An airbag pack is an interesting piece of backcountry equipment. It’s two important things at once. First off, it’s a pack. A backpack for me needs to be comfortable (carry well), able to hold all I need and has to stand up to rough use. Secondly, it’s a critical piece of safety equipment that needs to be easy to use and has to work when you need it. To combine all these aspects is not an easy task in my book.
During this past South American winter I used the Mammut Ride RAS 30 pack extensively. I did everything from snowcat guiding to sidecountry days to long days of climbing and skiing volcanoes.
I will start with the airbag aspect of this pack. The Mammut Ride RAS Airbag is the only bag that inflates out of the top of the bag. When deployed, an upside down U forms around the pack. It uses Snowpulse technology. The handle has a cable system that when pulled punctures the canister and allows air to flow into the pack. This means that the airbag does not inflate as fast as some technology out there. About 3 seconds are needed to inflate the bag completely. When I tested the deployment everything went smoothly. The handle was easy to grasp and easy to pull. It had to be given some force, but it was not overly hard to do.
RAS stands for Removable Airbag System. This is a huge plus for me. The whole airbag system can be removed from the pack which leaves you with a normal backpack. I found that both the removing and the adding of the airbag system was very simple and fast. They also have addressed the accidental deployment of the airbag by having a small zippered pocket on the shoulder strap where the handle can be stowed when not needed.
I found the pack itself to be great. I like packs that are low profile. The RAS 30 is not exactly what I would call low profile, but its profile did not bother me too much. At first I thought that it did stick out from my back quite a bit, but after a few runs I found it to be fine. Due to the smaller size this pack is not made for multi day tours and even on super long days seems to be a little small. However for sidecountry and smaller tours I found it to be perfect. There are straps to carry both skis and snowboards. However skis were a little difficult since strapping them a-frame to the side would interfere with the airbag deployment.
I brought the pack down to South America with me, but could not get an air canister before I left. Lucky for me Louie was coming down as well and he brought me one. He had some issues with bringing the canisters in his carry on bag. Here is his story of that http://www.wildsnow.com/7912/south-american-ski-travel/. Apparently Louie looks like a terrorist. Must be the facial hair. When I returned to the states I took out all the airbag components and put them in my checked bag. I took off the top of the canister and taped it to the side. I used the bag itself as a carry on and had no problems at all. This is the way to go with all Snowpulse bags. Don’t even try bringing the canister on the plane. Just check it.
Overall I really like the RAS 30. The airbag components all work great and are easy to use. The pack itself is the real upside for me. I did not feel that there needed to be any modifications added, although I am sure the mod master Lou could find some way to make it better. If you are looking for an airbag pack for those short tours or sidecountry days, this is one to consider.
For technical specs, as well as an overview of other Mammut Ride RAS packs, check out WildSnow’s comprehensive airback pack review.
Shop for Mammut RAS Airbag packs here.
(Guest blogger Anton Sponar spends winters enjoying the skiing ambiance of the Aspen area, while summers are taken up with slave labor doing snowcat powder guiding at Ski Arpa in Chile. If Anton didn’t ski every month of the year, skiing would cease to exist as we know it.)