G3 & K2 Avalanche Probe Comparo

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 28, 2011      

Ever notice how the names “G3” and “K2” are siblings? G comes before K, but 2 comes before 3. You tell me what all that means, but know that both companies make nice beefy avalanche rescue probes. A couple of their offerings recently faced off on the WildSnow playa, six-shooters boomed, both…well, read on. (Clarity: This review is for 2011/12 models.)

G3 Speed Tech (top) and G3 Backside Carbon avalanche probes.

G3 Speed Tech (top) and K2 Backside Carbon avalanche probes. (Note the color of our G3 tester is the lady's 'Elle' version)

G3 Speed Tech weighs 8.5 oz, (242 gr) at 2.48 meter length. K2 weighs 10.4 oz, (296 gr) at 3 meter length. You could say these two probes are in different classes of weight and bulk, but they’re really quite similar in those areas (we evaluated the shorter version of the G3, at 2.48 meters, while G3 also makes a 3.28 meter version at 10.4 ounces, thus matching weight of K2 but being slightly longer). Also note that the price difference between these two guys is substantial, around $50 street for the G3, around $90 for the K2.

While the longer lengths of both these probes can be useful, we feel that for exclusive use as a companion rescue probe about 2 meters length is adequate. Others disagree, and yes, using a longer probe is more ergonomic as you don’t have to bend over to get closer to the snow surface, as you do to go deeper with a 2 meter stick. Thus, we hear quite a bit of talk these days about 3 meters being the desirable length but 2.48 in our view is plenty long as well.

G3 and K2 probes in their sacks.

In their stuffsacks, G3 at top. Heard during the shootout: 'My sack is prettier than your sack.' According to onlookers, that one goes to G3 Elle, as it should.

Avy probe flex test.

Avy probe flex test. Clear winner, K2 Backside. Both probes in our view are rigid enough. Added rigidity of K2 is most certainly a plus and it's said to be quite strong as well, but larger diameter of K2 may add effort to probing dense snow. Note that the G3 in longer length weighs the same as the K2, while not being as stiff but being thinner diameter which could make it easier to probe with. G3 is constructed with 7000 series tubing aluminum, 12.5 mm outer diameter. K2 is constructed with 13.2 mm outer diameter carbon fiber tube. Both actuate with interior cable, and we assume both use stainless cable (G3 says yes) -- that's important as anything but stainless will corrode due to constant moisture. Using a magnet, I could grab either cable so if they're stainless, it's the type that's still got quite a bit of iron content so I'm not sure just how corrosion resistant it really is. One season usually tells the tale on that one.

K2 probe handle

Deployment of the K2 Backside probe is interesting and effective. You pull on the handle which slides a smaller diameter section of alu tube out of the probe-proper while also pulling on the interior cable, the alu shaft section eventually slides past a stop button that keeps it from sliding back. If you need more tension, you twist a threaded black knob just below the button (both knob and button visible in photo above). We liked this system. It adds useful length to the probe, has a super positive feel, and nice to have easily adjustable tension. More, gripping a probe can be difficult if you don't have gorilla hands or in the case of wet snow slicking things up. Thus, having a grip such as that of K2 is a plus.

G3 Speed Tech handle and tension mechanism.

G3 Speed Tech handle and tension mechanism are simple and effective. You pull on the cable handle, when proper tension is reached a swage on the cable drops into a keyhole slot. In a word, elegant. We'd say G3 has the edge here in simplicity and resistance to any sort of icing or mechanical failure, though we like the K2 external tension system. I'd call this one a draw.

K2 Backside avalanche probe handle nest.

Worth mentioning that the K2 handle is designed to nest the probe sections during storage. I found this a bit fiddly, but it works and does reduce bulk if you get it all fit together.

Avalanche probe tips.

One more issue. We feel avy probe tips need not be sharp, but rather should be somewhat blunt. This to prevent injury to a buried avalanche victim. I'd take a file and blunt both of these, but the K2 needs such modding more than the G3.

Well, there you go. The boys slapped leather, dodged bullets, and they’re both still standing. My take? If you want a markedly rigid and strong probe, perhaps for glacier crevasse probe use or plain old peace of mind, consider K2 Backside. If you want something we feel is still effective, a bit lighter, though definitely more flexy and slightly less strong, go G3 Speed Tech in the shorter length. Either way, they’ll work.

(Please note other companies make beefy probes as well, most notably Backcountry Access, Pieps, and Ortovox. Reviews in the works for selected items from those guys.)

Shop for G3 Speed Tech

Shop for G3 Speed Tech 2.48 meter

Shop for K2 Backside probe

Shop for Backcountry Access Carbon 260 avalanche probe

Shop for Black Diamond Quick Draw avalanche probe.

Shop for Ortovox 240 Plus avalanche probe.

Shop for Pieps iProbe (I added this one in as it’s got a built-in beacon receiver, kinda cool.)


13 Responses to “G3 & K2 Avalanche Probe Comparo”

  1. jerimy September 28th, 2011 11:46 am

    Will you include a BD probe in your comparison or did they not make the cut?

  2. Lou September 28th, 2011 12:49 pm

    Jerimy, there was no cut, that’s just two probes I felt like messing around with. Too many probes out there, changing all the time, to make a true comparison chart worth the work….

  3. Caleb Wray September 28th, 2011 12:57 pm

    So does this mean you are going to start carrying a probe now Lou?

  4. Lou September 28th, 2011 2:22 pm

    Good question. I do carry one now and then contrary to myth (grin). These are a bit large and heavy for my taste, but on the other hand they’re super functional, like those beefy ones we used on Denali for crevasse probes.

  5. Lou September 28th, 2011 3:08 pm

    I did forget to put a BD probe in the shopping guide at the end of the post. There now. Quick Draw 300. Lou

  6. Randonnee September 28th, 2011 7:12 pm

    Too much extra weight to carry a probe. My wife carries my probe 😆 !

  7. Jonathan Shefftz September 28th, 2011 7:21 pm

    Nice, but definitely need to add Life-Link to that list at the end.
    Plus the single Voile model. Pieps and Mammut also makes probes, although they don’t have much distribution in the U.S.
    And for the rando race scene, where the official ISMF minimum is 240cm, Camp has a 4.8 oz (actual weight – spec is 4.3 oz) cf (of course) model.

  8. Lou September 28th, 2011 7:38 pm

    Jonathan, good point but I was trying to stick with the more beefy style of probes for the list. As far as I can tell, what’s available in Life-Link product are only relatively lightweight probes. Come to think of it, I need to check and see if Life-Link stuff is really being made any more or if they’re just selling out backstock.

  9. Lou September 28th, 2011 7:49 pm

    Jonathan, since you’ve got a testimony at backcountry.com for the iProbe I added that in there. Andrew McLean has a plug there as well. Hey, wait a minute, I thought he didn’t carry a probe that much…

  10. Jonathan Shefftz September 28th, 2011 8:02 pm

    The Life-Link Speed Probe 300cm and Carbon Speed Probe 280cm would definitely fit into that category. Well, if they’re still being made — a few etailers show up now as having them in stock, but far fewer than several years ago.
    The Mammut Probe Expert seems to be beefy, although I’ve handled only one of their lighter models.
    The Pieps iProbe is definitely beefy. (And don’t forget the review I have here!) I don’t know about the more traditional models.
    So let’s see on, on March 18, 2010, Andrew wrote of the carbon fiber iProbe:
    “This is my favorite avalanche probe and the only one I consistently carry for day tours.”
    On December 28 of that same year, he wrote:
    “I’ve been called a moron for not carrying a probe, but in truth, I’m only a 3/4 moron as I do carry one occasionally, namely on expeditions or when skiing with a large group of people. […] I took four different probes to a beacon test park and came away with the conclusion that the only ones worth carrying were the big, burly aluminum ones.”

  11. Randonnee September 29th, 2011 10:51 am

    Beware the industrial marketing-avalanche ‘safety’ complex! ❗

  12. brian h September 29th, 2011 7:13 pm

    Ha! Randonnee! But maybe not so ‘funny’. With b.c. being the “growing demographic” in skiing, we’re gonna be sold to more and more. Your buying habits are being vatched veddy veddy carrfully…

  13. Lou September 30th, 2011 7:49 am

    Brian, perhaps buying an airbag backpack will be like going to an automobile dealership !?

    Come to think of it, perhaps REI is almost there already?


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