ARC’TERYX Voltair Airbag Backpack 2016-2017 Technical Review

Post by blogger | September 22, 2016      
Arcteryx Voltair 30 backpack deployed.

Arc’teryx Voltair 30L avalanche airbag backpack deployed. Click to enlarge.

Consider the Sirens of Greek legend. Their beautiful singing voices alone could seduce a man into dangerous shoals he’d otherwise never attempt. Not only was the “siren” a song of instant seduction, but you could hear it from afar. Resistance was futile. You had to lash yourself to the mast of your ship lest you turn directly to your demise.

Adventure skiers are contending with a new song of the sirens, that of the howling battery operated fan airbag backpack. They’re loud, seductive. In terms of danger, hearing damage and financial doom are possibilities — and the media hype on airbags has led to false confidence in their efficiency that’s reminiscent of helmet hysteria.

Result: the siren call of the airbag can lure you to danger. These things are so high-tech, so cool, you might need to whip out a cordellette and lash yourself to the nearest tree, lest you charge that loaded and prime avy path below.

Not that we’re against airbags any more than we’re against helmets. We like both, when used along with neurons. So let’s fire up a few brain cells and check technical details of this year’s full-retail Arc’teryx Voltair balloon pack.

Changes for 2016-2017:

The trigger handle is now shimmed out at a slight angle from the shoulder strap, thus easier to grip, with more obvious clicks when switching from armed to safetied. (Note that disabling the Voltair takes mere seconds, no zippers, no fiddling around with pieces and parts. Though truly switching the electricity off requires accessing the battery inside the pack.)

The zipper on the balloon compartment is overall much easier to manipulate. In the case of the latch flap holding the zipper closed, as before it’s a cable actuated catch on a small flap at the top of the pack. Now perfected, when you yank the trigger it pulls the cable for release, but more importantly it’s astoundingly easy to reassemble. After re-packing the balloon and zipping up, simply press the trigger handle into the locked position (twist to show an X icon facing out), this in turn prepares the zipper flap-catch to accept a small plastic tab on the underside of the zipper flap. Press down on the flap, click, and you’re ready for another round with the white dragon.

Trigger handle is easy to grab, and a lanyard attachment at the bottom can be used to make a 'ripcord' type arrangement if desired.

Trigger handle is now “shimmed out” at a slight angle from the shoulder strap, easy to grab, and a lanyard attachment at the bottom can be used to make a ‘ripcord’ type arrangement if desired. Handle shown in “armed” position, simply rotate to disarm. The click when you arm and disarm is now more tactile and positive. When would you use a ripcord? For example, skiing in colder conditions with mittens, or perhaps you tend to cold numbed hands, or perhaps you’ve got a disabled hand.

Color is the most obvious change. Last winter the 30 liter was black and the 20 red, now both are available in either.

On the order of a sort of “unboxing,” I thought Voltair deserves a quick autumn features rundown to supplement our other blog posts. I’ll put more emphasis on the electronics, centrifugal fan is broken down in this blog post.

Might as well get the tough news out of the way first: The 20 liter version will retail for $1,650 USD, 30L for $1,700. What did I tell you about the Siren’s song and financial demise?

20 liter catalog weight 7.1 lbs, 3221 grams.

30 liter verified weight 7.6 lbs, 3447 grams.

Pack with NO battery, WITH controller unit, balloon and all else, 5.9 lbs, 2676 grams.

Battery, 1.7 lbs, 772 grams.

Various specifications:
– Battery, 22.2v Lithium-Ion Polymer (LiPo), 3.7 AH (3,700 mAH), IP65 water resistant.
– Battery connector, Delphi 480 Metri-Pack with 12-10 connectors on 10awg silicon insulated fine strand wire.

 Battery connector is an automotive standard Delphi 480 Metri-Pack on 10awg silicon insulated fine strand wire.

Battery connector is an automotive standard Delphi 480 Metri-Pack on 10awg silicon insulated fine strand wire. You can get the battery out of the pack in seconds, a nice feature for charging, or quickly reducing weight if you don’t need an airbag pack for your chosen mission. Indeed, somewhat of a consensus exists that it’s good to be careful while charging LiPo batteries. Care involves at the least placing the battery in a place where it can air cool and isn’t near anything particularly flammable. You can get LiPo bags for safety, using one is probably a good idea for travel and charging. The fan and balloon appear to be easily removable as well, though doing so probably requires a slight modification to the lacing rod anchoring the assembly to the pack.

Check out this interesting article about lithium battery safety and technology. (Apparently you can already get lighter batteries, but they have limited charge cycles. Still, how about a battery that weighs a pound less but you can only charge 20 times? Sounds totally reasonable. Or how about a battery pack you can only charge a couple of times but weighs even less? Watch this space.)

Rod lace system attaching balloon and fan to the pack.

Rod lace system attaching balloon and fan to the pack. This doesn’t appear factory ready for optional user removal, but could be modded in mere minutes to make it reversible. Yet another blog post, or, as we say in the trade, YABP.

Massive  3,700 mAh LiPo battery easily gave me 14 inflations at room temps.

Massive 772 gram 3,700 mAh LiPo battery easily gave me 14 inflations at room temps.

Red  battery on-off switch , with charger port to left.

Red battery on-off switch, with charger port to left. It’s said an available option will allow charging from 12v systems such as automotive or solar.

Battery label tells the story.

Battery label tells the story. IP65 means it’s splash resistant but not protected against immersion. Don’t spill your water bottle on it. I’d imagine that along with the LiPo battery standard thermal protection, some kind of fuse probably protects against a short circuit. Problem is, with the high current draw (see below) this battery needs to provide, any sort of short circuit could cause a lot of scary things to happen before blowing a fuse. Best to be careful. Mainly, don’t store sharp metal objects where they could cut into the wires. I’d like to see the battery wires have an extra layer of protection armor, some cheap automotive wire loom doesn’t weigh anything.

In case you've got any electron chops and are curious,  my clamp-on amp metter showed a 44 amp draw during inflation.

In case you’ve got any electron chops and are curious, my clamp-on amp meter showed a 44 amp draw during inflation. Clearly, this is a high discharge situation, I’m assuming the battery has around a 45C discharge C rating, which if my math is right means it can provide the 44 amps for a long enough period to inflate the balloon.

Multiple deployments is clearly the main reason skiers would want a fan balloon pack. Travel convenience and eliminating cylinder fill hassles are other pluses, but firing the thing whenever you feel like it leads the list. Think about it. You can practice or test. But more importantly, YOU-NEED-NOT-HESITATE. If you think you’re in a slide or only vaguely threatened by a slide: PULL. Repacking takes just a few minutes, and if you left home with a full charge you have at least one more fill even with a cold soaked battery.

So, the $1,700 question, how many times will the battery fill this thing? Answer, it depends. The fairly new battery in my test unit easily filled 14 times at 69 degrees Fahrenheit, along with 4 “insurance pulses” for each fill (automatic bursts from the fan intended to compensate for punctures or incomplete fills). I quit at 14, as the capacity warning light was on and deep discharging isn’t good for the battery. As the lithium battery becomes cooler it has less available power. Apparently by the time the battery is cold soaked to around twenty below zero Fahrenheit it’ll only inflate two or three times (depending on age of battery, etc.) I find that a little hard to believe, given 14 fills at room temperature. A little freezer testing action sounds likely here at WildSnow labs.

Industrial designer Gordon Rose at Arcteryx told me in testing he gets something like 8 inflations at negative 15 centigrade (5 below zero fahrenheit). Remember, he’s talking about the battery cold soaked to that temperature. In our case, a ski day that would get the battery that cold would be as rare as powder skiing in Brazil.

Doing a number of deployment cycles allowed me to develop my own method of quickly deflating and packing the balloon.

Doing a number of deployment cycles allowed me to develop my own method of quickly deflating and packing the balloon. I insert the deflate straw, then roll the balloon towards the straw until I’ve ejected nearly all the air. Leaving the straw in, I then unroll (you’re not supposed to roll or fold the final packing) and stuff the balloon into the compartment, with the straw going in last so any small amount of residual air can exit. I yank out the straw, stuff the final bit, then do up the zippers and pop the flap catch in. You have to remember to push and turn the trigger handle to the ready position or the flap won’t latch. Obvious and easy. My one gripe is I’d like to see the balloon container compartment just a bit larger so stuffing would be easier while in full conditions. That’s a mod we can easily make here, so it could happen.

Deflation straw is now red, works, could be slightly larger in our opinion.

Deflation straw is now red, works, could be slightly larger in our opinion.

I studied up on lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries, indeed they have reduced performance when cold. But is that really the Achilles heel of electric fan packs? Not in my opinion. First, most people ski at temperatures above zero Fahrenheit — a significant difference from negative 20. What is more, the battery has to become cold soaked before you experience the full freezer effect. If you begin your day with a room temperature battery, and the heat of your body enters the back panel of the pack throughout the day, it’s going to be a while before the battery reaches ambient air temperature — if ever.

What is more, if the battery has any sort of load it warms itself. While the load of an armed Voltair is too low for my clamp-on meter to measure, it is there. (Note, it’s said that charging a “frozen” battery is not good, warm to room temp first.)

All leading me to wonder, what if you start the day with a warm battery, with your pack armed, and keep the battery insulated with extra clothing and other gear? Or, what if the battery has a nice little foam case and you throw a chemical hand warmer in there for good measure? Just how big does that battery really need to be? I think we’ll see some evolution in the area of battery size and weight. Party pooper is that the CE standards require robust battery power at low temps, so any changes in that area will have to be “accessories” or perhaps aftermarket mods.

More specifications:

– The fan is actually not technically a fan but an “advanced engineered centrifugal blower.” We use the word “fan” as a term of art to keep our writing readable.

– Balloon is 150 liter and wraps behind and slightly to the sides of your head for possible protection from trauma.

– It’s said the “the Voltair system delivers more initial pressure than any other battery powered avalanche airbag system on the market.” The inflated balloon is indeed quite taut. I attempted to measure actual air pressure, it appears to be somewhere around 1.5 pounds per square inch, plenty.

– The pack is fully seam-sealed and constructed with truly waterproof N400r-AC² nylon ripstop body fabric with Arc’teryx waterproof zippers for top and side access to the two main compartments. Both pack sizes have a “tool” partition that can be easily excised for a modicum of weight savings.

– Lash ladders and a diagonal plank carry strap system satisfy external cargo requirements.

– The slick minimalist crotch strap system remains the same, detailed in previous ski touring Voltair blog posts. We love it. Click, click. It’s that easy.

Availability: fall of 2016.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


34 Responses to “ARC’TERYX Voltair Airbag Backpack 2016-2017 Technical Review”

  1. Jeremy C September 22nd, 2016 1:32 pm

    Since they are not limited by the cylinder size and venturi effect, I wonder why Arcteryx went for a 150ltr airbag. Many cylinder bags are 150ltr, ABS are 170ltr and Black Diamond went with 200ltr. I guess the Voltair gives you 4 inflation’s for every 3 on the Jetforce.

    Reversing the question, why did BD go with 200 ltr? Was it because they could, or did they find an advantage in certain avalanche situations.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 22nd, 2016 2:05 pm

    Interesting question Jeremy. It might be like binding “DIN,” my number is bigger than yours… Of course with the packs there is quickly a point of diminishing return in terms of what you get for the larger bag, and balloon to large is going to whip you around something awful, if it doesn’t just rip the pack off your body… Lou

  3. Eric B September 23rd, 2016 2:27 am

    Lou, as you get more avi packs in this season it would be great to get a Wildsnow chart comparing weights on a like-for-like basis (as you do so helpfully for skis and bindings). Hard to do from mfg info as they often report it in different ways. And with an avi packs now a big component of overall skier kit weight it would be quite useful for folks considering splashing out on one.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2016 6:52 am

    Thanks Eric, we played around with that for a while but the packs change so fast, and often have multiple options, so it’s quite difficult to give anything accurate. A chart can look good and be fun, but actually be next to useless. From what I’ve seen the “catalog” weights seem to be pretty good, but as you allude to they’re confusing, and if one weight for one brand-model is simply wrong it throws everything off. Adding to the problem, there is HUGE incentive for PR and marketing people to pick configurations that result in lighter weight they can print in catalog and press copy. One example of the confusion, in Europe you can use a Mammut with a carbon cylinder, not so in North America — but wait, folks have been able to bring the carbon cylinders back from Europe with them, so they’ll actually be in use this winter here in North America… All that said, I’ll try to do more real-world apples-apples comparisons of weight.

  5. Trent September 23rd, 2016 7:11 am

    Thank you. Very helpful.

    “Pack without battery, with controller unit, balloon and all else, 5.6 lbs”

    Why so heavy?

  6. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2016 7:36 am

    Bear in mind that weight is the pack without battery but WITH the black-box controller unit, fan, and balloon.

    I’ll mod and remove that stuff eventually, stay tuned.

    The pack itself is robust (heavy fabric) and very water resistant, I call it “average” in weight as compared to some of the European offerings that provide a pack that’s quite light, such as Scott and Mammut. While I like the idea of a pack that’s nearly a drybag, on the other hand I rarely have need for such as thing and would rather haul 200 grams less.

  7. Max September 23rd, 2016 9:40 am

    So here is the problem I have.

    “Pack without battery, with controller unit, balloon and all else, 5.6 lbs – Battery 1.7lbs”.

    So we are going to try to bring down the weight of the 1.7lbs thing when the pack clearly is way to heavy. As for comparison, the Mammut Rocker Protection, in my view still the best bag on the market, is 4.5lbs. Add the carbon fiber gas cylinder and you end up below 5lbs. That is the entire pack. And that is by far not the lightest bag in Mammuts arsenal, take the Ultralight 3.0 and the weight goes down to 3.3lbs.

    You can strip away 1.6lbs of the 1.7lbs from the battery and will never get there. Why on earth would Arcteryx build such a bag? Is the fan that heavy? If that is the case, who cares about the weight of the battery if the fan adds 2lbs. I am just astounded how a company that is known for building ultra light minimalistic mountaineering backpacks thinks this is a product worth 1700$.

  8. Andrew September 23rd, 2016 10:15 am

    Battery size appears super-conservative, assuming you somehow keep the batteries warm. With batteries you need to ensure the battery is sized to provide both the maximum current draw (amps) and capacity (amp-hours).

    If the battery is rated at 45C, it means it provides close to 100% of the rated capacity at a discharge rate of 45 x Capacity at room temperature, i.e. 3.7*45 Amps. = 166 Amps, and a lot more than this in short bursts. With this in mind, I would be super-careful when dealing with metal and sharp objects around the pack. If you happen to short the pack by damaging wires, the current is sufficient to weld many metal objects to the wires. If your metal shovel does this then you will have a fire or explosion in your pack. If it’s a ring on your finger it’s worse. So some protection for the wiring is a good idea.

    The battery voltage of 22.2v suggests it’s 6 cells in series, since each lipo cell delivers max 3.7 volts. 6S is a fairly standard model aeroplane/heli pack, so one could test something like a 750mah – 1000mah 60C-70C pack. At room temperature this would work, but perhaps not in worst case conditions. No doubt Arcteryx have tested the pack at -50 deg C to ensure it still has enough current capacity. Or an insulated box around a slightly smaller battery could work.
    Obviously Arcteryx cannot assume you keep the pack on your back and never go out when it’s below -20 deg C!

    One other thing concerns me – typically LiPo cells should use balancing circuits to avoid over-charging and explosion. It would be worth asking Arcteryx if the balancer is internal (I don’t see a 7-way low current connector indicating it’s external), and if it is, why is there not an LED indicator for cell condition? This can be important as cells do fail.

    If the balancer is internal, leaving the balancer behind could be another area for weight optimisation. Model helicopters typically run cells with external balancers so that the balancer stays on the ground as part of the charger while the model flies.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2016 10:48 am

    Thanks Andrew, I was hoping someone who knew something would chime in and help!

    The battery does have some LED indicators but I’m not seeing them do much. I’d imagine the balancer is internal. I don’t see how they could be providing this without a balancer.

    My understanding is that the chargers with balancer are a bit pricey and require a multi-lead connection, so the Arcteryx way is no doubt intended to simplify and at least attempt to keep cost from going to space program levels.


  10. Drew Tabke September 23rd, 2016 12:38 pm

    The philosophy behind the multiple-deploy design principle is madness. If you find yourself in a situation where you gotta pop your airbag, you’re playing Russian Roulette, possibly with up to six of the revolver’s chambers loaded. So why build it in a way that you can do it unlimited times? Technology more akin to a vehicle’s airbag system seems far more appropriate considering the consequences of a scenario that necessitates its use. I’d like to see a system built for a single deploy in case of emergency, which requires disposal of or replacement of the entire system.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2016 1:06 pm

    Drew, I actually do agree with you, I think the “one deploy” model is way better for cost, weight, etc. In the review I was trying to be positive about the “features” of the Voltair. However, remember that with the sensitivity of the LiPo batteries to cold, to get one deploy when it’s really cold you’ll get several when it’s warmer. So, the multi deploy is a necessity that is perhaps spun into a feature. In the end, I think the main point is the batteries in both Voltair and Jetforce appear to be clearly oversized and too heavy, apparently due to being sure the pack passes CE standards.

  12. Stewart September 23rd, 2016 7:11 pm

    Seems just another example of technological fetishism and consumerism unhinged from human psychology. If it won’t make me safer or happier, then what’s the point?

  13. Eric B September 24th, 2016 7:46 am

    I agree with the “one deploy” philosophy. If you ever had to use one of these in anger (and lived to tell the tale) the sensible thing to do would be to take your exit route out, head for the nearest bar, have a long stiff drink, and reflect carefully on how you got into that situation and how you could avoid it in the future. Only after that (and getting a new gas canister) should you go back out. I guess multiple deploys are useful if you deploy, have no safe exit route, and continued avalanche danger. But why would you want to put yourself in such a situation?

  14. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2016 3:54 pm

    Got a better scale for larger weights, weight of Voltair 30 liter unfortunately had to be revised up to 7.6 lbs, 2676 grams. While I appreciate how nicely this pack is made, I fail to see why nearly every airbag pack has to be constructed in such a way as to be so clunky.

  15. VT skier September 24th, 2016 10:00 pm

    Here is a link to some weights and prices for smaller LiPos used in Rc helicopters, sailplanes etc. I use these Thunder Power LiPos a lot.
    Andrews description was excellent, but I charge my LiPo cells to 4.2 volts each. So a 6S LiPo would be 25.2 volts at 100% charge. Each cell should be close in voltage to the others, which is what “balancing” does.
    This page is for 45 C LiPos .. You want to scroll down to a 6s 22.2 volt LiPo, say this one…
    TP2250-6SPR45 at 345 grams

    SO you could try a smaller LiPo with same 45 C rating and 22.2 Voltage (6S) output. With these type of LiPos you will need a charger that can connect to the balancing leads, to monitor and “balance” the voltage in each cell as you charge the LiPo.
    Good luck

  16. Lou Dawson 2 September 25th, 2016 7:18 am

    VT, great minds think alike. Stay tuned. Lou

  17. Lindahl September 25th, 2016 4:26 pm

    While shaving 1lb off battery weight is great, that still makes for a 6.1lb 20L pack. Way too heavy. They need to work on pack and electronics design a bit more.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 September 25th, 2016 5:04 pm

    Thanks Lindahl, my thoughts exactly. The pack is made from massive fabric with a mongo backboard that has two beefy aluminum vertical stays, could easily be a half pound (227 grams) lighter. On the other hand, the balloon is average in weight, though the fan and electronic controler are probably a bit heavier than the latest gas venturi systems. Once the weight is down a pound or so I’m good with it as I love the easy recharge and the easy traveling, but with OEM battery it’s a bit heavy for sure. If they trimed another half pound off after reducing battery weight, then that would be amazing. I think using the 20 liter will help as well, which I can do for most of my tours. Lou

  19. See September 25th, 2016 7:42 pm

    The weight you’re willing to carry to have a balloon would seem to me to be proportional to your expectation of needing it. In my totally amateur opinion, a heavy system suggests a bad attitude.

  20. See September 25th, 2016 7:49 pm

    Of course, Drew Tabke and Eric B already said this.

  21. ptor September 26th, 2016 2:09 am

    @DrewT and EricB – I can’t agree. Skiing is always dangerous and nobody is perfect.
    Practice pulls, redeployment capabilities after accidental or premature deployment combined with extended backcountry excursions away from refilling/replacement/recharging possibilities are extended capablities which should have their place in one’s formation of good judgment…like helmets and other safety gear. We’ve seen the problems of ABS bags not even deploying not to mention the psychological stigma of less experienced skiers completely shut down mentally if their airbag is no longer operational (malfunction or accidental deployment) regardless of how good the conditions are…among other things. It’s too late to turn back on airbags so why shouldn’t convenience trump weight (which will eventually be reduced when we get the graphene batteries from the chinese)? By the same logic you could argue for one use transcievers. Weight has nothing to do with risk i.e. light skinny skis are far more dangerous in wild snow.

  22. Old Man Winter September 26th, 2016 12:08 pm

    So pro skier Drew. When I fly to BC for ski trip and I have 5 days to ski, because I have to get back to family and work – why would I want to spend 1/2 a day trying to get my can(s) filled?

  23. See September 26th, 2016 6:10 pm

    Most of what I now about the upper levels of the sport comes from what I’ve seen on screens. Having been a consumer of ski media for many years, I’m impressed by how avalanche footage is almost a standard part of many videos these days. Given pro level skiers with helicopters, guides, etc. standing by (and promotional considerations), maybe this is just how the game is played. But I don’t think it portrays an entirely healthy mindset for the sport in general. How many times you can trigger your air bag before recharging is not really the issue, imo.

    (Maybe these should be standard hut equipment: .

  24. See September 26th, 2016 6:38 pm

    And why are light skinny skis more dangerous in wild snow?

  25. Wookie September 27th, 2016 2:56 am

    Although I think I’ll stick with lighter canister options, I think convienience is the primary motivation for battery-powered packs. If I was a regular traveller, skiing all over the world, or far from home, I’d buy one.
    Seems like all the trips I’ve been on the last 7 years or so have included one day of “trying to get my canister filled”….its a hassle.

  26. Lou Dawson 2 September 27th, 2016 7:39 am

    Wookie, indeed, for some of us I’d say that’s exactly what’s going on. I’m so looking forward to just getting on a jet with this pack as my carryon — with my customized wiring harness ready to provide citizen power no matter what the situation. I would, offer however, that the batteries with all those wires sticking out might look suspicious to rightly caring staff and passengers, best not to brandish them, I think a cable that discretely hooks up to the pack while it’s under the seat would be fine, especially when it’s obviously simply powering a phone or tablet.

    My understanding is they don’t want lithium batteries in luggage but they’re ok in carryon if connected to their associated device. Makes sense, since on some flights each person has at least two lithium powered devices, and frequently three or four.


  27. Lou Dawson 2 September 27th, 2016 7:47 am

    I’d add that there is no reason the electric options can’t be as light as the gas, for most folks, other than those skiing at night, during midwinter, interior Canada or Alaska range. In that case a factory filled argon or nitrogen system is the way to go. User filled not advisable, as any condensed moisture in the cylindercould freeze and clog it, and how would you know if that had happened or not without a test trigger? Lou

  28. Jeremy C September 27th, 2016 9:45 am

    Outside of the USA at least, under the IATA regulations Table 2.3A, I can carry my Jetforce with its 42.3 Wh lithium ion battery as hand or hold luggage. I’m not sure what the Wh rating is for the Voltair.

    Below is an extract from Table 2.3A. Sections 1 & 3 can be hand or hold, with section 2 hand only. The Jetforce falls under section 1.

    1. Lithium Batteries: Portable electronic devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, including medical devices such as portable oxygen concentrators (POC) and consumer electronics such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops, tablets and power banks, when carried by passengers or crew for personal use (see Batteries must not exceed 2 g for lithium metal batteries and 100 Wh for lithium ion batteries.

    2. Lithium batteries, spare/loose with a Watt-hour rating exceeding 100 Wh but not exceeding
    160 Wh for consumer electronic devices and PMED or with a lithium content exceeding 2 g but not exceeding 8 g for PMED only. Maximum of two spare batteries in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuits.

    3. Lithium battery-powered electronic devices. Lithium ion batteries for portable (including medical) electronic devices, a Wh rating exceeding 100 Wh but not exceeding 160 Wh. For portable medical electronic devices only, lithium metal batteries with a lithium content exceeding 2 g but not exceeding 8 g.

  29. Craig September 27th, 2016 11:41 am

    Just so you know, with the conversion to metric is wrong…
    “30 liter verified weight 7.6 lbs, 2676 grams.
    Pack with NO battery, WITH controller unit, balloon and all else, 5.9 lbs, 2676 grams.”

    7.6 lb = 3447 g

  30. Lou2 September 27th, 2016 12:03 pm

    Update, I corrected the weights.

    Thanks Craig, I’ll correct shortly. Shoot, I thought I even double checked those! Probably mixed up my copy paste or something. Lou

  31. Lou Dawson 2 September 27th, 2016 4:51 pm

    Jeremy, see my other comments about battery regulations. Arcteryx battery (82 watt hours, printed on the battery label) falls well under the 100 watt hour limit for batteries allowed with carryon, as do my smaller mod batteries. There is a bit of confusion about whether you can pack commercially packaged lithium AA cells in your checked baggage. I’m thinking it’s probably best not to pack any batteries in checked baggage at these days of “it’s a battery, OMG!”

    Nonetheless, if doing commercial air travel with a battery connected to something other than a laptop or other device familiar to officials, probably good to do a variety of things, best covered in various RC aircraft websites etc. People travel with RC aircraft all the time, with LiPo batteries.

  32. John S September 29th, 2016 7:29 am

    I have a little bit older BCA Float model, and this fall I’m helping my daughter shop for an airbag pack. I was enthused by the electric fan driven models, but then I saw the price tags and realized that for someone that’s not traveling a lot for skiing, they offer very little advantage.

    One thing to note is that few models of any airbag pack fit women well.

  33. Lou Dawson 2 September 29th, 2016 8:41 am

    John, I’d say your view is accurate. Until they reduce the weight and cost of the electric packs, if traveling is not an issue you are clearly better off with gas. The one huge advantage of electric, that I wouldn’t discount, is being able to practice pulling, and not hesitate pulling. As I mentioned in a blog post some time ago, there is sadly a percentage of people killed in slides who never trigger their airbag! Everyone wondering about how important practicing is should keep that little inconvenient statistic in mind. I’ve even witnessed that first-hand, when I watched a guy get caught in a slide and never trigger his pack. Lou

  34. Mike December 9th, 2016 1:48 am

    Hi Lou,
    I’ve decided to buy one of the new LiPo airbag backpacks. However, I’m curious why you seem to have chosen the voltair over jetforce? It seems a lot more expensive for smaller airbag volume and less smarts (deflation at the end of cycle). Advantages I see are the top loading panel and easy removal for chair lifts (leg strap). The top load allows for side compression straps. I’ve read reviews where people say that the side panel on the jetforce packs pops open sometimes (esp if admittedly when probably overloading the pack). Apart from comments on your blog I’m yet to see anyone talk about what they fit in each of the packs when going on day trips. For example, can the jetforce 11 fit water, lunch, puffy, flat shoes, and medical kit???). What about the voltair 20? It’s also hard to judge how big any of these packs are as external dimensions are hard to find. One final thing with air travel in mind (a big reason for chosing one of these packs), that big handle on the voltair just looks dodgy. Can it be tucked away (out of sight) for transport or when using as your only carry on item?

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

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