You can see our other recommendations on our list of the Top 4 Avalanche Shovels.
It is widely known that an avalanche shovel is one of the main tools in any backcountry setup. Without this seemingly mundane tool, no snow rider in his right mind will venture out in the open. You can get into life-threatening trouble and going without a shovel is simply a rash and irresponsible decision.
Avalanche shovels are, without a doubt, one of the bulkiest and the most substantial tools in your backpack. However, it is one of the most versatile tools too! Apart from its primary use as a digging and excavation tool, it is a handy tool that you can use in multiple scenarios in your alpine adventures. From digging out a snow bunker for the night to digging out a buried companion to leveling a path, a shovel is a fantastic tool to have.
Weight vs Performance for avalanche shovels
Despite a shovel’s invaluable uses, the selection of gear is always a weighty issue. You don’t want a shovel that is so light that it compromises the performance of the tool. However, you don’t want to sacrifice your back and efficiency with a tool that weighs a ton.
It is no secret that plastic shovels weigh less than nothing in your backpack. However, they are not reliable in the snow and they can break easily. And there is nothing worse than having your gear betray you when you are performing a rescue operation – something that is quite common in the backcountry.
On the other hand, metal snow shovels are break-resistant and incredibly reliable. These shovels can be used in multiple ways, and it can be indispensable during rescue operations. But metal shovels are not without drawbacks. For one, they are heavy, which can make it a nightmare to transport. Another disadvantage of metal shovels is that they can often have broad blades. While this is fantastic while shoveling snow, it is not the ideal feature when you are trying to pack a hundred and one items in one backpack.
This is where the new generation of lightweight avalanche shovels come into the picture. Most companies that have been in the snow gear business have literally perfected their skills with the best tools. Over many generations, snow shovels have undergone a lot of upgrades and refinement. A great result of this is that we now have access to better tools and gears.
The Voile XLM shovel is a great example. This avalanche shovel is an upgrade from the first generation XLM shovels from the brand. So what are the new features in the new XLM shovel that makes it better than its predecessors? Let’s find out in this in-depth review.
The FAQ section at the end of this review carries some very insightful information, so take a look!
Voile XLM Avalanche Shovel Review
Product Name: Voile XLM
Product Description: The Voile XLM Shovel is a lightweight shovel made of aluminum. It weighs about 1lb 2oz and has a total length of 24 inches. The blade is broad, and the scoop is tampered for high-tensile strength. This shovel has a T-handle and a blade that is wide for scooping.
Offer price: $49.95
- 6061 aluminum blade and shaft.
- Heat tempered blade for maximum strength.
- T-shaped handle with ridges.
- Measures 24.25 inches in total length.
- Scoop has a dimension of 13.5×10 inches.
- Incredibly lightweight and compact design.
- A reliable and sturdy blade that is also very durable.
- Easy to pack and transport.
- Detachable blade from the shaft.
- Has a reasonable price tag.
- The shaft is not collapsible.
- Not suitable for use in rescue operations.
- Color tends to chip with use.
The XLM shovel is the second generation in the series. Therefore, you can expect some significant improvements. The Voile XLM shovel is touted to have some very tall claims, so let’s begin the review with the design.
This avalanche shovel has some very neat design components. Inarguably, one of the first things that strikes you about this shovel is its size. If we are totally honest, it looks like a toy shovel. Its striking bright color does nothing to make it look mean either. But this is what makes this shovel one of the best ones on the market. Its small design can be very deceptive.
Every part of this shovel’s design is minimal. These range from its mini-scoop design to the overall size of the shovel. The shovel has a dimension of 13.5×10 inches, making it one of the smallest snow shovels in the market. This new shovel is even smaller than the first generation XLM shovels. In fact, it is one of the most significant improvements from the previous shovels.
In keeping with its simple and straightforward design, the shaft of this shovel is also minimal. It does not have telescoping or collapsible features. However, it is compact and sturdy, nonetheless. The shaft can also be removed from the blade, which makes it great for packing and transporting. However, its length is fixed, so you might want to know that.
Measuring a total length of 24.25 inches, this shovel is about the same length of some collapsed shovels. This lightweight and compact design make it effortless to pack and transport. You will also appreciate its compact design while maneuvering tight spaces in the backcountry.
The handle in this avalanche shovel is T-shaped, so you know it offers unrivaled comfort. In addition, the ridges in the design of the handle make it easy to grip and are also glove/mitten friendly.
In terms of aesthetics, the XLM shovel features color-blocked designs. Some feature lime green blades and black shaft and vice versa. Despite its brilliant design, the coloring on the blade is prone to chip, especially if you do a lot of digging. However, the chipped color does not affect its performance in any way, and that is what matters.
Another design component you might want to know is that the new XLM shovels have lime green blades or shafts. On the other hand, the older XLM shovels have broader, blue blades.
Material and construction.
As briefly mentioned above, there is always the need to find that stellar performing shovel that does not weigh you down. If you are among those free riders who like your rescue gear to be lightweight, the XLM shovel might just be your answer.
Both the blade and the shaft in this shovel consist of 6061 aluminum. If you are wondering why we mention this feature, it is because aluminum that falls in the 6000 and 7000 series is the most lightweight. This is why this avalanche shovel is the lightest from the brand, as well as the industry in general. Besides, the lightweight property does not affect the sturdiness or the metal’s durability in any way, which makes it fantastic.
Moreover, the gauge of the aluminum is also thinner in this shovel. According to the brand, the blade is initially forged in the cold. It is then tempered by heat treatment. This makes the blade high in tensile strength, so it is stable and robust. Overall, the construction of this snow shovel is top-notch and can compete with those that have a premium price. Because of its excellent quality of construction and premium materials, this shovel is also a winner when it comes to durability.
Some tools and products, in general, can have premium quality construction but have disappointing results on the field. In this regard, the XLM shovels win by a mile. It is a stellar performer on the field, especially in comparison to its size.
Despite its relatively small blade, it cuts through debris and snow very effortlessly. It is especially remarkable while digging snow pits. The blade is very reliable, and you will have a lot of mileage from this shovel. The heated tempered blade is a standout feature which renders this shovel very sturdy and reliable.
However, this shovel’s star quality is best explored by using around camp. It gives you an edge while digging a pit for the night or leveling a path to your camp. But its compact size can be a bit limiting during a companion rescue job. During such an emergency, the volume of snow shoveled in each stroke is an essential factor for a timely rescue. The limiting factor comes solely from its small size and not because it is unreliable.
Another performance area where this avalanche shovel excels is packing. Weighing a total of 544 grams, it does not weigh down your backpack or your back at all. In addition, the blade and the shaft can also be detached, which makes it effortlessly fit into the smallest backpack.
You will also love the handles on this shovel. It offers maximum grip even with a gloved hand, which is excellent. This compact and lightweight snow shovel is indeed an excellent choice for use around camp or as a backup shovel for rescue operations. With stellar features and excellent performance on the field, the XLM shovel makes a great beginner shovel. Experts and professionals might benefit from a larger, collapsible shovel, such as the Black Diamond Transport 3.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of lightweight avalanche shovels?
Similar to all other tool and gears, lightweight avalanche shovels such as the Voile XLM snow shovel have certain advantages and disadvantages. First, we will talk about the advantages:
- Lightweight avalanche shovels are extremely easy to pack as they weigh next to nothing. It can easily fit into backpacks of any backcountry adventurer.
- These types of shovels typically have a compact design with smaller blades. This makes them a fantastic choice for use in tight spaces.
- Avalanche shovels that are light in weight also consist of 6000 or 7000 series aluminum in their construction. This also makes them very sturdy and durable.
Now the disadvantages of lightweight avalanche shovels.
- Because of their light and compact design, they are not suitable for rescue operations.
- Lightweight avalanche shovels also do not feature collapsible or telescoping shafts.
- It is also very rare for lightweight shovels to have additional features such as a snow pick in their shaft.
What makes the Voile XLM shovel so lightweight?
Voile XLM shovel is made of 6061 aluminum. If you are not familiar with this type of aluminum, 6000 series is one of the lightest aluminum after 7000 series. It has silicon and magnesium as its primary alloys. These alloys make the aluminum strong, easy to treat with heat, and weldable. In addition, it also makes the aluminum light in weight.
6061 aluminum, in particular, is known for its lightweight and high-tensile strength. So it is widely used in structural uses as well as aerospace. It is also the preferred aluminum series for the general-purpose among all the alloys.
These properties make the Voile XLM shovel incredibly lightweight and reliable in the field. Besides, the alloys also make the tool or product corrosion resistant. So you can be sure that this avalanche shovel is one of the best lightweight ones on the market.
What is the difference between the new and old Voile XLM shovels?
Between the shovels introduced in 2007 and 2012, there are a couple of differences. These differences include both aesthetic and technical specifications, which are:
- The blade in the newer XLM is smaller in the 2012 model. However, the difference is subtle, so unless you have used the 2007 XLM shovel, you might not even see the difference.
- Another difference between the two shovels is the weight of the blade. While the older Voile XLM weighted 861 grams, the 2012 model weighs about 544 grams, which is a significant number.
- However, their appearance is where you will see the most significant difference between the two shovels. The new XLM features predominantly lime green color on the blade with a black shaft. Some shovels also have a green shaft with a black blade. On the other hand, the 200 XLM shovels have blue blades and black shaft and vice versa.
Note: Although the older XLM shovels are not available for sale online, some stores still carry this shovel in their inventory. So go for the green color to make sure you get the right shovel.