PopSci Spills the BD Airbag Backpack Secret

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 12, 2013      

Word is out on Black Diamond’s battery operated avalanche airbag backpack. Look for more details in this space, but for now PopSci has the scoop. In a one-page teaser they detail the Black Diamond “Jetforce” as having a two inch fan that spins at 60,000 RPM and fills the bag “instantly.” After three minutes the fan reverses to empty the airbag, and the rechargeable battery gives you 4 inflations so you can practice pulling the trigger, or if you’re not too lucky, repeat your latest avalanche ride.

In all seriousness, here at WildSnow we’re thinking this might be one of the most disruptive products to come along since the tech binding. Opinions, Wildsnowers?

Popular Science one-page teaser for the 'Jetforce' avalanche airbag.

Popular Science one-page teaser for the 'Jetforce' avalanche airbag backpack.

(Note: Image enlargement is disabled with deference to PopSci.)

Click the read-more link to make comments.

Teaser factoids from the article:

– Fan is two inches wide and turns at 6,000 rpm.
– Airbag balloon is 200 liters.
– Bag constructed with some version of silnyl.
– Fan can keep bag inflated with some degree of tear damage.
– Fan reverses after three minutes to deflate bag.
– Battery is lithium, does 4 inflation cycles (obviously depends on temperature and age of battery).
– Euro style complex naming: “Halo 28 Jetforce.”
– In harsh cold down to negative 22 F, battery can still deploy bag one time.
– Weighs 7.4 lbs.
– MSRP $960.00 (Very preliminary).

(Note: A while back we published about an Arcteryx patent for a similar electric airbag product.)


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69 Responses to “PopSci Spills the BD Airbag Backpack Secret”

  1. Kevin September 12th, 2013 1:35 pm

    Do you think that if one were still buried using this pack, after the deflation, it would add time to their survival under the snow, barring other injuries?

    Either way, that is really cool and definitely an important evolution for the travelling skier!

  2. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 1:45 pm

    Kevin, I think the deflation could definitely leave an air pocket. It’s going to be tested to the max, to be sure!

    I know quite a bit more about the thing but signed off on secrecy, and will be allowed to reveal more in a few days.

  3. Wilf September 12th, 2013 1:46 pm


  4. Wilf September 12th, 2013 1:47 pm

    The “Safeguard” and “Reboot” are definitely unique selling features that no other airbag offers.

  5. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 1:50 pm

    Another thing the article says is that the fan has some capability to keep the bag inflated when torn. Also, they report the weight at 7.4 lbs.

  6. palic September 12th, 2013 1:51 pm

    It seems to be great! Please, more details, practical experience and tests ASAP 🙂 and… roughly expected end user price range

  7. shoveler September 12th, 2013 2:03 pm

    With the way you guys have busted your nuts covering airbags, why did a lame magazine get the goods?

  8. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 2:07 pm

    Actually, PopSci is a cool magazine with lots of interesting stuff in it, so in that an other ways they deserve the scoop. Still, we’d of course rather had the first first since we’ve indeed broken our cojones trying to stay on top of the airbag wars.

    All is not lost, as we’ve got something scheduled that’ll be much more detailed. Stay tuned.

  9. Joan September 12th, 2013 2:10 pm

    Out for this season? or for next one!

    I was looking forward to buy an ABS backpack this season, so maybe i’m waiting for this one!

  10. Joan September 12th, 2013 2:11 pm

    Sorry, it was a question: Out for this season? Or for next one?

  11. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 2:21 pm

    There might be a “soft” launch for this coming season, but to the best of my knowledge the main bulk of orders will be made by retailers for the 2014/2015 season. If the pack is as good as it looks to be, it might cause a major price drop for compressed air backpacks, and those do still work though compared to this thing they might seem like using a rock for a hammer.

  12. Joe September 12th, 2013 2:25 pm

    Intrigued. I’ve found getting my Mammut/Snowpulse canister filled to be unpleasant at best, and concerning at worst. This design seems to have many advantages. If it works…

    My wallet hurts already.

  13. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 2:33 pm

    Joe, the airbag backpack industry as a whole may have made a huge mistake not standardizing their fill/swap systems, as the real pain point in their product is the cylinder refilling. Heck despite any ease in getting a refill, if you’re on an AK glacier and trigger it once when you see a white cloud coming at you, and everything turns out ok because the white cloud didn’t quite get to you, you’re still stuck with no airbag unless youv’e hauled an extra cylinder. With a fan pack, just plug it into your solar panel for a “refill.” Man oh man, if this thing works….


  14. Mike September 12th, 2013 2:46 pm

    I’m thrilled that the battery-powered packs are on their way. Ever since I heard about them, I decided to hold off on getting a canister airbag and I’m glad they’re not too far out.

  15. Gary September 12th, 2013 2:47 pm

    Will this come with the Avalung also on the pack?

  16. Jordan D September 12th, 2013 3:02 pm

    Lou, can you post a larger/higher resolution image of the page in PopSci? Or can you let us know what month’s issue we can find it in?

  17. Clarky September 12th, 2013 3:04 pm

    If you’re listening BD, please incorporate an Avalung too!

  18. lou September 12th, 2013 3:11 pm

    Jordan, it’s in the October issue, on newstands now. The article doesn’t really say anything more than what I’ve reiterated in the blog post and comments. I deliberately avoided the high-rez image out of respect for PopSci being a copyrighted publication. You can’t just scan stuff out of such a magazine and re-publish, it has to be done as a “derivative” work to illustrate something like a news or opinion piece, as I did. Other, more black-hat areas on the web might grab it and republish as a scan, but won’t happen here.


  19. Sebastian Fijak September 12th, 2013 3:20 pm

    Avalung doesn’t make sense in backpack with airbag. It move you up, so you should stay on surface (mostly) – see the Slovakian Avalanche Center avi backpaks test:
    So for what you need an extra breathing system?

  20. Mike September 12th, 2013 3:24 pm

    Sebastian, avalungs are nice to have in tree wells, where an airbag won’t do much for you. I unfortunately have learned this first-hand, and prefer an avalung on my pack, airbag or not.

  21. Berne Broudy September 12th, 2013 3:39 pm

    I wrote the Pop Sci article, and I can say that it’s in the current issue–October. You can find it on news stands and in grocery stores. I will let Lou answer questions and give you the details. Thanks, Lou, for being the go-to source of reliable and high quality info for backcountry skiers.

  22. Doug Bryce September 12th, 2013 3:55 pm

    If this concept works then I predict some big patent battles between the manufacturers….

  23. Jay September 12th, 2013 3:56 pm

    Should ‘travel’ easier.

  24. Biggsie September 12th, 2013 4:02 pm

    Since it’s easily re-deployable, I wonder if I could deploy it mid-tomahawk to mellow things out a bit?

  25. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 4:04 pm

    Hi Berne, thanks for dropping by. Lou

  26. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 4:11 pm

    I just added all the facts from the PopSci article, see end of blog post.

  27. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 4:25 pm

    Biggsie, excellent point!

    More, how about it interfaces with your truck airbag deployment logic? Wear it while driving for added protection.

    Seriously, since it’s electronic, that opens up all sorts of possibilities for add-ons and cool gadgetry. It definitely needs to be using a photo-electric fabric that can trickle charge the battery, for example.

  28. John S September 12th, 2013 6:40 pm

    I completely agree that airbag makers missed the boat by keeping their canisters proprietary. They could have reduced costs by sourcing a single design, lowered prices to consumers, and achieved deeper market penetration, rewarding all makers with greater sales.

    Airbags are not only here to stay, but it won’t be long before they’re nearly as ubiquitous as beacons. On one of my b-c ski trips last year we had a party of four, and only one didn’t have an airbag. During the course of the say, we encountered two other groups, and all of them had airbags.

    If the fan systems prove to be everything that people hope (I hear Arc’Teryx is working on a fan driven system too) then we’re set to inflate the market with airbag packs. 😉

  29. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 6:52 pm

    John, this could be a typical example of “positioning” wherein when one is a market leader (existing gas airbag models) they must innovate to keep their powerful position, but doing so is difficult as so much gets invested in the status quo. I won’t mention any names, but I asked one of the major players a while back what they thought of the fan airbags under development, and he pooh poohed them as “just for heli skiers.” Time will tell if he was right or wrong, but with a major segment of his business riding on that take, one does pay attention to the outcome. Me, I’ve seen the real deal and they’re not just for heli skiers as far as I can tell… but this is an example of something that needs to get out in the wild and really be tested by normal consumers.

    I try really hard to think of the negatives, and just don’t come up with much. Battery life in the cold, not as light as I expected, still expensive… but man, to not have the cylinder hassle is just huge.

  30. Sue September 12th, 2013 6:57 pm

    I agree with Shoveler. How many backcountry skiers read Popular Science (how many not in high school that is)? Not very core of Black Diamond!

  31. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 7:44 pm

    Have to admit, it is kind of funny to look at PopSci and see an insulin add to the left of the Jetforce article, and the page after is something about RFD triggered doggie doors. But hey, way better minds than mine have their reasons for how they do PR…

    And I’ll guarantee that insulin ad makes PopSci more money in one printing then we make in a year (grin).

  32. Ricky bobby September 12th, 2013 7:46 pm

    The real question is how effective is the bag as pulling in enough air volume to inflate 200L without the inlet ports getting plugged with snow. At the speed and quickness they indicate I would foresee a potential inflation issue if your already swimming or in the flow of the avalanche.

  33. P September 12th, 2013 10:30 pm

    I guess it will be a race between BD and ArcTeryx to make one work.
    Lou posted about their patents last year I believe – and I have heard they’ve been testing their fan packs…

  34. P September 12th, 2013 10:36 pm

    I’m not sure about it being ‘disruptive’.
    Somehow that seems to be a bigger improvement/change in technology than an incremental development. If the BD or ArcT packs were really cheap – then that could be a big change…. but I doubt that will be the case!

    The fan pack idea has some advantages.
    * But the main appeals to me is multiple uses on longer trips. However, the vast majority of skiers never do more than day trips so… that isn’t really a mass selling point.
    * The main appeal to other is probably no hassle flying with the compressed gas cylinders.

    The questions I have about the concept are how the fan works with lots of snow in an avalanche blast and cold weather operation (inflation speed).

  35. Billy September 12th, 2013 11:42 pm

    Glad to hear that Arc’Teryx aren’t the only ones that are making these!

    As Ricky bobby mentioned, there are definitely concerns as to how these bags will inflate properly if the user is half submerged in snow.

    My other concern would be the batteries. Most rechargeable batteries like Li-ion and NiMH batteries will slowly self discharge and if you don’t top-off the batteries periodically, you could can get into a situation where there might not be enough power to fully deploy the airbag in an emergency.

  36. Wookie September 13th, 2013 3:42 am

    Like the idea….but I’ve stuck with an Avalung for now due to the wieght (and cost) of an airbag system. If this thing is nearly as heavy as a regular canister pack, then it may still be a deal-breaker for me. I really feel that heavy pack on my shoulders and I do A LOT to keep my pack size down.
    Dukes, Super-Fat-Bad-Mofo Skis, “Crossover Boots”….and yes – airbags, are the greatest inventions ever. They allow 40 year-olds like me to pass 19 year-olds on the uptrack – by NOT using them. 😉

  37. Pablo September 13th, 2013 4:29 am

    Batteries self discharge is not a big concern. It’s exactly the same for Beacons or Headlamps. You just have to review them before go out.

    I suppose that BD pack Batteries have some kind of charge indicator, so take a look on it the night before you go out.

    Even if you are a “one day skier” a re-deployable sistema is far better. You can be safe in a second event. This is why some beacons return to transmission mode.

  38. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 6:15 am

    Wookie, LOL!

    As for weight, I’ll bet the BD pack they used for the system is not particularly light, and perhaps they could sell it with a 1 or 2 cycle battery that would really cut down on weight. I’m actually kind of surprised at how heavy the reported weight is.


  39. Knut September 13th, 2013 6:33 am

    Wouldn’t deflating the airbag after 3 min dispose of one of the biggest advantages of avalanche airbags? Which is visual victim location?
    Even before the literature saw +/- convincing numbers on improvement of burial depths with avalanche airbags, every one was convinced that they provide good visual aide and guidance to the victim for rescuers.

  40. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 7:26 am

    Knut, I think that’s a very minor factor. The bag is still deployed as a sort of “flag” and you have your beacon. Moreover, if the victim is conscious they can assist in location by shouting and waving. The main thing is you end up on the surface, which eliminates the killing snafu in many if not most avalanche deaths; that of the time it takes to shovel out a buried victim.

    Reality check: What is it, something around a third or more of avalanche deaths are the result of trauma? And even this past few years, there have been at least a couple of deaths where the avy bag was shredded by the trees that killed the person. If you really want to increase the odds, the type and size of terrain you ski has to be combined with use of airbag. Airbag is not a panacea, though it’s probably less myth and more real than a beacon.


  41. Travis September 13th, 2013 8:07 am

    i am kinda confused with the battery air filler. it says it fills 4 times… so you have to buy a new one after 4 fills?

  42. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 8:47 am

    Travis and all, it’s a RECHARGEABLE lithium ion battery, like the high-end ones used for power tools and model aircraft. Lou

  43. Rodney September 13th, 2013 8:52 am

    IMHO the weight is too high – this is the main barrier to an airbag – I had assumed thatbthey would get a much bigger weight saving with this versiom.

  44. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 9:39 am

    Rodney, I was under the same assumption. But BD is not known for particularly lightweight backpacks, thus I suspect that for starters the base pack is not particularly light. More, I’ll bet they over-engineered the battery for 100% reliability in cold temps, and it could work with a battery half the size if the battery was kept warm during super cold temps by insulating, using body heat, or hot water bottle. And to keep costs down, they’re not using something like Kevlar for the balloon, though this could result in major savings of weight and bulk, not to mention exceptional tear and puncture resistance.

  45. Nick September 13th, 2013 9:58 am

    Interesting that the airbag is 200L in volume. ABS uses 170 and all the others 150. Wonder what their reasoning for this is. ABS has been testing airbag volume for decades and arrived at 170 as providing plenty of safety margin. BD could drop some weight by going to a smaller balloon…

  46. Joe Risi September 13th, 2013 10:12 am

    Darn just as I’m about to pull the trigger on hovercraft plans PopSci does this!

    In all seriousness can’t wait to see how this evolves. So excited for the future of these in snow travel.

  47. travis September 13th, 2013 10:14 am

    Wait, there’s more than one Travis in this world?!

  48. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 10:19 am

    Joe, as you know from helping clean out the WildSnow HQ attic, a certain WildSnower actually built one of those hovercraft versions, using a leaf blower. Of course we never thought we’d be referring to PopSci for avy safety gear. Goes to show, you can’t predict the future with any useful accuracy.

  49. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 10:22 am

    Travis, anyone who wants to be here with their real first-last name is encouraged to do so. Helps keep things at a high level of discourse. At the least, I’d suggest that those of you who use a single common first name would append something to it, like “billskier.” Lou

  50. Mark W September 13th, 2013 10:24 am

    Absolutely amazing. One day I have to have an airbag pack.

  51. Mark W September 13th, 2013 10:37 am

    Lithium-ion rechargeable…key detail. Thanks for clarifying. Doubt it would be worth it with throwaway cells.

  52. Jordan D September 13th, 2013 12:46 pm

    Might be too soon to ask, but I’ll ask anyway: available in different colorways than bright red?

  53. Lou Dawson September 13th, 2013 1:12 pm


  54. David B September 13th, 2013 5:24 pm


    Great to see some companies using the grey matter with a bit of lateral thinking. The benefits are huge “if it works”. Air travel has just become less of a hassle straight up.
    The potential deflation air pocket is genius.
    Perhaps the second generation will allow you to detach the fans and have them dig you out.

  55. Jeremy September 14th, 2013 2:38 pm

    Hopefully both Black Diamond and Arcteryx bring their battery avalanche rescue packs to the market for the 14/15 season. Could this be the equivalent of the switch from HID to LED lighting. The original system did the job, and fulfilled a need, but had many issues. Advancements in technology then brought in a superior system, which quickly wiped out the original.

    Excluding patent costs, it should be relatively simple for ABS and Snowpulse/ Mammut to covert their packs to fan inflation. The mechanical parts of the pack and the airbags themselves could remain largely unchanged, with only the trigger and inflation parts being replaced. It must be easier to fill an air bag using constant fan inflation, than designing a cylinder discharge and venturi effect mechanism. If the air bag is poorly packed, the cylinder will empty before the air bag is fully filled (since it only accounts for the third of the inflation). However, I assume the fan solution can keep filling until the bag is fully inflated.

    Assuming the inflation technology works, I see the biggest benefits will be the easy recharging (literally) of the system, which will lead to many more inflation tests, and experienced gained in repacking the airbag. The bag repacking process seems to be a common cause of failure on the ‘gas’ air bags. If it becomes effectively ‘free’ to test inflate, rather than $30-$50 per refill, I know I would test more than once or twice a season.

    Multi-shot inflation, could even lead to air bag testing at the trail head like we all do for beacon checks.

  56. Lou Dawson September 14th, 2013 3:51 pm

    Excellent take Jeremy, thanks!

  57. RandoSwede September 14th, 2013 5:16 pm

    Uhm… what about making good decisions and not getting caught?

  58. Jesse September 15th, 2013 6:01 am

    Jeremy, very minor point, I think you would still need a venturi nozzle with the electric fan. But that’s not really something you need to ‘design’, it’s a totally standard thing.

    RandoSwede, do you carry a beacon and shovel? Or is your decision-making too good to need them?

  59. Luke September 15th, 2013 7:35 pm

    60,000 RPM or 6,000? My first thought when I saw 60k was “holy crap that’s fast.” The technology is problem just as cool at 6k rpm…

  60. Skyler Holman September 15th, 2013 9:16 pm

    Can’t Wait…that is, til we see what Arc’teryx has in store! Love BD, but my bets are on the bird.

  61. Lou Dawson September 16th, 2013 6:15 am

    Luke, it’s a fan concept from the model jet industry, probably what they call a “ducted fan” 60,000 does sound a bit fast, but the normal speeds for the model jet fans are around 30,000 so doubling that is perhaps what’s going on. To inflate the bag fast enough, I’d imagine the fan does have to wail.

    I’m optimistic about weight issues for the pack. Since the technology comes from model aircraft, I’m sure the weight issue is constantly being addressed by thousands of people. It’ll be cool if they provide a lighter weight battery option.



  62. Nate September 16th, 2013 11:43 am

    Weight wise, this is actually about what I was expecting. I don’t have the exact numbers handy from my MR Blackjack, but a large portion of the 3.5-ish lbs of the airbag system is the weight of the bag itself. A 200L bag that’s tough enough to survive an avalanche is going to be pretty heavy, no real way around that. Also, the pack it’s going on to still needs to be beefy enough to stay on you in the avalanche. With that in mind I’d expect a fan system to drop a half pound to a pound over compressed air, but beyond that I think you’re looking at improvements in materials, etc, that could potentially be applied to both systems.

    In regards to a lighter battery, I’d like to know what practical performance in cold temps (teens and 20s) is before I’d go for that option. Right now we’ve got two data points best-case: (4 cycles), and worst-case extreme cold (1 cycle). Hopefully that is a conservative rating, but most marketing numbers for batteries are wildly optimistic. I think the only battery powered item I’ve purchased from BD is a headlamp, and the numbers on it were certainly optimistic, but that’s a headlamp- this is sort of a different class of equipment.

  63. Josh S September 17th, 2013 2:09 am

    Battery driven system sure sounds interesting but don’t you think that those canisters seem to be a bit more reliable?
    Its hard for me to imagine that the fan has as much power as a 2700 or more psi canister. I’d like to know that in an average avalanche the airbag is gonna come out. Also a rechargable batterie at low temperatures always causes problems. At least the batteries of my cell phone do.
    The weight is also higher compared to the existing canister models. There are some that start already around 5.5lbs. But i guess there they can work on the backpacks.

  64. Knut September 17th, 2013 12:37 pm

    Lou wrote: “The main thing is you end up on the surface”
    That’s exactly the point. All studies analysing airbag effectiveness conclude that an airbag will decrease burial depth but not necessarily prevent burial. But chances are rather high, that parts of the airbag or victim are visible on the surface even in cases of full burial (which referrs to head burial actually). And according to shouting: It’s a tricky thing, as most dummy experiments led to the dummy being face down and the head in the snow. Additionally, it’s a much more indirect and inefficient mean of localisation or a human than optical location.

    Lou wrote: “Reality check: What is it, something around a third or more of avalanche deaths are the result of trauma?” A little less than 25% in North America and around 10% in Europe – most probable explanation are vegetation differences and less favourable skiing in trees in Europe

    But the point is: there’s potential disadvantages of an automatic deflation, while I don’t see any advantage.

  65. sock_monkey September 26th, 2013 2:53 pm

    RE: battery and cold

    Placing the battery inside your jacket would keep it warm but make it a pain due to the need for a quick connect and additional wiring. Alternatively, thoughtful placement within the pack should keep it somewhat warm.

    I would aim for a spot in the middle of the back (or slightly below) and as close to the body as comfortable. This provides insulation all around from the stuff in your pack and is warmed a little by your body heat where it is in contact with your back (especially on the uphill). This is where I place my thermos or hot water bottle if I want it to stay hotter on a cold day. On a multi-day, I would likely put the battery in my sleeping bag so it starts the day toasty.

    RE: automatic deflation

    One advantage may be faster and simpler to reset the system for testing or in the case of a deployment when nothing slid. 200L would be a pain to squeeze out. However, in both cases this would seem to use up precious battery power.

    A second advantage, mentioned previously, is the potential creation of an air pocket or opening to the surface for a victim of a head burial.

    The deflated bag is still likely to be highly visible even if it doesn’t stick out. Given that the critical situations are head burials I would think that access to air would more than compensate for slightly slower rescue. Assuming this actually occurs in real usage.

    It would be useful to know the reasoning behind the automatic deflation from the designers.

  66. JK October 2nd, 2013 10:28 am

    I just had to replace the Lithium Ion battery in my 2 year old, $2000 Mac laptop because I left it on the charger to much. I’ve had similar problems with batteries that just sat without much use. Batteries are great IF you use them regularly. Batteries in the backcountry make me nervious.

  67. RG October 27th, 2013 10:56 am

    Disruptive for sure. I have a couple of Mammut packs with a removeable canister-driven airbag unit. To paraphrase you, I’d drop it like a rock (the unit – the packs are good without them) for a product without a compressed air tank. I really don’t care how much luck other gringos and Europeans have had travelling with compressed air tanks, filled, unfilled, valves on, off or otherwise – it has been a complete non-starter for me, a TSA nightmare. And hardly anywhere you go where you really need/want one has an easy place to get one or get one filled. I had once hoped Mammut would have a lot of operators set up with little filling or canister rental stations they could charge for. Never happened. So if they become rocks in the airbag game, they brought it on themselves. If the battery fan is dependable and it ain’t too heavy, bring it on. Long live Schumpeter (creative destruction).

  68. Michael Cartwright December 8th, 2013 1:17 am

    1. Multiple start zones can generate follow-up avys. SAR tends to look in the avy’s toe, so when the mountain falls onto you, rather than sweeping you up, you do not get much chance of stratering, Ditto if you were just crossing the bottom of a runout, were exiting at the bottom when caught, were below a murderer who highmarks a loop above you while you’re stuck,….A collapsing bag gives your chest room to inhale, (by letting your chest expand into the space previously occupied by the bag), when all the weight of the uphill snow otherwise boa constrict’s your chest. I just don’t see this bag design working to achieve relaxation of the snow vise pressure, on your chest.

    2. The teeth clenched Avalung addresses mouth/throat snow plugs, minimizes ice masks, helps retard the onset of hypothermia when inhaled air is sourced warm from within clothing, and if I remember correctly, significantly, (possibly factorially?), delays the onset of unconsciousness due to lack of air. An avy bag/lung combo to float you, to grant room for your chest to move, reduce breathing passage plugs, and buy time so diggers find more than corpuscles would be a category killer. BD are presumably trying to avoid cannibalizing Aavalung sales figures when they ought to be focused on annihilating all avybag competition by using their Avalung tech advantage. (Nice if there was an Avalung that worked in conjunction with a fullface/chinguard helmet, like sledders use. You know – that sports group contributing the most avy dead in N. America – the group with money – the group that has a HIGH level of avy awareness, (cause it’s a real drag starting the on-hill weekend fun with a moment of silence for this week’s dead – people KNOWN by someone in the group – three weekends in a row), (and for high-markers at least, the group who are quite likely to put the mouthpiece in before taking their turn, thus eliminating the potential for the bag/lung activation choice confusion suggested above).

    3. Trauma is a problem. Why wouldn’t avy bag design address this, (besides materials over-engineering)? The pack to protect the spine, helmet/collar/bag to protect head/neck, shovel blade as (chest?) armour. Who has the medical research detailing the most common/critical trauma injuries, let alone the follow-up attempts at plans/philosophies/solutions? (….or has the materials strength solution for tree shredded avy bags driven the above referenced bag/material weight complaints?)

    4. Snowmobile at -28 F., at 60 mph, (-33 C. and 100 kph), (think Everest on a BAD day), for windchills of -73 F.,(-58 C.) Battery life expectancy = ????? Still have to test my electric (heated)goggle battery to brown-out, so advertised six hour life expectancy is untested, but it is not being asked to drive the moving parts of a fan, but my guess is that if humans can’t survive E-like weather then batteries are going to be a problem (either weight or working) – unless warm inside clothing — course my sled has electric ports, so with a sled powered assist, avybag batteries could be a lot lighter. Which leads me to the last point,
    5. Snowmobiles provide an opportunity for equipment testing at a level beyond …..,Sledders tend to have more life experience, some with more mountain experience (some because they are too old or too broken not to need a wheelchair to take them where they have always gone), tend to have more money, tend to be a market ignored (at best) let alone considered, ….Mum used to say “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”….

    So, when testing/designing/etc. how many old folks, with how much experience, in how many different mountain/winter/snow/activity/equipment/gear/corporate disciplines contributed? Hopefully not marketing/sales, because to me, the Popular Science scoop reflects a narrow minded techie BD corporate culture/focus rather than ultimate user/customer focus. A scoop in an “oooh, it’s so COOL, look what we did” magazine, rather than in a “look what we have for you” user/consumer focused forum, (such as yours)? More important that it be known that they are cool, than that the marketplace threatened with death, actual death, knows?

    I would not hold my breath waiting for their marvelous new product, hoping that it will be all things to all people when the euro-centric ski-centric world traditionally has never considered sledders, and between Pop-Sci’s scoop and no incorporated Avalung seem not to have considered any user group, let alone sledders. Any currently available bag will offer better odds/help if on you, than the greatest bag in the world not on you, and right now, with no plan for an Avalung incorporated, I wouldn’t bet that BD will create the greatest bag for anyone, let alone the greatest bag for sledders. Wait one (this) winter, possibly two, to buy BD’s kind of avybag? How many funerals could be avoided if no one waited to buy? And, if the funeral you avoided was your own? DO NOT WAIT FOR SPRING – BUY AN AVY BAG NOW – ANY OF THEM. Good luck to us all.

  69. Lou Dawson December 8th, 2013 7:19 am

    Excellent rant Michael, thanks! Your point about trauma is important. And yes, there were a lot of “huhs?” spoken about the PopSci scoop.

    Of course in our eyes BD redeemed themselves by making a pilgrimage to WildSnow Field HQ (grin).


    The design philosophy behind airbags tends to obviate the inclusion of Avalung, for better or worse. But as the BD guys say, you can always carry the Avalung sling version, and even ziptie it to a pack strap. In my opinion, using all available safety gear is a very individual decision and one you’d base on your level of accepted risk. For example, a person could choose to wear a full-face certified motor sports helmet while driving. Doing so would probably mitigate a huge amount of risk, but most drivers choose to instead depend on their seat belt, driving skills, and airbag.


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