Float 30 Airbag Backpack — Unboxing

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 23, 2010      

Guess what landed on the doorstep! A new Float 30 airbag backpack from BCA. I’ll be testing it out this year (just the backpack part, hopefully). A review will be coming once I can get out and backcountry ski with it. For now, here’s some pictures of some various parts of the pack.

BCA Float 30 airbag pack

Ultimate avy-survival setup for backcountry skiing, avalung and airbag (and beacon and helmet of course).

The Float 30 is loaded with tons of features, like this elastic mesh helmet carrier.

The Float 30 is loaded with tons of features, like this elastic mesh helmet carrier.

I hope I never have to pull on this.

I hope I never have to pull on this in real life, but I'll do some tests and get it re-filled a few times just to makes sure the whole process works.

With the airbag components, and also the numerous zippers and pockets of the backpack itself, the Float 30 is noticeably heavy (7.4 pounds according to BCA website). Thus, I probably won’t be using it on any long days where weight is a factor. But for everything else, the extra margin of safety the Float 30 provides is well worth the weight. More, I might have to do a little work with the scissors and razor blade. Concern with this sort of mass is that one might leave essential backcountry skiing survival items behind to compensate, which would not be good. So it’ll be interesting to play around with how to utilize an airbag backpack and still keep it real with things such as first aid and survival gear — not to mention enough food and water. Stay tuned.

Start shopping for the BCA Float 30 pack.


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17 Responses to “Float 30 Airbag Backpack — Unboxing”

  1. Oscar November 23rd, 2010 10:08 am


    I would love a comparison between the ABS, Snowpulse and BCA sometime. That would be sweet…

    Love the ABS and the fact that you can switch it from being 15, 30 and 50 (and 18) liters..

    And never mind the extra weight… It might save your life!

  2. The Grudge November 23rd, 2010 10:21 am

    “Those obsessed with safety aught stay indoors.” – Zedes Dabuyu

  3. Eric November 23rd, 2010 10:59 am

    Hey Lou,
    the float 30 is mighty expensive… $700 right? Any thoughts about the if/when the price would come down as this is a somewhat new technology? It is hard to put a price on safety (I have read very impressive reviews from people who have actually had to deploy these things), but it is mighty pricey. Thanks for your blog.

  4. Griff November 23rd, 2010 11:39 am


    Last time I looked at the BCA airbag, they were recommending against strapping your skis to the bag when hiking. No carry straps were provided for side or cross carrying. Is that still the case?


  5. Oscar November 23rd, 2010 12:42 pm

    Griff, they’ve taken care of that. At first they were primarily aimed towards snowmobilers..

    But what is the ski carry like? What I like on the abs is that there’s no loop, ie your skis would most likely be ripped off the backpack in a slide, instead of acting like an anchor…

  6. Jonathan Shefftz November 23rd, 2010 12:43 pm

    Griff, I thought it was just last year’s version that lack the ski carry (and hydration system), but that both those features were added to this year’s version.

  7. NICK November 23rd, 2010 1:00 pm

    Apparently the upgrades from last year’s model include a different material, hydration compatibility, waterproof zippers, diagonal ski carry straps, and the helmet net pictured above.

  8. Rob November 23rd, 2010 2:21 pm

    Isn’t one’s head the best place for carrying one’s helmet? Just sayin’ is all.

  9. Rhett November 23rd, 2010 2:33 pm

    I bought a Float 30 this fall and have spent 1 day skiing with it so far. Here are my initial impressions:

    I deployed it in my living room, which my kids found highly entertaining. Worked perfectly, and got it refilled at a scuba shop for $7. The canister refill procedure seemed fairly simple as long as you follow the directions carefully, which includes replacing a tiny gasket.

    The pack carries reasonably well if not overloaded. In my mind, the perceived safety benefit outweighs the complaints, which include:
    -The size (30 L) is a bit smaller than I’d like for a long day. It has a wide, short shape, which in my mind could be improved upon.
    -The main compartment zipper seems a bit wimpy.
    -It lacks “load lifter” straps (from the shoulder straps to the main pack body). Perhaps these were left off b/c it might interfere with the airbag inflation?
    -The shoulder straps are really long and wide, and the waistbelt strap is set up for some serious girth. Maybe due to the intended motorhead market focus last year? I’m pulling out the scissors and sewing machine today.
    -The diagonal ski-carry system does work, but it puts all that weight far from the wearer’s back. If you place your shovel blade in the dedicated pocket, it inteferes with being able to cinch down the skis in a stable way. I’ve always preferred A-frame style, but I realize that would be incompatible with the airbag.

    I’m expecting BCA to get these packs more dialed in to the needs of skiers in coming years. For now, I’m happy to have one more card in the deck stacked in my favor.

  10. Joel November 23rd, 2010 4:35 pm

    I went to BCA’s office in Boulder to check the pack out….really surprised that Backcountry chose not to review any of the inflatable packs. Anyway, they tell me that they are going to come out with a larger version…maybe 40L next year, and that this time they may consider a snowboard carry system. I like the idea very much, and encourage the development. Looking forward to version 3.0

  11. Lou November 23rd, 2010 6:54 pm

    Oscar, blogger Nick is working on a comparo, we’re just waiting till we get more info on BCA, and YES, another one that’s coming from Mystery Ranch!

  12. AJ November 23rd, 2010 9:56 pm

    I wouldn’t mind having one of these in my arsenal, after seeing the changes from last year to this year, I think it’s time to bite the bullet.

  13. Oscar November 24th, 2010 7:04 am

    Lou, sounds great! Getting ready to pop some corn and already cooling the beer.

  14. Morgan November 24th, 2010 8:25 pm

    I am considering the float 30 but it is hard for me to shell out the big cash if it is not a really good pack (the air bag part looks great but it is the features that I will use every day that are the biggest concern) and I have not gotten to handle one yet. Louie, it would be great if you could post some picks of the avy tools pocket so we can see how every thing fits. I hate to have a shovel handle sticking out or have things get all weird and lumpy.

  15. Greg November 30th, 2010 1:30 am

    Float 30 Airbag Backpack looking nice. I want to buy.

  16. Lou November 30th, 2010 7:05 am

    Morgan, an extensive review is coming. This was the “unboxing.”

  17. Andy December 4th, 2010 4:35 pm

    $700 is fairly reasonable considering the ABS and Snowpulse packs retail for over a grand. As far as new technology goes: Airbag packs have been used and proven to a 98% success rate over the last 15 years. This technology is more refined than the Avalung is and has been tested longer, more extensively and has a much higher sucess rate than the Avalung.
    Pity that Backcountry mag didnt even acknowledge airbags in their backpack test. I predict in four years there will be four absolutely crucial items for the backcountry: beacon, shovel. probe, airbag.

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