For the fourth straight winter, we’re convinced that the True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover is the best snow shovel for most people looking to clear walkways, steps, and small driveways. No other shovel matches its unique blend of ideal size, ergonomics, durability, and availability.
The True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover has a sturdy, lightweight aluminum shaft that gloved hands can grip anywhere. Its 18-inch-wide plastic scoop is neither overly large and awkward nor too small and inefficient. The shovel has a curved shaft, an unusual design that makes moving snow easier, as it means you have to put less work into each swing. The nylon leading edge of the scoop won’t gouge your deck or catch on your brick patio. Plus, the shovel is built to last—I’ve had mine for eight New England winters, and it still works fine.
The Ergonomic Mountain Mover is good on its own, but it’s even better with the addition of a Trentco ProHandle. This secondary handle attaches to the shaft and improves ergonomics and lessens the risk of injury. By adding this handle, the effort to shovel is more balanced between your two hands, greatly reducing the strain on your back and lowering overall exertion. Simply put, it makes shoveling easier, whether you’re scraping snow off steps or scooping it from the ground.
If the Ergonomic Mountain Mover is unavailable, we recommend the Bully Tools 92814 Combination Snow Shovel. This model is a new runner-up for 2017, replacing the Suncast SCP3500 Powerblade. The two are similar, but the Bully has a longer handle, a wider scoop, and it typically costs less. Overall, the Bully has a more durable feel than our main pick, but we still prefer the ergonomic benefits of the Ergonomic Mountain Mover.
If you’ll be shoveling snow and ice only on flat, scratch-proof surfaces like city sidewalks and paved driveways, consider the True Temper 20-Inch Aluminum Combo Snow Shovel. This shovel has the same curved handle as our main pick but pairs that handle with a metal scoop instead of a plastic one. With this design, the shovel can easily knife under compacted snow and scrape flat surfaces clear. It’s also better at busting up ice. The drawbacks? Its metal blade scratches wood, bluestone, and other soft patio and deck materials, and the leading edge is so stiff and sharp that it catches and abruptly stops on uneven ground areas such as gravel drives, brick walkways, or even blobs of asphalt patch. This model is also heavier than the poly version, which adds up over the course of a shoveling session.
If you’re looking for a shovel to keep in your car for emergencies or to dig out of a snowed-in parking space, we recommend the Voilé Telepro Avalanche Shovel. Made for backpacking and mountaineering, this model has a nice strong scoop and is easily disassembled for stowing underneath a car seat or in a corner of the trunk. It’s built to slice into frozen snow, so it’s unlikely to break in an emergency. The Voilé isn’t cheap, but it was clearly the best in our tests against four other car shovels, all of which were either too flimsy or too small to be trustworthy. It’s also a good option if you live in a city apartment and have minimal shoveling needs and very little storage space.
We came to these conclusions after more than 70 hours of research (much of which we spent reading studies on shoveling ergonomics) as well as 40 total person-hours of snow shoveling. When it was all over, our team had tested 19 shovels, many of them with and without a supplemental aftermarket handle, for a total of more than 32 different shovel configurations.
We also have recommendations for a few supplementary tools that you may want to consider in addition to your shovel. Snow pushers and snow sleighs are designed to clear driveways, and a roof rake is good for knocking snow off a roof, which goes a long way toward preventing ice damming. We also have a separate guide to snow blowers, which offer yet another way to remove snow from a driveway.
This is my fourth winter researching and testing snow shovels for The Sweethome. In that time, I’ve used 19 different snow shovels (with 32 different handle configurations), and more than a dozen snow pushers, sleighs, rakes, and other designs. Beyond that I’ve spent hours upon hours deciphering the ergonomics of shoveling. Before being assigned this guide, I was no stranger to snow removal. I grew up at the end of a 2-mile dirt road in Vermont and have spent 39 winters in New England and currently live in rural New Hampshire. I’ve also spent 10 years doing construction work, and on many winter days I’ve shoveled out my own house and then gone to clear the job site. Lastly, I was “fortunate” enough to live in the Boston area during the record-breaking winter of 2014.
That decade of construction work, combined with my height (6 foot 5), has done no favors to my back; it doesn’t take much snow shoveling for the aches and pains to get going. So I also have personal reasons to seek out the best snow shovel.
To gain insights into the specifics of snow shovel design and ergonomics, I spoke with a number of experts. Dr. Asef Degani shared his thoughts on an article he wrote for Applied Ergonomics called “A comparative study of two shovel designs” (PDF). I also spoke with Joe Saffron, director of marketing and product development at True Temper, a leading snow shovel manufacturer. Finally, I spent some time on the phone with representatives of Horgan Enterprises, a landscape and snow-removal company in the Boston area.
Though we found a lot of articles about the dangers and ergonomics of shoveling, we saw few actual comparisons of shovels, so we had to rely heavily on our own testing. For this purpose, I ran a focus group where four people (three men and one woman), all in their 30s and 40s, tested our 30-plus shovel configurations.
Anyone who spends any time at all removing snow needs a good shovel.
The raw weight of snow adds up quickly, so shoveling puts tremendous strain on your body. Add to this the fact that most people aren’t accustomed to aggressive shoveling, and the results can be catastrophic.
FEMA’s Snow Load Safety Guide says: “The weight of 1 foot of fresh snow ranges from 3 pounds per square foot for light, dry snow to 21 pounds per square foot for wet, heavy snow.” Just taking a number on the low end of that range (9 pounds) and shoveling a small path 3 feet wide by 15 feet long means that you’re lifting and tossing more than 400 pounds of snow. And that’s just for a small walkway with one foot of snow on it. According to an article previously posted by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, “If an individual were to clear a 16ft by 30ft driveway covered in one foot of wet snow, they would be moving approximately four tons of snow.” Yikes.
When we spoke to Saffron, he pointed out that shoveling snow is not only an aggressive workout but also a repetitive motion that you don’t do at any other time during the year. In other words, your back and arms likely aren’t prepared for the sudden and significant exertion.
A 2011 study, published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine and covering 17 years of research, found that Americans suffer an average of 11,500 injuries and emergencies each year due to snow shoveling. More than half of them (54 percent) fall under the category of acute musculoskeletal exertion—that is, pulling muscles and throwing out one’s back.
Understanding the havoc a poorly designed snow shovel can wreak on an unsuspecting body, we dove headlong into the ergonomics of shoveling, and in the end realized that the best multipurpose shovel is a model with a plastic combo scoop (with a plastic wear strip) and a curved shaft. The combo design means that the shovel can both push and scoop snow.
You’ll encounter three main snow shovel styles: combos, shovels, and pushers.
Combos are the most versatile because they offer the benefits of the other styles without the drawbacks of either one. Because you can use them to scoop, toss, and push snow, they are, as Saffron told us, the standard snow tool in the US. Our pick, the True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover, is a combo model. Its scoop is 18 inches wide—a size we found to be in the sweet spot (roughly 18 to 22 inches wide) for shovels to be effective but not unwieldy.
Shovels, in a technical sense, are a basic flat blade on a stick, the kind that you might remember a parent or grandparent using (Charlie Brown used one, too). The flat scoop sits in line with the shaft, so such a design isn’t good at pushing snow (or anything else, really, as our testing discovered).
Pushers, designed with blades often more than two feet wide, are not designed for scooping or tossing. They generally look like a snow plow on the end of a stick, and they’re popular in colder temperatures, where snow is drier and lighter, meaning an average person can simply push it out of the way. According to Saffron, Canada is a massive market for pushers. These tools are also good for clearing smaller snowfalls from driveways. Although we strongly recommend a combo for primary snow removal, we tested four leading pushers and have our recommendation below.
Beyond using combos, shovels, and pushers, many people repurpose other shovel styles for their snow removal. The most common tools in this category are grain shovels, which have huge scoops and short handles. Proponents of this style list durability and a massive scoop size among the advantages. We included two grain shovels in our testing, and of all the shovels we handled, they transferred the most strain to the back.
Another favorite is the metal coal shovel (a regular shovel, but with a flat edge instead of a spade). The strength and durability of these is ideal for busting up ice and digging into frozen slush (a common challenge on salted and plowed streets), but the small size and relatively high weight of the scoop will move less snow with more effort than a larger poly scoop.
As for materials, the repetitive nature of shoveling means you should go with the lightest scoop. In most cases, that’s plastic—polyethylene, or “poly” for short. These shovels have a light weight plus the built-in flexibility to withstand sharp impacts on uneven pavement.
A wear strip protects the leading edge of a shovel scoop, and we’ve found that plastic ones are the best option. They’re slightly rounded at the edge, so the shovel can easily slide over uneven surfaces without jamming up. Though they add durability, they are also soft enough to work on decks and stone walkways without damaging the surface.
Representatives of Horgan Enterprises, a landscaping and snow-removal company located in Boston, told us in an interview that the company steers clear of metal wear strips that can easily scratch wood decks, brick walkways, and bluestone patios. Metal strips are also sharp, so they end up hitching on uneven surfaces, which jars the shovel user’s shoulders and arms. Most poly shovels that have no wear strip are sharp but easily dented and damaged (our current runner-up pick, the Bully Tools 92814 Combination Snow Shovel, has no wear strip but is very durable).
It’s also important to choose a shovel with a curved shaft, as such a design offers the ergonomic benefits of a bent shaft but retains the stability of a straight shaft. Because of the curve, the spot where your leading hand grips the shaft is higher off the ground than it is with a straight shovel. This allows you to keep your back straighter. As Saffron pointed out, by removing the drastic angle of the shaft, a curved design gives the shoveler far more flexibility with hand placement and allows the user to “choke up” at the base of the scoop for a heavy load.
The scoop of a bent-shaft shovel, in contrast, can swing like a pendulum at the bend, requiring the user to put in more effort to stabilize the shovel while tossing. The effect is especially pronounced when the scoop is loaded with heavy snow. On top of that, a bent shaft doesn’t offer the freedom of hand placement that a curved shaft does. The leading hand can only go as far as the bend.
For even better ergonomics, we discovered multiple academic studies concluding that a secondary handle placed about two-thirds of the way down the shaft greatly reduces back strain by shifting the workload from the back to the arms.1 Our own testing confirmed this result.
As for the shovels themselves, we checked out Amazon, Grainger, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Northern Tool + Equipment, Sears, Walmart, and the websites of the most prominent snow shovel manufacturers: Dart, EraPro, Suncast, True Temper, and Garant (the last two are the same company; Garant is based in Canada). All told, we investigated upwards of 75 shovels.
Understanding that a secondary handle would be a key addition to our chosen shovel, we first located all of the available tools that come with one attached: the Bigfoot Power Lift, the SnowBow (which appears to be discontinued), the Suncast SC3590 Double Grip, and the True Temper SnoBoss, which has a double shaft and a perpendicular handle.
At the same time we also discovered two add-on secondary handles, the Stout Backsaver and the Motus D-grip, both designed to be attached to any shafted tool. In late 2015, we tested another secondary handle, the Trentco ProHandle.
To fully explore the ergonomic possibilities, we tested a wide assortment of regular shovels representing the different styles with and without the add-on secondary handles and in a variety of shaft and scoop shapes. Three of those shovels—the Dart BHS18, Rugg 26PBSLW, and Suncast SC3250—had bent shafts. Two, the True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover and the True Temper Aluminum Combo Snow Shovel, had a curved shaft. The Suncast SCP3500 Powerblade and the True Temper Mountain Mover with VersaGrip each had a standard straight shaft. In addition, we looked at two grain shovels, the Suncast SG1600 and the True Temper Arctic Blast Poly Snow Scoop (which the company has since rebranded as the Union Tools Snow Scoop), and we included the Voilé Telepro Avalanche Shovel to see where it fit in with the rest. For a control unit, we added the Suncast SN1000 to represent the old-fashioned shovel. In late 2016, we also tested the Bully Tools 92814 Combination Snow Shovel.
Since our original guide in 2013, we’ve expanded our search to include car shovels, pushers, and sleighs and tested five car shovels, four pushers, two sleighs, and a cult favorite, the Wovel.
For the bulk of our testing, four New England residents used the shovels to clear a driveway, five long walkways, four front stoops, three decks, a long set of deck stairs (14 steps and one landing), a set of fieldstone steps, a set of cobblestone steps, a stone patio, and a brick patio. The shovelers varied in height and gender, consisting of a 6-foot male, a 5-foot-8 male, a 6-foot-5 male, and a 5-foot-10 female. Testing occurred over the course of eight days and after six snowstorms that totaled about 42 inches of snow. During this time, a wide range of temperatures caused snow density to vary from light and fluffy to frozen and crunchy to melty and slushy.
We investigated nearly 75 shovels over the past four years and have yet to find one that is better than the True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover with an add-on Trentco ProHandle. The shovel stands apart from its competitors with a unique combination of several features we found essential in a good snow shovel: a curved handle, a poly wear strip, and a flexible and durable scoop. During our tests, it was everyone’s pick as the best, but when we added on the secondary handle,2 improving the ergonomics even more, our crew of shovel testers went bananas over it.
“Yeah, this is it, this is what we’ve been looking for,” one of them said, picking up this tool after about two hours of moving snow with the other shovels.
The Ergonomic Mountain Mover was the only model we tested with a curved shaft made of light and durable aluminum. The arcing shape allows for a straighter back while shoveling and also gives full flexibility in hand positioning up and down the shaft. The design stabilizes the scooping motion, eliminating the pendulum effect you feel when using a shovel with a bent shaft. The D-grip at the back end of the Ergonomic Mountain Mover is nice and large, and no one in our testing panel had any problems fitting a hand wearing a chunky winter glove into the opening.
The business end of the Ergonomic Mountain Mover is an 18-inch-wide flexible poly scoop with a nylon wear strip, which makes for a durable and protected leading edge that won’t gouge or scratch a deck or walkway. We had no problem busting up ice and compacted snow on wooden deck steps with the shovel, and the steps came through the process unmarred. The wear strip is rounded, so it easily finds its way over uneven surfaces like brick walkways or fieldstone steps. The flex in the poly scoop also absorbs impact when the shovel gets jammed, which can’t be said about shovels with metal scoops.
As for long-term durability, I can personally vouch for this True Temper model. It’s the shovel that I’ve used for the past eight New England winters, and it is only now showing some signs of wear. (We tested with a new model.) The corners of the scoop are beginning to crack a little, but I’m not particularly alarmed about that. The shovel still works fine.
Though the True Temper Ergonomic Mountain Mover is a good shovel in its own right, adding a Trentco ProHandle attachment made a big difference in our tests. This secondary handle attaches to the shovel shaft and allows you to stand straighter while shoveling. And it isn’t compatible exclusively with the True Temper shovel: For about $20, you can add one of these handles to just about any shovel you already have kicking around, instantly and significantly improving your shoveling experience. As one tester put it while using our original handle pick, the Stout Backsaver, “This thing can turn any old piece-of-shit shovel into a decent tool.” After testing ended, everyone in the focus group asked where they could purchase an add-on handle.
The ProHandle clamps to the shovel shaft with four bolts and wing nuts. It’s easy to put on and take off, so in the spring, you can move the handle over to your garden shovel or rake. According to the documentation, the ProHandle is designed for straight-handled tools with a diameter of ⅝ inch to 1¾ inch. Even though the True Temper Ergonomic Mountain Mover has a curved design, we had no problems securing the handle to its shaft.
The ProHandle easily adjusts and locks into five positions. When the shovel is not in use, the ProHandle can be quickly set flat against the shaft so that the tool takes up less storage room.
In addition to reducing back strain, the ProHandle also makes shoveling a long flight of deck stairs much easier. When you’re standing on a step and pulling snow toward you (think of paddling a canoe), the extra handle adds a nice grip and lets you stand farther back from the shovel to clear off the steps. On level ground, the ProHandle really pays for itself: While moving snow, everyone on our testing panel, regardless of height, could feel the change in body mechanics and the reduced strain on their back.
Shoveling snow is just plain easier with the added handle. I set up my father with the ergonomic shovel and a handle attachment, and he told me, “Without that shovel and handle, your 83-year-old father simply would not be able to shovel snow anymore.”
Our handle pick for the past two years, the Stout Backsaver, works fine and costs about half as much as the ProHandle, but we found it has a distinct life span. At some point during year two of our testing, a crack developed, and since then it has slowly grown to the point that the handle is now almost unusable. The ProHandle is made of a much more durable plastic, and the handle-to-shaft connection is much sturdier. Because no one wants to get caught with a busted handle halfway through a shoveling session, we believe the added cost of the ProHandle is a worthwhile investment.
We also tested the Motus D-grip, another readily available add-on handle, but found it more difficult to keep tight on the shovel’s shaft. Plus, the grip area was smaller, giving larger gloved hands some problems.
So we recommend combining an Ergonomic Mountain Mover with a ProHandle for snow-shoveling nirvana. A total of about $45 or so (about $25 for the shovel and $20 for the handle) may seem like a lot to pay to move some snow, but the reduction of back strain is worth the cost. Tired arms are one thing; a herniated disc is another.
One drawback to the Ergonomic Mountain Mover’s nylon-wear-strip design—but one that’s worth the trade-off—is that it’s thicker than its metal-strip (or strip-free) competitors. This added beefiness makes knifing the shovel under compacted snow or into a semi-frozen snowbank more difficult. But the nylon strip has advantages that the others don’t. Shovels with metal wear strips can catch on any uneven surface, jarring your shoulders. Such models also damage non-pavement surfaces easily, and in our tests, some of the models without a strip were damaged after just a few hours of shoveling.
In the eight years I’ve owned the Ergonomic Mountain Mover shovel, I’ve never had any issue with the wear strip’s thickness. Only after I saw this True Temper model tested alongside the metal-edged shovels did I realize that such a difference existed.
Another downside to the shovel is that the leading edge of the scoop has a slight curve to it. On the models we tested, this was minor, but after multiple reader comments about it, we went to Home Depot and saw that on some units it was more pronounced. In our experience, the curve doesn’t effect snow clearing too much: There may be a few places where a second pass is necessary, but we’ve always been able to scrape flat surfaces clean. If you feel like this will be overly annoying to you, our runner-up pick, the Bully Tools 92814 Combination Snow Shovel has a straight leading edge (but it lacks the curved handle).
This past year, we logged our fourth winter using the True Temper Ergonomic Mountain Mover, and we still have no complaints. It’s getting a little dinged up, but nothing major.
We also still like the ProHandle. It’s simply much better than our old pick, the Stout Backsaver. It’s more durable, it fits the shovel shaft better, and the handle can shift and lock into different positions. Our Backsaver developed a crack after two winters, but the build quality of the ProHandle looks like it should last quite a bit longer.
If our pick is sold out—which can happen in the middle of a snowy winter—we recommend the Bully Tools 92814 Combination Snow Shovel. This is a straight-handled shovel, so it doesn’t have the ergonomic benefits of our main pick, but it does have exceptional durability and an extra-long handle, which makes it easier to push snow. The shovel doesn’t have a wear strip, but after repeatedly smashing the scoop straight down against an icy driveway and seeing no effect at all, we’re more than satisfied with the durability of the leading edge. This is a new runner-up for 2017; our previous runner-up, the Suncast SCP3500 Powerblade, has a shorter handle, isn’t as wide, and usually costs more.
This Bully is fully compatible with the ProHandle, which adds a considerable amount of ergonomic benefit. If you go with the straight-handled Bully, we strongly recommend also investing in the secondary handle to take some of the load off your back. The added length on the shaft does help with leverage and makes it easier to push snow across a driveway, but the ProHandle really does wonders to relieve back strain.
The Bully comes with a 22-inch-wide scoop, so it is larger than our 18-inch main pick and is starting to push the limits of what we would recommend for regular shoveling (Bully makes tools with the professional user in mind). For lighter snows, work should go a little faster, but for heavier ones, it’ll be worth it to moderate how much snow is loaded on each scoop.
The durability of both the Bully’s poly scoop and fiberglass handle is impressive. To demonstrate this, the company has a video of someone breaking a cinder block with the handle and another one of the scoop being run over by a truck. We felt this strength in our testing as well and were surprised how well the poly scoop held up, even after a few times shoveling off a set of cobblestone steps. We then spent time smashing it straight into an icy driveway, which did nothing to the scoop.
If you need to shovel only smooth, tough paved surfaces, we recommend the True Temper 20-Inch Aluminum Combo Shovel. Because it has a curved shaft, it comes with all of the ergonomic benefits of our main pick (and can work with the ProHandle), plus it offers the added durability and sharp edge of a metal shovel. This means it’s a better tool for knifing under packed snow and scraping along a flat surface.
During our testing, this shovel earned high marks for its ability to chop into frozen and compacted snow. The scoop is metal, so the edge is much thinner and stronger than that of poly shovels. Thanks to this design, the Aluminum Combo Shovel is also good for breaking up ice. We did notice that when we banged the shovel straight down into ice, the rivets that held the scoop to the handle took on a lot of strain. The shovel held up fine for occasional ice busting, but we wouldn’t recommend using it in that capacity all the time.
This shovel is not without its drawbacks. For one thing, it’s about two pounds heavier than the poly version. That may not sound like much, but with repetitive shoveling, such added weight quickly tires out your arms. Also, the weight is concentrated at the scoop end, so this tool feels unbalanced in comparison with the poly combo.
Like the other metal-edged shovels we tested, the scoop will catch on any uneven ground—forget about using it on gravel driveways, stone patios, or brick walkways. Even on a paved driveway, we had occasional problems with the blade hitching on bits of asphalt or snagging on the slightly raised blobs of blacktop patch. This effect is not only annoying but also prone to giving the shoulders, neck, and back a good jolt. We’re not the only ones to notice this problem with metal shovels in general; the second edition of Snow Removal Ergonomics, published by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (no longer available online), notes it as a common cause of injury.
On top of that, the metal blade can leave scratches on more-delicate materials such as wood decks or bluestone patios. During our testing, we used another shovel with a metal wear strip to clear off a mahogany deck, and despite being extremely careful, we still managed to scratch the decking. Also, as the metal edge saw use, it became even more abrasive as it developed dents and burrs.
After spending two years researching car shovels and testing five contenders, we found that the best one to keep in the trunk for an emergency is the Voilé Telepro Avalanche Shovel. (Since we tested, Voilé has updated its line of shovels, and its new model has a blue handle and two holes in the scoop but is otherwise the same.)
The tool, which is popular with ski patrols and people clearing backcountry trails, has a solid metal scoop and a two-piece handle that clicks together to form a sturdy shovel. When disassembled, the three pieces can be tucked neatly under a car seat or in the back with the groceries.
I’ve spent four winters with the Voilé in my truck, and it has come in handy more times than I can count. Because I keep my truck in a second, unplowed driveway, I often have to clear a quick path for the tires in order to get in and out. Though the Voilé is too short to be a primary shovel, it’s perfect for this kind of fast shoveling. It’s also ideal for slicing into the thick snowbanks and icy plow slush blocking your path when you need to parallel park on a city street; the shovel’s ability to hack into that kind of frozen mess is impressive. In our tests around town, shovels with poly scoops had much more trouble with this kind of rugged, dense snow.
Additionally, for a city dweller who needs to clear off just a couple of front steps, the Voilé could be a good choice. The short shaft won’t do the back any favors and the small scoop can’t hold a ton of snow, but the fact that the shovel can be quickly disassembled and tucked in the back of a closet makes it ideal if you have zero storage.
There’s no doubt that at about $40 (around $10 to $15 more than our main pick), the Voilé Telepro Avalanche Shovel is an expensive shovel to just have in your car. But a car shovel is an emergency tool, and we believe that the added durability is worth the additional cost. If your car slides off the road on your way home at night, you’ll want to dig yourself out with a shovel you can rely on, not one that might crack or break. Also, if you’ll often come up against compacted plow snow or semi-frozen slush, a metal shovel will be ideal for such a situation.
We did look at other car shovels, all less than $20, and we were stunned to see how flimsy most of them were (more details below). Even though the Voilé costs more than twice as much as those other car shovels, it’s 10 times the tool. We should also mention poor ergonomics as a flaw on any shovel designed for a car—such models have to be small enough to fit in a trunk, so none of them are as comfortable to use as a big shovel like the True Temper Ergonomic Mountain Mover.
Shovels are ideal for use on walkways and front steps, but if you regularly clear your entire driveway (and you don’t like the idea of a snow blower), you’d be better off with a pusher or a sleigh. Pushers are best for lower accumulations and lighter snows, and sleighs can handle heavier snowfall or greater amounts.
When you use a pusher, the point is not to scoop the snow but to shove it along until you get to the side of the driveway. These tools look like push brooms, but with a curved snow-plow blade instead of a broom end. In our tests, the pushers maxed out their effectiveness at around four inches of depth or so. As True Temper’s Joe Saffron told us, they’re popular in Canada, where it’s colder and the snows tend to be lighter and fluffier.
Because the edge of the pusher is in constant contact with the ground, most of these tools are difficult to use on uneven surfaces such as brick walkways and gravel driveways, but very effective on paved surfaces.
Among pushers, we recommend the Bully 92813 Snow Pusher. This is a new pick for 2017 and unlike the previous pick, the JM Enterprises 30-Inch SnowPlow, the Bully has a sharp leading edge, so it’s easier to knife under compacted or icy snow. The scoop has the same build quality as the Bully combo shovel, so the video of the truck driving over the scoop applies here too. We also repeated our aggressive driveway beating of the scoop’s leading edge and saw no ill effects.
We liked that though the plastic scoop has a sharp edge on it (no wear strip), it’s still duller than a metal edge. This helps it navigate over the occasional uneven crack or blob of asphalt patch. It also won’t scratch or gouge a deck.
Even though the Bully is a pusher and not a shovel, we still recommend using it in conjunction with a ProHandle in order to lift the pushed pile up and onto a snow bank.
The Bully’s 27-inch scoop should be fine for most, but if you would rather have a larger pusher, we still stand behind the SnowPlow (our previous pick), which is available in 30-, 36-, and 48-inch sizes. Just keep in mind that these larger scoops will start to impede your ability to lift the snow, which is something you may occasionally have to do depending on the height of your snowbanks.
Sleighs are much larger than pushers and look like wheelbarrows without the wheels. With the handle tilted slightly back, a full sleigh can easily slide around and even up a snowbank. This design not only gives you total flexibility on where you can dump the snow but also puts little strain on your back. We tested two leading models and recommend the True Temper Sleigh Shovel (which is also sold under the Garant name in Canada). The handle has a bend that raises the gripping area, so moving the sleigh around is easier than with the others.
We used the True Temper sleigh to successfully clear a portion of a driveway that had about 20 inches of snow on it. The first few scoopfuls were tricky, but once we created a path to the spot where we were dumping the snow, the task got much easier. Had we used a shovel for the job, we would have spent an exhausting day walking back and forth across the driveway carrying heavy scoops of snow. The sleigh also works as a pusher, but if you get only small accumulations of the white stuff, the lighter, easier-to-handle SnowPlow pusher is a better option.
A roof rake allows you to knock snow off a roof, particularly at the eaves. By doing this you greatly reduce the chances of getting an ice dam, which can be catastrophic to the well-being of a house. Ice dams form when heat coming through the roof melts snow, which then runs down to the eave and freezes. The frozen mass gets bigger and bigger until it creates a dam that traps any new water coming down the roof. Once this happens, the water has nowhere to go but under the shingles and into the walls of the house. There, it will wreak havoc on your insulation, wall board, and framing, possibly causing rot and mold. A good roofer will properly waterproof the eaves of a house to prevent such infiltration, but it can be a real problem in older homes.
For this type of snow clearing, we recommend the 17-foot True Temper Telescoping Roof Rake. Unlike most other roof rakes, the True Temper model is a single unit with a three-part telescoping handle. The pieces slide freely with the press of a release button, and they can click into place at a variety of lengths. Traditionally, roof rakes consist of three full-size, non-telescoping handles that can click together only end to end, making the tool awkward to use.
When we tested the True Temper roof rake, we found that the push-button system made for quick and easy length adjustments to the handle. This feature was a big help as we were coaxing a pile of snow down a roofline. We also like that there is a hole at the base of the handle, so it can hang in the garage when not in use.
In the four years of researching and testing for this guide, we have looked at and dismissed quite a few shovels. Here are the most prominent; first the regular shovels, then car shovels, and finally sleighs, pushers, and roof rakes.
Our previous runner-up, the Suncast SCP3500 Powerblade is a nice shovel, but the Bully Combination Shovel has a longer handle and a wider scoop, and it’s usually cheaper. There is no reason to choose it over the Bully.
The Bigfoot Powerlift, also a previous runner-up, has an attached secondary handle that can rotate around the shaft. Ergonomically, it’s a great shovel, but the durability is subpar. It has a weak plastic scoop that is easily dented and the connection between the handle and the shaft is flimsy.
The True Temper SnoBoss is just too massive to be a primary shovel. Our testers concluded that this tool—which lands somewhere between a combo shovel and a snow sleigh —was too big for a shovel and too small for a pusher. “It’s unrealistic to lift that thing,” one tester said. Its size, with a 27-inch leading edge, also made it hard to use on stoops and deck steps.
The Suncast SC3950 Double-Grip has a bent shaft and an attached secondary handle similar to the ProHandle. Going into testing, we thought this model would be a contender, but the build quality was so poor that we quickly disregarded it. The D-grip squeaked every time the shovel moved. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it clicked too. Beyond making such aggravating noises, the D-grip sits in a fixed position that our testers felt was too close to the rear of the shaft.
The bent-handled shovels we looked at, the Rugg 26PBSLW, Suncast SC3250, and Dart BHS18, ended up in the “liked but not loved” pile. Our shovelers appreciated how these models allowed for a straighter back, but the bent shaft limited hand positioning. The Rugg and Suncast have metal wear strips, and the Dart has an unusual and uncomfortable D-handle.
Without a secondary handle, straight-shaft shovels are tough on the back. With the shorter models, the tallest tester (me) had to bend over to at least 90 degrees at the waist just to load a scoop. With an auxiliary handle attached, they became much better (but still not as good as the Ergonomic Mountain Mover).
The straight True Temper Mountain Mover with VersaGrip has a cool rear handle designed to allow a two-handed grip while pushing snow, but that nice touch doesn’t offset the exertion necessary to scoop and toss.
Among the straight-shaft shovels, the grain shovels—the Suncast SG1600 and the True Temper Arctic Blast Poly Snow Scoop (now branded under the UnionTools name)—received particular scorn from our testers. The large scoops and short handles quickly added up to brutal back strain. One tester called them “old-fashioned backaches.”
The true runt of the litter was the Suncast SN1000, an old-school flat-blade shovel that we tested as a control model. Compared with the others, it was just useless. The testers literally laughed at this one, as it had a short shaft, felt flimsy, and couldn’t hold much snow.
We’ve also dismissed the following shovels without testing:
The Poly Pro Titan has a straight shaft and a secondary handle built into the back end of the scoop. This design puts your hand closer to the weight you want to lift, which is good, but it also means that you need to bend over to the point that you’re touching your toes before you can lift it, which is not so good. It also has a narrow 14-inch scoop.
Bosse Tools, recipient of almost $65,000 in Kickstarter funding, has released its Snow Scoop Shovel. This shovel has a rotating secondary handle partway down the shovel shaft. The handle can be set to varying degrees of rotation, which could be helpful if you are constantly tossing snow in one direction (say shoveling a path where everything gets tossed to the right). But the secondary handle is in line with the shovel shaft and not raised like the ProHandle attachment is, so it requires more bending over and thus puts more strain on the back. Plus, at about $100, the price is simply more than we think most people are willing to pay for a snow shovel.
Price is also a concern with the DMOS Stealth Shovel (and the company’s Alpha Shovel, which is currently in Kickstarter development) a collapsable shovel with a serrated metal scoop. It looks like a nice shovel, but at $100, it’s really only a fit for the outdoor enthusiast or backpacker.
The Snow Joe SJEG24 is an interesting model with its detachable ice chopper, but it has a straight shaft, and the scoop is a wide 24 inches, an unwieldy size for some people. We also noticed the Suncast SC2700, but that model has a straight shaft as well as a metal wear strip.
For car shovels, in addition to the Voilé, we looked at the True Temper AutoBoss, the Suncast SCS300 Automotive Shovel, the Bigfoot Collapsible Car Shovel, and the AAA 4004 Sport Utility Shovel. After testing, however, we honestly wouldn’t recommend putting any of them in your car.
The True Temper AutoBoss has an interesting folding design that tucks away nicely for storage, but it’s so small that, as a shovel, it’s difficult to use, even for short periods of time.
The Suncast and Bigfoot models both have telescoping handles similar to that of the Voilé Telepro, but the overall quality of these shovels is so low that they reminded us more of beach toys than functional snow shovels. The connection at the midpoint of each handle is loose and wobbly, which is really annoying, but what’s worse is that the plastic scoops are so flimsy that they bend and flex while shoveling even slightly frozen snow. These are not tools that you want to rely on in an emergency.
The AAA 4004 has the same all-metal construction as the Voilé, but it is an inferior shovel in all respects. It’s very short (only 32 inches), so we basically had to touch our toes to fill the scoop. Compared with the Voilé, the connection points on the handle have more of a wobble to them, and the T-handle is uncomfortable. The scoop is made out of a thinner metal, and was easily gouged. It also comes to a point, which made scraping compacted snow off pavement tougher.
JM Enterprises 30-inch SnowPlow, our previous pick for snow pusher, is a durable tool with a thick poly scoop. The leading edge is blunt so it has difficulty getting under compacted snow, when compared with the Bully Snow Pusher. The two had the same ice busting capability, so we feel the Bully is the better pusher.
We also saw a couple of other pushers, notably the Manplow and the Nordic Plow. Both of these models resemble our recommended SnowPlow pusher. For the 30-inch width, however, the Manplow comes in only a double-handled design, which is difficult to lift if necessary (the company also sells a 24-inch version with a single handle). The Nordic Plow appears to come in only double-handled designs. If you plan on using a wider-width pusher (30-plus inches) and you don’t anticipate needing to lift snow, both of these options look to be on a par with the SnowPlow.
The True Temper Poly Pusher has a comfortable handle and a nice arc on the blade; in a pinch, it’s easy to use as a shovel. But it’s nowhere near as durable as the SnowPlow. Though we were trying to scrape up compacted snow, the Poly Pusher blade flexed so much that we thought it might break. It also produced so-so scraping results.
The EZ Plow has a blade that sits at an angle to the handle, so it’s oriented like the plow on the front of a dump truck. We found that keeping the pusher moving in a straight line was impossible. We tested this model on different depths of snow, and it would always veer off to the side no matter what we did.
For sleighs, we looked at the Suncast SF1850 Big Scoop. It has a regular straight handle, so it was much more difficult to use than the True Temper/Garant model. We liked that the handle could telescope in for easier storage, but that wasn’t enough to offset all of the bending over that this tool requires.
For roof rakes, we discovered the Snow Joe RJ205M Twist N Lock Telescoping Aluminum Roof Rake. To expand and lock the lengths, you use a twisting mechanism at each connection. These mechanisms are more difficult to use than the push-button locks of our pick, the True Temper Telescoping Roof Rake.
Lastly, there is the Arctic Wolf, previously known as The Wovel, is basically a sleigh shovel with a smaller scoop and a fulcrum wheel. Once you scoop up (or push) snow, you toss the load with a quick downward thrust on the handles. This action puts little strain on the back, transferring all of it to the arms and shoulders. With lesser amounts of snow (under 5 or 6 inches), the Snow Wolf cleared quickly and efficiently in our tests, but with deeper snows we ultimately preferred the True Temper Sleigh Shovel due to its larger scoop, considerably lower price tag, and versatility.
First, we found that the Snow Wolf puts the user through a serious upper-body workout. You really have to give the handles a good pop to get the snow to launch. Though the True Temper sleigh certainly takes some muscle to use, the repetitive quick snap of the Snow Wolf was particularly tiring for our testers.
The design is also limited because you can’t toss snow to the side. It also can’t throw snow especially high or notably far—maybe only about five feet in front of the scoop. This limitation makes it tricky to use on a walkway (much like the sleigh), but we also had trouble with it in deeper accumulation when it would take a good amount of effort just to toss the snow up on top of the snowbank. The larger scoop of the True Temper/Garant sleigh can hold more snow, and we successfully “drove” that tool up a snowbank to deposit the snow wherever we wanted.
The Snow Wolf costs about three and a half times more than the True Temper sleigh. And honestly, we found that we could do a quicker job with the True Temper because it can carry so much more snow without restricting where we put it.
(Photos by Doug Mahoney.)
Originally published: January 25, 2017
Should we open another bottle of wine?