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Thread: Snow Study Tools: DIY
12-16-2009, 06:47 PM #1
Snow Study Tools: DIY
Perhaps better in the Slide Zone, but it is gear related. Taking Level 2 in a couple of weeks so I want to pick up some study tools. I don't, however, want to pay $85 for the BCA "kit."
So I would like to build my own essentials and would appreciate any recommendations from snow geeks/avy folks on what they actually use in the field when conducting pit profiles.
Here is a rudimentary list I have come up with of potential study tools (including what I already have):
1. AIARE Blue Field Book - I have
2. Waterproof Pencil - I have
3. Snow Saw - I have
4. Rustchblock Cord - Just going to use the general cornice cutting rope w/ knots that I have + 2 ski poles or probe(s)
5. Inclinometer - I am just going to use my Compass w/ the inclinometer. The BCA ones look like something that will break.
6. Thermometer- Could use some recommendations here. Digital I assume? What works the best? Don't want to break the bank, but don't want a POS either.
7. Folding Ruler - I saw the BCA kit has one. Seems you could just use the markings on your probe if you have a probe with the measurements. I have an Orthovox probe with CM/MM markings. Do others find it easier to use the folding ruler, however - given that it is more manageable to use? Any recomemdations (light, cheap, etc....)?
8. Mag Glass - Seems you need these for crystals. Frankly, I assume I will use this during the Level 2 course but never use it again. I would like to do future pit profiles for nothing else than intellectual curiosity and contributing useful observations to the Sierra Avalanche Center. I figure the more info those guys get from backcountry travelers the better. SO, is this purchase worth it? Any recommendations?
9. Crystal Card - Seems you need it for Level 2 and pit profiles. I guess the BCA one here is the way to go.
Any other thoughts, suggestions, recommendations would be appreciated.
12-16-2009, 07:02 PM #2
MEC makes a nice, but heavy, case. The "Snow Study Sporran"
You can get decent magnifiers and thermometers from scientific supply houses; unless you have some difficulty reading analog ones no need for digital unless you are a snow scientist.
Life-Link makes decent crystal cards, etc.
A paint brush can be useful.
Unless you are patroller/etc much of this will likely rarely/never get used after avy class.Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
12-16-2009, 07:19 PM #3Registered User
- Join Date
- Apr 2006
2. A bunch of mechanical pencils. Have a few cause it is too easy to lose them in the snow.
6. Thermometer- Definetly digital. I use a pair of Thermor Waterproof Digital Stem Thermometer's and like them.
7. Folding Ruler - I prefer having a ruler and a probe. Although I only use the ruler when fully documenting pits. Not really for recreational purposes. I prefer the SEAR ruler's over the BCA ones. They feel more solid at the joints.
8. Mag Glass - Definetly a must for looking at crystals. Do NOT get the folding BCA glass. It doesn't have sides and is a pain to use when it is windy. I also don't really like those pen magnifiers, too small. Get one like this:
9. Crystal Card - Kind of personal preference. I like the SEAR crystal cards.
12-16-2009, 07:22 PM #4This not my pee
- Join Date
- Oct 2005
Look at Tognar or SVST for digi thermometers. x2 on the little paintbrush. The inclonometer in your compass is fine. A folding ruler is neat and all but most probes have the graduated markings on them.
12-16-2009, 08:44 PM #5
Don't bother getting a magnifying glass unless you go at least 30x. 10x is a waste of money for crystal ID. I highly recommend this one:
It screws apart for a monocular too, which comes in a ton of handy for scouting lines.
Go with a probe, a ruler is just one more thing you have to carry.
Digi thermometers are cool but they break, go out of calibration quicker than analog, weigh more, and need batteries.
Get the cheapest crystal card you can find. A 1x1 grid is the same on all brands I hope.
12-16-2009, 09:26 PM #6Registered User
- Join Date
- Apr 2006
12-16-2009, 09:59 PM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- Oct 2003
The BCA inclinometer mentioned is the best one going. If you were going to spend money on anything I would spend it on an inclinometer. If nothing else gets used after your course, your inclinometer should. I've never been a big fan of the ones I've found in the compasses I've used.
I like the digi thermometers. Personnel preference I guess. I would only get one, there's usually too much drift between two.
12-16-2009, 10:02 PM #8
It is kind of hard to tell what is going on with mixed forms as well under anything much less than 30x. However, magnification power isn't such an issue when you're looking at 5mm depth hoar. But if you need any magnification to ID that then you should probably just stick to the high speed quads.
That being said, if you can tell what the weakest layer is, where it's at, and how much force it takes to make it fail, I don't think it matters if you call it a diurnally recrystallized near surface facet, or Wilbur.
12-16-2009, 10:13 PM #9
Best magnifier I ever came across was a 25x life link pen-style one. It was slanted on the end so you could hold it right against the crystal card with no shaking or wobbling like but still let plenty of light in, and just big enough to focus in on just a few grains at a time. Maybe you had to be there, but it was seriously a million times better than any other standard loupe I've ever used.
12-16-2009, 10:38 PM #10
12-16-2009, 10:38 PM #11
That's the one.
12-16-2009, 10:46 PM #12
Do you need more light than other loupes?
Caveman, a simple dial thermometer seems fine. You can also mark a ski pole for measuring. (If you can't find your items locally, drop a line.)
If you forget your inclinometer, two poles can be used for slope angles :
Last edited by Alpinord; 12-16-2009 at 10:57 PM.
12-16-2009, 11:02 PM #13Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
12-17-2009, 12:51 PM #14
Thanks guys really good stuff in here. To my original post of items I didn't have:
5. Inclinometer - I agree with Hugh above. I have always used the inclinometer in my Silva Ranger which I think works great. The BCA inclinometer or any other one seems like just another thing to carry that could break. I always travel with my Ranger so may as well stick with using that.
6. Thermometer- Pretty big split on digital v. analog, and whether you need 1 or 2. One seems better IMHO as you don't have to factor in any differences in calibration. I somewhat agree with the post above the analog will be lighter, not require batteries, etc... I guess I am leaning towards 2 analog ones. Any particulars, or is just rolling to a science shop like Hugh recommended the way to go.
7. Folding Ruler - Negging this. Extra thing to carry. My probe has measurements which I have used in the past for measurements on very basic pit notes.
8. Mag Glass - Ha - more confused on what to go with now then ever. No real concensus on folding v. pen, or 10X v. 30X. I guess the point is I *want* to get better at this and provide good obs for our local avy center when I go out. Just interests me and I don't mind taking the time to dig a pit and record the results.
9. Crystal Card - All the same to me (BCA, Lifelink, Sear). Will just pick up whaterever is locally available.
Mag glass is a tough call....
12-17-2009, 01:11 PM #15Registered User
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
My favorite tool when teaching classes is a small spray bottle that mists. Fill it with water and blue, green, or red food coloring. After you've dug your pit, spray the wall and all the layers pop out making them super clear to see.
12-17-2009, 01:12 PM #16Originally Posted by blurred
12-17-2009, 01:15 PM #17
6. Thermometer - If you go analog, get the alcohol filled variety. Faster and safer than Hg.
8. Mag Glass - I just "borrow" one of my wife's photographic loupes. You can get them from camera stores for under $10. They typically run from 6x to 15x
9. Crystal Card - I like the BCA crystal card. It's cheaper than the Sear and made from aluminum (Life-Link is plastic). The screening is nice and clear too.
12-17-2009, 03:29 PM #18
^^^^ Interesting. There is a photo shop right down the street from me at work. May just roll in there and look for something cheap, light and in the range of magnification.
Life Link Crystal Cards are available locally, as are the Life Link analog thermometers. I guess the move is to grab 2 of these:
12-17-2009, 04:15 PM #19
Anybody here own a G3 Bonesaw and use the grid and ruler on that?
Been thinking about picking one up for a while.
Edit: Apparently it does do reasonably well with wood. While I was posting the above, Loon started a thread about the Bonesaw as well.Originally Posted by basinbeater
12-17-2009, 04:30 PM #20
On the plus side, it cuts well, and has a beer bottle opener built-in.
12-17-2009, 05:12 PM #21
How does the Ortovox Snowsaw compare to the other saws?
Again, seems like there are a lot of ways to easily mark tools in hand to measure with, rather than bringing more or buying a tool based on whether or not it has a grid or ruler.
12-17-2009, 05:55 PM #22
^^^ My thoughts exactly and why I am not getting an extra ruler (b/c of marked probe) and why I am not getting a separate inclimoter (b/c of compass).
To the saws, I have the BD flicklock which I like. I looked at the BCA, G3 Bonesaw and Orthosaw when I made the purchase.
I found the BCA way too flimsy. The Bonesaw and Snowsaw are both pretty nice and sturdy, but I found them to still be more flimsy than the BD saw. BD saw is a little more lowprofile as well.
My complaints about the BD saw, however, are:
1. Handle sucks - easy to loose your grip
2. Attachment is bunk - mine does not attach to my flicklock poles. I didn't care that much, though.
Other than that, I like it b/c it was the best strength to size/weight ratio IMHO.
12-17-2009, 06:15 PM #23Registered User
- Join Date
- Oct 2003
I use the bonesaw, I like it. The markings work well for me.
Almost all of this stuff is personal preference. Although if you really want to geek out on Crystal ID, just about all of the pocket protector types have a Carson or pentax lens.
12-17-2009, 06:17 PM #24
BTW, for slopes, my ole Ranger works fine, plus I can check for stuff in my teeth and fix my make-up after face planting.
Snowcard grids are easy to print. Map paper is great for stuff like this. You can tape or adhere it to anything, laminate or spray fix/waterproof card stock. This reminded me of a 'Map Tool' I dreamed up a few years ago which also has a map slope meter (shown above) to quickly measure slopes on 7.5' maps.....plus it has a 'Slope meter'.
Last edited by Alpinord; 12-17-2009 at 06:35 PM.