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Best Snow Shovels of 2020
A snow shovel helps you move snow quickly without the associated back strain. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best snow shovel for your shoveling needs this season.
Winter-Ready: Your Guide to the Best Snow Shovels
Whether it's freeing your car, clearing the entrance to your front door, or making a path for the dog to take care of business, the best way to handle small snow-clearing tasks is with a snow shovel. But finding the right snow shovel is key.
Snow is heavy. Depending on how tightly packed and icy the cold stuff is, a shovelful of snow can weigh anywhere from 7 to 45 pounds. Moving that weight can be murder on your back if not done with the right tool. So, how do you find the best snow shovel for you?
That's where we come in. At BestReviews, we never accept free products in exchange for a mention or a good review. Instead, we do our own research, talk to experts in the field, and listen to feedback from real-life owners. That way we can bring you unbiased, helpful shopping advice, so you can make the most informed purchasing decisions.
If you're ready to get to work, scroll up for BestReviews' picks for the best snow shovels. For everything you need to know about choosing and using a snow shovel, you've come to the right place.
Your Back Will Thank You: Why You Need a Snow Shovel
You might wonder why you can't make do with a regular garden shovel or even a large push broom when it's time to clear away snow. To ease the strain on your back, your muscles, and even your heart, you need to use a snow shovel. A snow shovel is designed specifically to make moving snow easier and faster.
There are different styles and types of snow shovels on the market, but the best snow shovels hold and move a large amount of snow with each scoop, are ergonomically designed to protect your back, and are lightweight.
If you're clearing a large area, you may be better served by a snowblower. But for smaller jobs, you can't beat a snow shovel.
What Makes a Shovel a Snow Shovel?
Snow Shovel Handles
Just about every snow shovel has a D-shaped handle. This makes it easy to keep a firm grip without straining your wrists or hands. You'll find handles made of wood, metal, or plastic. Sturdy plastic is the lightest material and the most commonly used in ergonomically designed snow shovels.
When choosing a snow shovel, look for a handle that will fit your hand securely without squeezing, pinching, sliding, or putting too much pressure on your fingers or palm.
Snow Shovel Shafts
You'll find snow shovels with wood, metal, or plastic shafts. But the biggest variable in snow shovel shafts is shape.
- Straight Shafts: As the name implies, straight shafts are straight like a garden shovel. This makes the snow shovel very sturdy, but a straight shaft—particularly one that is too short or too long for your height—means your back will bear most of the force when lifting a load of snow. This is a good shape for a push snow shovel, however.
- Bent Shafts: Bent shafts are bent in the center. While a bent shaft reduces the distance you need to bend while shoveling, these snow shovels can add to the difficulty of the job. With a bent shaft, you have to twist your back to stabilize the loaded snow shovel as you swivel to dump the snow. That can mean a very sore back by the time the job is done. Bent-shaft snow shovels are generally best for pushing snow, not lifting it.
- Curved Shafts: Curved shafts are somewhere between straight and bent shafts. This gives them the advantages of both designs. Curved shafts are stable enough to reduce strain on your back, but they also reduce the force required to stabilize and lift a heavy load of snow. Snow shovels with curved shafts are suitable for just about any snow-moving task.
Whichever type of shaft you choose, a secondary handle will help to relieve back strain as you shovel. This handy feature is found on many snow shovels, especially those with bent or curved shafts.
Snow Shovel Scoops
Snow shovel scoops come in different shapes and sizes.
- Straight-Edge Scoops: Straight-edge scoops are for lifting snow. The most common size for these scoops is 24 inches, which is wide and deep enough to keep the snow contained but small enough to keep the load liftable. Eighteen-inch scoops are good for tight spaces and pushing snow. Oversize 30-inch scoops move a lot of snow but are too big for tight spaces and heavy when fully loaded.
- Square-Nose Scoops: Square-nose scoops are handy for breaking through ice or removing an icy crust from a drift.
- Round-Nose Scoops: Round-nose scoops are useful for moving ice and hardened snow, as well as for digging through frozen drifts left by a snowplow.
You'll also need to choose a scoop material.
- Aluminum: Aluminum is the most common material for snow shovel scoops. It's strong but lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
- Plastic: Plastic scoops are lightweight, and snow won't stick to them. They are also generally inexpensive. On the downside, plastic scoops aren't as durable or strong as metal scoops, and they are best suited for light, loose snowfall.
- Steel: Steel scoops are very strong and durable, and they easily tackle moderate to deep snowfall or snow that is heavy with ice. Steel weighs a lot, though, and it's expensive. Steel scoops can damage wooden decks and some driveway materials.
What About Specialty Snow Shovels?
- Folding Snow Shovels: A folding snow shovel, also known as a travel snow shovel, has a folding handle, which makes it easy to stow in the trunk of your car for use in emergencies or when encountering unexpected snow on the road.
- Snow Scrapers: Snow scrapers aren't technically snow shovels, but these sharp-edge tools make easy work of scraping through ice.
- Roof Rakes: A roof rake has an adjustable handle that lets you reach your home's roof to remove ice and snow.
- Push Snow Shovels: Push snow shovels have wide, shallow scoops for pushing light snowfall to the side, rather than lifting away snow.
- Electric Snow Shovels: Electric snow shovels, or snow throwers, are gas- or electric-powered devices that lift and toss snow without any work from you. They are far more expensive than manual snow shovels, of course, and can be less effective. But electric snow shovels are worth considering if you have health issues that limit your ability to shovel snow or you live in an area with heavy snowfall throughout the winter.
Tips for Safely Shoveling Snow
- Dress appropriately. Several light layers are better than one heavy coat. Remove layers as necessary if you start to feel overheated. Protect your hands with gloves and your head with a cap or hat. Slip-resistant shoes are a must.
- Warm up with a few stretches and bends before starting to shovel. Shoveling snow is a rigorous workout, so prepare your body for the exercise. March in place for a few minutes or do light calisthenics.
- When lifting snow, always bend from your knees, not from your waist. Squat slightly to load your snow shovel, and then straighten your knees to lift the weight. This reduces strain on your lower back.
- Place your dominant hand on the snow shovel's handle and your other hand as near to the scoop as you can comfortably reach.
- Don't overload your snow shovel. It might be tempting to lift large loads to get the job done quickly, but this will strain your back.
- If possible, push snow out of the way rather than lifting and tossing it. When pushing, the snow shovel's handle should be at the level of your hips.
- Don't twist your back. Face the snow you are moving, and step toward the area where you'll deposit it, rather than tossing it over your shoulder.
- Stop for breaks every 10 to 15 minutes, and keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water.