Jetforce Black Diamond Avalanche Airbag – In Person Look

Post by blogger | October 10, 2013      
Lou (right) meeting with Black Diamond's Nathan Kuder,. They call their battery operated airbag design 'Jetforce Technology.'

Lou (right) meeting with Black Diamond's Nathan Kuder. They call their battery operated airbag design (at lower left)'Jetforce' We are so interested in this technology we've been publishing every teaser possible. This post is the real deal -- our in-person close look at that appears to be a retail ready product. Click all images to enlarge.

In Nathan’s words: “Production weight will probably be about 7 pounds 4 ounces — the lighter or at least average side of the equation for airbag backpacks in the 30 liter range. While weight is important, our primary goal with this product is to make it as safe as possible. To that end, some of this Jetforce version could be considered over-engineered and our first retail packs will probably be heavier than refined versions as the product progresses. One example of this is how we run the fan, with more air (and thus more battery power) than necessary to compensate for tears in the airbag fabric. We did consider a pressure sensor inside the bag that would control inflation. The pack doesn’t include that for now, though it could in the future. If you’re curious about where the backpack design came from (this one is the 28 liter Halo), it evolved from our Anthem model. All our airbag packs include the BD ReActiv suspension system, which allows the pack to adjust to your body movements and carry more easily.”

Halo28 Jetforce airbag backpack. The pack will be available in 11, 28 and 40 liter capacity.

Halo 28 Jetforce airbag backpack. The pack will be available in 11, 28 and 40 liter capacity. Pieps will also sell some packs with Jetforce airbags, as will Poc.

Black Diamond’s “Jetforce Technology” airbag backpacks inflate in 3 seconds, with ambient air sourced from a battery and fan. The control firmware can be programmed to do just about anything. Pulse the fan, run in reverse, and so on. This was my second time going up close and personal with Jetforce, and I remain convinced that the system is viable and possibly the future in avalanche airbag technology. In other words, I’m not going to be surprised if compressed gas airbags are off the market within 24 months.

I asked Nathan about using UHMW (i.e., Dyneema) fabric for the bag, and how that would influence the necessity of battery power to compensate for tears. He said that indeed a “tear proof” airbag would be desirable, but adds quite a bit of cost so it was left out of the project for now. Nathan did allude to the fact that given various improvements, the battery could indeed be lighter — and that a Dyneema bag would be lighter as well, perhaps resulting in a significantly lighter backpack. We can dream, can we not?

The advantages:
– Easy air travel, little to no restrictions on the batteries as they’re no different than laptop batteries.
– As many practice deployments as you desire, battery good for one to six full inflations (depends on temperature and age), recharge it for more.
– NO hassle with compressed gas cylinders. No pumping, no exchanging, no nothing.
– With stock battery, may be slightly lighter in weight than compressed gas offerings, with smaller battery will be significantly lighter.
– Automatic deflation cycle can possibly create airspace around head in the event of burial.
– Specific to BD design, airbag stuff-stows loosely after use, pack it in minutes, no folding or other tangled origami.
– Fan is set to cycle on periodically during 3 minute inflation period per CE standards, this can overcome up to 7 inch tear in the fabric.

The disadvantages, in our opinion:
– Battery power significantly reduced when temperatures drop to single digits.
– Limited pack styles, appears to be mostly available in panel loaders.
– Lithium battery could be dangerous if damaged.
– Lithium battery deteriorates with age.
– Possible obstruction of air intakes.
– Still expensive.
– New technology that will doubtless undergo numerous improvements; do you want to be an early adopter?

Halo 28 backpack is a panel loader, shown here with a sample of the internal fan enclosure.

Halo 28 backpack we're detailing here is a panel loader, shown here with a sample of the internal fan enclosure. The back panel acts as a large part of the air intake, using the same type of foam as pre-filters on snowmobile air intakes. Total intake area on the Jetforce backpacks is said to be 3 square feet or more. Click images to enlarge.

One of the most valid concerns I’ve heard about Jetforce technology is clogging of the air intakes; unlike compressed gas based airbag, Jetforce depends on 100% ambient air. Fact of the matter is that snow contains a lot of available air — especially when falling in an avalanche and even after the avalanche stops. That’s why Avalungs function. More, even compressed gas airbags depend on a certain amount of ambient air they suck in through their venturi valve (essentially, they’re ‘powered’ by compressed gas instead of electricity). Thus, if you’re concerned about clogging of the Jetforce intake, you might want to ask why that’s not a concern with compressed gas nor with your Avalung. Granted, even if the compressed gas venturi is clogged the airbag will still inflate to some degree, but flotation will be compromised. In either case, good engineering and design should be able to prevent clogging of any snow/air system in all but the most dire circumstances.

Gut of the Jetforce system is the housing and ducted fan. Shown here detached from pack.

Gut of the Jetforce system is the ducted fan and housing. Shown here detached from pack. The airbag attaches to one end of the cage, cinched with a simple pressure strap. Airbag is also strongly attached to the backpack with a lacing system, of course.

I asked Nathan, “Why no Avalung?” “To avoid confusion,” he responded. “As in, ‘do I concentrate on getting this thing in my mouth, or pulling the airbag trigger?’ We didn’t want to appear to be creating some sort of ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of avalanche safety. The Avalung sling is available if you do want to use both devices, as it is true that in some situations, such a tree wells, the Avalung has the advantage.”

Ducted fan draws 60 amps and does make noise. Similar or same as used for model jets.

Ducted fan draws 60 amps at 28.8 volts and does make noise. Similar or same as used for model jets. Controlling this sort of electrical tech is a daunting goal. The serendipitous factor in all this is that as the Jetforce hardware developed, Black Diamond bought Pieps and thus got the electronics wizards at Pieps involved in designing the Jetforce fan control, trigger and so forth. During my hands-on evaluation, this really showed. Everything electronic in the Jetforce system has a very modern 'put together' look and feel. I have to laugh, because I'd bet you could make this system work by simply providing an on/off switch hooked to a pressure sensor. But why, when you've got a room full of electronics Einsteins at your disposal?

Inside the fan cage, the ducted fan has a 'fang' (circled) that opens the butterfly valve for deflation.

Inside the fan cage, the ducted fan has a 'fang' (circled) that opens the butterfly valve for deflation. You do manual deflation by simply pressing and sliding a trigger, as noted in the photo. But the automatic deflation feature should usually take care of emptying the bag, and actually 'vacuum' packs it to some degree!

When will Jetforce be retailed? “Innovation of this sort is a complex process,” said Nathan. “We’ll be showing the pack at Winter OR Show (January 2014), and we anticipate a late fall delivery date of approximately 11/2014. But we can’t confidently commit to a retail schedule until certification is complete. Right now, certification requirements are a moving target and until we know more it’s impossible for us to commit 100%. We will definitely be employing our advanced field testing protocol to continue beta testing this winter.”

Another view of the ducted fan sitting in housing, with upper half of housing removed.

Another view of the ducted fan sitting in housing, with upper half of housing removed.

The fan is powerful. When reversed, it slides within the housing and presses the 'fang' against the butterfly valve thus opening it.

The fan is powerful. When reversed, it slides within the housing and presses the 'fang' against the butterfly valve thus opening it.

Another view of fan housing, showing manual deflation trigger.

Another view of fan housing, showing manual deflation trigger.

Fan timing is controlled by the electronics. At this point in the design, here is how it cycles:

0-9 secs: Mandatory Fill
During the first 3.5 seconds, the airbag fills 100%. For the next 5.5 seconds, the system continues to run at full speed for safety redundancy.

10-60 secs: Active Performance
The system pulses between full speed and 50% speed. Since this is the most likely time to be carried by the avalanche, it is most critical to maintain full volume and recover from any possible tears.

61-180 secs: Volume Maintenance
The system has 20s stand-by intervals between 3s full speed refilling pulses. The goal is to maintain the volume to aide in visibility and meet CE timing requirements.

181 sec: Active Deflation
After 3 total minutes, the bag will automatically deflate. If partially or completely buried, this has the potential to create a large volume of air for breathing and/or extraction. If unburied, this simply helps repack the airbag quicker.

The battery and electronics case is hard-wired into the airbag backpack.

The battery and electronics case is hard-wired into the airbag backpack. Word is that due to Black Diamond and Pieps being associated (under same ownership), Pieps provided state-of-art electronics to do 'just about anything we wanted' in terms of fan control, indicator lights, etc.

Battery is actually on top of the electronics, attached with small screws. This could conceivably allow for a small and lighter battery with significant weight savings.

Battery is mated to the electronics (on top in this photo), attached with small screws. This could conceivably allow for a small and lighter battery with significant weight savings. Key point with this is that Black Diamond is sourcing a battery they say does up to 6 inflation cycles at room temperature, and reliably ONE at super cold temps. That means for the skier in mellow temperatures such as western Europe, coastal PNW and normal Colorado, a lighter weight battery could be a viable option. Indeed, the electronics could even include a warning chime hooked to a thermometer that sounded if battery temp was too low for reliability. As it is, I find it hard to believe that a warm lithium battery is SIX times more powerful than a cold one. My guess is BD is being very conservative with this issue.

You charge the battery with a simple wall charger and barrel connector.

You charge the battery with a simple wall charger and barrel connector. All aspects (including charge connector) of the airbag system you'd need to work with are available without unpacking the pack.

Backcountry skiing avalanche airbag trigger is intentionally NOT a T-grip, works right or left handed, with mittens or whatever.  A series of small L

Trigger is intentionally NOT a T-grip, works right or left handed, with mittens or whatever. A series of small LCDs indicate on-off and other conditions. Red button at end of handle is the on-off switch. You press 4 seconds to 'arm' the system, resulting in a self-check that cycles the fan and flashes the lights. It's very easy to turn the system on and off, thus 'safing' it for things like aircraft travel. I'd prefer the battery to also be removable, but BD has good reasons for hardwiring it (reliability). Interestingly, trigger is both mechanical and electronic. The mechanical part consists of a cable that moves and releases a cover flap on the side of the pack to allow deployment of the airbag.

Trigger LCDs are small but obvious.

Trigger LCDs are small but obvious.

Back panel is one of the places where the system draws air, made of special foam.

Back panel is one of the places where the system draws air, made of special foam.

This flap is where the airbag first deploys. It then parts a lightweight coil zipper.

This flap on the side of the pack is where the airbag first deploys. It then parts a lightweight coil zipper. No velcro and no special zipper, both of which are known to be unreliable and come apart accidentally. Instead, when you pull the trigger a cable releases a couple of tiny catches that start the initial airbag deployment.

Best feature next to no compressed gas? Stuff the airbag in minutes, not folding or other tedious prep, no danger of improperly packed airbag failing to deploy.

Best feature next to no compressed gas? Stuff the airbag in minutes, not folding or other tedious prep, no danger of improperly packed airbag failing to deploy.

The side flap, showing the cable actuated catch system. Easily opened without triggering inflation.

The side flap, showing the cable-actuated catch system. Easily opened without triggering inflation by pulling on a smaller diameter black plastic area on the cable above the trigger. Ease of removing and repacking airbag will encourage practice, drying after wet conditions, etc.

200 liter airbag pulled out of pack, not inflated.

200 liter airbag pulled out of pack, not inflated.

Packing the airbag is incredibly easy.

Packing the airbag is incredibly easy.

There you go. Rumors of this airbag backpack have circulated for several years. It appears the rumors have become reality at least in the prototypical sense. While we did not ski with the pack or test it in an avalanche, we did go through it extensively as well as deploying and packing the airbag. For a pre-retail proto, I was impressed by how highly designed everything appeared. It all looked like it could be retailed tomorrow, and that waiting another year could be considered ultra-conservative. As Nathan mentioned above, Black Diamond’s plan this winter is to have a limited number of beta testers, and begin shipping retail units in late fall or early winter of 2014. Nathan told me that the retail price will be around $1,000, which doesn’t surprise me.

Editorial note: We’ve stated numerous times that we’re uncomfortable covering products that may not be retailed for some time. Even so, when we’re allowed to cover an innovation such as Jetforce, due to how “disruptive” the product could be we feel it’s appropriate to preview it. That being said, always take pre-retail product details with a grain of salt. By the time the Jetforce backpacks are on store shelves they could be drastically different. Designers and engineers will make changes, and the European certification system is in constant flux. Main point is that the “fan” concept for an airbag backpack appears to be viable and coming on strong. Will there be one in your future?

Previous posts about fan based airbags:

CSAW preview of Jetforce.

Our take on Popular Science magazine coverage of Jetforce.

Arcteryx has a patent as well, we detail it here.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


83 Responses to “Jetforce Black Diamond Avalanche Airbag – In Person Look”

  1. Matt October 10th, 2013 8:57 am

    Good review Lou. Thanks.
    Few questions:

    1 – How often does it need to be charged under a normal temperature of say -10 C?

    2 – How many hours does it stay it turned on before the battery is drained?

    3 – How long does it take to charge?

  2. Pablo October 10th, 2013 8:57 am

    For sure it will be one fan operated Airbag pack in my future!!!
    Great review, I was so interested in seeing how it inflates…
    By now, there’s no cars flying around but the future is here now!

    thanks Lou for all this interesting infos!!!


  3. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 9:24 am

    Matt, cold temps will not drain the battery. The only thing that will drain the battery is to leave the system turned on. I’ll check and see what the “standby time” is as well as charge time. It’s doesn’t do much in standby, so I suspect it can go for a while. Probably uses much more juice turning on and off, due to the self check of the fan. Lou

  4. Ben W October 10th, 2013 10:19 am

    How will compression straps work with this design?

  5. Clarky October 10th, 2013 10:20 am

    Just to be clear, does the system need to ‘on’ to trigger, then? How long can the battery last whilst ‘on,’ and retain enough power to deploy?

  6. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 10:34 am

    Matt, here it is from my source at BD:

    120 hours armed (standby, “switched on”)

    6+ weeks unarmed

    Roughly 8hrs charge from empty battery to full battery charge.

  7. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 10:39 am

    From what I understand, the system can stay switched on for about 120 hours and still have enough juice to deploy the bag. Clear?

    Also, the LEDs on the trigger handle indicate if you’ve got enough of a charge, thus eliminating guesswork.

    Ben, as with any airbag pack on the market, compression straps will have to be located in such a way as to not go over the airbag deployment opening. More, some packs have had problems with inadvertent opening when a load hangs on the outside or compression straps pull. One thing I like about the Halo pack with Jetforce is the mechanical closure system that appears less prone to accidental opening. That’s just theory, please be totally aware that our “first look” here is not a hands on use review.


  8. Stano October 10th, 2013 11:23 am

    Great to see one of these battery powered airbags work already.

    I am wondering how it is inflating the bag with ambient air when it’s quite humid? Once inside it particles will freeze I assume. Is it easy to dry out the inside of the airbag?

    One side effect of the noisy fan is that you can be found much quicker, even in the dark 🙂 otherwise looks good!

  9. Jack October 10th, 2013 11:45 am

    I’m struck by the resemblance to sport sky diving harnesses/ deployment. There must be a lot of overlap on human factors (e.g. strongly reinforced training, infrequent use, keep it simple and do the right thing under stress). If a jumper has to cut away his/her main and deploy the reserve, it had better work.

  10. JonM October 10th, 2013 12:34 pm

    Hopefully BDEL will make a tall version for us bigger folk. Their past M/L sizes seem pretty short.
    Design looks really promising. Would be nice to have one this season!

  11. Clarky October 10th, 2013 12:46 pm

    ^^ Thanks for the update Lou.

  12. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 1:20 pm

    It seems like the faster the pace of tech innovation, the sooner we want the products! Witness folks standing in line for the latest iPhone…

    Have to admit it’s strange. I have this incredibly hightec Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and I’m already trying to figure out when I’ll be upgrading! And yes, I hope WildSnow will be testing a Jetforce this winter, but you never know…

  13. Andy M October 10th, 2013 2:55 pm

    Just to be straight, this doesn’t really add up:
    “In Nathan’s words: “Production weight will probably be about 7 pounds 4 ounces — the lighter side of the equation for airbag backpacks in the 30 liter range. ”

    From BCA’s website, the Float 32 is 6.58 lbs with a full bottle.
    From ABS’ website, the Vario 30 w/ steel bottle is 3.1 kg (6.83 lbs) (note: they make a carbon bottle as well, about 0.2 kg lighter)
    From Wildsnow’s review of the Mammut Ride 30 RAS, it weighs 6.83 lbs (Mammut’s website claims 2.4kg + 0.63kg = 6.68 lb)

    I understand the concern about wanting to practice deployment, so that one is familiar with the device, but unless you’re ridiculously cheap, you could just deploy in the shop you get your airbag bottle filled and immediately refill. Last time I paintballed, it was like $3-5 to fill an entire 3,000 psi scuba tank, I can’t imagine the little airbag bottle costs more.

    I just bought a Float 32 on sale, and was a little bit nervous about whether I was wasting my money with this type of product about a year out. But I don’t feel too bad, since it appears that what I got is lighter weight, is a proven system, I can use it this coming season, and cost me about $600 with a bottle ($400 less than the Jetforce). That’s a lot of fill ups!

  14. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 3:02 pm

    Andy, I looked at that as well and thought saying it was on the “lighter side” was fair, as there are plenty of heavier 30 liter offerings. Perhaps the word “average” would have been better. I can edit, do you think we should just call it “average?”

    Beyond that, I was waiting for someone to make some of your points! Thanks for doing so.

    Mainly, if you can get a good deal on an airbag backpack in one of the lighter weight styles, I think it would be unwise to put of your purchase if you think you’ll really be in terrain where you need it.

    However, for my lifestyle, the electronic system will be way better. I like to practice, for example. And we travel by air quite a bit.

  15. Hacksaw October 10th, 2013 4:56 pm

    24 months and the gas airbags will be off the market? Wow, there may be money bet on this….

  16. Hacksaw October 10th, 2013 4:58 pm

    I can see the guys at BCA coming out with a scuba tank addaptor to refill at home….

  17. Dale October 10th, 2013 5:36 pm

    Hacksaw, that already exists:

  18. Xavier October 10th, 2013 6:27 pm

    I’ve got a snowpulse bag…I’ll use it until one of the fan systems hit the market and then I’ll be buying one to replace second thoughts despite the $1000 investment in the old bag.

    Travel and refills with the existing bag is a PITA especially if you go off the beaten path.

    Deployment practice, in the field, not in the store, is really important and I constantly practice reaching for the toggle while skiing without actually pulling it. I like the idea of being able to practice more with the fan system.

    Going to be a lot of obsolete equipment on the market real soon.

  19. Kyle October 10th, 2013 7:32 pm

    Lou and Wildsnowers I am curious what your thoughts are on this:

    I am a bit surprised by people referencing this as an amazing new jump in technology. To me it seems incremental, especially when compared to how advances in technology effect other industries. Although it appears to be a great product and a necessary improvement, I see this innovation as being on par with the addition of the camera to the cell phone, or siri to the iPhone – just an extra layer of convenience .

    This really hit me when in the other post about the pack you say BD’s presentation stressed that airbags have been around for 28 years and it is time for a change. To me it seems ridiculous that people aren’t seeing this as an indication that something besides airbag packs needs to be developed (easier said than done). 28 years is a long time to be depending on the same means for avalanche safety, I don’t think it matters how you blow the bag up. Thoughts?

  20. Lou Dawson October 10th, 2013 7:53 pm

    Kyle, good pondering!

    I think I’d cop out and take both points of view. Within the airbag safety system paradigm, I still believe this is a huge leap forward. Mainly due to the _potential_ of the technology to make airbags easier to use, lighter, and perhaps cost less eventually. But yes, 28 years, one tends to start looking at airbags the way we look at beacons: semi effective.

  21. Tom Gos October 10th, 2013 8:47 pm

    For me the biggest “problems” with air bags have been cost and weight. In these regards this pack isn’t more attractive than what is already on the market. I wish the manufacturers would focus on getting more air bags in use by making the cost more attainable. Personally, I find the BCA packs are still the most attractive, especially given the readily available refills. I know, I know, air travel is a problem with pressure cartridges. I am looking forward to seeing version 2 of the black diamond packs, hopefully lighter and less costly.

    Lou, how does the size of the battery and fan compare with the gas systems? They appear to occupy a lot of pack volume. Is the 28 liters a total volume or an actual usable volume.

  22. Ed October 10th, 2013 9:29 pm

    One thing I’d like to see is a charger like Apple has for their MACs – one that works on both 115 V and on 220 V as many of us travel – plugs we can adapt, but different chargers for each voltage is just more stuff to lug around in the days of unfriendly skies and excess baggage weight surcharges!
    Also I’d be curious too how the fan thingy doesn’t get plugged up with snow after the first thump hits and you start to go for a ride?

  23. Xavier October 10th, 2013 9:51 pm

    Kyle…the huge leap forward to me is the potential ease of use….honestly in the 3 years I have owned my snowpulse I can tell you horror stories about overzealous airport agents tying to confiscate it,.flights missed as a result….wild goose chases around remote ski towns tracking down a guy with a scuba tank and adapter to get my bag filled, etc., etc.

    Don’t underestimate what a PITA owning, air transporting and getting refills are for some of the current systems. It’s a huge leap forward that we revolutionize their acceptance and use. people are buying $450 beacons and $1000 boots. If they get he price point down to a reasonable level….these things are going to sell..BIG!

  24. peter October 11th, 2013 12:47 am

    For having sold airbags the last 4 years i can say what matter at the end. 99% of the time what you need is a pack. It must be light and the airbag system should be as compact as possible. The new functions offered by black are just great but whar i want is a light and technical pack. On the video it seems the airbag takes far to much room in the pack for me. Would you buy a cery safe car if the safety system take all the trunk?
    The way the lifebag of snowpulse has become “obsolete” after the RAS appeared show that people choose after usage the most convenient pack, not the safest one. I have a carbone cylinder on a RAS light of mammut and for the weight of 2.6 kg looks already heavy for me.
    I am nevertheless impressed by the fan and it look promising but saying that a techonolgy like the gas that has shown its efficiency is done is surprising for me. The RAS of mammut is a stupid spring linked to a handle with a wire that punch a cylinder that stay full for years. Does nobody rely in simplicity?

  25. Wookie October 11th, 2013 2:50 am

    Thanks very much for the review, Lou.

    Incidentally – the opening frame of the first video is great: Lou – reclining regally in your lawn chair, while the industry hack describes his latest offering to the king in fawning language. The shot of you taken from below is a nice touch.
    Well done.

    In any case – I like this better than I thought I would. Slick. I would have liked to know more about the pack as a pack though. A couple of questions:

    1) does it have a separate gear pocket? I like those – even if they add weight
    2) how big is it really? I know they gave a liter size – but it looks WAY smaller than advertised. will it fit my gear for an easy day tour…an overnight….or how about a day tour with ropes, crampons, axes, etc?
    3) is that the standard ice ax holder like on the agent packs?
    4) whats the durability of the fabric? BD was always great about this, but my last agent is fraying where the ski edges hit the back panel when I lash them to my pack

    I still think a pack needs to be a pack. its still too heavy. I hope very much that this causes a real development frenzy in the industry. If they spent as much on R&D as on marketing, we’d be a lot further along. I would not count the compressed air packs out just yet. This kind of competition can only be good for consumers, and I am glad that it appears to have finally arrived.


  26. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 6:36 am

    Wookie, it’s early in the morning here and I just read your comment, I laughed out loud. Thanks! I’m going to have to work that lawn chair thing a bit harder from now on! Perhaps Nathan will give me an idea of which model chair would be best (grin).

    1. Yes, the Halo 28 has a separate gear pocket. I purposefully did not concentrate too much on the backpack as it’s so easy to re-design or make new versions of. More, I’m sure the pack will be different when it retails a year from now (optimistically).

    2. Actually, the pack is quite roomy for a 28 liter airbag pack, due to the how loosely the airbag is packed, and how easily it compresses out of the way from the inside. I didn’t mention this in “review” because it’s pretty subjective, but the pack looked to me like I’d be able to use it for my normal day-trip kit, no problem. But as with many airbag packs, its cargo space is probably not as large as a “28 liter” pack without an airbag.

    3. Not sure about the ice ax holder. But I’d guess it’s exactly the same as the Anthem model.

    4. It looked like good fabric, but again, what comes out in retail will be the word, this is a pre-production sample that appears retail ready, but…

    I’d agree about competition. One reason I was excited to do this early view of a pre-production item is I believe it will give the compressed gas folks a kick in the rear. For example, It’s weird that not one of them has made a “pro” model pack yet (or have they?) that comes standard with a Dyneema airbag and carbon gas cylinder, along with minimalist top-loader pack. Cripes, they could easily get the pack weight down around 5 pounds, which would bury Jetforce in terms of weight competition. Sure, it would be $1,500, but big deal for a guide that’s out there in avy terrain a hundred days a year.

    However, I was thinking about all this last evening, and the thing is: when you can accidentally or practice deploy your airbag, then have it packed up and ready for another deploy in literally minutes, that is a HUGE benefit for a lot of people. Including me. Add to that the ease of just hopping on a commercial airline with the pack. It makes the whole airbag thing feel gentle and easy, instead of the harsh technological challenge it’s been up to now. I feel strongly about this which is why I made my “24 month” prediction. We’ll see how that turns out (grin).


  27. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 6:46 am

    Tom, as mentioned in my comment above, the pack seemed reasonably roomy for the claimed 28 liters. Still, it’s a panel loader (groan) and is not commodious. Frankly, I’ve wondered for years what it is about BD and panel loader packs. But they do look good in the mountain shop, especially to a gift buying grandma who’s used to airline luggage. So I suppose they have their place.

    Xavier, indeed. We should come up with a name for the airbag cylinder fill scramble. We did it last winter in Vancouver, whipping around town trying to follow our GPS to meet up with an airbag rep to get some full cylinders. It felt like we were in a movie doing a drug deal. Luckily the journey ended at a snowmobile dealership where they had some really cool sleds to look at. But still, running around like that resulted in delay, and in us driving the Trans Canada at night, in a blizzard. Wouldn’t it have been ironic if the hours spent getting the airbags working had resulted in a severe automobile accident? Could have happened.

    One other thing should be made clear about fan based airbag concept: We’ll be able to deploy these multiple times during a ski day. For example, say you start a big sluff in a couloir and think you’re getting caught, but you’re not sure, but you know that if you do it could step down and get dangerous. With a gas bag you might hesitate to deploy, with fan, you just deploy. If it all turns out okay, you just repack the bag in 3 minutes and you’re on to the next descent. Ditto, say you’re a rescue person and you have to drop into a really dangerous zone to do a ski cut. You start cutting and it feels like you might go for a ride. With fan, just pull the trigger, no worries, if things go okay just repack and continue the day. Really, a quantum leap in the whole airbag paradigm.


  28. TK October 11th, 2013 8:38 am


    Your last post is the most on point- multiple use on one day ?!! Holy cow- that could open up some options for many of us that might have a ‘non incident’ sluff, or small rescue under hangfire to deal with, but still want to take the extra precaution of deployment when things go hairy….

    Say, what about recharge- is that connector able to hook up with my small solar panel GoalZero Nomad ? Has BD thought about this for ‘way out’ adventures where I’d rely on my Colorado sunshine to make it happen for all my electronics? If that is the case, they need to be sure to be advertising that aspect of the pack, which looks pretty darn fabulous as most BD products go.

    Thanks for the video- so glad that you are taking the time to put this together ! Cheers,

  29. Al F. October 11th, 2013 9:56 am

    Great review on BD’s Jet Force Airbag Lou. Great to see BD keeping up in the 21 century. I love it.

  30. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 10:19 am

    Indeed, multiple deploy is HUGE. I actually downplayed it a bit in the review as I felt I was getting to the point where you guys would think I’m a shill. But this feature alone could be the one that changes the industry, once people get used to having it.

    I mean, what if the European certification (CE) decided all airbag backpacks should provide two deploys instead of just one between fillings/recharging? Could happen.

  31. Nick October 11th, 2013 10:28 am

    While airbags have been around for 28 years, how many years have the vast majority of the user population known about them? In Europe they’ve been fairly common for say 10 years, but in North America, I’d say only the last few years. ABS was the only manufacturer of airbags until Snowpulse came on the scene (can’t remember for sure but I want to say about 6 years ago).
    So there has only been competition for about 6 years. And only in the past few years have sales gone up enough to get other companies in the game. Those other companies have offered the following innovation: user refillability. Other than that, it’s been standard competition as weights have slowly come down (and seem to have plateaued for the moment), backpack designs have gotten better, and in some cases prices have come down.
    With the above in mind I think it’s fair to say that this is a major shake up of the industry. Great review Lou. I’ll still use my lighter weight cylinder airbag until Black Diamond’s gets lighter.

  32. George October 11th, 2013 10:37 am

    I think many of us will sit on the sidelines until the BD Jetforce or comparable is ~ 5 lbs and under $800. Am I asking too much for 2015?
    The weight penalty and price pain are too great considering we drool over 5 lb boots and skis and 11 oz. jackets.
    Lou, I think many of us struggle with the internal or spousal conversation on buying an expensive Airbag backpack to venture into avalanche terrain versus opting for safer slopes and a superlight (no airbag) backpack.

  33. HughP October 11th, 2013 10:48 am

    Lou – I agree that multiple deployments is huge. It is only a matter of time before airbags are mandatory for heli and cat operations, (maybe ski patrollers too) – in this application weight isn’t as big a concern, but if a guest deploys the big mid-run, it will be way better for the guide to re-pack than re-arm with another cylinder. Also they can have all the guest try out the airbags at the start of the day (much like the 30 minute transceiver practice everyone does) rather than say “trust us, it will inflate). Also cost isn’t such a big deal for these users (heli and ski patrol at least, cat ski operators are sometimes running on a tighter budget)

  34. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 10:50 am

    Thanks for chiming in Nick! I’ve been thinking this through and I believe BD might be making a mistake in not initially making their pack lighter. It’s a huge thing to us consumers. What I don’t get and will check with Nathan about is why the battery has to have 6x energy at room temp to be able to fill once at -30 centigrade. I know lithium batteries pretty well, and as far as I know while they do loose some energy when cold, it’s not by a factor of 6. What I’m getting at, is by simply halving the size of their battery the pack would not only be significantly lighter, but also cost less. The pack Nathan showed had the electronics hard wired, but the battery appears to be swapable.

    And here is more from the idea factory (grin). Near as I can tell from doing some web browsing Dyneema/Spectra fabric you’d use for the airbag would never cost a manufacturer more than $25/yard, and two yards would seem to be enough to make the balloon. I’m not understanding why that kind of cost obviated using Dyneema, as due to tear resistance it seems like the ideal thing for airbag balloon, and the special nylon they’re using is not exactly cheap either. I’ll ask Nathan.


  35. Nick October 11th, 2013 10:51 am

    While on the subject of innovation, it should be noted that for the first 20 years that ABS had no competition, they were revising their system for what they consider to be better safety and redundancy (clearly they weren’t focusing on backpack design as they were beyond terrible in that regard). The other companies, including Black Diamond it appears, are borrowing designs and concepts from some of the original ABS airbag systems from two decades ago (single pillow airbag vs. twin wing airbag, for instance).

    Black Diamond addresses this by increasing the airbag volume (200 liters, vs. 170 liters for ABS, and 150 liters for all others) for greater flotation and by having the fan cycle during the avalanche to keep it filled even if ripped (this is a HUGE innovation in my mind). This does not address ABS’s other reasons for the twin however: a second airbag to fill if one is somehow unable to fill, and what they consider to be a safer airbag orientation while in an avalanche (who knows how legit this is as I don’t know of a third party study).

    ABS at one point used a mechanical trigger system, but moved to a pyrotechnic system which fires and sends pressure down a line to punch open the cylinder. No moving parts to jamb, freeze, seize or electronics to malfunction. It sounds like Black Diamond relies on both an electronic and mechanical trigger- many potential points of failure.

    Snowpulse brought us user refillability, wrap around the head trauma protection, and automatic deflation to create an air pocket. BCA brought us affordability, Mystery Ranch and BCA brought us durability, Mammut brought us lightweight (in my mind). BCA, Mystery Ranch, Mammut (and it looks like Black Diamond?) brought us good pack design.

  36. Matt Kinney October 11th, 2013 11:26 am

    I realize it’s a prototype but here are some likes.

    1. Putting the weight of the battery and air inductor at the bottom of the pack. Not sure where the other dozens of airbags but the air canisters but this is factor in comfort as weight should be concentrated low on the lumbar, not the shoulders.

    2. Putting the helmet net and thus the helmet low on the pack. The BD Avalung helmet net came out of the top flap. I cut that net off, and ended up always stashing my helmet inside my pack. This new airbag would give me more room inside the pack while providing a better place to carry a helmet IMO.

    3. Would like to see a bigger strap/buckle on the chest strap so I can use gloves. Seems like I have to remove my gloves to unsnap it on the Avalung. The waist strap buckle size is fine.

    4. Seat harness? Not clear in video (1-leg strap?) and I’m not sure it’s really needed if you have your pack properly snugged for a descent. Almost every airbag has a harness anyway I suspect though I’ve only looked at a few of them. This would fall under the less straps is better mind set of some of us. So if you are strapped up for glacier stuff, then you have to pull a seat harness over the pack harness, etc….

    Excellent update on airbags and lou’s interior design skills. 🙂

  37. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 11:34 am

    Matt, take my word, with an airbag pack in a big slide, you need the crotch strap. Yeah, the pack can ride up with the shoulder straps under your arm pits, but at that point the chest strap is cinching around your throat… You get the picture. Remember that unlike an avalung or normal backpack, the airbag is “floating” you, so it needs to stay attached in such a way that the floating force of the balloon is not a problem to your body — and so the pack doesn’t get ripped off you.

  38. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 11:35 am

    P.S., Matt, isn’t doing interior paneling with CDX plywood an Alaskan thing?

  39. Matt Kinney October 11th, 2013 12:59 pm

    We upgraded to groovy T1-11 on the inside and oak pallet planks from the local dump as trim decades ago. We are so ahead of the CO curve!

    Your point is that the victim could enjoy their route error with the benefit of a more comfortable ride down the slope. JA!

    Having the option of using a harness, waist-strap or both is important as many like loose packs for skinning or using our packs for low angle tours during sucky weather. It would be nice to stash away the harness and just use the waist strap.

  40. Hacksaw October 11th, 2013 1:18 pm

    A Canadia friend pointed out that apparently Arcteryx has a few patents that involve the use of fans with airbag packs. There might be a legal battle starting between Arcteryx and BD.

    What have you heard?


  41. Nick October 11th, 2013 1:53 pm

    Most airbag packs have a way of stowing the leg loop ‘harness’ out of the way or removing it. I’d imagine BD did the same. There are some better designs for that out there than others, hopefully they thought theirs through.

  42. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 2:10 pm

    Nick, yes, the pack has a nice little pouch for the stow, that opens downward. Works well as far as I could tell.

  43. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2013 2:15 pm

    Hacksaw, I have nothing to dish on the patent issue. Rather than battling, it’s more likely a matter of paying and licensing. A battle would of course be much more interesting and better blog fodder (grin).

    On the other hand, if one company thinks they’re not infringing, and one thinks they indeed are. Of that the patent battles are made, and can last for years.

    So we’ll see.

    The bigger issue for both Arc and BD seems to be stodgy European certification system.

  44. Kit Jackson October 12th, 2013 9:14 am

    Hey, how will hydration be configured into the BD Jetforce backpack design? Will there be a zippered sleeve on the right backback strap for a hose and some hook or compartment for the reservoir like present day BD avalung backpacks? Thanks very much for your information.

  45. Erich October 12th, 2013 10:50 am

    Hey Lou,
    Thanks for the great detailed review. Any idea if Black Diamond plans on making the jetforce system removable for easy swapping between packs (and making the different sized packs available without the system for cheaper). At that price point it would keep me from buying one if it doesn’t. I do all kinds of BC winter travel and at times I need 20L and other times 50L.

  46. Lou Dawson October 12th, 2013 11:19 am

    Erich, the problem with swapping is the pack has to be built stronger and with attachment points, and the crotch strap, etc.

    I think they could license the tech to other pack makers, if that’s what you mean. But in terms of their plans to do so, that’s probably only spoken of in a glass enclosed room that is swept every 10 minutes for bugs planted by mad-dog bloggers.

    Oh, and swapping between BD model packs? I would not be surprised, as that just makes so much sense.


  47. Charlie October 12th, 2013 12:58 pm

    Really nice and informative videos!

    Looking forward to learning how these things operate and survive in the field. It’s still an early version of a novel technology, but I’d bet that Dr. Lawton would be proud. Nice work, BD.

  48. Colin October 12th, 2013 2:29 pm

    Great review of the technical features, deployment, and packing. However, is it too much to ask that we see some photos (or video) of the bag’s features itself? Given it’s available in three sizes, I’m going to assume the model you tested was the 11L version? I would very much like to see how storage capacity is arranged and what sacrifices are made.

    *note: I currently own the Black Diamond Covert w/ Avalung. I believe it’s a 28L capacity, and you get nearly every square inch of it in a bag that appears the same size as this. For day users such as myself, I would be inclined to purchase a similar capacity bag and would therefore be forced to get a larger (overall) pack.

  49. Lou Dawson October 13th, 2013 3:26 pm

    Colin, sorry, I thought I mentioned that this was the Halo 28, so 28 liter. Due to the compressability of the airbag from the inside, it appeared to have fairly good capacity for a 28 liter rated backpack.

    I purposefully did not focus on the backpack since it’s a year out from retail and is said to pretty much match other BD packs in terms of features. In other words, it’s probably a waste of time to fool around with blogging details about pack. The time to do that will be around the time of winter OR show when they might start taking retail orders and will need a finalized retail version to show the buyers.


  50. Colin October 14th, 2013 2:01 am


    Thank you so much for the timely response! Very impressive. I hadn’t realized the pack was as far out of production as you say it is. I was assuming a mid to late season launch. Focusing on the technology is therefore very reasonable. Also, for what it’s worth – if that’s a 28L capacity, I’m really rather impressed. From your demonstration, it looked as though a lot of internal space was sacrificed for the intake system, but given the overall size that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    thanks again.

  51. Richard October 14th, 2013 5:15 am

    Does anyone know what the Wh (watt-hour) rating of the battery is? The reason I ask, is that airlines have restrictions on the carriage of lithium batteries.

    For example, Lithium ion batteries exceeding 160Wh and lithium metal batteries containing more than 2gm of lithium are NOT permitted to be carried AT ALL.

    Lithium ion battery powered equipment containing batteries over 100Wh but not exceeding 160Wh require the airlines prior approval and there may be some limitation on carriage of spare batteries.

    Below 100Wh lithium ion batteries may be carried without restriction.

    The reason for these resrictions is that lithium batteries have a prior history of spontaneously catching on fire, just ask Apple and Dell about some of their product recalls for laptop batteries. Airlines don’t like fires on planes, especially burning metal fires as they’re very hard to extinguish and the BCF fire extinguishers on aircraft are not very effective against these type of fires.

  52. etto October 14th, 2013 5:49 am

    A gripe of mine with the ABS base unit is that it’s easy to loose the crotch strap when not using it, it detaches completely (at least on some models). When skiing in crevasse terrain I’ve actually dropped the crotch strap and attached the waist belt to my climbing/glacier harness using a biner. Fortunately never tested it, should but should be way more robust than the crotch strap 🙂

    Always preferred Arcteryx to BD for soft goods, excited to see if/when they also got something to show.

  53. Lou Dawson October 14th, 2013 7:42 am

    Richard, good point about the size of the battery. Please provide a link to your information source as it appears incorrect and may mislead people. In fact, once we are sure about the info I’ll edit your comment.

    Here is the correct information:

    Pretty clear from reading that they classify these types of batteries as “Larger Lithium” and if the “Larger” battery is below 300 watt hours you can commercial airline carry up to three with one installed in device. Over 300 watt hours is forbidden.

    300 watt hours is a huge battery. Here is one, it weighs about 5 pounds!

    But I’ll check with BD about the battery in the pack. Perhaps they need an excuse to make it smaller and lighter (grin).


  54. Lou Dawson October 14th, 2013 11:08 am

    Ok, I got the skivvy from BD on the battery watt hours. 43.2 Wh so well under the 300 Wh cutoff point for airline luggage. And under other thresholds mentioned above. Judging from the size of the battery, it’s pretty similar to a larger laptop battery.

    43.2 is also well under the “Large Lithium” 100 watt hour airline battery classification.

    Thus, it shouldn’t raise any eyebrows at TSA or elsewhere, other than the usual random questions asked at TSA when they xray carry-on with lots of wires and stuff. In other words, always allow time for a hand check.


  55. Richard October 14th, 2013 10:14 pm

    RE: Lithium Ion batteries on aircraft

    The good news is being <100Wh (watt hours) there's no restriction on the carriage of these AT ALL i.e. you don;t have to tell the airline, you can have them in checked bags or stowed in the cargo baggage hold. Once they're above 100Wh, they restrictions do kick in.

    If you'd like more (boring!) info read on:

    There's several references I can provide. IATA (International Airline Transport association) provide the backbone of regulations for airline dangerous goods (I think you also say HAZMAT in the USA, I'm from Australia) carriage. Each airline may (or may not) have it's own more restrictive regulations.

    Here's 2 links to the IATA regulations relating to lithium ion batteries


    In depth:

    I work for an overseas airline that flies to the USA and the information from my first post comes from our own internal dangerous goods regulations (which in turn come from the IATA ones).

    By way of individual example, here is a link to Emirates and their DG policy

  56. Corbin Redli October 15th, 2013 4:10 pm

    Do you guys feel that this is truly a game changer? I appreciate the design and innovation with the electronics, however, it seems to be the same or in some cases bulkier than current designs, and there is not much storage there.

    I am not against this, I like the ability to practice, and I love BD and their products. It just doesn’t change much in terms of how an airbag is brought into the backcountry. It also seems like there is more that can go wrong.

    Do you prefer comfort and lightweight or electronic and ability to practice?

    It definitely has a “cool” factor.

  57. Pablo October 16th, 2013 3:47 am

    An airbag pack is made to give you an opportunity in the event of an avalanche.
    If you cant practice the more often the better, is easy that you can’t actívate it in that stressing moments. Even, If you know that a recharge of compressed air is so expensive, maybe you try to not actívate it in the event of a Little avalanche…but who knows? even a small avalanche can kill you…

    In my own opinión, the ability to practice is the Key factor of this sistem.
    For me is better to be confident about I can actívate it in the worst stressing situation than be comfortable with a half kilo less bag…

    I can lightweight other ítems to compensate the weight of a fan powered pack but can’t make practice easier with a gas sistem.

  58. Corbin October 16th, 2013 4:45 am

    I do appreciate the ability to practice and reactivate the bag, but I can refill my mammut RAS for $1.50 1/2 mile down the street at a paintball shop. This does not affect my decision to pull it and it makes for easy practice.

    Again, I appreciate this design and I believe it could be the future of airbags, but I think its got some refining and weight loss to go through.

    Good work BD though on pushing the limits. This technology needs to be available for everyone that steps into avi terrain.

  59. Lou Dawson October 16th, 2013 6:47 am

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about the weight of the Jetforce packs, they’ll be very easy to make lighter by providing a half sized battery and Dyneema balloon. And look out world when battery technology improves, which it will.

    But I was indeed surprised that the pre-production sample we examined was not at least a bit lighter in weight. I expected it to be just under 7 lbs. A sub 7 lb weight combined with the ease-of-use would have made the product irresistible.

    On the other hand, one has to give some cred to BD for not succumbing to temptation and compromising the ultimate safety of the pack by using a smaller battery. The system needs to be extensively beta tested, only after that will they be able to figure out how to reduce some of the parts.

    Me, I’m thinking the smaller “2 time” battery is the key. It just needs an audible alarm if the battery temp and available power goes below a certain threshold. With the battery located near the user’s back, and packed in a way that insulated it, I’ll bet it would be fine for 95% of the ski days done on the planet. The other 5% could use a bigger battery, or pack a hand warmer next to the smaller battery. Or ski back to the bar an hour or two earlier once the battery is cold soaked.

    The audible battery power alarm could be called the “cocktail hour warning system.”

    By the way, the 28 liter pack we examined actually appeared fairly roomy and the airbag bulge on the inside was quite compressible. I didn’t see any problem using the pack as a daybag. More, I’d of course remove all the vestigial fabric, especially the “tool” partition. Such trimming would probably reduce weight by several ounces, bringing the pack closer to a more ideal weight. I’m not sure if the “Suspension” system can be removed or not, but it seems totally unnecessary on a pack this small, so I’d also look at modding the suspension to strip out stuff that adds weight.

    Nathan was of the opinion that the suspension system compensated for some of the weight. At the smaller total weights you carry with a 28 liter day pack, I disagree with that. In the realm of smaller backpacks, pure weight reduction is key as every ounce saved is a pretty large percentage of the total.

  60. Dave November 12th, 2013 8:46 am

    If this is 43.2 watt-hours, does anyone know if this will have to ship as a hazmat item?

  61. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2013 9:29 am

    Dave, as stated above it’s no problem on airplane, and I doubt it’s a problem for shipping… Lou

  62. Ugo January 30th, 2014 6:29 am

    Please can we take a readership poll to illustrate to B.D the market demand for lighter (and maybe top + panel loading like the Deuter) versions suitable for touring (day and hut to hut).

    B.D need to recognise the sizable European market is primarily focused on weight with a minimal simplistic backpack to accompany a lighter version of the system.

    Also offer the upgrade option to Dyneema – because it’s about safety right?
    Look at how carbon option on ski are selling for example.

  63. Ugo January 30th, 2014 6:31 am

    Any update on the Arcteryx patent?
    Does B.D have a patent?
    Would be great if others can also compete with this channel.

  64. lou dawson January 30th, 2014 8:02 am

    Ugo, the only way we’ll ever get clear on the patent issues would be to sit at the same tabkle with the lawyers. Instead, we’ll just have to watch what becomes available.

  65. Travis February 14th, 2014 12:12 pm

    I’d like to know more about storage. Avy safety gear, water bladder, food, gloves, goggles, first aid, saw, etc. Any details on storage???

  66. Lou Dawson February 14th, 2014 12:29 pm

    It takes the more “bring your own stuffsack” approach to things like where to store a first aid kit. But it does have some compartments. I didn’t get into a huge amount of detail because this is a pre-pre retail pack. I’m getting another review samp in a few days that I’m assuming is closer to retail ver, will try to detail that in a “2nd Look.” Will actually take it skiing, or perhaps Lisa will. Lou

  67. Travis February 14th, 2014 5:57 pm

    I look forward to that review. I’m very curious about this. I highly trust BD products. But before this coming out I was going to buy Mammut Pro protection.

  68. Steve February 19th, 2014 4:46 am

    Lou. Are you aware if the airbag will be removable. Living in the UK we have to fly a lot to get our fixes over winter and this would save a lot of time trying to find places for a refill.

  69. John Warner March 15th, 2014 6:26 pm

    Thanks for the review, video, and photos. I look forward to your “second look”. In the meantime, I will continue to deal with my Mammut Sno Pulse Canister by emptying, shipping and re-filling when traveling.

  70. Jeremy August 21st, 2014 8:44 am

    Hi Lou,

    The JetForce backpacks are now on the Black Diamond website, in 11, 28 and 40 litre sizes.

    This is the 28 Halo

  71. Stuart October 16th, 2014 8:55 pm

    Hi Stuart
    Thanks for checking in with us. We should have Jetforce packs in-stock beginning to mid-December. Let us know if you have any other questions.

    Best Regards,

    Nathan Sackett | Black Diamond Equipment
    2084 E. 3900 S.
    Salt Lake City, UT 84124
    ph: 801-278-5533
    fx: 801-278-5544

  72. Lou Dawson 2 October 17th, 2014 7:58 am

    Thanks for the info folks, we are looking so forward to see how this does in the real retail world. They didn’t make many Jetforce packs, I’ve heard numbers from 1,000 to 2,000, which is good in terms of working the bugs out but a bummer in terms of seeing how well this concept really flies. Am looking forward to using one myself, though I know I’m going to immediately be begging for the smaller battery. The guys designing the Jetforce need to realize that folks using gas balloon packs are not carrying around 3 or 4 extra cylinders, even though they could, so why will they want to carry around a big heavy Jetforce battery when a much smaller one will still fill the pack a couple of times? Should be interesting to watch the design philosophy progression. Whatever the case, I stand by my prediction that the whole airbag market will eventually switch over to electric. And if I’m wrong, we’ll at least see a MAJOR effort to improve the gas bags so they’ll compete strongly against the electric. Lou

  73. Jeremy October 17th, 2014 9:05 am

    I have had a ABS Vario for the last 3 years and was planning to swap it for a BD or Pieps Jetforce pack. However I now plan to wait until next year and hope others join the market.

    The main issue for me, is not the weight, but the pack design. It seems that BD focused on the airbag design, and the added the backpack as an after thought.

    All the other major players have either zip on packs, or easy swap airbag systems, so that the pack can be matched to the activity. I appreciate that the Jetforce system relies on ‘external’ air more than any of the others, so has massive venting, but that would not have stopped BD from developing a ABS style zip on pack.

    Hopefully ABS will develop their own fan system to use in the Vario packs.

  74. Lou Dawson 2 October 17th, 2014 9:59 am

    I totally agree about the pack, not my favorite either. I’d like it simpler. But it’ll work and can be modified to some degree for weight savings and simplification. On the technical side, they did use a pretty good fabric for the balloon but I’m waiting for someone to come up with a “Spectra” type fabric balloon that would save weight and be even more tear resistant. At the $1000 price point for a safety item, it seems to me they could have an option with the Spectra for another $100. It also looked to me like an aftermarket balloon could be installed, that would be a cool development. Lou

  75. Andy M. October 17th, 2014 10:56 am

    I’ve got to agree with the criticism of the pack design. I own a BCA pack and was considering recommending the BD pack to my girlfriend since she can afford it, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t in good conscience. It’s 1 lb / 0.3 kg heavier, has no snowboard carry option, has no hydration compatibility, and costs twice as much. Maybe the forthcoming Arc’teryx one will be better featured.

    We travel a fair amount, so the no-hassle concept of battery power is appealing, but not at the current costs.

  76. TC October 17th, 2014 3:25 pm

    I may have missed it in the lengthy discussion above, but I believe the problem with battery weight/size is linked to the certifications being imposed on the battery-powered packs. Unless laws are relaxed, BD and other potential electric balloon pack companies may not have the choice to use lighter batteries. The legal requirements for operation in extremely cold temperatures + multiple inflations are quite restrictive (and are likely too stringent for the vast majority of situations/users).

    In contrast with the over-certification (?) of the new electric balloon packs, there are likely too few standards/restrictions on the gas balloon packs.

  77. Steve October 17th, 2014 4:50 pm

    Living in the UK travel is our only option and the battery weight is not an issue when I can travel with ease. However, lack of board straps is an issue, think BD missed a trick here. Also price point for a bag that is non changeable is way too high. Will stick with Mammut until the pack functionality is improved, which I’m sure it will be. First year of production it’s a step in the right direction.

  78. Clyde October 17th, 2014 4:57 pm

    North Face nailed it for the 15/16 season. Their ABS will attach to any pack you own. Of course it works best with theirs (very tidy, boring colors) but is compatible with all ski packs so you aren’t stuck with the gawdawful designs of most current ABS packs. For people without the luxury of pro deals or freebies, it’s probably worth the wait.

  79. Steve October 17th, 2014 5:04 pm

    Clyde. Do you have a link to the north face pack?

  80. trollanski October 18th, 2014 9:20 pm

    Does anyone know if a HotHands packet would be too much heat for the battery? I ski at 0 degrees F a lot, and to echo many others in this conversation, 5 lbs. is the holy grail for these things. Just thinking that with some tweaks, and a smaller battery (kept warm with a packet-light-cheap) it could happen…After touring for years with a 40L 3.5 lb. pack, I find my BCA Float heavy,cumbersome, and lacking in usable volume….Oh, and sign me up on the survey for a back panel loader. Can plop it down while keeping that wet snow off the hot parts that were just against your back, while allowing full immediate access to all your stuff…Thanks.

  81. jasper April 24th, 2017 4:00 am

    Has anybody sent their jetforce through the mail or fedex? Any issues with hazmat? How about in an international shipment? Ive been traveling and skiing in Europe. Im done for the season, and am going to spend some time on the beach before heading home. I hope to lighten my load for this last leg of the trip. Thanks.

  82. Lou Dawson 2 April 24th, 2017 8:23 am

    Jasper, I’ve not heard of any problems. When we receive Jetforce and Voltair in mail from companies they have a label on it stating something about the battery, not sure if you need that for non-commercial shipping origination. As you probably know, the battery in both packs is well under the limit for what can be in carry-on baggage, though it should be disconnected and well protected. When shipping here in the States we tend to just send everything, gas cylinders and batteries, without any extra paperwork. Lou

  83. jasper April 24th, 2017 8:41 am

    Thanks Lou. Do you know how to disconect the battery? It looks like there are some screws to take it off from the wiring harness, but is there an easier way?

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube

WildSnow Twitter Feed


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version