AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide
Mammut continues providing some of the best technology in the avalanche airbag world. We continuously see growth with products like the Light Removable Airbag 30L and Ultralight Removable Airbag 20L.
These two packs are the quiver for 80% of the backcountry users. The 20L is ideal for short “mini golf’ or light and fast objectives. The 30L fits the best in a everyday backcountry scenario. With the Removable Airbag System (RAS), it’s a no brainer to have two different packs with one airbag system. The RAS system is easy to change from pack to pack with the new color coated tabs.
I first tried the pack out with a ski mountaineering objective in mind. I packed all the essentials and loaded the 30L to about 30 lbs. With the pack on I was immediately impressed with the carrying system. The lightweight aspect of the pack eliminates some of the bells and whistles, but does not sacrifice on comfort. The 30L pack fit could be to large for folks with a shorter torso.
We continuously see folks in the backcountry with improper fits with airbag systems. This tends to come from getting what is cheapest, since all these airbags do have a pricey tag on them. I can’t stress enough the necessity of a comfortable pack. Mammut’s technology has a way of shedding weight without compromising the comfort, usability and fit. The shape, size and fit of the airbag is crucial for the operation and deployment of the airbag. (I.e., Airbags that are too big can compromise many things when caught in an avalanche.)
When I received the packs I checked out the avalanche tool pocket immediately. Finally in the 30L, there is an internal pocket that separates the essential tools from the main compartment. (I did have trouble getting larger shovel blades and probes in the compartment.) Organization is key when traveling in the backcountry when light and fast objectives are in mind.
The 3/4 zip is not ideal when packing the pack. It limits the access to the base of the pack. The bonus to the 3/4 Zipper is all your kit won’t fall out when opening. Just like any pack, you will load it numerous times before it fits and works for your needs.
There is an external zipper with a micro pocket. This pocket is ideals for your communication, snacks etc. On the contrary, when the pocket is filled up, it tends to compromise the main compartment zipper and becomes harder to close.
The main compartment is sorted out perfectly with the Snowpulse components only taking up a small percentage of the volume and makes for easy packing. One issue I noticed was a place for the ice tool. Your typical external ice tool attachment is not ideal on an airbag (when in avalanche terrain) since you want to avoid puncturing the balloon. I was able to take a second pair of gloves and get the axe stowed and protected INSIDE the pack.
Guide’s note: Be aware of the items you attach to the exterior of avalanche airbags when in avalanche terrain. Sharp objects like poles, ice axes and A-framed skis could puncture the balloon.
The guts of the Snowpulse system have been trimmed down from its previous models. The aluminum cartridge comes in at about 700g, where the carbon cartridge weighs about half of that. The aluminum cartridge is larger than the carbon due to the filling capacity and differing fill pressure. The aluminum cartridge has a “self-refillable” feature on the top so people can refill it on there own. I can’t forget to point out, the 20L with all its guts and glory — using the heavier cylinder — still comes in at about 4.5 lbs. Wow!
The ski/board carry is versatile when dealing with ridges and or climbing. The basic external straps allow you to configure the skis the way you need.
Weights from the WildSnow scale:
Note:As Lou saw during ISPO, a carbon cartridge (120 Euros) will be available in Europe and cuts the Removeable Airbag System down to 1 kilo. Due to transportation regulations the EU carbon cartridge is illegal to ship or fill in the US and in Canada. Someone might be able to “get” one into the US from Europe but there would be no way to refill it and no possibility of exchanging it, so it would likely become an expensive disposable cylinder (that is unless it was returned somehow to Europe, which actually might be possible as the empty cylinder might not be a big issue to postal mail or carry during air travel). Mammut is trying to get a lightweight carbon cartridge for North America. WildSnow fingers crossed.
The EU carbon cartridge is not refillable “just anywhere” the way the North American cartridge is, but it is refillable. The N.A. cartridges can be refilled at nearly any scuba or paintball shop or by anyone with a 3300lb+ scuba tank using a standard paintball/airgun adaptor. The Euro cartridge requires 4500psi and some very specialized equipment to fill it, so it needs to go back to the euro refilling station to get refilled — they use an exchange system there similar to what ABS does in the US. The airbag and the trigger are the same, only the cartridges are different — this is to deal with the different laws regarding transport of pressurized cartridges between the US and Europe. A US pack WILL work with the euro cartridge, and vice versa.
Pricing and availability
(WildSnow guest blogger Michael Arnold is an AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide and co-founder of Vetta Mountain Guides. When he’s not sleeping in his Sprinter van or some hut above Chamonix, he lives in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado.)