Gear Review

Life-Link Snow Saw

Life-Link Snow Saw

Life-Link's Snow Saw is a deceptively simple tool that quickly proves its worth. You might think there's nothing a snow saw can do that a good shovel can't.

Here's a little experiment: try building an igloo with a saw. A saw lets you efficiently cut and stack large blocks of snow, dramatically reducing the time and effort it takes to build shelter when snow camping. In fact, when I watched a friend effortlessly put together an igloo and a kitchen while I struggled to shovel a small wind break for my tent, I became an instant convert.

I bought my snow saw as soon as I got home, and now I don't hesitate to call a saw an essential tool for snow camping. The Life-Link saw has a large, 17-inch blade so you can cut what Life-Link calls 'optimally' sized blocks of snow quickly. The handle has a rubber grip for comfort. You can also cut smooth sheers for creating and assessing columns of snow, making the snow saw a valuable addition to your avalanche safety gear.

Here again, the Life-Link saw outshines a shovel. Yes, you can build columns for stability tests and layer searches using a shovel. But it's hard to get a smooth plane on your columns using a shovel's contoured blade. This can make it difficult to identify layer boundaries—a critical step in avalanche risk assessment—as snowpack layers are often obscured or hard to distinguish with shovel artifacts. With the Life-link saw, you get a clean, easy-to-read sheer in one easy swipe.

The Life-Link snow saw comes with a plastic blade guard to keep those sharp teeth away from your gear and your tender flesh. It may be possible to safely stash the saw alongside your backpack's plastic frame sheet. If not, add another ounce and a half to bring the blade guard along, making the total weight a still-reasonable 6.2 ounces (measured).

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.