RECALL — Black Diamond (& Pieps, POC) JetForce Avalanche Airbag Backpacks

Post by blogger | July 9, 2015      

Check out all our previous JetForce coverage.

Skiing with Black Diamond Jetforce airbag pack.

Ski touring with Black Diamond JetForce airbag pack.

We are huge fans of the fan, meaning the JetForce airbag backpack technology by Black Diamond. While we do gripe about the weight of batteries and fans, the concept of a ski touring avalanche safety airbag that doesn’t use compressed gas is so attractive we nearly swoon when we experience these technological marvels.

The idea of a fan balloon is simple, but the execution requires firmware and electronic logic. Such can be prone to glitches. It’s thus not a surprise that BD (along with Pieps & POC) are recalling their first batch of retail fan packs for a software update. This doesn’t sound like anything major (potentially serious but no injuries or deaths caused by the problem; less than 2,000 packs were sold) and the recall process is claimed to be relatively painless.

A few words about product recalls. We like them. Kudos to any company that discovers a defect in a product and instead of trying to whisper about it and hope it goes away, puts it out there in partnership with the Consumer Products Safety Commission and deals with it openly and effectively. Refreshing. Thus, BD has been diligent in doing bona fide recalls for products they discover to be problematic. A good example is the recent recall of stainless steel Whippet ski poles. Other companies have been doing a good job with this as well, a relevant example being BCA. Recalls are not the easiest thing in the world to deal with — and expensive — but why pussy foot around with products people depend on for personal safety? Just work with the CPSC and get the job done. Thanks BD and others who take this route.

Black Diamond of course has a full JetForce backpack recall information push on their website for this, so no need to duplicate content in this blog post. But here is the jist with some opinion and backstory:

Again, the problem is serious, yet rare and has NOT resulted in any injuries or worse. Simply put, certain system malfunctions have resulted in either a shutdown of the pack’s electronic systems, and/or a failure to deploy. Thus, anyone with a first-gen retail JetForce should send it in (BD website has info for identifying your product).

According to the Black Diamond JetForce Recall FAQ:

“Two product defects … The first is a loss of synchronization between motor control and the electric fan motor, which creates a system error that shuts down the fan motor. This can result in the failure of the system to deploy when the handle is pulled. The second defect is very high-voltage electrostatic discharge, which resets the system to the ‘off’ position… Self diagnosis is not possible; the firmware analysis and update needs to be completed by Black Diamond…”

This morning I spoke with Jeff Nash (VP Engineering Support) at BD. Had an interesting convo with specifics about the JetForce electrostatic discharge issue. He said it was quite tough to recreate as the circumstances are rare due to the JetForce system already conforming to CE and other standards that require resistance to high voltage static. An example of a situation that would create high voltage static would be touching an ungrounded helicopter with a static charge. Jeff said the solution was to double the JetForce voltage resistance as well as rewriting the firmware so in the now uber-rare event a static discharge does shut the system down, it would simply reboot and turn back on. My impression is that after the update, the possibility of static momentarily shutting off your pack will be about as likely as a lightning strike. As to the nuts-and-bolts of updating the pack, Jeff said a future goal is indeed to have user updateable firmware, but the JetForce system does not presently have that feature. The process BD is using to update the packs involves opening the electronics case and physically swapping in some updated componentry that upgrades the pack to “fall 2015 level.”

To repeat, the solution is a firmware update that’ll require shipping the pack to Black Diamond. Here at HQ we have sympathy for JetForce owners having to hassle with this. But look at the bright side. Black Diamond is acting on this with an effective fix and reasonable turnaround time (officially said to be 10 days but word on the street is turnaround could be much faster than that). More, keep in mind that these defects are rare and have caused no injuries or deaths. So send your pack in with a knock on wood, and enjoy next winter knowing the tech guys at Black Diamond have your back.

July 7, 2015 Letter from Black Diamond, condensed:

To the winter backcountry community,

Today, we’re announcing a voluntary recall for all first generation JetForce avalanche airbags sold by Black Diamond®, PIEPS and POC.

We are all deeply committed to the safety of our users… While there have been no accidents involving any JetForce Technology packs, our commitment to our users’ safety leads us to issue this recall to make the required firmware update on all packs… On behalf of all of us at Black Diamond, PIEPS and POC, I’d like to thank… early adopters of JetForce for their patience as we bring this revolutionary technology to market. We are committed to making these updates, returning your pack to you swiftly…

Most Sincerely, Black Diamond Inc.

Peter Metcalf CEO/President/Founder

For those readers who enjoy the details, here is the CPSC official JetForce recall info.

Check out all our previous JetForce coverage.

Shop for JetForce avalanche airbag balloon rucksack.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


42 Responses to “RECALL — Black Diamond (& Pieps, POC) JetForce Avalanche Airbag Backpacks”

  1. Rudi July 9th, 2015 12:20 pm

    I am confused why this is the wave of the future in airbag packs. Is it because it can be taken on airplane or because it has the ability to be used multiple times per day? I guess im saying that this is currently an expensive, heavy and complex solution versus the compressed gas version which is cheaper, lighter and simple. So why are these things so great? Why would i want something more complex with moving parts and batteries when I could have a near passive system with compressed gas? I am honestly just confused. Taken on airplane seems relatively minor, and if you are being caught multiple times per day in an avalanche well…come on now, you probably shouldn’t be BC skiing.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 July 9th, 2015 12:37 pm

    Rudi, in my opinion they’re the future for a variety of reasons I’ve opinionated on in a bunch of blog posts. But not ever needing a refill is key, as it turns out that practicing deployment and getting in the habit of it is important for a certain percentage of users, and air travel is an issue for another sub-set of users.

    As for gas, it is totally not a passive system. The combination of seals, venturi valves and actuators is actually quite complex and also prone to problems.

    The multiple times per day issue is actually somewhat important beyond the practice idea, as there is indeed a hesitation factor for deploying a gas airbag due to the hassle of recharge, with fan tech you can just fire it at the slightest doubt.

    All this is not saying we are bummed with the gas systems. When done well they are excellent, and we use them because the better/lighter models are indeed lighter than the battery systems. But I’m looking to the future.

    And sure, I could be totally wrong on my take.


  3. dave July 9th, 2015 1:09 pm

    I say air travel is a huge issue. I live in NY and thus always have to fly. I woudl say half the time I am able to rent a canister at the destination, and it’s a major pain. The other half it’s not even possible, be it because there is simply no rental station (e.g. Silverton) or there is one, but I arrive too late and want to start touring before the shops open. I am not a big fan of the weight of the JF and the form factor (I use a Mammut snowpulse, seems a much better bag). So I was hoping for the Arcteryx bag. But 100% agree, for a lot of people this is the solution simply because of the air travel issue.

    PS: Lou, any news on the Arcteryx? I haven’t heard anything since you spotted it at the ISPO. Seems like pushed back another year?

  4. Jeremy C July 9th, 2015 1:44 pm

    Good to see a full recall, after the ‘partial’ recalls from other manufacturers of last season.

    @Dave, I heard from a local Guide I was skiing with in Whistler that Arcteryx had pulled their AIrbag project, but that is purely anecdotal.

    For me, the testing is the biggest ability is the biggest factor with the electric bags followed by air travel. My ABS bag failed to inflate fully when testing due to an incorrect fold when packing. It was only one fold out, but it stopped the initial fast inflation phase. I believe all the airbags, other than the JetForce need very specific folding, where as the JetForce is just a stuff it in the bag exercise. Once you have had one failure, the first thing you want to do is test your next re-pack, and then another time just to make sure, which at $30-$50 a time starts getting expensive.

    I have stuck with my ABS because I don’t like the sack design of the JetForce, rather than the technology. I want a bag that can be used for Heli/Cat skiing, or day/overnight tours, and the JetForce bags are all fixed size, non-swappable with no compression straps.

  5. Eric July 9th, 2015 2:11 pm

    One thing I’ve not heard anyone mention is battery longevity. I’m currently typing this on a laptop that won’t hold a charge for more than an hour. When new, it would hold a charge for 4-5 hours. The only way to tell is to use it and discover its not working as long as it used to.

    What will happen to these batteries in a few years? I suspect they’ll not hold charges as well as they used to when new. How will you know? I guess you’d have to leave the pack out in the cold for a while and then time how long it takes to fill the bag and see if it’s within specs. Cold weather is a tough environment for batteries. Perhaps that’s why they are so heavy, the batteries are designed to be much larger so that they’ll still inflate the bags even after a few years?

  6. Lou Dawson 2 July 9th, 2015 2:45 pm

    Jeremy, am glad you see the positive side to this. I’d like to see our kudos to BD inspire other companies to be more open about product problems, especially with gear that has a personal safety aspect. Lou

  7. Lou Dawson 2 July 9th, 2015 2:53 pm

    Eric, all lithium-ion batteries have a life span — they even lose life if kept on shelf (refrigeration mitigates that effect, but it happens to one degree or another no matter what). Unfortunately battery life span is unpredictable due to all sorts of things that influence it. From past experience with many lithium-ion batteries, I’m sure the BD battery is good for at least several years, and I’d imagine the JetForce electronics will tell you if the battery has gotten to the point that it can’t perform.

  8. Clyde July 9th, 2015 4:05 pm

    Hate to say “I told you so,” but on December 4th, 2014 I wrote “Waiting for the BD Jetforce recall announcement in 3, 2, 1….”

    This was inevitable. But on the bright side, BD has more experience than any other company in the outdoor industry with handling recalls.

  9. Rob July 9th, 2015 4:26 pm

    Kudos to BD for doing the full recall unlike Mammut/Snowpulse after their issues with the trigger mechanism detaching from venturi valve. If you hadn’t stumble upon a small bulletin notice on their website by accident, you wouldn’t even know that you need the venturi clip to avoid airbag inflation failure. I was one of the people who didn’t get the memo and my Snowpulse Lifebag failed me so I had to learn about the venturi clip the hard way. I have to add that Mammut fixed the problem for me and performed safety check on my bag for free but not before a couple of angry phone calls were exchanged (they wanted to charge me 100 eur for this at first). Anyway, this whole experience unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m looking forward to this new technology because like someone above said constant testing/inflating to make sure your system works gets expensive. I’m sure most owners never test their packs. Almost every ad for 2nd hand airbag being sold I’ve seen was accompanied by a “never been inflated” note. As if that is a good thing.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 July 9th, 2015 5:32 pm

    Clyde, you indeed called it… stop by and leave a comment more often!

  11. PQ July 10th, 2015 1:21 am

    @Jeremy: People I know who are involved with testing say that ArcTeryx is still moving ahead with their fan balloon pack. The project definitely hasn’t been shelved. We occasionally see prototypes around in southwest BC. DeadBird just want to get it right before they release it. It sounds like it is likely another year away though (??), definitely not this coming autumn for the general public.

  12. gringo July 10th, 2015 6:07 am

    ….”I’m sure the BD battery is good for at least several years, and I’d imagine the JetForce electronics will tell you”….

    well Lou, I am not sure if I would be so nonchalant in my hopes and assumptions when dealing with a product thats sole use is to keep you alive when the shit hits the fan.

    skier 1: ”what do you think? Terrain: red light. stability yellow light. Jet Force Super life saving fan… ‘I imagine it’s green light.”

    skier 2: ”dropping!”

    I love your site, but with as many people as you have taking your word and feelings as gospel, I wish you’d be a bit more thorough in your approach. Why don’t you ask BD about what happens when the battery dies, and post that, instead of an assumption?

    In the meantime, I’ll be rocking my, post-recall / reworked ABS and wondering why so many people think it’s so damn tough to fly with ABS when all it takes is about 15-20 minutes of e.mailing.

    cheers suckas! 🙂

  13. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 6:47 am

    Gringo, you are correct, any person writing about this stuff should get the facts when they can. Only problem is a person only has so much time in a day. I’ll do my best, and ask about battery lifespan next time I talk to those guys. Lou

  14. Pablo July 10th, 2015 7:07 am

    As far as I know, Jetforce electronics check battery and fan function just before the system tells you: “I’m armed and ready to go”

    If battery malfunctions or just doesn’t have the needed charge to deploy the bag, the system just don’t get armed and indicates it on the triger indicators.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 7:16 am

    That’s what I was alluding to. I can say for a fact that the electronic pre-checks are extensive. I just don’t know to what degree the electronics can really check for battery capacity ergo reduced lifespan due to age. Best way to check for that is probably to simply once a year do multiple deployments at a standardized temperature (room temp). Simple, solid method that’s used with nearly any electronic device. For example, as mentioned above, best way to see how your laptop computer battery is doing is just use it and see what happens. Again, that’s the beauty of the fan pack, it doesn’t have to be mysterious, just turn it on!

  16. Jeremy C July 10th, 2015 7:19 am

    @PQ, That is very good news. The Guide I spoke to wears their airbag every day as a Heli-Ski guide, so I had no reason to doubt them. As I said it was anecdotal.

    There definitely needs to be more than one fan Airbag on the market to drive innovation. If for example Arcteryx undercut the Jetforce by 500gm, then you can be sure the following years BD model will be lighter.

    This is exactly what happened with ABS, they gave little innovation for years, then as soon as the ‘lighter’ packs came out, they knocked a little weight off.

  17. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 7:25 am

    Jeremy, indeed, we know for a fact that one of the biggest drivers of shopping selection when it comes to airbag packs is weight, but the JetForce developers don’t seem to be too concerned with such (though I’m sure they’d argue differently, as they probably worked their behinds off to make the thing as light as they felt they could). I base my opinion on the simple fact that the battery could be smaller and lighter, and offer only two or so deployments, and instead the massive battery was put to retail. More, I have a suspicion that BD actually developed a smaller battery, and it’s being used in the field. Lou

  18. Jed July 10th, 2015 7:52 am

    A recall notice for bleeding edge safety gear is not a cause for celebration – its an acknowledgement that the manufacturer did a rush job. There is a structural problem when when the company you rely on for safety gear is primarily driven by its interest in cross-selling jackets and t-shirts.

    Every time WildSnow posts about BD safety equipment there should be a giant and very explicit caveat notice that BD accepts or has accepted money and/or merchandise from this company.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 8:15 am

    Jed, I think you mean that _WildSnow_ accepts or has accepted advertising money and/or merchandise from BD? Indeed, yes, though in the case of gear we don’t exactly have a warehouse of it, most is loaner and I actually work constantly on going with mostly loaner gear, though sometimes that’s impractical due to return shipping costs and the simple fact that sometimes we wear out the gear.

    As for celebration, the bubbly remains corked.

    Let me be clear. As an industry insider I hear about a lot of possible product defects that do NOT get an official recall. It’s difficult for me to blog about these things if I don’t experience them myself. When an official recall happens, then the blog happens with all guns firing and we shout out to the world about the defect and, hopefully, the fix. It’s actually the opposite situation as to what you seem to be alluding to or imagining. In other words, we again give kudos to any company that “comes out” with product defects in an official recall. Whether we sell advertising to that company or use their products is a non issue in this.

    As for the overall culture of recalls, there are literally thousands with many being safety related products. Automobile airbags come to mind. That doesn’t make it right, but this situation has become so common that singling out BD as some sort of baddie just doesn’t fly. If I wanted to crucify a company for safety related recalls, I think I’d start with someone where the defect in question actually caused death or injury, perhaps starting with automobiles.

    As for “rush job,” that’s ridiculous. The amount of money and time that went into this bleeding edge product is excessive. Just the work on conforming to the CE standard alone was practically a career for the engineering team.


  20. nik July 10th, 2015 9:12 am


    I am amazed the industry is pushing for these electronic safety devices. I currently work in the Power Generation/Transmission industry and every piece of equipment with has mechanically operated safety devices to prevent injury and death.

    Mechanical Operation as a last line of defense is standard!! This holds true from 12kV all the way up to 500kV+ operating systems. Heck, even the nuclear power-plants have mechanical backups. Electronics tend to fail at the worst of times, and as I have installed more microprocessor control systems(some brilliant “engineer” doesn’t think we need a mechanical backups) we have seen more serious accidents/damage that were caused by electronic systems failure.

    A pressurized tank with a release valve/puncture plate will ALWAYS operate at a better success rate than an electronic system! A 100% electronic/processor based system is a sure way to get someone injured or killed unnecessarily!

  21. Frame July 10th, 2015 9:24 am

    If you think it might slide, don’t ski it, fancy back pack or not. It would be one big old pack with electronic and mechanical back up.

    Doesn’t appear that you hated to say…

    Good on BD for coming up with the fan pack and I have my eye on a pair of their soft shell ski trousers.

  22. dave July 10th, 2015 9:38 am


    I think the question is not whether an electric/electronic system is superior/inferior to a mechanic system when it comes to how good it functions. If we assume that both system are reasonably reliable at this point it comes down to other things. The fact that I can take a battery pack into an airplane and have it everywhere I go vs a pack that 50% of the time I won’t find a canister to rent, I go with the battery pack. If I just throw my bag in the car and drive I would probably still go with a canister pack at the moment, simply because they are lighter (and frankly the BD pack itself doesn’t convince me, it’s bulky, heavy and has no straps. Not a good bag)

  23. nik July 10th, 2015 9:42 am


    Definitely, you are correct to not ski it if an unacceptable chance of slide is present.

    But, these systems are here as a last line of defense, and what could be worse than having one of your last safety lines fail because the Ski Industry sold you a device it knew was not as safe. If the designers are unaware that these systems are not as safe, than they are a stupid/ignorant.

    The point I am trying to make, is that the sales people in the store are pushing these items(a sales rep was trying to sell me one less than a month ago) and claiming they were just as safe, effective, reliable. The people on the sales room floor have no idea, they are service industry employees with no clue about safety systems. This incorrect information is then passed onto consumers who are also unaware of a real safety system designs and unknowingly purchase a less reliable product thinking they are getting the equivalent or better.

    Don’t have electronic with a mechanical backup, just go 100% mechanical from the beginning!

    I can see this argument getting sidetracked on beacons being electronic, so i will head that off right now. An all mechanical beacon/transmitter alternative does not exist, so we are stuck with electronics!

  24. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 9:44 am

    Nik, interesting point. I’ve always wondered if they could just have an on/off switch for the fan, and a pressure relief valve. No micro logic or circuit boards other than the charging system. Would be fun to build that in the mod shop. Lou

  25. Frame July 10th, 2015 9:51 am

    Nik, point taken, thanks for the addition of your shop floor experience.

  26. Rudi July 10th, 2015 10:13 am

    For a safety device that must work 100% of the time. I think its unwise to move to electronics, fans and batteries from a compressed gas solution. The tanks can be taken on airplanes and the idea that i would hesitate to pull over $20 refill cost is not reasonable.I am sure these are safe and effective bags, but I simply think there are better solutions.
    Lastly I feel the need to stand up to my engineering brothers at BD and say that the idea that a recall is indicative of a rush job is complete non sense. I design life support ventilators for a way larger and better funded company (batteries, fans, electronics) and we too have recalls. Its not because we cut corners it’s because we care about safety. It’s integrity not bad engineering.

  27. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 12:01 pm

    IMHO, the debate between electronics and mechanics reminds me of the mythology surrounding plastic vs metal. Next time you fly in the latest passenger jet, remember your life depends on electronics and plenty of plastic. It’s about using what works, engineered correctly. Trying to categorize in ways such as electronics vs compressed gas is over simplification. If you follow the logic trail, you’d be using an avalanche cord instead of an electronic beacon. Compressed gas airbags have plenty of problems as well. I know one guy who stepped of the jet, had the gas fill done, went to a remote location, and discovered the fill was done incorrectly and leaked out. He did most of his trip without a functional airbag. I can come up with dozens of stories. Lou

  28. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 12:05 pm

    Another thing, spring loaded balloon packs, entirely mechanical, are a real possibility. I think an avalanche balloon with carbon fiber springs and compressed foam might be seen within 4 years. Could be the cheap/simple/reliable solution cutting past all this incredibly complex stuff… Lou

  29. Matt Franzek July 10th, 2015 12:06 pm


    As someone who is new, in the past few years, to back country skiing, your blog has been a wealth of knowledge.

    Thanks for getting press releases out, like this one for the recall.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 12:09 pm

    Thanks Matt, its all in imperfect science but we try. Lou

  31. Clyde July 10th, 2015 1:36 pm

    A lot of the problem with testing is all the companies use the wrong people. While guides and sponsored athletes use gear a lot, they don’t really abuse it. New products fail once they hit the consumers who actually beat the hell out of the gear with sloppy technique, power instead of finesse, and using stuff improperly. BD has had so many failures over the years largely because of inadequate real-world testing–I learned long ago to never trust my life with a first year product from them.

    Lou, I see you’re coming around to my thinking on expanding upon the Lawison/K2 Avy Ball concept. Unfortunately, I don’t see any companies around with the interest and brains to develop it. Probably would have to be a Kickstarter from some fresh blood just out of MIT instead of an old guard pack or ski company. The right design could upend the industry…and that would be a good thing.

  32. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2015 2:40 pm

    Hi Clyde, I’ve always fantasized that the Avy Ball concept could work as an airbag backpack balloon. I can’t help but opinionated that the present airbag backpack environment is overall overly complex, expensive, heavy — and yes prone to glitches. Heck, all we’re trying to do here is increase our personal volume by at most 170 liters. Could be done by skiing around with a contractor grade garbage bag full of foam chips. Really.

    I’ll of course be the first one to acknowledge that when a product can be more expensive, there is more potential for profit margin, so perhaps that’s part of what has organically driven us to where we’re at now with complex compressed gas and roaring fans. We ski on springs, drive on springs, why not have a balloon that expands with springs?

  33. Darren Jakal July 11th, 2015 11:28 am

    I find it useful to remember that most avalanche deaths around here (western Canada) are due to trauma. Safety is about choices, decisions and behaviour.

    No matter how much you spend and spew about purchasing PROTECTION

    (airbags MAY protect you from burial, a helmet MAY protect your head when you run into a tree)

    safety cannot be bought. If you want to be safe stay home.

  34. Jim Milstein July 11th, 2015 12:59 pm

    Could not agree more, Darren. I suspect airbags are at best a wash for avalanche safety, when you balance the surplus boldness they induce against all the ways an avalanche can hurt a skier without burial. And, as you say, an airbag is no guarantee against burial.

    Allowing for individual variation, skiers on average may be safer without beacons and airbags because it’s then clearer that good judgment is their best hope. I have long suspected that I’m as safe or safer when skiing solo for similar reasons: I am not likely to be swayed into foolish risk by my competitive tendencies or those of my fellow skiers. Of course, there are several excellent reasons to ski with companions other than safety.

  35. PQ July 11th, 2015 8:27 pm

    Those suggesting the compressed gas packs have great reliability [compared to fan packs – which don’t really have any stats available yet as far as I’ve heard] should check out the actual stats on release failures… They are surprisingly high for the compressed gas packs.

    The reliability standards that must legally be met by the fan packs are far higher than the gas packs (they fall into a different regulatory regime). That doesn’t ensure that they are better, and they would obviously have different failure modes, but my point is that neither solution is perfect – there is work to be done on reliability on all fronts (including the compressed gas packs). It would be wise to do a bit of research into all the potential issues of what you own – if you decide it is worth it to you to buy any type of balloon pack.

  36. Matt Kinney July 12th, 2015 6:01 pm

    jed,,,lou is about as unbiased as it gets (except dynafit and who can blame him!), despite the huge volume of gear he tests from all sorts of of manufacturers of outdoor gear and probably some real junk at times that never makes it on willdsnow. Plus his site includes other people’s review and I don’t see issues there at all. We should all be so lucky! What do you do with that mountainous pile of stuff anyway lou?!

    I’m all in on this technology and hope to purchase my first Jet Force this fall, despite the recall, as expected as it was. It’s why I tempered my excitement and waited a year. I recall a plethora of beacons over the years being recalled, so this nothing new as we search for the holy grail of avalanche survival.

  37. ptor July 13th, 2015 12:29 am

    I had a client that had to disconnect the battery on his Jetforce to turn it back on/activate it several times during the week. He was distressed.

    Just a side note, it is amazing how some people get ‘programmed’ by this ‘safety comfort’ thing of airbag packs… a psychosis which is usually highlighted when they forget it/it’s been deployed accidentally and not refilled/malfunctioning and then pretty much don’t want to ski anymore if they don’t have it available despite any lack of corresponding urgency of need based on actual conditions. I’ve even heard ‘don’t tell my wife I’m skiing without my airbag!’

  38. Wookie July 13th, 2015 6:51 am

    A huge discussion. Is it great that BD is doing a proper recall? Yes. Is it a testament to BDs commitment to quality? No. And is it OK because everybody else is doing it? Most certainly not.
    There are so many interesting avenues for research:

    – if this keeps happening, as it has been happening, then it is only a matter of time before an outside agency steps in to regulate these products. I tend to agree with Lou that this generally stifles innovation, and isn’t good for the consumer in the long run – so I’d like manufacturers of this type of equipment to self-regulate more. A recall is good – but second-half sucking up shouldn’t be held up as an achievement.

    – Is anybody looking to see if these recalls are affecting sales? I see (semi-) proven, reliable technology gathering dust in the shoppes here with pricetags 30% lower than BDs fan-based tech – which, one can now say definitively, is buggy, unproven and not a game-changer. (yet) Its interesting to me because on appearances, there is a lot of upside to bringing in a potentially dangerous product to market first, with very little downside for a subsequent recall. I know BD will take a big hit to their profits – but they will still be making profit.

    – When, if ever, will customers start voting with their feet and stop buying the bleeding edge of technology en masse? I don’t anymore. I like this pack – but the reality is that my first airbag pack will probably be a compressed air model, and then my second a blower, precisely because I don’t feel confident that the issues surrounding them are solved.

    I find all of these questions interesting precisely because they are so inter-related. Normally – one would expect a self-correction of the market, but I don’t see that happening here. Every year, there is another recall, or two, and they affect all the manufacturers across the board. To borrow a phrase from evolution: everybody here is growing ever-larger antlers – because that’s what people are buying – but like antlers, these packs are not beneficial to the people that buy them, or at least not nearly to the level advertised.

    Forgive the hyperbole – but like Ptor said above – the market is buying a feeling, a dream, an imaginary and sometimes unneeded safety net. As a consumer who is looking for an improvement in my safety – I’m left cold.

  39. Lou Dawson 2 July 13th, 2015 7:00 am

    Ptor, I couldn’t agree with you more. There is definitely a mythology surrounding avalanche airbag rucksacks. I’m certain they to some degree increase personal safety in avalanche terrain, but not near as much as most people seem to think.

    Reminds me of the ski helmet issue, both in that the amount of protection is less than what pop culture promulgates, and also that there is so much room for improvement.

    Nonetheless, let us not forget that for ski touring and ski mountaineering the snow avalanche is the statistically greatest danger. For many of us, including myself, that point is brought home by dozens of acquaintances and friends having perished. Mitigating this tragedy is job one in ski touring safety. While human factors are the most important part in making our sport safer from avalanche tragedy, gear does play a role as well.


  40. Lou Dawson 2 July 13th, 2015 7:17 am

    Wookie, your comment got held up by our AI spam filter, sorry about that.

    Nice analysis. Again, good to be realistic about what you’re getting for your money with these safety products.

    I’ll offer that perhaps I’m too much of a booster? I do make an effort to see both the pros and cons of all the new stuff, but can’t help but get excited (grin).

    As for the recall issue, I hold to my position that it’s a positive thing and par for the course in all of the manufacturing world. We need to get used to it and encourage it. Ski equipment companies all too often tiptoe around and whisper in trying to avoid “official” recalls, we need to encourage them out of that by supporting those companies who go above board, work with CPSC, and get the job done.

    Oh, and taking another tact, I did some googling about recalls. Way back in 2012 we were getting more than 6 product recalls a day! Probably even more several years later.

    Knowing what I know as an industry insider, I can honestly say that _most_ recalls (both CPSC and otherwise) we see are for ski products that have been well designed and tested, and simply have glitches that were impossible to foresee. The static problem with Jetforce is a good example.

    But I do see defects that could have been anticipated and tested out at the pre-retail level. Moreover, sometimes we see defects that result from apparently ignoring basic engineering-design principles. Several major brands of ski touring bindings come to mind.

  41. James July 31st, 2015 5:50 pm

    Just a heads up: I just got my pack back from Blackdiamond and then sent a free headlamp along with it! I was beyond pleased. They also included a certificate of proof that the repair had been done, and a thank you note. Not bad BD, not bad.

  42. James August 27th, 2015 2:19 am

    What is the likelyhood of being able to upgrade the battery on your existing jet force pack if and when bd release a smaller, lighter one? Since this seems to be where much of the excess weight is it would seem sensible to allow upgrades. What would be off putting to a potential buyer is the thought that in a years time a better, lighter battery will be released but won’t be compatible with the existing packs.

    I have been holding off buying a pack for a few years now as I have had the feeling that there is a big leap in technology just around the corner. The jet force is maybe a hop and a skip in the right direction but it still seems to me that there is plenty of room for improvement.

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