Editor’s note: While the Scott capacitor based electric airbag pack has been getting much of the love, the Arcteryx Voltair remains a viable option despite its weight. If for no other reasons than it’s probably the most waterproof airbag pack out there and gets numerous deployments on one charge. More, due to the heat of competition we suspect the Voltair’s wallet torching price might come down, so keep your eye on that. We have quite a bit of Voltair content here that’ll give you weights and other technical details, check it out with a site search.
Voltair is a well designed electric airbag with functional design features that increase both safety and usability. In my opinion, the strong pros clearly out weigh the smaller negatives.
Before I get into the details I’ll give you a one sentence summary: If you are looking for air-travel convenience, multiple deployments on one charge in a very durable waterproof pack I would recommend this airbag.
Here are some of the well-engineered features:
The first thing you notice about Voltair, that’s different from many if not most other airbag packs, is the 100% waterproof and ultra-durable pack material (with waterproof zippers of course). The bag is large enough for a hut trip or an efficient two day tour if your traveling light. The coated waterproof fabric is a big plus in foul weather or a wet coastal climate (like B.C. or the PNW).
The battery is easily accessed via a small zipper for activation and has clear controls and a handy indicator light which shows full, partial or charge needed (Green, Yellow, Red). It is designed to have at least one full inflation even when the red indicator is on and if fully charged in a normal Colorado winter temperatures 0-30 F the bag should give you 12 full inflations. This is handy as you can practice and become familiar with all the functions so you are prepared prior to any incident. Additionally, the battery can be quickly disconnected for airline travel as the Lithium Ion battery needs to be hand checked when flying (be sure to carry it on, not bag check it).
The harness and suspension is one of the better I’ve skied with — uphill or down. The articulated waist is easy and comfortable. The crotch strap clips in without having to fiddle with it as a result of the simple mini-carabiner design.
The hand trigger, in my opinion, is one of the best, large and easily found and activated in a hasty situation. The trigger features a BOLD green dot showing you the mechanism is activated and ready and will let your partners know. Also the trigger cable is designed to travel about 100mm before it activates the fan thus helping avoid an accidental activation. (Though in the case of an airbag pack that’ll activate numerous times on one battery charge, accidental inflation is not the issue it is with compressed gas systems.)
The balloon inflates quickly (5 seconds) and pulses for 1 second every 5 seconds in case of a puncture in trees. The geometry of the inflated bag is good and will protect your neck and head in a 170 degree arc while keeping you above the snow.
• Durable & waterproof; good storm zippers.
• Multiple deployments on one charge, allows you to practice prior to a real life deployment.
• Clear indicator lights for battery status.
• Excellent trigger handle with clear symbol showing armed and ready or stowed.
• Quickly accessible Pocket for shovel and probe.
• Multiple re-inflations in case of puncture in a tree situation.
• Excellent waist, chest and crotch harness with simple reliable mechanism.
• Bold clear instructions printed inside to instruct proper safe use and repacking of the bag.
• Easy for air travel without the need to discharge and recharge any pressurized canisters.
• Easy to pack after deployment compared to others.
• Some brands-models compressed gas packs are significantly lighter.
• No additional pockets or storage areas for small items.
• Can be heavy in comparison to other airbag packs.
(WildSnow guest blogger Art Burrows is a fixture on the Colorado backcountry ski scene, as well as being widely traveled from Canada to Japan. He was distracted by telemark racing in the early days, but after many wins he saw the light shining from the lands beyond the bamboo stakes. He makes his living as a graphic designer and lives near Aspen, Colorado.)