ABS System How To

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 28, 2011      

Avalanche Airbag backpacks have quite a range in complexity when it comes to re-charging. User refillable ones seem better at first glance — till you run around trying to get someone to fill it and deal with things like temperature vs fill pressure. Packs such as ABS, that require obtaining a filled cylinder from a dealer or by mail, seem like more of a hassle but may be more user friendly due to the actual refill part of the job being totally out of your hands. The ABS process is well covered in the manual and DVD that’s included with the packs, but here are a few tidbits to show you the process.

The nitrogen cartridge is easily screwed into the puncture unit. Be careful not to cross thread and make sure it is screwed in all the way, which should feel obvious.

To deflate the airbags, lift up the red flap and depress the little red button. The button should spring back up to replug the valve when you release. If it doesn't, send it in to get looked at.

Empty cartridge (on left) is verified by the puncture hole in the top and that it weighs less than the printed weight on the cartridge. Full, unused cartridge on right. Cap to protect threads on far right.

Spent activation handle is on right, verified by the red part sticking out. Also, it can be wiggled around as it is loose. Unused handle on left.

The activation handle plugs into the shoulder strap via a quick link coupler. Be sure that the quicklink snaps back to insure that it’s plugged in all the way. If it’s hard to plug in or remove, put some silicone oil (included) in the coupler. The strap is used to put the handle into “saftey position”, i.e. so the system can’t be triggered. To get it ready for use before entering avalanche terrain, velcro strap as shown.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately on ABS, stay tuned for info on Snowpulse and BCA, who also make great airbag packs. For more on all the different packs, please see my overview, or our Avalanche Airbag Backpacks category.


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6 Responses to “ABS System How To”

  1. John Gloor February 28th, 2011 7:56 pm

    I had imagined some kind of cable pull system activating a spring loaded plunger. What is in the handle that makes it a one time use item?

  2. John S February 28th, 2011 9:21 pm

    Interesting system. How expensive are the replacement cartridges and handles? Looks complex and perhaps expensive compared to the BCA system.

  3. Nick March 1st, 2011 1:58 pm

    BCA and Snowpulse use a cable trigger system. ABS uses a charge built into the handle which sends a shockwave down the line, which pushes the puncture unit into the cartridge, piercing it and releasing the nitrogen. The handle must be sent in along with the cartridge for refill after they have been deployed. Replacement for both together (called an ‘activation unit’) costs around $30 plus shipping. I go into more detail on the process in the airbag over view page. Shipping is fast, but can be more time consuming than getting one of the other systems refilled yourself, but if you don’t have a reliable refill source, ABS can be much more convenient, especially when travelling.

  4. Nick March 30th, 2011 8:26 am

    Check out this footage of a guy using an ABS to escape a slide. When his friend skis down to him, he’s standing next to the debris with his bags inflated, skis still on, and a shit eating grin. Crazy.

  5. Maverick April 4th, 2011 9:49 pm

    I have read some of the other posts on the airbag packs and Lou noted that the statistics on survivability were ‘eye-opening”– anybody know where these statistics exist?

  6. Nick April 13th, 2011 8:15 am

    Maverick, check out this link
    and scroll down to studies and data. Also be sure to check out the comments at the bottom.

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