Voltair and Jetforce Airbag Backpack Comparo Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 14, 2016      

The battle of the fan packs is engaged. While compressed gas avalanche airbag backpacks are the clear winners of the weight war, electric packs have advantages. Mainly, easy to practice triggering, and easy to travel with. I love the concept and I’ve had a load of fun working with both brands these past few years. Amazing what human ingenuity can accomplish — kudos to both companies!

Halo 28 Jetforce, left, and Voltair 30.

Halo 28 Jetforce, left, and Voltair 30. Voltair has more cargo capacity but Halo is larger than you’d think due to it being slightly taller and having a large skin and tool compartment that’s fully layered over the main compartment. Both packs held my day touring gear: Halo packed tightly, Voltair somewhat roomy for my normal load.

Covered here: the Arcteryx Voltair 30 and Black Diamond Halo 28 Jetforce. Rather than developing carpel tunnel from keyboarding full names, we’ll mostly call them the Voltair and Jetforce (or Halo 28). Please know I chose these two rucks for the comparo because in my opinion they’re closest to the size “day tour” ski pack I’d carry, despite the moderate difference in volume. To put it in practical terms, depending on exact pack contents I find the Halo to sometimes be a little small, while the Voltair is usually too large.

Weight and cargo space

If you’re hoping or perhaps even praying that one of these companies made weight saving battery or textile breakthroughs, sorry to disappoint. Both these rucks thrash your shoulders with upwards of 3 vertebral crushing kilos. Jetforce masses at 3484 grams on our scale, Voltair at 3520. Compare to an available state-of-art 30 liter gas airbag pack at 2.6 kilos.

Thus, this is simply a straight battle on features. I experimented and could fit somewhat more junk in the Voltair as opposed to the Halo 28. But again, not to the point where I’d put the two packs in different classes in terms of volume. Important: if you mess around with fitting your kit to the Halo 28 be sure to consider its rather large skin and tool pocket, which compensates significantly for the small “main” compartment.

Main compartment of the Jetforce is  filled with airbag componentry.

Main compartment of the Jetforce is filled with airbag componentry, balloon to left and top, with fan system to right. This prioritizes the clamshell tool-skin compartment, which fortunately is quite large.

Again, both packs have plenty of room for the average day touring kit — which is why I’m pitting them against each other. But add “guide” type gear such as bivy sacks and larger emergency kits and you need to experiment with real-life loading. That’s where your brick-and-mortar shop comes into play.

On the other hand, if you reach certainty in your shopping nirvana by virtue of this 2,000+ word review (I’m channeling Kerouac’s booze fueled typewriter stream of consciousness scroll writing, apologies), we always appreciate your supporting our work by shopping our links.

Voltair main compartment.

Voltair main compartment. Larger by virtue of the airbag plumbing and balloon taking less space.

Airbag technology

The first thing many consumers notice when they’re studying the specifications is that Voltair has a 150 liter airbag, while Jetforce is 200. That’s a startling difference that results in the Jetforce stowing significantly more fabric mass and volume. Some shoppers might simply buy the higher number — perhaps the same people who buy DIN 16 instead of DIN 10 bindings because of the bigger digits. Stop. My understanding is that decades of testing have shown that a 150 liter airbag does the job in most situations. So why the larger Jetforce balloon? My first guess would be it’s mostly a marketing factor, but I’d also guess that if you’re quite a large person, carrying a heavy pack, more volume makes sense.

Halo28 Jetforce airbag backpack. The pack will be available in 11, 28 and 40 liter capacity.

The 200 liter Jetforce balloon is huge. Nice when you want it to buoy you out of a slide, but the additional fabric clearly adds weight and takes up space in the pack.

BD official take? They told me that their ducted fan and battery system is so robust it can easily push the bigger balloon, and they felt that indeed in the case of a larger skier with a heavy pack, 200 liters could be beneficial. Further, BD has told me many times that their design philosophy with Jetforce is to “leave no stone unturned” in making the pack as reliable and safe as possible; that those factors supersede weight and price point (though Jetforce comes at a lower MSRP than Voltair, it’s still significantly more costly than most if not all current gas packs).

In my opinion BD’s design philosophy (safety first!) is indeed valid. Yet, I’d be an idiot if I didn’t question how a pack with 8 or 9 compartments (not counting tool slots) and numerous zippers is any safer than a lighter simpler sack with one zipper and one compartment.

Regarding both Jetforce and Voltair, my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that European standards for airbag backpacks require them to inflate at least once at negative 30 degrees centigrade (-22 F). In other words 999 out of 1000 ski tourers are being asked to lug around a gigantic battery just so 1 out of 1000 will be sure a hopped up cordless vacuum cleaner will work when it’s 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, keeping your headlamp functional and your feet safe from amputation are often of more immediacy than keeping a battery operated pack in working condition. Besides, throw a chemical hand warmer in next to the battery and pack a puffy in there (you’re tough, so you’re not wearing it, yet) and that battery is going to take a long time to cold soak if you began your day at room temperature.

Thus, I can offer a firm take: for most of you, the bigger balloon of the Jetforce or the welding capable battery of the Voltair are NOT deal makers or breakers, but for some of you they could be. It is not a cliche to say “you know who you are.”

Trigger handle has LEDs indicating various things. Mainly, the number of lights above (left) of power light show state of battery.

Jetforce trigger handle has LEDs indicating various things. Mainly, the number of lights above (left) of power light indicate
the state of the battery.

The two packs trigger in somewhat different ways. Voltair is entirely mechanical, with a cable that pulls a latch open at the top airbag compartment along with activating the electric motor control. Jetforce has electronics built into the trigger handle; tiny lights that indicate what state the system is in. The Jetforce lights do not indicate an exact percentage of charge — they give you a rough yet adequate idea.

Voltair has a basic two-light indicator that’s located on the pack next to your left shoulder, only green or red. This is difficult to check with the pack on, so a small mirror is attached with a string to the hip belt, you use to check the lights, ostensibly required by European regulations and nearly as ridiculous as Hillary and Donald shaking hands. For your first mod on $1,000 equipment remove the mirror (you are now an official Wildsnow modder!), or keep it for eyeliner checks.

In the case of either pack, all you really need is something that tells you the battery has enough juice for one blowup and-or fully charged. Both systems provide this.

Voltair has lights as well.

Voltair has lights as well, simple. Green and it’s ready, red and it’s not. It’s perhaps an issue that these are difficult to see when you’re wearing the pack. To remedy that, powers that be are requiring Arcteryx to sell the pack with a mirror affixed to the shoulder strap. We of course recommend removing this immediately upon purchase — unless you need it for checking your eyeliner.

So, what about those batteries? Voltair uses a lithium polymer (Lipo) that can be made into any shape but is quite sensitive to cold. Jetforce uses lithium ion that is manufactured in various sized cells, the shape of which can be seen in the Jetforce battery case. I’m told the lithium ion while still sensitive to cold, is less so, and the Jetforce battery can thus be smaller and lighter. Both battery systems are big, kludgy and heavy — but the Jetforce is somewhat smaller. Too bad the Halo pack itself is so heavy, as it appears BD could have beat Arcteryx in the weight department by using a cleaner and simpler pack design.

Batteries, Jetforce to left, Voltair on right.

Batteries, Jetforce to left, Voltair on right. This is not a totally fair apples-apples comparison as the packs package various amounts of their electronics with the battery as well as in separate locations. But the Voltair battery is indeed large.

When you pull the Jetforce trigger, you pull a rod on the side of the pack that’s threaded through a closure system, thus opening up the airbag compartment. Similar in concept to Voltair (which has a small, cable actuated clasp) only more complex. Presumably, this is necessary because of the larger airbag needing more storage space than only using the top portion of the pack, as Voltair does. Both trigger systems are ingenious, while their complexity leads me to believe there may be room for simplification and weight reduction.

Jetforce threaded rod closure system.

Jetforce threaded rod closure system. Once you practice with either pack, re-stowing the airbag is not a big deal.


The first thing I noticed about Jetforce is the extraordinary and often a bit over the top effort the designers made to create a “clean” backpack that is so free of exterior straps and other gewgaws you wonder if it’s really a ski touring rucksack and not airport luggage. More, the number of compartments, zippered or otherwise, will probably keep gear geeks happy for hours. I tried to count the slots and pockets; around 8 or 9 not counting the tool holders and airbag component storage. Voltair is not as clean on the outside, it boasts obvious climbing tool storage and compression straps. These are nearly all removable if you do want that luggage look.

Voltair has no extra pockets or compartments (other than tool-skins partition), and only one extra zippered slot for access to the battery power switch (again, not counting tool partition). Design philosophy here is clearly different than that of BD. You won’t find storage for the trigger handle (instead it firmly switches to a disarmed position). Helmet carrier would have to be added. Leg strap has no stowage (we think that’s best, as using an airbag pack without leg strap is an invitation to strangulation). In my view, Arcteryx might have gone too far with simplification. I do like having a small accessory pouch on my waistbelt. Halo has it, while Voltair has a tiny open topped pouch that doesn’t count (though it would stow your chapstick).

Voltair leg strap clip system.

Voltair leg strap clip system.

One of my pet peeves is how the leg strap is attached. I don’t like threading it into the waist belt (Jetforce), necessitating a fiddly glove unfriendly process when you put your pack on or take it off. A specially designed system for clipping the strap to the pack (Voltair) is better. You can jury rig this with a carabiner, but when used that way a ‘biner can open accidentally. I expect most airbag backpack makers will eventually provide clip systems similar to Arcteryx.

Both packs have over designed suspension systems.

Both packs have over-designed suspension systems.

It’s worth mentioning that Jetforce has a shoulder strap system BD calls Reactive Suspension, consisting of a steel cable anchoring the bottom ends of the shoulder straps. The cable slides behind your back, allowing the straps to change length by a few inches. In my view this is a solution without a problem, only adding cost and weight.

To be fair, I find the Arcteryx suspension a bit odd as well. The Voltair waist belt is presumably rigged to float behind the lumbar pad (again, overly complex in my opinion), and it uses a plastic buckle instead of the obviously beefy aluminum “keylock” buckles used by most other airbag backpacks. I’d imagine the Arcteryx buckle is tested and approved. While it’s easier to use than the keylock type, it does not inspire confidence in this key component of an airbag backpack. Overall, the suspension on both packs worked during my testing, yet both beg for simplicity.

Voltair is nearly a drybag what with taped seams, water resistant zippers and fabric worthy of a Grand Canyon raft repair kit. But this adds weight, and personally I don’t need it. Jetforce, while still rather massive, obviously doesn’t have the water phobia of the Voltair — though for most of us it would be fine.

There are those of you whose first and last question is “helmet carrier?” Jetforce Halo 28 has it, Voltair 30 does not. The Halo carrier is sewed on but can easily be razored off. An aftermarket net can be added to the Voltair. Or just wear your helmet?

And, there are those of you who will ask about ski carrying features. Both packs can be rigged for diagonal ski carry, while A-framing is not facilitated and not recommended due to obstruction of the balloon. Black Diamond provides a lashing system that’s obviously dedicated directly to skis. Arcteryx requires a bit of configuration.

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

Voltair deflation straw is a simple plastic tube you insert into a flap valve on the inflated airbag balloon. Jetforce can be manually deflated as well, by moving a flapper valve door in the ducted fan housing inside the pack.

Fancy Dancy
Both systems do multiple blows after you trigger, to compensate for torn fabric. I’m not seeing any difference I’d call significant. Jetforce clearly wins the geek-out award for its automatic hoover vac deflation cycle (occurs 3 minutes after you trigger). You might think this is a battery depleting gimmick, but it’s actually quite nice (and could be a safety feature, see below). On the other hand, Voltair’s incredibly high tech deflation straw is incredibly low tech, and I like that. While fiddly at first, once you’re used to the Voltair process it’s brainless.

If you actually did get buried in the white tomb with your Jetforce, the automatic deflation cycle might create an air pocket. I like that concept but again I don’t think it’s a deal maker or breaker. It’s just a theory and somewhat reminiscent of current ski helmet mythology.

Jetforce has the full “force” of the Pieps electronics brain trust behind it, resulting in the fancy trigger handle with it’s lights and so forth. But is that a deal breaker one way or the other? I’d say no. This is basic. If you’ve got something you can pull on and blow the thing up, you’re good. All other fu fu is perhaps exactly that.

Sorry to waffle, but picking between these two warriors involves more than just who has the biggest biceps. If you are a large North American corn fed bruiser, the bigger balloon of the Jetforce is attractive. If you ski in wet weather, the obviously better water sealed Voltair rucksack is a winner.

Do you like simplicity? Voltair’s reliance on manual deflation and their simple handle pull are attractive. On the other hand, I do like the Jetforce “hoover vac” deflation. Very convenient, especially in situations such as heli skiing where your guides will cut you off from apres whisky should you be fiddling around with repacking a “premature deployment,” as well as making you the butt of jokes based on that phrase.

Honestly, despite listening to literally dozens of hours of lecturing from both companies, I don’t see any real difference between the batteries. Though it would be remiss of me not to mention the Arcteryx has a standardized battery connector that begs for an aftermarket weight saving solution (for those of us who stay home drinking tea when it’s twenty degrees below zero). Black Diamond obviously doesn’t want you fooling around with their closed electrical system, though I’m guessing they might someday supply a lighter weight battery as an option.

Voltair costs a few hundred dollars more. But then what happens when these things are on sale? Me, if someone said I had to carry one or the other on pain of death (realistic), I’d just flip a coin. Perhaps you should too.


Balloon volumes: Voltair 150 liters, Jetforce 200 liters.

Cargo volume: Voltair is a few liters larger. If you pack quite a bit of kit this could be a factor. Next size up in BD Jetforce is the huge Saga 40. PIEPS Tour Pro 34 is also a Jetforce offering and could be closer to the optimal day-tour volume for most ski tourers.

Balloon fills per battery charge, room temperature: Voltair 12+, Jetforce 8+ (Estimated by me based on testing and information from makers, bear in mind that Jetforce uses electricity for deflation as part of overall blower cycle. Both packs have entirely adequate battery power, so quibbling about this is pointless.)

Weights: Halo 28 Jetforce 3484 grams, Voltair 30 is 3520.

Our Jetforce coverage.
Our Voltair coverage.
All our airbag backpack coverage.
Voltair Manual as PDF
Jetforce Manual as PDF

Shop for Voltair and Jetforce.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


36 Responses to “Voltair and Jetforce Airbag Backpack Comparo Review”

  1. Jeremy C December 14th, 2016 11:40 am

    As far as I tell, the only thing you think is worthwhile is the Arcteryx leg strap clip, and everything else about these packs offends you

  2. gard December 14th, 2016 4:09 pm

    Great review, Lou. I always appreciate your take on things. Can you comment on how each of these packs (and gas packs too) carry weight? I prefer tall, thin ice climbing style packs that keep the weight close to my back. Shorter, wider packs keep the weight away from me and tend to feel heavier and more cumbersome with the same load. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but this is much more noticeable than an extra pound in my pack.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 December 14th, 2016 4:37 pm

    Gard, I like the same kind of pack you do. Neither of these fan packs is really of that configuration, they tend to be blocky and stick out from your back. Good point about how that feels vs an extra pound. This is probably very personal, but worth noting. Some of the gas packs tend to that configuation as well, some don’t. The Mammut Light 30 and ride 30 are a little taller but not by much (I just sandwiched them together with the Halo to check. The Arva Reactor we have here is very nice, and is of the more blocky configuration being pretty much exactly the height of the Halo. The Scott packs we have are also blocky.

    I’m wondering where this design trend comes from. I suspect it might be based on shelf appeal, when customers go with what looks familiar and thus the most like their carry-on luggage.

    Thanks, Lou

  4. gard December 14th, 2016 4:59 pm

    Good to know, thanks! Blocky bags are fine for carrying books for short distances, but that’s about it. I’ve never understood why you’d use one for anything off campus though. Maybe we should start writing letters to all the pack mfgs requesting less blocky bags…

  5. See December 14th, 2016 6:44 pm

    That mirror might be useful for checking if the nose clip for your avalung is on straight.

  6. See December 14th, 2016 7:43 pm

    And a mirror can be a good thing to have (picture?).

  7. Matt Kinney December 14th, 2016 7:45 pm

    I carried the Jetforce all of last season. Rides down the mountain a bit better than other ski-packs I’ve worn and has a unique frame system that actually helps the hips. I like the dedicated pockets for avy tools cause I dig around quite a bit. It carries all the gear I need. The ski carry feature is super easy and quick. The helmet net works fine if you want to use it and like the ski carry straps, are tucked or zipped away. I did not find the pack “strap-happy”….what is there is needed. Other than that I don’t know anything about other packs until lou reviews them, so thanks for doing that.

  8. Pablo December 15th, 2016 6:49 am

    I Use the Pieps versión of the Halo28 pack.
    I find it comfortable to carry as it have nice weight balance. Batery and fan are down, close to your back and baloon is arround the pack also close to your back.
    Most gas packs have all sistems very high on your back so when you don’t carry lot of stuff you have all the weight on top.

    Jetforce pack configuración also have wider and longer back tan other packs so it can have more volume with less thickness this way weight is always close to your back.

    One thing I love about electrical sisttems is that you can try your airbag every day after going into the wild. You can chek it all works perfectly, re-army and then go. This is specially nice after a summer in the locker

  9. Matus December 15th, 2016 7:12 am

    The weight of both is unacceptable. Make it under 3 kg and we can talk about it. Having such a heavy backpack forces you to think three times before actually taking it for a trip.

  10. Lou 2 December 15th, 2016 7:14 am

    Pablo, in my case the ability to trigger when desired is the overriding factor, it’s just super nice. I’m sensitive to the weight so I don’t use the electrics as my daily driver, but if you’re ok with the weight they easily win over the gas packs. Another thing is that you don’t have any cost for refills as you do if you test fire your gas pack. I didn’t mention this in the blog post because I was doing mostly a comparison between two electric packs, but for someone who really uses their gas pack, refills are a factor. Lou

  11. Carl December 15th, 2016 1:26 pm

    How is the torso length on these? Most of the airbag packs I have tried were too short to effectively put weight on my hip making them very uncomfortable.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 December 15th, 2016 4:45 pm

    Carl, they seem a bit short. How would you like me to measure?

    Also, the Halo comes in a shorter and an M/L size, while as far as I can tell Voltair is only one size.


  13. Max December 15th, 2016 7:59 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but to my understanding, the reason why airbags work is because of the inverse segregation effect (also called brazil nut effect or granular convection). In an avalanche, larger objects tend to move to the surface. To my understanding, the weight to volume is irrelevant, only the volume. ABS explains the effect on their website and makes the claim that it is the weight to volume ratio that matters, but to my understanding that is wrong. the weight to volume ratio matters in a liquid, like water. Its simply the density of an object. Something floats if its density is lower than that of the liquid. If density would be the determining factor, airbags could not work as snows density is too low, we needed a much larger airbag. But because an avalanche acts more like sand in a bottle, or a bowl of nuts, larger pieces end up on the surface when you shake it, regardless of weight. Hence, a larger doesn’t need a larger airbag, he can do with a smaller.

  14. See December 15th, 2016 8:11 pm

    Two objects of equal volume but one is much heavier than the other. Will they behave the same in an avalanche?

  15. Pablo December 16th, 2016 5:53 am

    # Max
    You’re right, inverse segregation works on size but not only….
    Larger objets rise up in the flow but the speed they do vary with density.
    It’s demonstrated that objects with same volume (larger ones) moves at different speeds in the flow.
    Objects with less density tends to move up faster in the flow tan other objetcs with more density.

    That’s why a larger volumen airbag works better in an avalanche event. It carry you up faster than the smaller ones.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 6:57 am

    Yeah, my understanding is this “inverse segregation” issue is more complex than we’ve been led to believe, and involves mass of the object as well as volume. In other words, thought experiment, how would an airbag work if it was made out of lead? And as alluded to above, is the larger person with a big backpack less likely to get buried even without use of an airbag!?

    In any case, it’s been proven that avalanche balloon packs do work as designed, on occasion. But not always, due to human error, violence of avalanche, etc.

    Thought I’d also add that after working with both fan packs, it’s my opinion that these are clearly “1st generation” products, one step removed from beta testing. I think they’re viable for retail, but suspect we’ll see significant changes over the next few years. The industry is moving fast. For example, acceptable weight for many skiers has gone way down in Europe due to the Mammut carbon cylinder and upgraded plumbing option. When you configure a pack that way, the electronic packs seem WAY heavy.


  17. Matus December 16th, 2016 8:08 am

    Lou, you are right. Having 30L backpack at 2090 grams is making dream come true.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 5:07 pm

    Matus, my honest take is that both Arcteryx and BD missed the mark by not using their amazing technology to build a 2 liter pack option. They’re not entirely to blame. The Europan requirements for airbag packs are said to be clearly biased against the electronic packs, due to the obvious dominating influence of the compressed gas packs. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that very few people ski tour when it’s 20 below zero Fahrenheit. Even Denali climbs and ski descents tend to be on warmer days than that. It’s a patently ridiculous requirement. What I’d like to see is a North American maker just forget all that BS and offer an electronic pack with battery weight options, made along the style of the Mammut packs using lighter weight fabrics and minimalist strapage. Sell it on backcountry.com and don’t look back. People from Europe can order it despite their big-brother EU Commission telling them they need a pack that works on Vinson in Antarctica when they’ll never go there. Lou

  19. CSG December 27th, 2016 9:18 am

    I skied last season with the BD Saga 40.

    It is not “huge”. 40L in an avalanche pack feels like about 30L in a one-compartment top loader. You have to really pack it tight (to compress the folded/ stuffed balloon) to actually get anywhere near 40L. I find it *just* adequate for a day tour, but we ski in the Canadian Rockies which is generally colder, more remote and more glaciated than the ranges south of the border. “Min kit” requires enough food and clothing to spend a cold night out; many objectives need rope and glacier gear. For our needs, the Halo 28 is not big enough (again, because of the pack packaging, in practice, it’s smaller than the nominal volume).

    The weight is not an issue for me. I obsess over the weight of skis and boots, but I’m ok with the extra kilo or two on my back. I run with a pretty motivated crew and haven’t found the pack weight to make a difference in racking up the vertical. The pack carries well enough that I effectively don’t notice it. Certainly, compared to the 30 or so kilo packs we typically put on for the long (1-4 weeks) icefield tours at the end of the season, it’s nothing.

  20. Chris January 6th, 2017 1:27 pm

    You mentioned after market helmet carries. I have an Arc’teryx Khamski and would like to add this accessory. Do you have a retail recommendation? Or a DIY suggestion?

  21. Amir Nowtash January 23rd, 2017 2:03 pm

    Thanks for the fantastic review. Despite the Voltair being the newest pack, and that you’d expect would have all the features, the one feature that the Jetforce seems to have, is that after a few minutes, it automatically deflates, therefore leaving you an air pocket around your head should you be submerged.

    With the Voltair, my impression is that the balloon is almost airtight, and will not deflate unless you stick the pipe into it, which is improbable should you be buried.

    Could you please confirm if that’s the case, or if the air would leak out, and how quickly? I wonder if perhaps they felt the air pocket is a marketing gimmick and not worth incorporating?

  22. Lou Dawson 2 January 23rd, 2017 5:10 pm

    Hello Amir, you are correct, Jetforce has automatic deflation, Voltair remains inflated and is virtually “permanent” until you let the air out with the deflation straw.

    How important this is, one way or the other, is a totally 100% unproven factor, especially considering the whole point of the exercise is to not get buried in the first place.


  23. jus January 25th, 2017 10:28 am

    Me and my future husband have both the jetforce.
    First of all i am very unpleased about the fact they didn-t create a version for women with a shorter back length. After 2 months of caring it daily my back hurted so much, I actually have to put something on my shoulders (like “epaulets”) to fill the gap and not put all the pressure on my back. and it s not a light backpack! especially on the long tours..but what we do for safety..?!
    The second bad thing that nobody saw yet,or i cant find something similar, is that the fabric broke in the upper area, where you sometimes carry the skis on the shoulder. i had to sew it and thank god i saw it in time, before my balloon was broke. unfortunately, my husband’s has already a pinch, i still hope it inflates well. so they should really use a more resistant fabric, at least in the zone of the balloon. i mean..we use it a lot, we re not just going once in a month or testing..

  24. Lou Dawson 2 January 25th, 2017 4:44 pm

    Thanks for the information Jus! Yes, one of the problems with these packs is that the companies seem to spend excessive amounts of money and resources making all sorts of silly little features, when they should just make a simpler pack that comes in two sizes. Oh well… Lou

  25. Brendan Hogan February 16th, 2017 7:23 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but according to backcountry.com’s website; Arc’teryx back their product 100% by offering a lifetime warranty whilst Black Diamond only offer a 12 month warranty. On a safety product such as these, I think the choice is quite easy…

  26. Amir Nowtash February 17th, 2017 11:17 am

    Lou, to correct your statement that the “Voltair costs a few hundred dollars more.” I assume you are referring to the Voltair 30 pack being $1300 vs. the Halo 28 at $1100. But for some reason, which is quite misleading IMO, the Voltair is sold without its battery and charger, which cost another $380.

    So the Voltair basically costs $1700, compared to the Halo 28 at $1100, which is a lot more than a few hundred more. It’s over 50% more. I think it would be good to update the article with these numbers and point out how the Voltair battery and charger are not included in the price of the pack.

  27. Mike March 4th, 2018 4:58 pm

    Hi Lou, thanks for the review, the most comprehensive and enjoyable Voltair vs Halo/jetForce that I’ve read. Good writing!

    Firstly, all backcountry riders should assume they’ll end up in an avalanche one day. That’s why we carry these backpacks around. And if that’s true, then we should evaluate those backpacks considering 3 factors:

    1) Will I be able to deploy the bag in time?
    2) Will it reduce the risk of head and torso trauma?
    3) Will it reduce the risk of getting buried?

    As I see it:

    1) All electric packs are winners, because they let you practice, until deploying a bag is just a reflex. When an avalanche hits you and brings you down, your limbs may be broken, behind you, below you, so deploying the bag early is key. If you don’t practice, your chances of survival drop. That also means that owning and being able to fly with it, instead of renting a different one in every single destination, increases your chances.

    2) With large amounts of snow, steeper slopes, terrain obstacles (trees, rocks) most avalanche victims suffer fatal head and torso trauma before the slide comes to a standstill. They are dead before they could die of suffocation after being buried for an extended period of time. Google “Snow Fall The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek”. So having a bigger air bag should protect your head and torso, just as any car airbag does. Limb fractures are usually not fatal and it’s hard to avoid them anyway.

    3) So if a) you’re able to deploy the bag early and b) the snow keeps sliding (if it stops right away, the bag is useless), c) you’re not killed during a slide, you’re hoping to balloon to the surface, c) provided there is no cliff or other terrain dip, in which case… the bag is useless, and as you balloon d) you hope end up facing up and not down, in which case you’ll probably suffocate

    So if you’re still alive when all the spinning stops… but you end up buried, snow in your mouth, nose, can’t move your arms, a crushing weight of snow not letting you breathe… then the JetForce deflation might actually give you a chance to catch a breath and live long enough until somebody finds you. Provided you’ve got a beacon on you and you’re not skiing alone.

    That being said, I think electric bags are the future, since you can actually practice using one, and JetForce deflation feature give you a slightly bigger chance of getting rescued.

    So it’s not really about the bag being waterproof or lightweight, is it?

  28. atfred March 4th, 2018 6:56 pm

    I still like the airbag James Bond had in “The World is not Enough” – small, light weight, fully protective, and room for two!


  29. Lou Dawson 2 March 5th, 2018 8:00 am

    Mike, I appreciate your thoughts, but let’s keep in mind that avalanche airbags are proven to only do one thing, reduce chance of burial. All that other stuff is pure theory and has not been tested in any meaningful way. In fact, the “auto deflate” feature of only one product, while interesting, is really nothing more than a PR talking point and a way of making re-packing easier. That said, the possibility of any additional benefits of carrying around expensive weight in the form of an airbag system is interesting and I like seeing those things covered here, but again, there is one good reason to buy and use an airbag backpack: to prevent burial in an avalanche.

    Thus, in my view, whatever causes packs to be used, and used correctly, are the most important factors. Electric packs have features that do cause them to get used, for example easier to travel with, and used correctly, for example plenty of practice. The obtuse factor with the electronics was weight, but now with the Scott-Alpride that appears to be taken care of, the future is bright.

    Next, the industry needs to band together, do statistical analysis on things like how many people are buried despite inflated airbag, and doing real world testing as to whether would auto-deflation really make enough difference in outcomes for it to become part of the standards, or at least legitimately touted as a feature. Likewise, trauma protection, which sounds good but really, without extensive research and testing, a total mystery as to what would actually work, and how often it would actually change outcome.


  30. Lou Dawson 2 March 5th, 2018 8:04 am

    P.S., I’ve been in a major avalanche and studied them for years. The broken femur I experienced, which has about a 50% mortality due to femoral artery laceration, would not have been prevented by “airbag trauma prevention.” Moreover, if I’d had a helmet, it would have worked best worn on my right hip. Lou

  31. Robinson Dixon March 25th, 2018 5:12 am

    Stay well clear of this bag and opt for an interchangeable bag like Arc’teryx. I paid nearly £1,000 for this bag and the compartments that hold the components have got big holes in them. I cannot fault the system, but the bag is made from inferior fabric. It has a warranty. Yet after only six weeks the holes are gaping and Black Diamond say it’s wear and tear. I won’t be buying their products again and warn you all to stay well clear.

  32. john kassay October 21st, 2018 6:23 pm

    Hi Lou, nice review. I’m considering returning my Voltair as part of the recall. I’m looking at the new Jetforce Tour as a replacement, though the smaller size is of concern. Most of the things you dislike about the Voltair are high on my list too. You mentioned buying an aftermarket helmet carrier. Can you please elaborate. That’s my biggest pet peeve about the voltair


  33. Lou Dawson 2 October 22nd, 2018 8:16 am

    Hi John, sure:


    Perhaps requires a few mods, other options are on backcountry dot com as well. Some helmets actually come with a carrier

    Or, as we recommend these days, just wear the helmet all the time.


  34. nicholas January 20th, 2019 3:47 am

    to mr hogan above do ur research before u post

  35. Brendan Hogan January 20th, 2019 4:01 am

    @ Nicholas.
    You can talk!
    I double checked backcountry.com’s website and yep, they still offer a lifetime warranty on this product. Perhaps you should do your homework more thoroughly!

  36. Brendan Hogan January 20th, 2019 4:06 am

    @ Nicholas.
    You can talk!
    I double checked backcountry.com’s website and yep, they still offer a lifetime warranty on this product. Perhaps you should do your homework more thoroughly!


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