You don't really need a shovel until you really need a shovel. So taking up a third of your car roof with a man-height ditch digger's shovel doesn't make much sense ... that is, until you find yourself spinning tires helplessly in three feet of snow or mud. The shovel experts at Jackson, Wyoming-based DMOS Collective present a better way to stay prepared: a near-unbreakable spade that telescopes and folds, easily clasping to your car roof, spare tire or even shoulders. When it's time to break ground, the new Delta Shovel grows into a full-length T-handle that can pile on more pounds of dirt and rock than you'll care to ever toss over a shoulder.

Back in 2015, DMOS hit the scene with a lightweight, collapsible shovel that was purpose-built for building backcountry ski and snowboard jumps. The shovel was meant as a larger, toothier and more effective alternative to backcountry rescue shovels not really designed for recreational snow-digging, and as a lighter, more packable option than the standard snow shovel used on driveways and sidewalks. Now called the Stealth shovel, that original "Kicker Tool" went on to a successful Kickstarter campaign and won a 2016 ISPO BrandNew Award, spawning the larger Alpha Shovel and its US$177,000 Kickstarter victory a year later.

No matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars you raise on Kickstarter, eventually you have to realize shovels designed primarily for lifting snow on the move have a limited market. DMOS thus broadened its marketing around more general, all-season uses like vehicle recovery and gardening, and it even showed up to a few Overland Expo West shows. But you'll only get so far pitching a wide, toothy snow shovel to folks that spend more time leaving tracks in dirt, mud and sand.

While DMOS was hawking Stealth and Alpha snow shovels at OX West, it was also gathering intel and feedback for a more off-road-specific design, a shovel developed from the ground up for vehicle recovery and multipurpose outdoor and survival use. The fruits of that labor, the Delta Shovel loses the wide snow blade for a pointed, creased blade designed for the more focused style of digging necessary to get a stuck vehicle moving or carve out a functional firepit. The folding, telescoping hardware quickly breaks the full-size shovel down into a stowable, 24 x 11 x 3-in (61 x 28 x 8-cm) package ready to squeeze in next to other overland, camping and emergency preparedness gear.

When it's time to toss dirt, the Delta's blade flips out, and the telescoping shaft can be locked in short, medium or long position, providing plenty of versatility for all types of tasks. The added max length and adjustability separate the Delta from the small military entrenching tools (e-tools) that helped inspire its design, giving it 51 inches (130 cm) of height and power when the shaft is fully extended. When set in shorter positions, the Delta can handle work in tighter spaces. The Delta blade can also flip into hoe position, providing additional utility in the field.

DMOS doesn't just build products that are light and portable, it focuses on building products that reach near-failproof levels of durability, and it backs that beefy construction up with a straight-shooting lifetime guarantee. The Delta's 12-gauge steel bracket is secured to the blade via 12 rivets and sealed around the shaft to keep out dust, dirt and mud. DMOS tested that bracket to 1,000 lb (450 kg), so it's tough enough to handle any amount of earthen matter you'll be piling on. Stainless steel springs and pins lock the shovel into its various positions, and a powder coating puts a tough finish on the blade. DMOS uses all American materials and components and manufactures its shovels in Portland, Oregon.

Delta buyers will have a choice of aluminum or steel blade. The aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum is plenty robust (and carries that lifetime warranty) and keeps total shovel weight down to 3.5 lb (1.6 kg). For those that can't imagine piercing Mother Earth with anything less than pure steel, DMOS' 12-gauge cold-rolled steel blade provides all-out heavy-duty performance at the head of a 6.3-lb (2.9-kg) shovel.

Another handy aspect of the Delta Shovel: it's modular. Buyers can mix and match DMOS' various blades and shafts. So if there's a chance of getting stuck in mud and snow on the drive to the ski chalet, where you'll also need to shovel out the driveway, you can pack both the Delta and Alpha heads with a single shaft.

Over roughly two years of development, DMOS designed, tested and reworked the Delta Shovel with the help of wildland firefighters, military personnel, trail builders, overlanders and others. It launched a Kickstarter this week to get the shovel into production, and has already leapt three times over its $30,000 goal, selling completely out of the lowest $149 pledge level along the way. The Delta is still available at pledge levels of $159+, and buyers will be able to select between the aluminum and steel blades after the campaign finishes up. A pledge of $259+ secures a Delta Shovel with an aluminum mount designed to secure the shovel to a vehicle roof rack or spare tire holder. A MOLLE-compatible carry case with dual shoulder straps is also in the works.

Deliveries will begin in December 2019, if plans move along without a hitch. Retail prices are expected to run $199 for the Delta Shovel itself and $359 for the shovel and mount.

Sources: DMOS, Kickstarter

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