Black Diamond Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Preview

Post by blogger | October 4, 2013      

At the Colorado Snow Avalanche Workshop today in alpine town of Leadville. Interesting topics, such as how to helicopter throw 550 lbs of high explosives in legal Wilderness. (Hint, they might not allow mountain bikes but pave a dam with asphalt for Denver water and the world is your oyster.) But most interesting of all, a public Jetforce airbag presentation by Nathan Kuder of Black Diamond. We’ll have more details in a few days (WildSnow exclusive!), but figured a teaser from what BD went public with at CSAW would keep your interest up.

Nathan's slide showing the Jetforce fan housing. He related that it's a ducted fan and fills the bag in 3 seconds.

Nathan's slide showing the Jetforce fan housing. He related that it's a ducted fan and fills the bag in 3 seconds.

Nathan blowing up the bag in front of live audience. Folks did pay attention, especially some of the rival airbag people.

Nathan blowing up the bag in front of live audience. Folks did pay attention, especially some of the rival airbag people.

BD's design goals end up being more about performance than things like weight and cost.

BD's design goals end up being more about performance than things like weight and cost. We can live with that, as this thing apparently does perform. According to Nathan's presentation, the fan can keep the bag inflated even with 7 inch cuts, and it automatically deflates after 3 minutes for convenience or an air pocket if you do get buried. What we liked best is the idea of practicing as much as you want, oh, and the airbag packs without any special folding. Just stuff it!

Black Diamond ownes Pieps, who provided super tech electronics. And, we get a Pieps backpack or two, along with POC. All available fall of  2014.

Black Diamond owns Pieps, who provided super tech electronics. And we get a Pieps backpack or two, along with POC. All available fall of 2014.

In this case, 'ease of use' = 'performance.'  Take my word, Jetforce is a quantum improvement in airbage user friendliness

In this case, 'ease of use' = 'performance.' Take my word, Jetforce is a quantum improvement in airbage user friendliness

Jetforce airbag is a huge 200 liters that might even function as partial head protection.

Jetforce airbag is a huge 200 liters that might even function as partial head protection. Near as I can tell, this well be a very easy airbag for the aftermarket to replace with a Dyneema version saving significant weight. It appears to be quite simple.

A few other tidbits from Nathan’s presentation:
– System is tested to hundreds of inflations. Our take: have fun testing.
– Battery can do up to 6 inflations at room temp, might just do one in extreme cold.
– Butterfly valve in housing is the key feature allowing the deflation cycle.
– The first compressed gas avy airbags came available about 28 years ago. Time for a change?
– Battery is nearly same thing as laptop computer battery, so traveling shouldn’t be a problem.
– Three square feet of filtered air input, some screened by the same stuff used for snowmobile pre-filter.

Look for our extensive coverage later next week. For now, rest assured, Black Diamond has it going on with this. Only bummer is fall 2014 retail seems a long way off!


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34 Responses to “Black Diamond Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Preview”

  1. powbanger October 4th, 2013 11:35 am

    The battle between Arc and BD just got real.

  2. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2013 12:30 pm


  3. Caleb from MT October 4th, 2013 12:48 pm

    Hi Lou. I assume they didn’t hint about a rough retail cost?

  4. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2013 12:55 pm

    All revealed in a few days

  5. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2013 12:57 pm

    Arc is still more of a vapor bag, the bd vapor has condensed a bit

  6. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2013 1:21 pm

    Does my photo of Nathan inflating the airbag remind anyone of those classic PNW Sasquatch “proof” photos? (grin)

  7. Jeremy October 4th, 2013 1:58 pm

    I forecast a large number of ABS, BCA and Snowpulse/Mammut Airbags on eBay at the end of the season, providing the Arcteryx and BD products are genuine. I know that my ABS Vario will be, before the market gets flooded.

  8. Forrest October 4th, 2013 2:06 pm

    Very intriguing. Lou I’d love to get your take on splitboard carry options and strap quality. It would be a welcome change to not have to fill or ship a cylinder ever again! Based on my heavy ass Snowpulse 45 I’m sure weight will be an improvement. Don’t know if I’ll adopt the first gen though…..

  9. Brian October 4th, 2013 3:03 pm

    I can’t quite tell from the pics- are these packs clamshell design like the old BD avalungs? I hope not…

  10. Greg October 4th, 2013 3:40 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing one in person. No A-frame ski carry option, though? That’s too bad, but I can deal with some inconvenience for the sake of safety.

  11. Lou Dawson October 4th, 2013 5:48 pm

    Brian, unfortunately they are panel loader bit know its hard to build a top loader with airbag, Same about a frame, yes, I hate panel loader packs, but it looks like we pan loader haters will have 2 suffer, or, will arc make a fan top loader?

  12. Woody Dixon October 4th, 2013 6:20 pm

    Top loader, simple, light, 30L airbag pack. Yes please.

    Maybe this new innovation will push the compressed gas companies to spend time designing packs that actually carry well?

  13. Sam October 4th, 2013 8:51 pm

    I thought I was the only person in the world wishing for a decent, top load ski pack?!

  14. Mike October 4th, 2013 11:59 pm

    $900 is way too expensive. Someone please make a cheap retrofit to go on an existing pack. Does it always have to be rocket science?

  15. Severin October 5th, 2013 6:17 am

    Woody, the new Mammut Protection Light is a 30l, simple, light top-loader… See

  16. Lou Dawson October 5th, 2013 6:35 am

    Mike, yes, many of the airbag pack companies appear to think they need to build a backpack that’s some kind of statement in textile complexity. But as Severin pointed out, that syndrome is indeed changing. However, note that the airbag backpack has to essentially “float” you above the slide, so it has to be stronger than most normal backpacks. In my view, this extra suspension can be done with minimal weight by using a system of webbing reinforcements, but most of the packs get their strength by over-building the whole thing. More, many makers can’t seem to resist throwing in extra features, probably due to the need for shelf appeal in the store. Even Black Diamond falls prey to this, as their 28 model Jetforce most certainly does not need the extra suspension stuff, though it might help having that with their bigger packs. To Black Diamond’s credit, the Halo model packs appear to be pretty clean, but panel loaders are inherently heavier than top loaders. Throw in a “tool” pocket and stuff like that, before you know it you’ve got 6 ounces of extra fabric and zippers. Lou

  17. etto October 5th, 2013 6:38 am

    Very interesting developments, but for equipment as critical as this I’m not going to be a beta tester. Gas cylinder based packs might have their drawbacks, but they are well tested and understood.

    You can have both top loading and A frame carry, it’s called the ABS Vario 40L. Don’t need 40L volume? Just compress it using the straps, extra weight is negligible. And it provides room for your helmet inside the pack on the way up on day trips 🙂

  18. John October 5th, 2013 8:44 am

    Interesting concept. Like others mentioned, I won’t be a beta tester, but will be interested in seeing how it works in the long term. Definitely has many advantages over cylinder packs.

    Any idea on weight? Can the airbag be switched between different bags?

  19. Matt Kinney October 5th, 2013 9:45 am

    $800 for a pack that can save your life seems reasonable compared to $800 skis for the ride of your life. It might not cost that much, but it will last for years and perhaps longer than your skis. I’ve had my BD Avalung for years, so the cost works out in the long term if you use the gear .

    I don’t have a butt balloon for some practical reasons at least to me. This may change the equation. I would have little hesitation getting this pack next season as BD seems to do quality work with serious innovations. Call me beta user #1 on this one as long as they don’t get too “strap and pocket happy” in the final design.

    This maybe rocket science, but looking at statistics and avalanche fatalities over the past few years, some science is welcome, All we need now is an electronic “Stability Tester” that answers all our questions by simply placing a palm sized device on the snow surface and getting “yes-ski” or “no-go” in bright LEDs. Then we would not need our brains and the mountains would be tamed.

    Thanks lou for keeping up on this topic with timely write-ups for those of us who can’t make gear shows and such.

  20. Dan Lowell October 5th, 2013 10:35 am

    The new Mammut Protection Light Airbag pack shown on the Mammut web site lists the weight as 2120 Kg. Sorry, but that is just too heavy! Grin.

  21. Lisa October 5th, 2013 11:16 am

    I recall from Nathan’s CSAW presentation, the 28 liter pack will weight 7 lb 4 oz.

  22. Toby October 5th, 2013 1:07 pm

    If this pack was an aircraft, it probably would have an emergency inflation system e.g. handle, pull cable, lever and a gas cylinder ; )

    P.S. working for the aviation over 25 years and how many times I’ve seen failing standby battery packs etc. electronics. When shit really hits the fan: PULL THE CABLE !

  23. ty October 5th, 2013 8:21 pm

    i think ill stick with my Mystery Ranch bag. dont really see what the fuss is. MR makes way, way better ski bags than BD. just sayin

  24. Hacksaw October 6th, 2013 11:46 am

    I was impressed with the BD Jetforce pack. BD has spent A LOT of coin on R&D. The friend I was sitting with at CSAW travels a lot to exotic ski/mountaineering spots. Air travel will be a lot simpler without gas cylinders.

    But, I can see that ski patrols may still buy the cylinder models, since they don’t have to worry about the air travel issue.

    I have to agree with Matt, $800 for a pack that may save your life Vs. $800 for a set of skis…. I think folks will pull-out there plastic and buy the pack.

  25. Stretch October 6th, 2013 7:15 pm

    Maybe I missed it but will the BD packs have an Avalung built in as well?

  26. Lou October 6th, 2013 7:18 pm

    Stretch, according to Nathan’s presentation, they were trying to avoid taking the “Swss army knife” approach to things and having too much for the user to handle. He said you can just use the sling Avalung if you want to combine. In our experience, super easy to zip tie the sling to a pack strap if you insist. If you’re in terrain where an airbag might not help (tree wells, deep pits), then Avalung is very appropriate. Otherwise, I’d be comfortable with just an airbag which is how I’ll probably tend to roll as these things get more and more user friendly. Lou

  27. Stretch October 6th, 2013 7:41 pm

    Thanks Lou.

    Another thing; you show a picture of various models and mention some names in the comments. Anything more concrete or is that fodder for a future post?

  28. Lou October 6th, 2013 7:47 pm

    Another post coming sooner than later. The powers that be are playing the usual games with timing of information release. Since I’m a “real” blogger (grin) I have to go by their rules. Oh well, better than the alternative!

    All considered, since none of this stuff will be available till next fall, let’s not get too bent about getting info 48 hours sooner.

    Though I’ll admit it’s pretty exciting stuff… and thank BD for a couple of up-close-and-personal sessions with the rig, so I do have blog fodder.


  29. Stretch October 6th, 2013 8:02 pm

    Heehee. I suspect we might see them down south before you northern hemisphere kin. Roll on southern winter 2014!

  30. Steve October 6th, 2013 8:28 pm

    Any word on battery life other than “4 deploys” in a warm environment vs. 1 to 2 in a cold environment? Any stated temperature ranges?

  31. JJ October 7th, 2013 1:31 am

    Those of you mentioning a Top loading and Splitboarding pack, I have been very happy with the ARVA zip-on for ABS Vario. As a snowboarder I appreciate the hinging separate airbags so I could potentially see sideways with much less blind spot, but it appears this could be more of a face forward pack too.

  32. Lou October 7th, 2013 6:41 am

    Nathan stated “One certain deploy at negative 30 centigrade (-22 F) , about 6 at room temperature.” My take is it’s got plenty of power, and in extreme cold the temperature could be easily insured with a few small chemical hand warmers and a bit of insulation. Nonetheless, lack of battery power in extreme cold could be a downside to this system. Perhaps if you ski a lot in a place where temps are super cold, the compressed gas type system will be better. Of course, testing the battery fan pack will be easy and we’ll know for sure about these issues as soon as the packs are out in the public.

  33. Jim December 15th, 2013 2:41 pm

    Lou, How do you attach an ice axe to the jetforce? Thanks.

  34. Lou Dawson December 15th, 2013 4:59 pm

    There are some attachments tucked into pockets, so the pack will look better in TGR videos.

    You might want to check out a more comprehensive Jetforce blog post:


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