Thanks to Ortovox for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
We recently got our hands on a pre-production Blackjack, the new airbag pack from Mystery Ranch. We haven’t got out to use it yet, but at first glance it looks like a winner.
Blackjack is a traditional top loader (a plus in my book, but that’s personal preference), with a side zip on one side that accesses the main compartment and a shovel pocket on the back. The airbag is located in the “brain,” which also has a small pocket. The entire airbag system, which is manufactured by Avi Vest, can be removed, which lightens the pack substantially. You can also attach the pull cord to either pack strap, as it is contained in a separate removable sleeve. Like most Mystery Ranch packs, this sack is burly, with a strong suspensions system, tough fabric, and huge zippers.
The airbag components look good, it has a nifty zipper that is designed to blow open when the airbag deploys, which you can also use as a pocket if you remove the airbag. The cylinder is about 1.25 times the size of the cylinder that came with our BCA Float 30.
The pack is speced at having a volume of 2,600 cubic inches (43 liters), but like other airbag packs, has less usable space than that. The volume feels slightly larger than my 35 liter BD Alias, which is also a top loader with a shovel pocket on back. The pack weighs 8.8 lbs with the airbag components, and 5.4 lbs with out them.
Mystery Ranch had to ship the pack with the compressed air cylinder empty to comply with postal regulations. When we received it I called around the Roaring Fork valley in an attempt to get it filled. For some reason I couldn’t find anyone who would fill it, but now that I’m in Bellingham, it’s easy enough to find a dive shop to get a refill.
I’m impressed by the Blackjack, and I’m excited to get out and test it (as in “test” not “real”).