Choosing a Snow ShovelSnow shovels come in as many varieties as there are climates to use them. From a basic metal blade with wooden handle to state-of-the-art fiberglass and even shovels on wheels, the choices can be overwhelming. The general consensus when it comes to choosing a snow shovel is to find one that feels balanced and comfortable in your hands. You may end up wielding it quite frequently, and if it is too heavy, too light, too long or too short, shoveling snow will become a chore you dread. General Tips for Choosing a Snow Shovel
- Choose a shovel that matches your strength. If you are short and slender, an all-metal snow shovel will quickly prove cumbersome, whereas a small shovel will be wasted in the hands of a much stronger person.
- Choose a shovel that matches your height. A tall person with a short shovel is a backache waiting to happen, and if you are short, you simply cannot get proper leverage with a shovel that has too long a handle.
- Make sure the diameter of the shovel handle is comfortable to hold. Blisters can be avoided by choosing a shovel that fits comfortably in your hands and by wearing proper work gloves.
- If you have the budget for it, opt for quality over price. Look for a shovel that will last you many years, and preferably has a long warranty to back it up.
- Choose an appropriate shovel blade size. The larger the shovel, the heavier it is when you fill it. Aim for a size you can comfortably handle without straining to pick it up. You will move snow more quickly if you can just scoop and toss, rather than maneuvering to pick up a shovelful that is too heavy.
Snow shovels come in several basic designs, but the two main components that you will need to choose from are the blade and the handle.
Snow Shovel Blades
Snow shovel blades are usually either flat rectangles or rounded scoops.
- Flat shovels are better at cutting through deep snowdrifts, such as clearing areas left by a plow.
- Rounded scoops can push snow, allowing you to make a steady pass down the sidewalk or scoop the snow up to remove it completely.
Snow Shovel Handles
The biggest choice you will make is the handle of a snow shovel. Some fold, some have two handles for extra leverage, and some even have wheels attached to help make pushing easier.
- Folding handles fold up compactly and are ideal to carry in the car for emergencies, or on backpacking trips into the mountains. They are not as well suited to the heavier demands of home snow removal, but are an excellent emergency car kit item if you live in an area with substantial snowfall amounts.
- Ergonomic handles bend at a sharp angle back toward the top of the handle. This innovative design almost completely eliminates the need to bend over, which greatly reduces back strain from shoveling snow. The bend in the handle makes it more difficult to lift heavy scoops, but the reduced back strain is usually a fair tradeoff for people with back trouble.
- Wheeled handles are a revolutionary new invention that have been shown to reduce back and heart strain as well as remove snow up to three times faster than traditional shovels. You can find wheeled snow shovels in brands such as Snow Wolf and Wovel, who won the Time Magazine “Best Inventions of 2006” award.
- Dual handles feature a straight shaft like typical shovels, but also have a second handle that branches out from the first, allowing you to wield the shovel with two hands for better leverage.
Snow shovel blades are made of either metal or plastic, and each has its pros and cons. Some people recommend having one metal shovel and one plastic shovel to suit different needs depending on where you are shoveling and how much snow you must remove.
Snow Shovel Blades
- Metal blades will chip through ice and carry heavier loads while holding up to obstacles such as deck screws or gravel. They are strong, durable and capable of carrying much more than their plastic counterparts. They weigh considerably more than plastic, however, which can contribute to back strain and tire you out more quickly.
- Plastic blades are lightweight, flexible and easy to maneuver. Being much lighter than metal blades, they can be handled easily and move quickly. Plastic shovel blades are more easily damaged by screws and rocks and are not suited for chipping through solid ice. Snow does not stick as easily to plastic, which can be a big efficiency boost.
- Combination of a plastic blade with what is called a Wear Strip, which is a piece of metal attached to a the blade. This gives you the strength of the metal edge for ice, but the light weight of the plastic blade. Some are even replaceable on your better shovels.
- Wooden handles are lightweight, strong and durable. With proper maintenance, they can last many years and are also easy to replace when the time comes. Because wood naturally expands and contracts with the weather, you need to check the screws attaching the handle to the blade periodically to make sure they are tight. Also, apply a light coating of linseed oil to your wooden handle once per year to keep it strong, supple and water resistant.
- Fiberglass handles are probably the most durable of the types of handles. The cost of this durability is a much heavier handle, which can cause strain. If the weight is not a concern, fiberglass may be the best option for longevity. It is not subject to changes due to the weather, will not rust or bend, and is difficult to break.
- Plastic handles are very lightweight and easy to maneuver. If stored indoors, plastic can last many years but constant exposure to sun and moisture can make plastic become brittle, which leads to cracking and breaking. When weight is the most important issue, plastic is the best choice for a snow shovel handle.
- Metal handles are usually made of lightweight metal such as aluminum. This makes them very light but also more vulnerable to bending when used under great pressure. Metal handles can also rust if not dried off between uses (hanging them out of the weather to dry is sufficient), but they are relatively inexpensive which can be an important factor.
For making quick work of lighter snow, a plastic blade may get the job done without tiring you, while having a sturdy metal snow shovel available can give you the extra leverage to move thick, wet snow and scrape through tough ice. If you can afford to, having one of each can help you tackle snow shoveling with more efficiency.