didn’t bring their shovels and probes but I brought mine and was able to use it to dig some snow pits. I learned a ton and had a relatively easy time digging them compared to people with smaller shovels. It was an awesome time and made me want to keep learning about avalanche safety and snow science!

Value for the money vs. other options

At around $90, it’s not the cheapest avalanche shovel on the market, but I would never recommend someone just go with the cheapest option when it comes to a tool like an avalanche beacon, shovel, or probe, that could save someone’s life. The other options I looked at, for example the BCA Dozer, were a bit cheaper (closer to $60) but did not seem as durable or easy to use. Overall I think it’s a great shovel and the only issue I have is that shaft lock, which has since been resolved. As someone who lives in a snowy area, it’s also smart to keep a shovel in your car in case you ever get stuck. So for me it’s especially worth the price since it can double as a car shovel.

Final verdict

The Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel is a great shovel that will be quick to use in a rescue situation. It is sturdy enough that it will move snow quickly, and can be used in two different modes depending on the rescue scenario. Though it is a bit heavier than other options available since it is made of aluminum instead of carbon, I definitely think it is worth carrying the extra weight!

Ski Expert Hunter R.
5.0
Hunter R.
Ski Expert
Hunter here! How can I help?
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Written By
Hey there! My name is Hunter and I grew up in Ogden, Utah - one of the most underrated places for skiing IMO (but shh don't tell your friends). I considered leaving the state for college for all of five minutes until I realized the access to skiing, climbing, etc. in Utah is unparalleled. So I just...

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