Price Paid: $18
When I was a kid growing up on the beaches of San Diego, I would always use a strong frisbee to dig holes on the beach. It was much faster and more powerful than any of my friends using a shovel.
I was in the market for a shovel this winter, and noticed this innovative item as an alternative to a snow shovel at REI. I was able to test this powerful tool in crusted snow and 4 feet of powder alike last weekend on a snowshoe trip. It is so much easier to use in all but the most icy of snow conditions.
You use a simpler overall sweeping motion (overhand, sweeping in a forward arc downward, like a "hammer throw" weight machine motion). Fast digging is more productive and more accurate because your shovel blade is between your hands. With a shovel the blade is 2 feet away from the fulcrum (your hands) and any non-linear motion is exaggerate at the blade's tip. In powder, you can remove several times more snow per scoop than with a traditional design. It's amazing.
The weight of a scoop of snow with the claw is right at your hands, so effort is more efficient and less taxing (no "lever effect" of weight at the end of a long handle). Manuvering within a hole to continue digging is much easier because you don't have to contend with the length of a typical shovel handle and blade in confined space. My back does not get sore using this item.
The flexibility of the blade itself makes for fantastically fine carving. The "icy snow" side of the blade was highly effective in cutting through the 4-6" crust I experienced in the backcountry. DO NOT use this item without gloves, as you could easily get blisters.
It weighs less than 7 ounces! I can pack it any way I like: folded, flat, curved around other items, up against my daypack's back panel to create more support, or strapped to the outside. It has countless other uses (see "description") and also works well as a seat on snow to insulate your rear from the cold of snow. I can't see owning any other shovel type for snow unless I was going to consistently exist in temps below -20F, where the copolymer becomes brittle and runs a risk of cracking.
One might argue that you have to get on your knee(s) to use the SnowClaw, but that is not always the case. And besides, if you are in the backcountry and are not wearing clothes designed to protect your knees from 5 minutes (at the most) of exposure to contact with snow, then you are ill-prepared. The SnowClaw is simply a top notch model of efficiency and versatility!
Having seen but never owned a Snow Claw this is not a review but a warning:
NEVER substitute a Snow Claw for a shovel when traveling in avalanche terrain. There is simply no comparison in the amount of snow moved.
Price Paid: $20
YES! Long story turned short, I dug out a snow cave with one of these.
It is awesome. Moves a lot of snow, but not as much a conventional backcountry shovel. Totally worth it though.