Scott Alpride Airbag Backpack — Unboxed!


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 18, 2014      

Shop for Scott Alpride avalanche airbag pack.

We’ve been excitedly anticipating our review copy of the new Scott Alpride avalanche airbag backpack. Strengths: Below average weight for a balloon pack, nicely made, okay pricing, travel friendly, simple refill/renewal (buy another pair of blister packed cartridges).

Alpride 30 comes nicely packaged.  I could picture it under a Christmas tree.

Alpride 30 comes nicely packaged. I could picture it under a Christmas tree.

The fancy black box in Scott black on black branding colors.

The fancy box in Scott black-on-black branding colors. The smaller box to right is an extra set of cartridges for our testing sample.

Stock image, but it shows the pack well compared to what we can do here at the office.

Stock image, but it shows the pack well compared to what we can do here at the office. Click all images to enlarge.

Scott’s names for these packs are confusing. Near as I can tell from their website, our 30 liter tester is called the “Air Free Alpride 30 Kit Pack.” What I think that means is this is an “Air Free” 30 liter Scott backpack model with the Alpride System installed. Makes sense, as the balloon system can be user extracted from the pack in about 5 minutes, and swaps into other Scott packs in about ten minutes (perhaps faster once you get used to it.) In any case, we’ll call this the Alpride 30 and be done with the epistemology.

The cartridge set is what's most interesting. They're said to be the same thing used for inflatable PFDs or at least something like that.

The cartridge set is what’s most interesting. They’re said to be the same thing used for inflatable PFDs. One holds 60 grams carbon dioxide, the other contains 26 grams argon. Ever curious, I immediately asked the Great Goog for “60 gram CO2 cartridges, where I found a few for around $20. As for argon, it’s apparently used as a wine preservative and cartridges are available on the open market (though most appear to lack threads). The pair of Alpride cartridges have different threads to prevent inserting in the wrong port when you set up the airbag plumbing. The CO2 cartridge is 5/8 inch fine thread (standard for motorcycle airbags), while the argon is 1/2 inch fine. It’ll be interesting to see how available these cartridges are online. I’ll do some test shopping immediately.”

Airbag system sans pack.  It can be swapped from pack to pack in about 15 minutes.

Airbag system sans pack. It can be swapped from pack to pack in about 15 minutes.

The cartridges. CO2 cartridge is standard issue for inflatable PFDs.  Argon cartridge appears to be similar to those used in wine preservation systems.

The cartridges. CO2 cartridge is standard issue for inflatable PFDs. Argon cartridge appears to be similar to those used in wine preservation systems. We’re hoping aftermarket availability will help keep costs down. The pair of cartridges weighs 450 grams.

For many of you, weight is the airbag pack issue you’re hoping Alpride makes progress with. Following are the specs straight from our scales.

Total weight of pack with airbag system (including dual gas cartridges) is 103 ounces, 2922 grams. That’s still light for an airbag ruck, but more than the pre-production weight of 2.2 kilo (2100 grams) we raved about last winter when we fondled this pack during the Scott press event at St. Anton. I’m not certain where the cellulite grew, probably on the production pack which is a bit over-designed with extra layers of fabric and overall beef. Or, perhaps we were actually testing the Alpride 20, which is indeed lighter. In any case, while this is one of the lighter airbag backpacks, due to things like optional carbon cartridges it’s impossible to come up with a clear weight winner.

Weight of airbag system as removed from Alpride pack, with the dual cartridges: 44.7 ounces (2.8 pounds) 1266 grams

Weight of Alpride 30 pack without airbag parts and pieces 58 ounces (3.6 pounds) 1656 grams.

As comparo, my medium-light daily touring pack weighs 37 ounces (2.3 pounds), 1058 grams. That means for me, when I carry the Alpride I’m hauling an extra 21 ounces, 595 grams — regardless of the airbag plumbing. Better minds than mine are on this, but I can’t help wondering if airbag packs really need to be that heavy. To be fair, you do need more beef in an airbag pack because it’s anchoring the balloon. More, Alpride has a back protector sheet (non removable). So you do get something for hauling those 595 grams. But still…I’d rather simply carry 1.3 pounds less weight.

So, continuing the comparo and naming names. We verified BCA’s Float 32 pack model at 108 ounces, 3062 grams. There are other airbag systems in that same weight class. In that sense Alpride is really not all that light. It’s only going to save you a few ounces over the BCA, which offers a bit more volume for the added mass. On the other hand, about 5 ounces when combined with other weight saving measures is significant. You be the judge.

Wrinkle in this is I’m told Alpride could perhaps motor on one cylinder (you mod the guts with a block-off plug on the argon port). I’m told if you leave out the Argon it inflates slightly slower but adequately using only a CO2 cartridge. In that case, you’re saving 7 ounces, 205 grams — making the Alpride mass at 2,717 grams. Still significantly above the 2.1 kilo weight we crowed about last winter, but quite good.

(Theoretical notes regarding experimentations with one cartridge. First thing, you won’t get full CO2 volume to the airbag if the cartridge temperature is -5 degrees centigrade (23 degrees F) or below. Storing the unit indoors and insulating the cylinder along with a chemical heat pack would perhaps be the solution, albeit fiddly. You would configure by using a standard PFD 60 gram refill cartridge (1/2 inch thread) attached to the argon port, and block off the CO2 port with a plug. The plug would seal on the 0-ring in the threaded port socket and have have a hole in the center for the firing pin, otherwise the unit won’t fire and you would possibly damage the pin mechanism. )

In terms of weight mods, the trigger loader that comes attached to the pack with a string (see photo below) can be left at home; it weighs 20 grams. The helmet carrier is also removable and weighs 9 grams. We can see several obvious razor blade mods as well. We’ll test the pack in stock for for a while, then bring out the knife and see what the designers should have left on the cutting room floor instead of our shoulders.

In any case, Alpride is on the light side but not miraculous in terms of mass. So what could put this pack over the top for your shopping choice?

If you airline travel with your ski gear, you know that flying with an airbag backpack is a hassle. Enter Alpride. Scott says their system can airline travel by simply having the cartridges in their installed position with an available regulations document you print out and include for the inspectors to read (assuming they’re literate). Unfortunately, the Alpride user manual doesn’t totally clear up the travel issue. On page English-10 it gives conflicting instructions. First, it reads “…put your airbag backpack in your travel bag…check in your travel bag…,” then a few lines later it reads “put…your cartridge, activation handle and backpack in your carry-on luggage.” Something is off, hopefully Scott will correct — I’m planning on taking this thing to Europe!

Manual has clear directions for airbag use, but lacks clarity for airline travel configuration.

Manual has clear directions for airbag use, but lacks clarity for airline travel configuration.

Alpride 30 at WildSnow HQ.

Alpride 30 at WildSnow HQ. Note the helmet carrier, ice tool loop, etcetera. All the standard stuff is there, and nicely done.

Beyond saving a few ounces and easier travel, my favorite thing about Alpride is how nicely it’s made. Nothing seems to have escaped the brains of Scott’s industrial designers. An elegant system for diagonal ski carry utilizes a simple cable loop and upper strap. The interior green color is odd at first glance, but bright, making it easy to find things inside your pack when it’s closed up. Yes, Alpride is a panel loader. Groan. But I’ll live with it (and admit that panel loaders might be better as airbag packs due to how the airbag needs to mount). The buckles are beautiful aluminum creations. A gear loop is present on the right hipbelt, accessory pocket on the left. Hydration sleeve is included in right shoulder strap. Back frame is said to be a spine protector.

The business side.

The business side.

Panel loader, opened. While I like panel loaders about as much as I like Vladimir Putin, the interior color is nice for visibility as compared to a black pack interior.

Panel loader, opened. While I like panel loaders about as much as I like Vladimir Putin, the interior color is nice for visibility as compared to a black pack interior.

I think I saw a Scott employee in Europe using this waist belt buckle for on his dress up belt. It's that nice.

I think I saw a Scott employee in Europe using this waist belt buckle for his dress up belt. It’s that nice, and reasonably easy to operate.

Sternum strap buckle is of equal aesthetics, and obviously quite strong.

Sternum strap buckle is of equal aesthetics, and obviously quite strong. Since airbag packs are designed to stay on no matter what — even if you’re hanging in a tree or crevasse getting strangled, so be sure to use your crotch strap most of the time to keep the pack safely where it belongs no matter where you end up.

Trigger handle looks "factory."

Trigger handle looks “factory,” stows nicely in the shoulder strap and threads out through a hole in the backboard for removal of the airbag system.

Removable balloon is anchored to pack with these aluminum keyhole tabs. They're difficult to remove; I had to use pliers, but they do come out.

Removable balloon is anchored to pack with these aluminum keyhole tabs. They’re difficult to remove; I had to use pliers, but they do come out.

Main plumbing. The orange anodized aluminum unit is the cartridge mount and spring loaded trigger.  Black plastic to left is the venturi that uses power from compressed gas to such extra air in for more fill volume.

Main plumbing. The orange anodized aluminum unit is the cartridge mount and spring loaded trigger. Black plastic to left is the venturi that uses power from compressed gas to such extra air in for more fill volume.

Venturi etc. with cartridges attached.

Venturi etc. with cartridges attached.

Deflated balloon removed from backpack. One wonders if an aftermarket superlight balloon could be made from Dyneema type fabric.

Deflated balloon removed from backpack. One wonders if an aftermarket superlight balloon could be made from Dyneema type fabric.

Removing the airbag system from pack requires pulling the airbag through a fairly small hole, but it does come out. Reversing the procedure is a bit tedious and could be improved.

Removing the airbag system from pack requires pulling the airbag through a fairly small hole, but it does come out. Reversing the procedure is a bit tedious and could be improved. Most users will probably never need to remove the system, but I like the concept of owning a lighter/smaller backpack for easy days and swapping the plumbing between packs.

Alpride trigger system is a spring loaded firing pin configuration that punctures the cartridges when you pull the trigger handle.  You cock the trigger by screwing in this simple threaded loader. The loader is attached to the pack and weighs 20 grams.  It apparently can be left at home if you're not planning on renewing cartridges in the field.

Alpride trigger system is a spring loaded firing pin configuration that punctures the cartridges when you pull the trigger handle. You cock the trigger by screwing in this simple threaded loader. The loader is attached to the pack and weighs 20 grams. It apparently can be left at home if you’re not planning on renewing cartridges in the field.

Check out Alpride on the Scott Website.

I larded in the following PR video, and despite the Euro-techno flavor, it does inform.

Shop for Scott Alpride avalanche airbag pack.



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Comments

27 Responses to “Scott Alpride Airbag Backpack — Unboxed!”

  1. Zeaphod November 18th, 2014 8:42 am

    Why 2 different gases?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 8:53 am

    The CO2 provides volume but isn’t very fast (it basically has to evaporate out of the small cartridge), the argon provides more speed. That’s why it still works without the argon, only slower. The idea is the pack can air travel as they’re typical cylinders for the same PFDs used on airplanes and boats, more, the combined gases might result in the need for slightly less cylinder volume and weight than other packs, though it’s all difficult to compare.

  3. Greg November 18th, 2014 9:08 am

    Lighter molecules move faster than heavier molecules at the same temperature. Argon (mass 40) is lighter than CO2 (mass 44) so it will move faster through the inflation device. That’s my theory.

  4. OliC November 18th, 2014 9:14 am

    How is the storage capacity within everything in?
    On a big glacial ski tour I almost always fill my BD 32litre pack. (Maybe i take too much gear, but this is the gear i feel comfortable with so i need a bag this size.)

    I’m looking at the Alpride 40 as with almost all packs, regardless of brand they can be listed as 30 litre but with the airbag stuff inside the capacity goes down.

    Is this 30litre small?

  5. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 9:18 am

    Oli, in my opinion I’d call it “30 liter small,” I’d get the 40 for glacier travel unless you’re going ultra lean. Lou

  6. Mark Worley November 18th, 2014 11:18 am

    Dayglo interior is minor detail that yields major kudos. Nice design, but the black is bland.

  7. Hacksaw November 18th, 2014 11:45 am

    So, I guess in the video each guy called the avalanche centerforecast first before they packed up for the day……

  8. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 3:09 pm

    I just got word about the different gasses from the airbag designer. “We are using the Argon because it’s not liquefied and much faster at very low temperature, as the molecule of Argon are fast and large, the venturi effect is better than with N2. In summary C02 for volume and Ar for speed.”

  9. Kristian November 18th, 2014 7:24 pm

    Climbing and skiing steep couloirs – is carrying an ice ax on an air pack reasonable? With protectors? Or are they mostly mutually exclusive?

  10. alex November 19th, 2014 4:44 am

    I just purchased and used for few times a new Scott Alpride 30L.
    I’m happy with the backpack and all its features, it carries very well and it’s roomy enough for a full equipment (including boot crampons, ski crampons and one ice axe), it also carries very well the skis, but I’m really surprised about the poor quality of the manifacturing, and I can’t believe that they actually used local zippers without any autolock system, instead of good quality and reliable ones like Ykk autolock. After the first use, trying to close the backpack filled with all the equipment, the zippers are already damaged because of the low chain crosswise strenght , and even worst, not having the autolock system, due to the low slider lock strenght, they opened while skiing down, letting some stuff get out of the backpack (fortunately just a glove).
    considering that we are talking about an expensive safety related article, it kinda piss me off…
    Moreover the pack was advertised as 2.1 kilos….and it weights more than 2.8k….that’s generally called ” deceptive advertising”

  11. Eric November 19th, 2014 2:36 pm

    If I’m checking the Scott website, I can see:

    30L AIR FREE, weight approx 2800g and not 2100g

    The 20L AIR MNT is announced at 2100g not the 30L !

    Alex are you sure you are not mixing advertising ? 🙂

  12. Lou Dawson 2 November 19th, 2014 3:01 pm

    The weights on the website are pretty close. Alex might be thinking of the weight we gleaned last winter at press event, where we might have been confused by weight with/without cartridges as well as the 20 L vs 30 L. Sigh.

    It’s nice Scott sent over a tester so we can publish real world weight of the 30 liter, with cartridges, 2,922 grams. I’ll keep checking as I calibrate scales and such, but I’m sure that’s within a few grams. Also remember that anything manufactured this complex is not going to be the exact same weight for each unit.

    Lou

  13. alex November 20th, 2014 9:01 am
  14. Eric November 20th, 2014 11:11 am
  15. Gtrantow November 20th, 2014 4:07 pm

    I wonder if Lou will modify this bag and insert it into a superlight pack?
    Baiting you Lou.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 November 20th, 2014 4:54 pm

    Bait taken. I still think the key is build in a webbing harness system that holds the airbag to the body, then the pack can be tissue paper or whatever. It would all be integrated of course, but the pack would be a sacrifice zone. What’s weird about some of these packs is the pack fabric is actually stronger than the airbag fabric, that is poor industrial design in my opinion, as what’s the point of a ballistic fabric pack if the airbag is half that strength? Lou

  17. alex November 21st, 2014 12:07 am

    Lou, I totally agree with you.
    in particular on this pack the external fabric and the liners are way too bulky, stiff, heavy…..and cheap…..sigh!
    I bet they could have saved half a kilo only using a lighter, yet strong, cordura nylon, or using strong plastic buckles against those silly metal ones, wich are an a hassle to close with gloves on.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 November 21st, 2014 4:52 am

    Alex, the buckles have to be extra strong as they’re a safety device, they probably need to be as they are. But yeah, it appears these backpacks could be significantly lighter weight and still do the job. They’ve gotten much better across the industry, but for some reason it’s really hard for the designers to make the mental leap to a simpler lighter backpack, though this has been a trend and kudos to everyone from ABS to BCA who have shed ounces over the last few years. Remember about three years ago? Many of the packs were simply weird in terms of design. They’ve all gotten so much better. The only way the gas tank packs can compete with BD Jetforce is by weight, so they’ve better keep getting their act together or they’ll go the way of the dodo. Lou

  19. Dirk December 27th, 2014 8:54 am

    Has anyone flown with the cylinders yet? Are they allowed either within carry-on luggage or checked baggage?

  20. Lou Dawson 2 December 27th, 2014 9:04 am

    Definitely allowed in checked baggage in Europe, totally vague and conflicting info for North America. Annoying.

  21. Jeremy December 27th, 2014 10:47 am

    I know one dealer that won’t sell the Alpride, because technically it does not comply with the IATA regulations in Europe.

    The IATA 2.3A regulation contains the following:

    Avalanche rescue backpack, one (1) per person, containing a cylinder of compressed gas in Div. 2.2. May also be equipped with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism containing less than 200 mg net of Div. 1.4S. The backpack must be packed in such a manner that it cannot be accidentally activated. The airbags within the backpacks must be fitted with pressure relief valves.

    The regulation was negotiated by ABS which of course match it perfectly. But it also allows the other single cylinder packs (Mammut, BCA, older Scott etc). Since the standard Alpride requires 2 cylinders, it is not technically compliant.

    Checked baggage it always the safest option, since you are dealing with the Airline, who should be aware of the regulations. Carry on is purely at the discretion of the security checking staff and what sort of day they have been having.

  22. Dave - Tahoe Mtn October 19th, 2015 5:08 pm

    Hi Lou and others-
    These awesome Scott Airbag packs have now landed in North American and are available with Haz Mat shipping options. You can check them out here or Lou can set an affiliate link if you prefer: http://www.tahoemountainsports.com/product/scott-air-mtn-ap-40-kit-avalanche-airbag-pack/scott

  23. Dave November 10th, 2015 8:44 am

    Has anyone flown with these more than once or twice? I am very familiar with flying with my airbag cartridges, and I know with 100% certainty that even though the US is a member of IATA, we do not adhere to their guidelines so saying it’s IATA compatible means nothing. TSA is also notoriously unpredictable with other cartridges, their own website and literature says one thing, and sometimes you go through security without a second look, and other times you get your cartridge confiscated even though you have followed their instructions to the letter AND included iata and their own web info with them! I’m not holding my breath but it would be interesting to get a definitive answer on this.

  24. Dirk November 10th, 2015 8:56 am

    Dave- I’ve flown with my Alpride twice and both times I arrived on the other end with the cartridges still intact. Once I flew DEN to Spokane for a trip to Revelstoke and my other trip was DEN to Geneva for a hut trip. I couldn’t have been happier to show open up my bag to see nothing had been taken. Note I did exactly as Scott recommends which was to print out the regulations (found here http://scottdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/pages/AvalanchePack/iata-rules-2015-EN.pdf ) and put it right on top of the cartridges inside the bag. So far so good.

  25. Brett webster November 21st, 2016 1:39 pm

    Anyone know how to get hold of the resetting key . Mine bag has come without one ?

  26. Quesobol January 25th, 2017 3:16 am

    Hello. I have just purchased a Scott Alpride AMD and in the user manual indicates to deploy the airbag at least once a year. Have you made it, Lou?

  27. Lou Dawson 2 January 25th, 2017 8:02 am

    Quesobol, I’d follow that advice. We have one Alpride in frequent play and we did do a test deploy recently. I’ve got another one here as well that’s larger and doesn’t get used as much, if I break it out I’ll probably do a test deploy of it as well. Lou

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