MSR Responder Shovel Review


While we all love skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc. in the backcountry, avalanche safety should always be at the top of your list.  Yes, the backcountry is a blast and it’s great to skip the lift lines, but making sure you have the right gear is a must.  One of the main items you need is an avalanche shovel and I’m not talking some cheap plastic shovel.  In this review, I’ll be talking about the MSR Responder Shovel which is a shovel I will be happy to let anyone use when they go out in the backcountry with me.

Shovel Durability

The MSR Responder Shovel is an ultra light yet durable shovel that packs a punch.  Typically, ultra light means not as durable or strong as others, which is the last thing you want in an avalanche shovel.  This aluminum shovel is both light, durable, and strong.  The total weight for the MSR Responder shovel is 1 lb 6 oz. which is on the lighter side of high quality avalanche shovels.   The actual type of aluminum is 6061-T6 which is also used in aircraft fittings and aluminum bike frames which we all know needs to be very strong.

Blade and Shaft

MSR Responder Shovel Surraded Blade

The MSR Responder Shovel has a packed length of 23.1 inches and when the shovel is extended it’s 32 inches.  The blade of the shovel measures 8.6 inches across and 9 inches long.  The blade of the shovel has ridged edges instead of a curved shape.  The post of the shovel is hexagon like which keeps the shovel from slipping around in your hands which is nice when you come across any type of resistance.  Yes, most snow in a slide is typically solid like cement and you want to have as much grip as possible when in the field.

Testing the MSR Responder Shovel

During my testing, I tested this shovel out digging in hardened snowbanks 6 ft tall with ice chunks and compressed snow.  During this time, I found the shovel to stay steady in my hand and the blade cut through the snow with ease.  I also used the MSR Responder Shovel to dig out snow pits to test snow stability.  This is not the biggest of shovel blades, but it surely gets the job done.

The Responder Shovel’s handle comes in a T shape instead of a D Shape which works well with all gloves, but does not as well with mittens since you get more grip and leverage from being able to split your fingers around the handle.

Traveling with the MSR Responder Shovel

Avalanche Shovel in Pack
Avalanche Shovel in Pack

For carrying inside a pack or outside a back, you have options.  The blade separates from the shovel post making it easier to fit into a pack.  If by chance you carry your shovel on the outside of your pack, there are small wholes cut out in the shovel which you can use to loop a rope through and tie to the outside of your pack.  Carrying on the outside of a pack is not my preferred mode of carrying the shovel, but to each their own.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an experienced backcountry traveler or new to the idea of earning your turns, the MSR Responder Shovel is an excellent choice.  For anyone familiar with MSR,  you know the company takes their gear design serious and they don’t just make products to make products.  MSR is one of the go-to companies for the outdoors person and athlete that takes their activities serious and their gear even more serious.  For more information, please visit

MSRP $ 59.95

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