Black Diamond Jetforce Pro Avalanche Airbag Backpack, Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 12, 2019      
Jetforce Pro 10L pack with helmet net. Similar style helmet net to that used on other Black Diamond packs, which works very well.

Jetforce Pro 10L pack with helmet net. Similar style helmet net to that used on other Black Diamond packs, which works very well. Note: This model of the new BD airbag backpacks will begin retail in fall of 2019.

10L pack opened. Much of the internal volume is taken up with the airbag (on the top and sides), and the electronics (on the bottom). The large 200 liter airbag takes up a significantly higher amount of volume inside the pack than most other airbags. The middle area of the pack, between the airbag, is the only significant storage area available in the 10L pack. It’s just big enough to fit a water bottle, gloves, and goggles.

10L pack opened. Much of the internal volume is taken up with the airbag (on the top and sides), and the electronics (on the bottom). The large 200 liter airbag takes up a significantly higher amount of volume inside the pack than most other airbags. The middle area of the pack, between the airbag, is the only significant storage area available in the 10L pack. It’s just big enough to fit a water bottle, gloves, and goggles.

Black Diamond has been in the airbag game since 2013, with their in-house designed line of Jetforce packs. They are now updating and expanding their offerings for the avalanche prone snowsports: skiing; snowboarding, snowmobiling. In addition to the Jetforce Tour, and the Jetforce UL, they are releasing an updated version of their Jetforce electric fan airbags, now dubbed Jetforce Pro. For an overview of their entire line, check out this post. Today, we’ll look in detail at the Jetforce Pro.

Pack with 10L booster removed.

Pack with 10L booster removed.

For this review I’ll refer to the original Jetforce as Jetforce V1, and the new system as the Jetforce Pro.

The Jetforce Pro will be sold as a base unit combined with the 10 liter volume booster, for MSRP $1399.95. The based unit can then zipped to various “boosters.” The base unit comprises the airbag system, shoulder straps, and the “back” of the backpack. The booster packs are the front of the backpack (facing behind you). This isn’t a new idea for airbag packs, but Black Diamond has implemented it in a nice, clean way. Although this adds a bit of weight, it’s a great way to add value to the system, especially with it being as expensive as it is.

The booster packs come in four models:
— 10 liter pack (which we tested), which doesn’t add much volume to the base system. When you buy the base unit it comes with the 10 liter booster.
— Two 25 liter options, one for skiers and one for snowboarders.
— 35 liter option.

Nicely designed trigger handle appears to be mostly unchanged from Jetforce V1. However, it can now be installed in either shoulder strap.

Nicely designed trigger handle appears to be mostly unchanged from Jetforce V1. However, it can now be installed in either shoulder strap.

This is the portion of the airbag that inflates first, located on the bottom left side of the pack. It doesn’t have a burst zipper. Instead, it is covered by a simple flap with an elastic cord holding it closed. It opens easily, and I could possibly see it getting filled with snow, perhaps in a fall in deep snow. However, I sacrificed in the name of science and took it upon myself to ski deep pow with the pack, and didn’t find any snow getting into the airbag pocket.

This is the portion of the airbag that inflates first, located on the bottom left side of the pack. It doesn’t have a burst zipper. Instead, it is covered by a simple flap with an elastic cord holding it closed. It opens easily, and I could possibly see it getting filled with snow, perhaps in a fall in deep snow. However, I sacrificed in the name of science and took it upon myself to ski deep pow with the pack, and didn’t find any snow getting into the airbag pocket.

Jetforce V1 packs were never the lightest airbags out there, focusing instead on reliability, ease of use, and safety. The new Pro system stays in line with these original goals. Following is a brief overview of the changes with the new pack, compared to the original Jetforce.

First, the Pro system is lighter. BD didn’t really remove any features or functionality from their airbag guts, but managed to cut out some mass. The electronics have been lightened, and the (overly complex) threaded-rod system for opening the airbag compartment has been replaced with an industry-standard “burst zipper,” thus removing a bit of weight. Since the pack is offered with the various zip-on booster packs, the weights are a bit confusing. Here’s an overview:

Base pack weight: 2636 grams (5.8 lbs)
Base pack with 10 liter booster weight: 2870 grams (6.3 lbs) (this is the lightest functional Jetforce Pro pack)
Base pack with 25L booster weight: 3118 grams (6.9 lbs)

That’s a fairly significant weight reduction compared to Jetforce V1 packs. For example, the Halo 28 pack weighs 3401 grams (7.5 lbs).

Next, BD added Bluetooth functionality to the electronics, which enables you to update the firmware without taking things apart. Other elements of the system are unchanged. The airbag itself is still 200 liters, bigger than many other packs on the market, which are generally 150 liters, the lower limit for CE “certification.” It’s debatable how much the size of the airbag matters (especially for average size people) but in terms of the “brazil nut effect” that airbags rely on to work themselves to the top of an avalanche, bigger could be better. Not because the bag “floats” you like a boat, but because it needs to increase your overall size-volume enough for the nut effect to occur. Whether this difference in volume has any real-world effect is something we’ve not seen any significant proof of. It’s like helmet MIPS, they say it is better in real life, so it is? In the end, the issue of the larger bag might become moot, as we’ve heard a lot of rumor about thinner-lighter fabrics that will appear in airbag backpacks within the next few years.

Another safety feature that is retained in the new Jetforce system is that the fan keeps blowing after the airbag is triggered, so the airbag could stay inflated even if it had a small tear or rip. In our view that’s a more significant and quantifiable feature than the increased balloon volume (as we know of accidents that involved shredded airbag balloons).

We got our hands on the Jetforce pro with the 10 liter booster pack. It was tested on some short tours, as well as skiing sidecountry at the ski resort. The 10 liter size is small for most people’s touring. It is more suited to heli skiing or sidecountry. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to test out the bigger booster packs. However, since the airbag components, shoulder straps, back panel, etc. are the same throughout the different packs, testing the pack with 10 liter booster was valid.

The Jetforce Pro ski touring airbag rucksack is clearly a refined version of the original Jetforce. I’m mainly excited by the weight reduction, but other changes are nice as well. The airbag is well integrated into the pack, and although it’s bulky, it is not awkwardly placed, so it takes up as little volume as possible. A standout feature of the airbag is the fact that it can be turned on and off from the trigger handle; useful if you forget to turn the airbag on before starting up the skintrack, and useful for situations that require a quick, mandatory disable.

The ski carry works well, although the bottom loop is barely large enough for my 115 underfoot skis.

The ski carry works well, although the bottom loop is barely large enough for my 115 underfoot skis. The upper strap cinches through the pack bag to the shoulder straps, thus eliminating tension on the cargo and balloon zippers. Note that A-frame carry is not an option, due to configuration of airbag deployment opening.

The top straps for the diagonal ski carry are routed inside the airbag compartment, under the airbag, and connect directly to the shoulder strap of the pack. This is awesome;the skis carry well even if the pack isn’t full.

The top straps for the diagonal ski carry are routed inside the airbag compartment, under the airbag, and connect directly to the shoulder strap of the pack. This is awesome; the skis carry well even if the pack isn’t full.

For the last few years, Black Diamond has been coming out with beautifully designed packs, and this one is no different. The 10L pack is simple, but the ski carry and helmet carry features are nicely implemented.

The simple clip on the crotch strap snaps easily on to the loop on the waist belt. Nice.

The simple clip on the crotch strap snaps easily on to the loop on the waist belt. Nice.

I especially like what they’ve done with the crotch strap. Crotch straps are a mandatory component of airbag packs, but they are undeniably a pain in the…crotch. They are often fiddly, and if you aren’t wearing the strap (on a skintrack through safe terrain, for example), it’s a hassle to stuff away so it doesn’t dangle like a forgotten mooring line. Black Diamond has included a nice little snap-hook clip to the end of the strap, which makes it super easy to attach to the waist belt. They’ve also made it quick and easy to stow or deploy the strap, a welcome feature. One downside; I’ve noticed that if you do forget to wear the strap, and don’t stow it, the clip is prone to getting caught on things, much more than a simple webbing strap.

Pulling on the crotch strap like this quickly pulls the clip up into the waist belt, neatly storing it away (see next photo).

Pulling on the crotch strap like this quickly pulls the clip up into the waist belt, neatly storing it away (see next photo).

The clip on the end of the strap slots nicely like this when it is stowed, well out of the way.

The clip on the end of the strap slots nicely like this when it is stowed, well out of the way.

After pulling the strap, you can leave it dangling (half the length of the entire strap), or stuff it into into the waist pocket. Most of the time I just gave the strap a quick tug and left it dangling as shown. It was well out of the way. This is an ingeniously simple way of solving the dangly waist strap issue that’s common with airbag packs, and is possibly my favorite feature of the pack.

After pulling the strap, you can leave it dangling (half the length of the entire strap), or stuff it into into the waist pocket. Most of the time I just gave the strap a quick tug and left it dangling as shown. It was well out of the way. This is an ingeniously simple way of solving the dangly waist strap issue that’s common with airbag packs, and is possibly my favorite feature of the Jetforce pack.

Pocket where crotch strap can be stuffed, also useful for snacks,Gauloises, etcetera

Pocket where crotch strap can be stuffed, also useful for snacks,Gauloises, etcetera

The base pack is offered in one size, and the torso length seems a bit long compared to some other packs. It fit fine on my 5’10” frame, but If you are on the smaller side, you might want to try on the pack before buying.

I’m a big fan of refinement, and I love what Black Diamond has done to refine their Jetforce fan packs. That being said, they are not for everyone. The main turn-off is the weight and price, which are still significant. If you’re willing to make that tradeoff, however, I don’t think there’s any other airbag on the market that has the same combination of safety and usability that the Jetforce Pro offers.

Shovel and probe are stored in a simple sleeve in the main pocket on the 10L pack.

Shovel and probe are stored in a simple sleeve in the main pocket on the 10L pack.

Airbag electronic components are stored at the base of the pack, so they take up as little internal volume as possible.

Airbag electronic components are stored at the base of the pack, so they take up as little internal volume as possible.

The battery appears to be unchanged from Jetforce V1. That’s probably due to the strict CE requirements. We would still like to see a smaller battery that would work for nearly all ski touring, just not Antarctica in winter. Perhaps new Li battery tech on the horizon will shut us up.

The battery appears to be unchanged from Jetforce V1. That’s probably due to the strict CE requirements. We would still like to see a smaller battery that would work for nearly all ski touring, just not Antarctica in winter. Perhaps new Li battery tech on the horizon will shut us up.

Set up for diagonal carry, Jetforce. Pro

Set up for diagonal carry, Jetforce Pro.



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Comments

8 Responses to “Black Diamond Jetforce Pro Avalanche Airbag Backpack, Review”

  1. Kristian February 12th, 2019 1:20 pm

    Probably will switch to this system based on intersection of features – clean design, several size options, multiple inflations, and air travel.

    Curious about the huge waist belt design. Reminiscent of the 1970’s yak pack design. Would have preferred the Alpride capacitor system.

  2. Louis Dawson February 12th, 2019 2:38 pm

    The waistbelt didn’t seem unusually large or cumbersome to me, pretty similar to most comparable packs. It might be a bit overkill for a 10 liter pack, but when you put the 35 liter booster on, I think the size will feel more appropriate.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 February 12th, 2019 3:37 pm

    Louie and a couple of readers realized one of the photos, side view, was of another BD pack that Louie is testing. Fixed. It just showed how far down the airbag zipper goes, which is a ways. Lou

  4. Kristian February 12th, 2019 8:29 pm

    Preferred the shoulder straps and hip belt in the removed picture. Black Diamond is all over the place with inflation systems, size offerings, and suspensions.

    Companies have tried removing load lifters (the small straps at the top) in the past. And then abandoned. If it worked, it would have caught on by now. Especially with the military. You can’t carry much weight with such a pack for very long.

    Really appreciate the congruent Helio skis and bindings product line. Hope that they’ll do the same with their avalanche packs.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 February 13th, 2019 7:00 pm

    Did some edits to clarify that when you buy the basic pack, it comes with the 10 liter zip-on volume booster. Not optional. Lou

  6. Paul S. February 14th, 2019 6:52 am

    I’m still not clear what the benefits of JFPro technology are for me, the customer, over the Alpride E1 option… I think I’d much prefer exactly this pack, but with the Alpride power source. What am I missing that the JFPro tech does better?

  7. Lou Dawson 2 February 14th, 2019 9:17 am

    Hi Paul, good question. Jetforce has some features that BD does tout as making it superior, but they’re more theory than anything common wisdom holds as necessary, My take:
    1. Larger balloon, for normal to smaller people with day packs clearly not necessary, but if you carry a large backpack and/or are a large person, I can see this being something to consider. Remember that the “nut” effect is at least mostly about volume, not weight (though if you thought experiment with visions of a “balloon” filled with lead, one wonders if weight might have something to do with it…).
    2. Lots of continuous inflation bursts after initial fill, in case balloon is punctured, that seems like a good idea, but, how necessary in real life? If you get swept through trees that puncture your airbag, whether you have an airbag or not is the least of your concerns. Likewise for getting raked through cheese grater rocks.
    3. My recollection is that Jetforce gets many more inflations per “charge” than the E1. In my testing, I got two inflations from the E1 without waiting for re-charge, but it’s only guaranteed for one, with an up to 40 minute wait for the system to recharge from the AA batteries.

    https://www.wildsnow.com/23972/alpride-e1-supercap-airbag-review/

    The main thing to inculcate about airbag backpacks is they are far from being a panacea. The general media and public are taking them with way too much faith. Though we do recommend the lighter ones for most ski touring.

    Lou

  8. Ryan W March 18th, 2019 5:07 pm

    Did the dedicated tool compartment go away? I don’t see a color coded zipper and it looks like your tools are just sitting in a pouch? If so, did you find this to be a flaw in comparison to the Halo 28?





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