Avalanche Airbag Backpack Overview

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 4, 2014      

2014/2015 Update:

Avalanche airbag backpacks, while effective in terms of safety, are a nightmare in terms of complexity, weight, price and overall consumer challenge. In our opinion here at WildSnow.com the winners of the airbag war will be companies who provide three qualities 1) the lightest packs, 2) easy air travel. 3) easy consumer refills. Keeping the price at or under $1,000 is important as well, but the pack that wins the other challenges will be worth a premium cost. When these qualities all conspire in one backpack it will easily outsell all others combined. For now there is no one uber-backpack — though we are closing in on the singularity. Believe, when the uberpack rises, we’ll be the first ones to shout about it.

Backcountry skiing avalanche airbag backpacks.

Cick for our airbag backpacks index.

In terms of reasonable price and nicely light weight BCA continues as a sweet spot for North American (and often European) shoppers with six models running a gamut of colors, sizes, and user targets. (Note: on the North American side, WARY has shuttered their airbag pack business, and Mystery Ranch is discontinuing all their ski packs until they launch a new ski/ride specific line for 2016/2017.)

Halo28 Jetforce airbag backpack. The pack will be available in 11, 28 and 40 liter capacity.

Halo28 Jetforce airbag backpack.

Big news is of course the Black Diamond Jetforce electric fan pack. Also new for 2014/2015, we like the Alpride system as it appears to solve some of the user convenience problems by using small airline compatible throw-away gas cylinders you replace with off-the-shelf retail blister packed cylinders. Jetforce is heavy but yields multiple inflations using a rechargeable battery. Alpride is light, simple, and could be the most airline compatible of all gas fired packs.

The other big player in the house is Mammut, who acquired the Snowpulse brand some time ago. The Snowpulse and Mammut packs are somewhat confusing, as they’ve aligned the Snowpulse packs with snowmobiling, and are offering two different airbag shapes/systems (RAS and PAS). One of our gripes with the avalanche airbag backpack industry is we feel it’s all become way too complicated, PAS, RAS… BS? More on that below.

ABS makes nicely designed airbag backpacks as well, but in our opinion their explosive trigger mechanism and nitrogen filled canister (“activation unit”) have become outdated, so we don’t recommend their packs. While shopping, know that quite a few other companies, among them North Face, Osprey, Ortovox and Dakine, use the ABS system in their packs. So, perhaps we’re wrong and a gunpowder charge in your shoulder strap is very 2015? Time will tell.

Avalanche safety can get technical and scientific, but in the end it boils down to human nature. Skiers will ski avalanche slopes, and some of us will ignore, forget, or perhaps never learn how to play that game with reasonable safety. Thus, we need a backup plan. Beacons, having achieved an almost supernatural status in the pantheon of avalanche safety gear, have proved disappointing in real life. Fact is, if you’re buried in a slide you stand a pretty good chance of being dug up dead, no matter how many extra features yours or your partner’s beacon has. Thus, two approaches to this problem. 1.Provide air to the otherwise suffocating buried victim. 2.Prevent burial in the first place.

The former approach is addressed by the Black Diamond Avalung. We like the idea of the ‘Lung, but even more, we like the idea of not being buried in the first place. Thus, again, we’re advocating airbag backpacks. (Note, snow suffocation in tree wells is a very real danger in certain snow climates, and the Avalung a viable solution, so keep that in mind and don’t think the airbag will always be the trump card.)

What about using both Avalung and airbag? It’s easy to ziptie an Avalung to the strap of your airbag backpack. However, we feel that doing so is a overly complex and excessive application of safety gear. At the least, how much fumbling around are you going to do in the split second when the snow fractures under your feet? Ask those who’ve had real experience. In many if not most cases of a skier triggered slab avalanche, you’re not going to have time to fiddle around with both getting an Avalung in your mouth as well as finding and pulling the ripcord on your airbag.

Thus, our advice. If (due to cost, weight, or personal preference) you’re not using an airbag backpack for backcountry skiing in avalanche terrain, by all means rock that Avalung — especially if you’re at risk of treewell suffocation. Otherwise, skip a year of costly mountain bike upgrades and acquire a late model airbag backpack from any of the brands below, practice using it, and don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.


Below is our WildSnow.com overview of the various avalanche airbag systems. While shopping for or researching airbag backpacks, also see our category listing. If you’re wondering what these things are and how they work, see this older post covering whether or not to use an airbag. While etail shopping for airbags can be a good bet for the technical type person, it might be better to work with a brick-and-mortar retailer. SIMPLIFY YOUR SHOPPING: Know that all airbags on the market conform to European CE standards for avalanche airbag backpacks, and are quite similar in performance. Claims about larger balloon volumes and trauma protection are mostly just marketing story; what you’re after is technology that keeps you from getting buried in the white tomb, and does so at the least cost and weight (with a nod to convenience of refills and air travel.)


ABS started the commercial avalanche airbag game back in 1985, they’ve had years to perfect their system. In fact, most of the published statistics available for air bags are from accidents and tests using the ABS system and are a result of their pioneering efforts. Early versions of their packs used a mono bag system (similar to the system used by BCA), but they moved to a dual airbag in 1996 to create more surface area to ostensibly enhance the system’s ability to keep you on top of the snow. (As a bonus, having two bags provides some redundancy in case one of the bags or valves is damaged). They argue that their dual bag “wing” design puts an avy victim in a horizontal position and therefore less exposed to the dynamic forces of an avalanche. Could be.

ABS system deployed is a dual balloon configuration.

ABS system deployed is a dual balloon configuration.

The ABS system differs from the others in that it uses a cartridge filled with nitrogen that is sealed and not user refillable (think of a sealed BB gun cartridge; note Alpride also uses this type of cartridge only smaller). There are no valves or gauges or cables to deal with, you just screw the cartridge into a socket in the backpack. The activation is accomplished with a removable “activation handle” which has an explosive round that, when pulled-triggered, sends a shockwave down the line to pierce the seal of the cartridge, which then inflates the dual bags which come out of either side of the pack like wings. The bags stay out of your way and don’t block your vision or range of motion, giving you more freedom to ski away or swim in the avalanche. When thoughtfully configured with a compatible backpack, A-frame ski carry is possible with the ABS system.

To prevent confusion, know that the ABS system is used to create airbag backpacks from several (if not many) other brands of backpacks (e.g., Ortovox and Osprey). It’s a jungle, and we’ll not try and hack through it here besides saying that if you do find a pack you like that has the ABS system, whatever the brand, it’ll work.

The ABS activation handle is stored out of the way in a pocket on the hipbelt, and when preparing for avy terrain, is attached to the shoulder strap via a quick-link coupler similar to an air hose. Once it is in place, the handle has a velcro strap which can be secured over it to keep it from being accidentally pulled. When ready to ski, adjust the strap so there is room for the handle to be pulled. Pulling the handle is surprisingly easy, even with heavy mitts. Repacking the air bags after an inflation is simple; just fold them up and tuck inside the velcro pouches.

ABS ships their packs with two sets of cartridges and activation handles, so you can perform a test release at home. Typically, you pay a deposit for the second cartridge when you buy the pack, which is then refunded when you send it back after your test. When you need your cartridge refilled, you must mail it to an ABS distributor who then sends it to ABS who will refill and send it back to you. The process is actually pretty quick–the filling is done in British Columbia, and we received ours the day after ABS received it (Reported swap times vary, probably due to vagaries of weather, holidays, and that sort of thing. As with all gas packs we recommend keeping two filled cylinders on hand if you’re an active backcountry skier.)

Air Travel with ABS:
We don’t recommend air travel with an ABS explosive trigger and gas canister. The outcome is too uncertain. Instead, arrange to acquire an activation unit at your destination. Also, if you test fire an ABS before air travel, change your clothing and shower before you leave as the trigger leaves explosive residue on your skin and clothing that could be detected by airport security devices and result in hassles.

Scott Alpride

Scott is a big company with the engineering chops to make just about anything. With the increased popularity of ski touring, they’ve entered the fray of wild snow with a bold move into everything from tech compatible ski boots to yes, airbag backpacks. Alpride is based on non-refillable canisters that are similar to the sealed CO2 canisters you use for everything from air rifles to tire inflators.

Alpride 30 comes nicely packaged.  I could picture it under a Christmas tree.

Alpride fills from a pair of smaller cylinders, and you renew from a blister-packed set.

In this case, one of the canisters is actually a life preserver (PFD) canister that’s similar or matches that used in airplane and boat inflatable PFDs. The other canister is filled with argon, and again is quite similar to a PFD canister. The idea here is the canisters are not only air travel compatible, but available from retailers as affordable blister-packed pairs that retailers can hang on their display wall. It’s a clean system that when paired with a lightweight backpack can be quite low in mass (Scott claims their plumbing is just about the lightest on the market).

Alpride Use
The trigger handle is stowed in a zippered shoulder strap (left side). A firm pull snaps a pair of spring loaded firing pins in the plumbing, in turn puncturing the factory sealed cylinders. Packing the bag is ultimately easy, though a bit confusing if you try to exactly follow the printed directions. The plumbing comes out in minutes for swap into a different Scott backpack. You can insert new cylinders in mere seconds. You cock (arm) the trigger spring with a screw you insert then remove, a visible indicator on the plumbing shows you if the trigger is armed.

We found the zippered airbag containment slot to be a bit tight for easy packing, just a small amount of increased volume would speed up the process and lower the stress level. But it works. Before beginning the packing process do a final separation of the zipper pull, relocate the pull to the other side of the pack, then zip up the compartment as you stuff the bag. The stuffing instructions are confusing and perhaps overwrought. We followed the general idea without getting too finicky and the bag deployed without issues during all our tests. Key trick, while packing insert the eraser side of a pencil or another benign object in the flapper valve on the plumbing, so the gas in the airbag can easily exit as you pack. Otherwise you’ll find yourself needing three hands.

While the one-use cartridge system of the Alpride has upsides, it’s not cheap to recharge. We did a test buy here in the U.S. and ended up paying $43.48 including shipping and tax for a blister packed cartridge set. With any airbag pack you should deploy occasionally to verify function, in our opinion several times a season if not more, so this cost is not trivial.

Air Travel with Alpride
Said to be flawless in Europe, but questions remain about North America. After reading up on it, my opinion is your best bet is to pack the retail blister packed cartridges in your checked baggage along with a printed version of the life jacket info linked to below in an obvious location, and see what happens. If your cylinders do get confiscated you’ll need to pick up another set at your destination so have a plan. The problem is TSA has conflicting information on their website. (Defunct links removed, 2015, but gist is that one paper says no compressed gas, the other says cylinders for life jackets are allowed.)

Our recommended Alpride model: Alpride 30.

Backcountry Access Float

BCA stirred things up a few years ago when they introduced a U.S. made airbag pack at a significantly lower price than the European competitors. They’ve improved quite a bit since then, demonstrating BCA’s commitment to a fine product. Float packs are clean, light, and nicely priced. We recommend them.

BCA float 32, with airbag deployed.

BCA float 32, with airbag deployed.

The BCA airbag is activated via a handle connected to a cable attached to a release pin. The air bag comes out of the top of the pack, behind the head, like a pillow. The idea here is that it keeps your head up and provides some protection, yet still allows full field of vision and mobility. The BCA pack is shipped to you with a full cylinder and a refill kit is included–very nice. To get an even easier start, you can order the pack with a second cylinder, then test fire it and ship the spent cylinder back to recoup a deposit.

Do it yourself (see our refill guide below), or take it in to one of the many retailers who are licensed to do the refill for you. BCA has done an exemplary job of going out and training shops to do this and thus their list is continuing to grow.
Refill guide

Air Travel:
Air travel with an empty cylinder in your checked baggage, with the top removed so agents can see inside. Print out the data safety sheet off BCA’s website and enclose with the cylinder. Arrange for fill at your destination. See the refill guide and other airbag posts for more details.

Our recommended BCA pack: Float 32

Black Diamond Jetforce

Probably the most talked about backcountry skiing product of 2014, the BD Jetforce packs use a powerful lithium battery to spin a fan based on model jet technology. The airbag fills fast, and you can fill it multiple times off a single charge (exact number depends on temperature of battery).

Skiing with Black Diamond Jetforce airbag pack.

Skiing with Black Diamond Jetforce airbag pack.

In our opinion Jetforce is the future of avalanche airbags and has already been quite disruptive of the industry even though the packs are not yet in retail. Only downside is the Jetforce packs are heavy — around eight pounds for the size we’d ski with. It’s said that a smaller battery could eventually be available, cutting around a pound of weight and only providing one or two fills. Don’t hold your breath on that one but we’d sure like to see it. Repacking procedure is reasonable. Stuff the bag back into the opening, re-insert a metal rod lacing system that’s a bit fiddly but you get used to it. Air travel is a no brainer. You can check or carry-on in operative configuration, though you should of course stow the trigger handle and otherwise disable the system to prevent accidental deployment. Rather than kludge more details here for a product that’s not yet in retail, please see our extensive lead-up coverage.

We recommend the Jetforce Halo 28, which at this time you need to pre-order. You can do so by backordering at an etailer or through a bricks & sticks store.

Mammut — Snowpulse

Snowpulse is owned by Mammut, with a trend to the Mammut version packs being designed or skiers and the Snowpulse side focused on snowmobiling. The Snowpulse/Mammut balloons fill with compressed air. The activation handle tucks neatly and conveniently into a zippered pouch–very easy to stow or deploy with a plastic handle that flips open. The handle is attached to a cable which mechanically releases air from the cylinder into the airbag. Note that Mammut sells two different types of airbag systems. RAS (Removable Airbag System) is focused on being able to easily swap between backpacks. PAS (Protective Airbag System) does a good job of wrapping the airbag behind and beside your head, ostensibly to prevent injury. It reminds me of motorcycle airbags mounted in jacket shoulders and collars. I’m not convinced on how effective this is, but it’s a logical idea as the fly in the ointment with all this is how injurious avalanches are.

Refilling and Repacking Snowpulse:
Do it yourself or keep it simple and exchange filled cylinders with the distributor or retailer. Also, when you buy your pack, some distributors offer the option to ship the cylinder empty to save on the HazMat fee.
2.0 system refill guide
1.0 system refill guide

Air Travel with Snowpulse:
Snowpulse supplies three different types of cylinders, a North American refillable cylinder, a European refillable cylinder, and a European non-refillable cylinder (another example of how confusing these systems are). Sadly, the North American version operates at a lower pressure and thus must use a larger cylinder than the Euro version. For the refillable cylinders, you must empty the cylinder and unscrew the cylinder head for air travel. See the refill guides for more on this. The Euro non-user refillable cylinder (only available in Europe) is certified by the IATA to travel filled so you can fly with it while in Europe, but don’t expect good results for North American air travel.

We recommend the Mammut Snowpulse Ride On 30L

European travel note: While users do continue to report intermittent problems when air traveling within Europe, fact of the matter is IATA regulations specifically allow avalanche airbags as checked or carry-on “with approval of the operator…” the following: “Avalanche rescue backpack, one (1) per passenger, equipped with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism containing less than 200 mg net of Division 1.4S and less than 250 mg of compressed gas in Division 2.2. The backpack must be packed in such a manner that it cannot be accidentally activated. The airbags within the backpacks must be fitted with pressure relief valves.”

See the IATA document here.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


310 Responses to “Avalanche Airbag Backpack Overview”

  1. naginalf May 4th, 2011 8:55 pm

    Awesome! Thanks Lou! And thanks very much, Nick, for putting this together.

  2. Lou May 5th, 2011 5:34 am

    Thanks Nagin, we’ll improve and update. What took the time was combining the weights of the ABS base unit with various zip-on sacks, so their weights could be compared to other brands. My math might be off in places, apologies if so.

    Am not sure we included cartridge weight in every option, will check later today. If a weight looks too good to be true, that’s probably what happened.

    Also, once the carbon fiber cartridges become available that’ll change the weight picture quite a bit.

  3. Janne May 5th, 2011 6:18 am

    Hi Lou! Thanks for all the great artcles and test reports! Just wondered if you’ve noticed that most of the pictures, graphs etc don’t work when reading with a small palm top like the iPod. They aren’t scaled so I can never see the right half of the pic or sheet. Otherwise, fantastic!

  4. Lou May 5th, 2011 6:27 am

    Janne, I wish Apple would fix that. But they’re probably expect me to since I’m way better at that stuff then they are, so I’ll try (grin). Lou

  5. Ali E May 5th, 2011 10:07 am

    I have the same problem on my iPhone.

  6. Lou May 5th, 2011 11:37 am

    Guys, I’m getting serious about the iPhone issue today. I installed Safari browser and an iPhone emulator, now to the trouble shooting… no guarantees. Lou

  7. Hallvard May 5th, 2011 2:13 pm

    ABS have posted a picture of a new zip on pack for the Vario line on Facebook. Looks like it will get A-frame ski carry which would be nice. With the 50l pack the skiis end up very far from your back as it is now, especially on the small size frame. The 50l seems just to big for the small frame, it easily hangs down from the frame. Otherwise the frame fits really nice to both my girlfriend and me, her: height 166cm-size small and me: 183cm size large.

    And the carbon cartridge is nice! Double income, no kids 😉

  8. Hallvard May 5th, 2011 2:16 pm

    She also as the light weigth 18l and I the ARVA 27. I miss a proper ski carry on the Arva and a ice-axe holder, but other than that a tight packs to wear for resort skiing and shorter hikes.

  9. Lou May 5th, 2011 2:23 pm


    I might have got it working for you, please test ASAP and get back to me.

  10. Ali E May 6th, 2011 9:17 am

    I can confirm that the iPhone problem is solved Lou. Nice one!

  11. Lou May 6th, 2011 12:36 pm

    Great Ali, enjoy! I’m inspired now to improve my mobile theme, stay tuned…

  12. ewa May 6th, 2011 2:28 pm

    I have been reading the site via the Facebook app for the iPhone, now it is ok in the browser too. Thanks.

  13. Lou May 6th, 2011 2:39 pm

    ewa, my pleasure, please click on the advertiser links once in a while and check them out, as they’re the ones that make it possible for me to sit here and fiddle around with things like a mobile website version. Lou

  14. Lou May 6th, 2011 2:40 pm

    Not sure the chart in this post can ever be made to work very well in most mobile browsers, but we’ll keep trying.

  15. Chris Auld September 13th, 2011 5:22 am

    Any chance you can elaborate on the ABS Refilled in BC bit?

    At the moment you’ve really got to go through SnowBigIdea to get economical fills (they don’t even do refills in NZ have to buy a whole new cylinder). The issue is the Hazmat fees to and from.

    If I can just call into somewhere in Vancouver or somewhere around then en route to Whistler for my fills (really just the test release each year – touch wood) that would be well sweet.

  16. Andy September 17th, 2011 1:28 pm

    Enquiring minds want to know about the new Mammut/SnowPulse effort, which I thought was a bargin until I realized the price didn’t include the cylinder, although it is coming in over a pound lighter than the BCA models

  17. Lou September 17th, 2011 1:48 pm

    Nick is on the case with SnowPulse.

  18. ty gittins September 29th, 2011 8:38 am

    with all the built in harnesses for blackpack retention in an avalanche, why not just make it a full on alpine climbing harness with double backed webbing and two big gear loops?

  19. John September 29th, 2011 9:15 am

    My 2 sons and I are 6’1? to 6’4?, so we are intrested in the specs on long torso (21?-23?) models. I have talked to BCA and they say their Float 36 fits a longer torso then the Float 30, although I have not gotten any specs.
    The SnowPulse Life bag 2.0 looks intresting, but I haven’t been able to find many specs.

    We appreciate the info!

    Sorry about the double post.

  20. Nick September 29th, 2011 9:37 am

    Thanks for updating this – all of the weights of the Euro-based bags are closer to MR/BCA than I thought once you add in the cylinders, etc.. Interesting. I always thought MR was much heavier, but it seems pretty close for more “literage” in the bag itself.

  21. Chris September 29th, 2011 1:26 pm

    I don’t think the Vario 25 liter will have A-frame ski carry. This is what ABS writes on Facebook:

    “Hi Hallvard, the Vario 40L backpack is the only one where the A-frame carry is possible. All other smaller zip-ons work with the diagonal ski mount as the airbags need to have enough space to inflate. Additionally, put your helmet on top if you like. Here you can see some pictures…”

    This is an answer to a question by a fan of the page.

    Sadly I will have to be without A-frame ski carry on my 25 liter then…

  22. Nick September 29th, 2011 7:08 pm

    Hi everyone, sorry I was too busy at work today to check in. I’ll try to address everything:

    @Lou: All ABS, Snowpulse, and BCA weights include the respective cartridge and handle.

    @Chris: I’ll get back to you with more on refilling in BC.

    @Andy: Snowpulse pack prices include a refillable cylinder. Not sure where you heard that? Shipping a full cylinder can incur hazmat fees, but you can usually choose to receive an empty one and then refill yourself to avoid that fee. It will be interesting to see what the Mammut buyout will bring.

    @Ty: That could be nice, as long as taking the pack on and off wasn’t a pain.

    @John: Snowpulse Lifebag packs will come in size medium and large. I have a medium that my 5’0″ wife uses on occasion and that I have managed to use and I am 6’0″. I’d be happier in the large though. The R.A.S. series is one size fits all and my wife and I fight over the pack all the time, fits us both great.

    @Nick: Yes the weights are all getting closer now that MR has dropped nearly a pound and BCA’s new packs are lighter. Keep in mind the volume to weight ratio, though not all these packs are measuring volume the same.

    @Chris: Yes only Aframe on the 40L, sorry for the typo, will fix. You can easily add Aframe carry to the older Vario packs, I did on last year’s Vario 30 and it works great. Looks like you could rig something on the new 25.

  23. Nick September 29th, 2011 7:09 pm

    Just to be clear, MR and Avitech weights are based off what you gave me Lou- I’m assuming they include the cylinders too.

  24. Andy September 29th, 2011 9:18 pm

    All online retail sites I’ve seen, Euro and US, are selling the cylinders separately for the Mammut packs i.e. http://www.mountaingear.com/pages/product/product.asp/imanf/Mammut/idesc/Ride+Airbag+30+Backpack/Store/MG/item/229868/N/4294967244%201064
    That’s all I meant.

  25. Lou September 30th, 2011 6:51 am

    Everyone, thanks for the comments on this post. It’s not the easiest thing to keep together and I couldn’t keep it published without Nick spending time on it. I’ll check some of the weights when we’re home from some weekend traveling we’re doing.

    As predicted last year, quite a few important changes in this stuff this year. Such as the closed venturi systems. I agree they’re expensive. Seems like one the huge amount of behind the scene R&D calms down a bit and the market grows, the price might go down. After all, what does an airbag backpack consist of, anyway, but a backpack, an airbag, a trigger mechanism and a tank of compressed gas? Basically, a paintball gun with a nylon sack attached to it. How much would that cost? Should we make one in the WildSnow workshop and see?

  26. Nick September 30th, 2011 8:38 am

    Andy, sorry I forgot to mention the Mammut packs. Last year Mammut teamed up with Snowpulse to license their technology and produce their own packs. Since then, Mammut has bought Snowpulse. We’ll see how that plays out next season with the pack lineup. In the meantime, I neglected to put the Mammut pack in the list above. I’ll get that corrected when I get a chance. The cylinder is not included in the listing you link to, which might explain why the price is as low as it is. Great deal to get what is essentially a Snowpulse pack.

  27. Nick September 30th, 2011 10:50 am

    You can go directly through ABS for refills if it is more convenient than going through a retailer. The price will be the same. Contact ABS for refilling here: csr@abs-airbag.com

  28. Ben R October 9th, 2011 2:24 am

    Great resource here!

    Looking forward to snow pulse ras pro 35 review and hoping to see a comparison to the mamutt ras bag.

  29. Brad October 26th, 2011 1:33 pm

    Awesome work Nick!

    Just a quick FYI for local elk mtn range users. Aspen Expeditions, located at the Aspen Highlands base village will be serving as a fill station for both Mammut and Snowpulse 2.0 style systems. System should be up and running in late November.

    In regards to Snowpulse pack sizing, spoke directly to the North American distributor and they recommend anyone over 5’8″ utilize a large pack (lifebag series only). The medium packs will fit someone larger but are not recommended.

  30. Nick Thompson October 26th, 2011 2:15 pm

    Thanks Brad, psyched you guys will be doing refills! Will you refill BCA or WARY cylinders?

    I’ve got last year’s Snowpulse LIfebag 30 (1.0 system) in a size medium. I’m 6’0″ and it works fine for me. Imagine I’d be happier in a L though.

  31. Rob Coppolillo October 26th, 2011 9:09 pm

    Yo Gang,

    Just met with the folks at BCA for an article I’ll be doing in Elevation Outdoors. Andy Wenberg informed me they just received TUV certification–a detail, but worth updating next time you guys are editing.

    Thanks for the great resource and good turns to all,
    Rob C

  32. telemike October 26th, 2011 11:01 pm

    good stuff

    all I can add is that if you had an Avalung and an airbag pack, you should not have to fiddle with getting the Avalung in yer face and deploying the airbag

    Avalung should be in yer face already – you’ve got to practice skiing with it, as it’s a bit odd to try to breath through and around the snorkle – I have carried Avalungs and Avalung packs since they have been available, but have never tried an airbag system

    I trust Avalungs

    folks I trust trust airbags

    w/o trying an airbag, I’d say my 1st choice is still Avalung – my choice might change when I tyry an airbag system

    probably better to have both

    why wouldn’t you want something that prevents burial and something that helps in a burial?

    I’d go with BCA

    I really do not want to get buried.


  33. Dani October 27th, 2011 1:45 pm

    Great breakdown. Thanks!

  34. Arne November 9th, 2011 4:49 am

    Regarding the Snowpulse descriptions:
    1. “See my commentary about how this does overly affect field of vision.” Should this be “does NOT overly affect”?
    2. I think the latest news on Snowpulse cylinders is that the 3000psi non user refillable version is approved for air travel, like you describe for Mammut. The Snowpulse description should be updated, IMO.

  35. Lou November 9th, 2011 6:39 am

    Arne, thanks so much, I’m sure Nick will get this. Lou

  36. Arne November 10th, 2011 1:33 pm

    Sorry, “3000psi” in my comment above should be “300 bar”.

  37. Arne November 10th, 2011 1:37 pm

    Sorry to keep this coming in little bits.

    The 300 bar version is the same as was is called the European version above. It is not user refillable, but it is approved for air travel while filled. However, I think that does not apply the US.

  38. Nick November 10th, 2011 8:54 pm

    thanks for the catches Arne. updated.

  39. Arne November 11th, 2011 1:49 am

    Nick and Lou, thanks for making this great overview, as well as the various in depth articles. I based my shopping decision primarily on this. I chose Snowpulse (tour 45L, I like to have room for the helmet inside).

  40. Rob November 12th, 2011 3:36 pm

    I was looking to buy the new Snowpulse Guide 30, but tried it in the shop today and I found that the airbag stowed in the shoulder straps makes the straps really bulky and stiff and I’m afraid it would interfere too much with arm movement. I’m surprised this isn’t a more frequently mentioned issue when reviewing this backpack. (btw, Guide 30 is the new Lifebag 30).

    Anyway, now I’m thinking of going with PRO 35 instead and I’ve read your review. I just want to ask if it is possible to attach skis on the sides or is diagonally the only option available? Thanks for your reply and props for this overview.

  41. Jack November 13th, 2011 1:09 am

    Here is some info on travel with the 2010 ”American cartridge’ Snowpulse:


    I’m not sure how the new 2011/2012 ‘American cartridges’ are filled, but the TSA info is still valid.

    About the shoulder straps: they will form to your body. The airbags in the shoulder straps will protect your neck from injury (like breaking….) so even if they are less comfortable (which they are not imho), I would go for the Lifebag line and not for the RAS line.

  42. Nick Thompson November 16th, 2011 10:18 am

    Rob, I thought the same thing about the Snowpulse Lifebag/guide shoulder straps when I first saw it. But after skiing and hiking with it a few times I don’t think it’s an issue. If the extra protection is important to you, then it might be worth it. If not, then go with the lighter RAS.

  43. Xavier November 16th, 2011 10:43 am

    Rob, I have the Snowpulse with airbag in shoulder straps…. doesn’t interfere with arm movement at all.
    In fact all the additional padding it provides makes it a very comfortable pack, carry wise!

  44. Nick Thompson November 16th, 2011 11:05 am

    Glad this was useful for you. Just got an ABS Vario 45 for review. Can’t wait to try it out.

  45. Rob November 16th, 2011 3:01 pm

    Hey guys, thanks for everyone’s input. I really appreciate all the opinions. Keep’em coming. 🙂

    I’m still looking for a store that would actually sell the PRO35 pack, seems like everyone is selling the Guide 30 only and I don’t want to pick a bag without trying it on first to see how it fits.

    Anyway, in case you’ve missed it – you might want to add the new North Face backpack with ABS system to your overview.


  46. Brad November 16th, 2011 3:12 pm

    Where are you located. We have both of the R.A.S packs on site to try on at Aspen Expeditions at the base village of Aspen Highlands. Let me know if you want to stop up and try some packs on.

  47. Lou November 16th, 2011 3:16 pm

    Rob, I heard about the TNF airbags. Appears to be somewhat of a me-to, but we’ll get to it eventually. Nothing to panic about. We’ll let content deprived and desperate individuals have at it first (grin).

  48. Rob November 16th, 2011 3:23 pm

    Brad, thank you, I’d love to stop by, but I live in Chamonix, France. You’d think our shops would be stocked first, since Snowpulse is a swiss company.

  49. Lou November 16th, 2011 4:46 pm

    What! You can’t find that stuff in the skiing center of the universe? Hmmmm, better head over to Austria (grin).

  50. Oli C November 17th, 2011 10:52 am

    get a better price in Austria (or germany)
    Rob: Conrad sport do good web prices from germany, don’t now what they carry on the technical side.

    i’m guessing Aux Vieux in Sallanches don’t stock them?
    what about heading over Verbier direction? or down in their Martigny Valley.

    I’m back in Cham from next week. Hope it snows in Dec! catchya round the hills.

  51. Dimi November 17th, 2011 10:55 am

    get onto snowsafe.co.uk. they sorted me out with the new Vario (complete with the new 25 liter design backpack) over 6 weeks ago for a little over 500 GBP (with carbon). now that is cheap.

    I have no connection to this business, btw 😉

  52. Rob November 17th, 2011 7:14 pm

    Oli: they have the Guide 30 in Sallanches, but I really want to see and try the PRO35 before I decide what to get. Snell’s got the Guide 30 as well, but they told me they won’t be getting the PRO35. I can order it, but then I have to buy it, of course.

    Btw…some people say to expect snow on Wednesday. 😉

  53. Jaakko November 19th, 2011 1:40 am

    Just purchased the ABS baseunit and the 25L Vario cover for it yesterday from the local store with the carbon cartridge.

    It really does look to me like ABS stepped up the game for this year. Last year the ABS covers/backpacks really didn’t impress as a whole, whereas Snowpulse’s Lifebag series looked good, except that you were stuck with one size. Now Snowpulse RAS looks good weight wise, but offers no large packs so if you plan on getting an airbag for longer tours, 35L is the biggest you get with Snowpulse RAS. For next season this will of course change. For ABS speaks the way the bag deploys (vs RAS, not Lifebag), but I do think that any bag will do the trick in an avy.

    So, to me, at the moment ABS still offers most versatility and now the new ABS covers/bags also work better than before. For lift served / sidecountry skiing you can always use just the cover that comes with the basic unit to reduce the weight and bulk of the backpack.

    Had there been 40-50L RAS backpacks available to compliment the current offering, I might have gone for RAS as well, but now I’m happy with my ABS.

  54. Lou November 19th, 2011 7:20 am

    Jaak, with the carbon cartridge! That must be really nice!

  55. Nick Thompson November 19th, 2011 9:07 am

    Jaako, I agree, the new ABS packs look pretty sweet. Just opened a box of all of them- very nice. Going to do a short ski with the ABS 40 in a few hours. Stay tuned for a quick review post of them in the next few weeks. Hopefully Mammut/Snowpulse will come out with a larger RAS model soon for big trips, it wouldn’t be hard.

  56. John November 23rd, 2011 4:05 pm

    ABS reccomends wearing a back protector as well as a helmet to meet their trauma and survival stats.

    Anyone have experience with back protecters?

  57. Jaakko November 29th, 2011 7:12 am


    Back protectors are, I suppose, most often worn by park skiers and they really are valid there. However, a back protector under a backpack is very uncomfortable and most of the time useless as well since a backpack that’s packed the right way protects your back well enough.

    I carry a shovel blade in my backpack every time I go out and you hopefully do as well. If something gets through that.. well, I don’t think a back protector would really have helped either.

    A back protector can of course offer better protection for your coccyx/tailbone than a mere backpack, so if you wish to get some protection for that, maybe consider impact shorts along with your backpack?

    In any case, I don’t know of anyone who wears a back protector under a backpack – it’s simply too uncomfortable.


  58. Lou November 29th, 2011 7:37 am

    Yeah, there has to be a limit on how much safety gear is practical. It’s like automotive stuff. Sure, we could wear helmets while driving and doing so would up our odds of survival considerably in the event of an accident, but do we?

  59. Frank K November 29th, 2011 8:19 am

    Back in the 90’s, a lot of us would ski in the big-mountain comps with a pack and a shovel blade before there were spine protectors. Wouldn’t think of taking one into the bc- talk about non-breathable, and the pack does a fine job of protection anyway. Same for impact shorts, although I know a few who do ski in the bc with them. Inbounds, I ski with both every single day once the steeps are open, and my spine protector saved me from serious injury on one occasion.

  60. Lou November 29th, 2011 8:29 am

    Even with my conservative style, If I had a pair I’d ski at the resort with impact shorts, as well as snowmobile. I seem to hit my hip bones way too often, knees too.

  61. John November 29th, 2011 9:55 am

    I would think a backpack would serve as protection as well, but I have not dissected the stats. Just thought it was an odd statement from ABS. I’ve only seen guys in body armor at Sowbird.

  62. franz December 2nd, 2011 1:38 pm

    Problem of leaks on cylindr Snowpulse:


    For the production of the Snowpulse Cartridge from 2009 – 2011 our supplier delivered us gauges that started to leak after some time. We already communicated this problem last winter and all customers who filled out the Warranty-Register Form were informed already in December 2010.

    We want to remind you as well to always follow the “quick check” steps in the user manual before every use. Especially the step to always check the pressure of the cartridge before usage.

    The cartridge production of this winter (2011-2012) remains unaffected by the problem – but a pressure check before each use is in any case recommended.

    You can return leaking cartridges to you dealer for an exchange.

  63. Jonathan December 12th, 2011 10:57 am

    Not trying to promote a company but a good review non the less and helpful with deployment, just adding to the wealth of good info

    reviews the following Avalanche Airbags: ABS, SnowPulse, BCA, AviVest, and Mammut Avalanche Airbags

  64. Will December 20th, 2011 9:26 am

    When I tested my Snowpulse Guide 30 with the factory cylinder, the inflation was complete and the airbag stayed full.

    When I tested it with an ABS cylinder, the inflation was about 95%, and it deflated slowly.

    What was your experience?

  65. Nick Thompson December 20th, 2011 9:49 am

    Interesting. I’ve only tested the Snowpulse Pro 35 RAS with an ABS cylinder. I’ll try the Snowpulse Guide and let you know.

  66. Nick December 20th, 2011 8:20 pm

    Just tested a Snowpulse Guide 30 with an ABS cartridge. Worked flawlessly. Airbag was completely filled tight. Not sure why yours didn’t. Did you weigh the cartridge to confirm that it was filled before you triggered it? ABS cartridges have their filled weight printed on the side (which does not include the cap).

    The Snowpulse Lifebag series airbags (including the Guide) wrap around your head and are designed to slowly deflate, the idea being that an air pocket will be formed. Not sure how well that part will work in real life, but it’s a good idea. At the very least, the bag will be releasing it’s air (most of which will be ambient air due to the venturi valve- very little of the actual air in the bag is from the cylinder) into the snowpack behind your head. ABS cartridges contain compressed nitrogen, but again, as most of the air is ambient, this isn’t a concern. That’s why you wouldn’t want to fill a cylinder with CO2.

  67. Will December 21st, 2011 9:30 am

    I will retest with both cylinders and share the results. The ABS cylinder was new so I did not weigh it:(

  68. Rob December 23rd, 2011 5:45 pm

    So, I finally bought my airbag. Decided to go for the Snowpulse Guide 30. I see people discussing various cartridges. Well, my cartridge contains compressed nitrogen and it is not an ABS cartridge, it’s a Snowpulse. Is this one of those US vs. EU market differences? Does that change anything? I cannot fly with it? And I guess I cannot have it refilled at a local scuba shop, I have to exchange it for a new one which costs more than filling it up, right? They told me about 20 or 30 euros.

  69. Dirk December 24th, 2011 12:29 am

    ABS warns agains using their cartridges in the Mamut RAS (Snowpulse) packs. Here their official statement that they posted on facebook

    “We want to inform you that the use of ABS carbon cartridges in the Mammut RAS system can lead to massive obstructions of the RAS airbag’s filling system. This was shown by a re-examination conducted by the TÜV (Technical Control Board in Germany) Product Service in Munich we initiated after having observed problems in our own tests. We therefore explicitly warn against using ABS cartridges in other airbag systems!”

    I thought that this would be worth sharing as some of doing exactl that.

  70. Brad December 24th, 2011 9:37 am

    Can you either elaborate on your quote above or provide who is your contact at ABS? I am trying to identify if this is only a problem with the carbon cartridge and how it interferes with the Venturi valve as this is not located or obstructed by the cylinder itself. I would imagine it may be a problem with the higher pressure 4500psi cylinders (which I believe the carbon is high pressure) in conjunction with a 3000psi Venturi. Any additional details or clarification are greatly appreciated.

  71. Dirk December 24th, 2011 2:26 pm


    I first came across that information on the facebook site from ABS. On the snow pulse website you can read the official statement from Mammut on the issue http://www.snowpulse.nl/pdf/Ride%20RAS%20Compatability%20ABS%20Carbon%20Cylinder_ENG.pdf

    Btw: God jul from Norway to everyone

  72. Brad December 24th, 2011 3:44 pm

    Thanks for the follow up. It seems that this would apply not only to the R.A.S line but to all the snowpulse line (including the lifebag). After reading the article it sounds like the issue is with a thinner burst disk being used in the ABS cylinder. Does anyone have any info on using the standard (non carbon) cylinder with the Snowpulse/Mammut line?

    They decreased the thickness of the disk from .3mm to .2mm which is a safety concern for sure. At this point I am interested to know why they decreased the thickness except to potentially limit the use of their cylinders in snowpulse/mammut bags and force the use of the ABS pack.

    Merry Christmas!

  73. Will December 27th, 2011 9:10 pm

    Got a new NA ABS cylinder (November 14 fill date) and it worked flawlessly in my SnowPulse Guide 30, just like a SnowPulse cylinder does,

  74. Brad January 2nd, 2012 3:20 pm

    Have you heard anything in the pipeline about Arc’teryx entering the airbag market for next year? Rumor has it that they are producing a pack that potentially may not use a canister.

  75. Nick January 2nd, 2012 3:23 pm

    Haven’t heard that rumor, but I’ve heard that Black Diamond is also working on a canisterless airbag. Couple years out at least. Not sure how it works- some way of triggering the venturi effect without any air to start with? Of course they also had some amazing new tele binding in the works that never came to light, so we’ll see what happens.

  76. John January 7th, 2012 7:50 pm
  77. Rob January 8th, 2012 5:31 pm

    After having skied about eight days with my snowpulse guide 30, I can say that the bulkiness of the shoulder straps is not as bad as I thought it would be. I’m glad I listened to advice given here. Thanks, guys.

    Did anyone else find that the shovel/probe front pocket is a bit too short? I can hardly fit my ortovox shovel handle in there. I thought these things were supposed to be standard length.

  78. Nick Thompson January 10th, 2012 9:47 am

    Regarding using ABS cartridges with Snowpulse and Mammut packs:

  79. Brian January 17th, 2012 6:35 am

    I know this has been discussed a bit before, but I’m goig to bring it up again. Can an airbag replace a shovel/probe/beacon? I know the knee jerk reaction is an emphatic “no!”, but tell me why. For years the standard for basic avy safety has been transceiver/probe/shovel plus an education. Let’s say that gives you a 50% chance of surviving an avalanche if it occurs. That has for some time now been the level of risk we’ve decided is acceptable. Now these airbag packs are claiming a 95-98% survival rate. If airbags had come out first, would anyone have ever started carrying probes? I’m not saying transceivers and probes don’t add even more safety, of course. I’m just saying that if airbags provide a greater chance of surviving than probes and transceivers, and probes/transceivers have in the past provided a level of acceptable risk, shouldn’t the airbag alone do the same? Also, I know the probe and shovel are used for extracting other people, but let’s assume a future backcountry where everyone has airbags. Also, I think the failure rate for airbag deployment is much lower than the ignorance/failure rate for human searchers.

  80. Brian January 17th, 2012 7:00 am

    Also, a decent pack (~$135) + transceiver (~$335) + probe (~$75) + shovel (~$50) comes to ~$600 and ~50% survival. Add an Avalung, and you are at about $730 and an unknown, but higher survival rate. The BCA Float 36 is $785 and apparently provides an even higher survival rate. I would have a hard time not telling a new backcountry user to not go for the airbag pack first.

  81. Hallvard January 17th, 2012 7:08 am

    I think you have a point, but the backpack survival rates includes shallow burrials where you still need a tranciever and shovel to fint the person and get him/her out. How many this is, I don’t know.

    You could probably go for a simpler/cheaper transciever though.

  82. Nick Thompson January 17th, 2012 8:18 am

    Good question. I think a beacon and shovel will always be a good idea in addition to an airbag because you cannot count on an airbag to work in every instance. Here are some examples I can think of:

    1. Terrain traps. Airbags only work if you are moving with the debris. If you stop at an obstacle, the lifting affect of the airbag will cease and snow will pile over you.

    2. Second or sympathetic avalanche. After you’ve triggered an avalanche, have ridden it out and are sitting on top, if another avalanche occurred and there was no slope for you to be carried down, you would likely be buried. Similar to terrain trap problem above.

    3. Failure to deploy. Any number of reasons can cause this- not pulling the trigger handle, not having the handle out in ready position, having the pack ripped off your body by not using the straps correctly, not having the airbag sytem set up correctly, punctured airbag, etc. Pretty unlikely, but any of these things could happen with enough negligence.

  83. Brian January 17th, 2012 4:20 pm

    I understand the airbag stats include partial burials. Here’s some sloppy statistics: airbags lower the chance of burial to 13%. If every one of those people would have died if they didn’t also have a transceiver, that still means 87% of folks didn’t need a transceiver. How many of that 87% die even though they don’t get buried (due to trauma or going over cliffs or whatever): about 4-5%. That is still an 80% survival rate, being as conservative as is reasonable.

    Not carrying a probe, shovel, or beacon would also save 2.5 pounds plus their pack space (at least the probe and shovel space). Give up the Avalung and you are at 3 pounds. Because you don’t have a shovel or probe, you can get away with using an 18L pack for the day, meaning more comfort and another .5-1 pound of weight saving.

    So the 3-4 pound weight penalty of an airbag pack can disappear if you don’t take a transceiver, probe, shovel, or Avalung. And overall, on average, you’d be safer.

  84. Brian January 17th, 2012 4:53 pm

    Terrain traps, secondary avalanches, and failures to deploy are all already figured into the statistics for airbags. Those things are all part of why 5% of airbag users still die.

  85. Shawn January 21st, 2012 10:46 am

    what would be the difference between nito and compressed air at lower temp. such as -30c knowing there is moisture in compressed air and the volume difference when they fill the cylinders at room temp.

  86. Philip Maynard January 21st, 2012 7:41 pm

    There is essentially no moisture in air compressed that much anyway, but it seems these are usually filled by SCUBA compressors which have an additional moisture seperator.

    Air (mostly Nitrogen), and pure nitrogen behave pretty much the same over temperatures humans can withstand.

    So, no difference.

  87. Nick Thompson January 23rd, 2012 8:10 am

    Certified refillers, dive shops, and fire stations should all be able to fill with DRY air (not all paintball centers). If the air is dry, then there should be no worry about freezing as there is no water to freeze. Plus, air is much easier to come by than nitrogen for refills. See a past discussion on this in the comments here:

  88. Brad January 23rd, 2012 8:19 am

    Did you make any headway at OR with either Snowpulse/Mammut or ABS in trying to understand how very similar designs of the canisters with the same thread pattern and burst disks and them not being incompatible. Last thread I was trying to understand how going with a slightly thinner burst disk (ABS) would void the incompatibility with using an ABS cylinder in a Snowpulse bag. If there is a chance of a shard from the disk getting stuck int he plunger (when ABS canister used with Snowpulse bag) then how does the snowpulse canister with a snowpulse bag not show this problem. Any info is helpful

  89. Nick Thompson January 23rd, 2012 8:41 am

    Wasn’t able to make it to OR unfortunately. Lou, did you get a chance to find out more about this? Here’s what I’ve got from a couple weeks ago in case you missed it:

  90. Lou January 23rd, 2012 8:46 am

    In my case, not much time at show for airbag details, but I’m 100% all these questions can be resolved by communicating with folks at companies. More, the problem with show is in many cases you’re just going to get PR chatter, better to do this technical stuff at a more measured pace.

  91. JP February 22nd, 2012 12:35 pm

    I am an Explosives Specialist for TSA, and I want to clear up some bad information in this article. First off, regarding travel restrictions:

    No avalanche rescue air cylinders, regardless of what you choose to call them, are allowed through TSA security unless screeners can visually verify that the cylinders are empty. For ABS systems, that means a punctured burst disc. For others, the cylinder head/valve must be removed to show an empty cylinder. Additionally, ABS trigger handles are not allowed through security if they contain a live explosive cartridge. Only expended handles are allowed. Determination of whether or not they have been activated can only be made by an Explosives Specialist, not a screener.

    Secondly, regarding the blatant insult of TSA personnel. I don’t disagree that the competency standards for TSA are pretty low, especially at the basic screener level. However, it is unfair and petty for an otherwise reputable website to assume we’re all morons. Some of us work in less-visible parts of TSA, and we are highly educated and have a level of experience far exceeding that of the common citizen. The only confusion I see here is perpetrated by the article’s author for stating that the way in which you refer to your equipment will have any effect on our requirement to examine any air bottle we detect.

  92. Bob February 22nd, 2012 1:49 pm

    I’ve good experiences with the BCA floats. Traveling by plane wasn’t a big problem. Put the cylinder together with the ski’s or snowboard to make more clear where it is used for and you have to drop such a long sized bag on a special counter where they scan it right in front of you (at least in Amsterdam), so you can explain directly if needed.
    We made a nice funny video of the float in India:

  93. Lou February 23rd, 2012 1:48 am

    JP, thanks for chiming in. You sound legit. I’m pretty sure our overall implication when writing about air travel with airbag systems is that the cylinders have to be empty and verifiably so. Good point about the type of trigger that uses chemical trigger. I disagree about the power of words at your basic screener level. As we all know, any sort of horsing around or use of “hot” words can trigger a reaction from the screener. Any discussion of that here is intended to help us all learn which verbiage is the least likely to cause concern.

    As for the competence level of TSA screeners, in the end we all have to acknowledge that’s demonstrated by overall outcome. If the planes stay in the air, they’re doing their job. That said, where I have quite a bit of criticism is how TSA manages the actual human interaction. The frequently long waiting lines, for example.

  94. Nick Thompson February 23rd, 2012 8:29 am

    It’s great to hear from someone from TSA, thank you for participating. I feel I’ve made it pretty clear that BCA, Snowpulse, Mammut, Avi Vest, and Mystery Ranch cylinders must have the heads removed for air travel. ABS is where it gets confusing. I’ve heard of people getting their filled ABS cartridge and activation handle through TSA and when I wrote the article, was assured by ABS that it was not a problem. If you say this is not the case, then good to know, but I do have to question the competency of TSA if others have gotten through. That said, I know it’s a nearly impossible job to catch everything and I appreciate what you do (except when I have to wait in line myself).

    IATA has a special allowance for ABS, do you foresee any possibility of TSA granting a similar exception? For now, I’ll take your advice and not bring a loaded ABS. Fortunately, ABS cartridges and handles are fairly easy to obtain in many western countries, and in others they could be shipped ahead.

  95. JP February 23rd, 2012 10:39 am


    While it is true that certain words will trigger an increased reaction, the words “cylinder” and “bottle” are not among them. They carry the same weight as “cartridge”, basically. Like I said, it won’t affect our screening of air bottles. Hopefully that will clear up some verbiage questions. And yes, I am legit. Bachelor’s in Emergency and Disaster Management, 6 years as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, and a couple dozen other certs. 🙂


    Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common misconception when it comes to the ABS bottles. I’ve spoken to reps from a couple of the manufacturers and basically gotten the same answer. As far as the competency of TSA goes, I don’t disagree with you for the most part. My gripe there was that people tend to stereotype anyone with “TSA” in their job description as an incompetent fool, without considering that there might be some smart people in the organization just as frustrated about the situation as the general public.

    Now, regarding the IATA allowance. I think it’s a great idea, and I’ve been personally working on the issue for quite some time now. In fact, I spoke with one of the owners of BCA last night and we came up with some steps to take in order to get the ball rolling. He will be writing some letters to key figures in the TSA organization as well as a Congressman from his home state of Colorado who happens to be an avid backcountry skier. I will be formally submitting my ideas up the chain through both regular TSA chain of command and my own chain of command, which is separate because of my specialist status. What you may consider doing is getting a petition together to have the rules changed. Get a few thousand signatures and send them to your U.S. Representatives and Senators. They are the ones who make the rules TSA follows, after all. If we hit this thing from enough angles, somebody will have to start listening.

  96. Yogi March 6th, 2012 5:26 am

    Do you guys have any experience yet with Wary AviPack 33, or plans to test it soon? Does it use similar system than some other packs?

  97. AlanG March 10th, 2012 2:36 pm

    Lou – really interested in airbag backpack but struggling to find one that will work on multi-day routes. Would think at a 60L model would be a huge seller; why aren’t airbag mfgs interested in that market? Any suggestions here?


  98. Lou March 10th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Alan, not that many people carry big loads… really a very small minority. Only suggestion I’d have is get the biggest pack you can, make sure it has plenty of accessory straps, and start strapping stuff on. When using in actual avy terrain be sure to use the leg loop/s, and be sure the load doesn’t block the airbag. Lou

  99. Rob Mullins March 10th, 2012 3:06 pm

    Alan I have the ABS Escape 42. It is above shown a later larger model the Escape 50. My 42 is big enough for overnight. It has plenty of lash points and would take a load.

    I have used the 42 primarily for day trips and find larger than needed in volume, I could have gone smaller for day use.

  100. AlanG March 10th, 2012 9:57 pm

    Rob/Lou – thank you for the thoughts. I’ll likely try to find the ABS Vario 50L…still seems to be available in EU. Maybe this will work for my multi-day trips here in the PAC NW. I’ll drink a few less beers leading up to the outings to compensate for the weight penalty – well, likely not, but it was a good thought…



  101. Gabe March 13th, 2012 11:43 pm

    Are you going to add the Wary 33L pack to the list? Seems like a nice addition to the selection out there at a reasonable price:


  102. Nick Thompson March 14th, 2012 7:25 am


    We have a prototype of the Wary pack and plan to get something up. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it seems like a great pack.

  103. Rick March 19th, 2012 5:35 pm

    I live in New Zealand and do most of my skiing here but travel to the US and Canada most years for North American powder snow and would like to ski Japan and India some day. I currently use an Avalung pack but have been more and more impressed with the airbag packs, especially given some of the incidents this year where the one survivor in a party was wearing one.
    Nicks review of the various packs is excellent but I have a hard time deciding which, if any pack stands out above the others as far as safety is concerned. The tables showing weights and volume along with information as to which have prode and shovel pockets are great.
    My concern is flying with an airbag pack. How hard will it be for me to I go from NZ to the US and tour in Colorado and then go to Canada to Roger’s Pass with an airbag pack? The comments about TSA and decisions they make at the sharp end give me pause. It does me no good to spend $1,000 and then get somewhere and not have the airbag work because some part has been confiscated by the airline or TSA as happened to a NZ guide friend passing through New Delhi, India recently.
    Does anyone out there have experience flying with the various packs, are any of them superior to others in ease of travel. That is the most important point for me, I’d love some comments. Lou are you taking one to the EU?
    Thanks in advance, Rick Boebel

  104. Nick Thompson March 20th, 2012 8:32 am


    I haven’t traveled with one myself, but here are a couple things to keep in mind:
    ABS cylinders are supposed to be allowed for international travel that does not go in or out of the US. You can buy a filled cylinder once in the US.

    All other companies have cylinders that must be emptied and have the cylinder head removed before travel. This should get you through all airports. You will just need to be able to refill at your destination. Plenty of places in the US and Canada for that.

  105. Nick Thompson March 20th, 2012 10:38 am

    Someone just chimed in with their travel experience over here:

    John March 20th, 2012 10:17 am
    “My son and I spent the last few weeks skiing in Canada. We flew with our ABS and SnowPulse Guide 30 as carry ons, without cylinders. We were able to rent ABS cylinders in Canada, with the proper date code for the SnowPulse.”

  106. El berto April 10th, 2012 7:47 am

    Regarding Arcteryx – It looks like they’ve applied for a patent on a canister-less airbag. It would use a fan to fill the bag. Seems impractical, but is definitely interesting.


  107. Nick Thompson April 10th, 2012 8:02 am

    Nice find El Berto

    Here are some interesting parts from the patent:

    “can achieve airbag inflation times of under 5 seconds at ?20° C…. in as little as 2½ seconds at ?20° C”

    “inflation provided by an electric power source, such as an electric motor…with digital control”

    It goes on to talk about self heated batteries using a thermostat to keep the batteries from draining in the cold.

    “Optionally, a gyroscopic or other attitude-sensing switch can be employed to enable emergency/automatic activation…upon sensing an extreme upset condition of the wearer, or piece of equipment supporting the system of the invention, such as a “head-over-heels” tumbling, e.g., optionally coupled with a time duration delay to avoid inadvertent activation. Such a switch, if employed, could be fitted with a manual cut-out switch to allow the wearer, or operator, to activate such automatic operation only prior to avalanche-prone areas or otherwise only in situations determined by the wearer or operator.”

    “The weight of a system according to the invention, compared to the weight of known compressed gas systems, can be reduced by as much as 50% for equivalent amounts of inflation volume and pressure”

    “can be deployed as many as 50 times or more between battery charges.”

    The pictures make it look like the airbag shape is kind of a hybrid between the pillow style and horseshoe ‘lifebag’ style.

    All seems very complicated and prone to failure, but very interesting no doubt.

  108. David Green April 28th, 2012 9:20 am

    I’m a ski instructor in Europe.

    Does anybody know if there is truth to the rumour that the prices will drop autumn 2012 as ABSs’ patent will run out?

    thanks in advance

  109. Lou April 28th, 2012 9:23 am

    David, I expect airbag prices to drop a bit over next few years, but at the same time the companies will use more expensive components to reduce weight, so don’t expect any big change in prices. I’m not sure how price sensitive that market is. I doubt folks buying airbag packs worry about, say, saving 50 euros, but perhaps 100 euros less would influence decision? Most people I talk with are willing to spend the money, but hate hauling around the weight. Lou

  110. Toby April 28th, 2012 1:47 pm

    My good guess is that the cheapest offers will be around 400 Euros: The Airbag market is booming right now. And note that the newcomer airbag brands like Snowpulse / Mammut and BCA already dropped the price significantly compared to uber expensive ABS system. But still, my observation is that nearly all 2012 ABS rucksacks are sold out here in Europe at least. It is similar revolution we had with the ski helmets 10 years ago.

    And what comes to the prices; just see what has happened to the tech bindings after expiration of the Dynafit license few years back. Dynafit, G3, Plum, ATK, etc. they are actually getting more and more expensive.

    For me the weight (too much) and proper sizing (too small) are currently bigger issues with the airbag packs than the pricing.

  111. david green April 29th, 2012 4:28 am

    Thanks very much for your informed comments. There are some deals now, so we will dive in!

  112. telemike August 31st, 2012 3:46 pm

    PSA – Snowpulse avalanche airbag recall in US and Canada


    Avalanche Airbags Recalled by Snowpulse Due to Risk of Injury
    By U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
    Published: Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 – 11:10 am

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

    (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20030904/USCSCLOGO)

    Name of product: Snowpulse Avalanche Airbags Units: About 1,200 in the United States and 2,600 in Canada Importer: Mammut Sports Group Inc., of Shelburne, Vt. Manufacturer: Snowpulse SA, of Martigny, Switzerland Distributor: Mountain Sports Distribution, of Golden British Columbia, Canada Hazard: A leak in the airbag’s cartridge can result in the airbag not deploying, posing a risk of death and injury in the event of an avalanche. Incidents/Injuries: None reported. Description: This recall involves Snowpulse Avalanche airbags with inflation-system 1.0 air cartridges. The airbags are used for skiing, snowmobiling and mountain climbing to help keep the user above the surface if an avalanche occurs. Model year 2008 to 2010 airbag cartridges are included in this recall. The packs are between 15 and 45 liters and have the “Snowpulse” logo printed on them. The metal cartridge is inside the pack and unscrews from the airbag. Cartridges using inflation system 1.0 gauges can be identified by the pin inside the threaded fitting on the side of the cartridge. If this gauge does not have an “A” or a “B” on the dial then it is included in the recall. Sold by: Specialty outdoor and motorsports stores nationwide from September 2008 through April 2012 for between $900 and $1,200. Manufactured in: Switzerland Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled airbags and contact Snowpulse for a replacement cartridge. Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Snowpulse at (800) 451-5127 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at http://www.snowpulse.com.

    Note: Health Canada’s press release is available at http://cpsr-rspc.hc-sc.gc.ca/PR-RP/recall-retrait-eng.jsp?re_id=1653.

    Photos available at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12268.html

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about your experience with the product on SaferProducts.gov

    Firm’s Recall Hotline: (800) 451-5127 CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772 CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908 HC Media Contact: (613) 957-2983

    SOURCE U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/30/4772542/avalanche-airbags-recalled-by.html#storylink=cpy

  113. Rick September 2nd, 2012 4:33 pm

    To help clarify, the original snowpulse cylinders which were deemed the 1.0 system were sold in all packs from 2008 – 2011. Any of the units purchased as new from last fall (fall 2011) – current should be the 2.0 models. You can tell as the 2.0 system uses a burst disk which does not require the firing pin to be threaded to the pull lever. If you have to screw both the cylinder and lever pull onto the canister you have a 1.0. In the event you have a 1.0 system and want it checked for this problem simply contact Mountain Sports Distribution at (250) 344-5060 and they will fix or replace. This problem does not affect any snowpulse 2.0 packs

  114. Toby September 6th, 2012 12:07 pm

    WOW ! Mammut RAS 30 light – only 2300g total!

    now we only have to add compatible carbon cartridge to that,… very close to holy grail. The bag weights only 950g without system. This is proper weight for any 30l light weight rucksack.

  115. Rick September 6th, 2012 1:30 pm

    I am curious as to where you guys get your weight numbers from? My snowpulse Lite 35 on my hanging bike scale weighs 2200 with cylinder and all. You have it listed at 5.5lbs?

  116. Nick September 6th, 2012 2:15 pm

    Just putting up what I got from Snowpulse. When I get a production version I’ll weight it and put that number up. I had a prototype last season, but it was heavier than you mention. Good to hear that it weighs even less though!

    Yeah, the Lite RAS offerings from Snowpulse and Mammut are looking really good!

  117. d September 6th, 2012 9:47 pm

    Will BCA discontinue their larger model?

  118. Mark Worley September 6th, 2012 10:14 pm

    Thanks once more for all the many details Nick. I’m getting more and more intrigued about owning one of these things (eventually).

  119. Bob Perlmutter September 6th, 2012 11:45 pm

    Nick, thought I would mention that DaKine is also entering the airbag market with two models. They are on their website with minimal details. As if you didn’t already have enough to keep track of, here’s more. Keep up the good work.

  120. etto September 7th, 2012 2:44 am
  121. Nick September 7th, 2012 6:53 am

    d- BCA is replacing last year’s 36 with the new 32.

    Bob- thanks for the reminder. I need to add several other manufacturer’s to the list- DaKine, North Face, Scott, probably more. These companies are licensing technology from ABS and Mammut, but since they are such large companies, it would be nice to see them spend some R&D time and money to see if they can come up with something else. Black Diamond and Arcteryx are doing just that.

  122. Bill September 7th, 2012 8:52 am

    Alright computer guys, next step to make the comparison chart fully ‘sortable’ on the weight, volume, and cost categories? (Grin)

  123. Jason September 7th, 2012 1:14 pm

    Curious if snowpulse (and thus mammut too) are coming out with larger sizing any time soon (ie XL, not more volume). I am avg tall (6’01”), and their sizing seems very much focused on short euros. While their packs are some of the best designed out there, they’re pretty much out of the picture for someone like me

  124. Nick September 7th, 2012 1:34 pm

    I’m 6’0″ and haven’t had a problem with the mammut and snowpulse packs, but then maybe your torso is longer. Snowpulse sells a medium and large in many of their packs. I think a lot of the companies tailor their sidecountry packs (20 liter range) to fit with the hip belt up high for better ‘freeride’ mobility. I prefer a longer pack with the belt lower, which seems to be more prevalent in the larger packs.

  125. Toby September 8th, 2012 4:09 am

    “focused on short euros” Hmm.. I had to check that

    young male heights around the world:

    US male avg height age 20-29: 177cm / white americans 178cm / all: 176 cm, age 20+

    Canada 175 – 176 cm, depending age

    euros roughly (mountain regions):
    Norway 182 cm
    Germany 181 cm
    Austria 179 cm
    Swiss178 cm
    Italy 177 cm

    source Wikipedia – human height

  126. JCoates September 8th, 2012 1:52 pm

    Interesting. I wonder how the US compares internationally when it comes to body weight

  127. Lou Dawson September 9th, 2012 3:36 pm

    Toby, thanks, I guess the taller American is a myth. Perhaps it used to be that way or something… Of course , there might also be other ways of looking at these numbers, like instead of the mean, how many as a percentage exceed a certain height. Perhaps in that sense some countries are more in need of “taller” person’s countries than others. Lou

  128. See September 9th, 2012 4:43 pm

    I wonder how much weight could be saved if the airbags were made of Vectran like the ones on the Mars landers? The stuff is used in sails and bike tires so it’s not so exotic that only NASA knows how to fabricate stuff with it. (I’m not sure I want to think about what it would do to the cost.)

    My experience with airbag packs was that after the first few times I hoisted it onto my back I didn’t really notice the weight any more. And I also wore a separate Avalung which, along with the tube for my hydration bladder and the airbag rip cord, made me feel a bit like an astronaut.

    Thankfully I did not have to deploy either airbag or Avalung, but rehearsing on the skin track lead me to feel confident that any potential confusion was outweighed by the benefits of having both devices. It’s pretty simple. The big blue tube with the orange end goes in your mouth and the T handle inflates the bag. But I’m glad to say I have no real experience with this.

  129. Lou Dawson September 9th, 2012 7:03 pm

    See, the airbags could indeed be made of something lighter, and the plumbing could be lighter as well. But one easy way to make the packs weigh less is to simply design the actual backpack so it’s a few pounds lighter. It seems like some of the airbag backpack companies think they need to build the things like SWAT gear, not something we have to carry around on our back all day long. But things are getting better, as Nick alludes to above.

  130. See September 9th, 2012 7:54 pm

    I did a little googling and the Mars airbags used a Vectran cover over a bladder. Clearly the design required tremendous strength. Perhaps Dyneema or Cuben Fiber or some such would be better materials for ski airbags. But, as you say, there are weight savings to be had through use of high tech materials in this application.

    Regarding the Avalung/airbag issue, I neglected to mention the rule I settled on to simplify decision making should it hit the fan– if you can’t get out of the slide, pull the airbag trigger first. As long as you have that reflex set in your mind, I don’t see the downside of having the Avalung there too.

  131. Nick September 10th, 2012 8:26 am

    To make things lighter, having less bells and whistles is something that obviously works- look at the new Mammut and Snowpulse ‘Lite’ models. As for airbag fabric- it’s obviously an area where weight could be saved, provided it’s strong. ABS switched to a different fabric (made by Zodiac) a couple years ago. Not only is it lighter but is more tear resistant than the fabric they used previously. In two separate incidents last winter you can see the difference. An older ABS pack user was killed in Bear Creek (Telluride) when he was strained through trees. The airbags were torn to shreds. On Stevens Pass, a women was strained through trees with a new ABS pack. The airbags stayed intact enough to continue to function. As for a fabric than can survive landing on Mars- that sounds really good.

  132. Brett Sichello September 10th, 2012 1:09 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to prepare this article. Definitely going to finally grab a bag this year so this is so helpful.

  133. Lou Dawson September 10th, 2012 1:11 pm

    Glad to help Brett! We do a ton of work on this thing! A very complex subject.

  134. Nick Thompson September 13th, 2012 9:00 pm

    I’ve updated the chart to add some third party packs and to update ABS’s prices.

  135. etto September 14th, 2012 1:35 am

    I might be mistaken, but the pictures of the Patrol 24 at the North Face website do not look like it’s an ABS Vario zip on. It might be compatible with the Vario base unit, but it sure looks like TNF have done some modifications to more than the bag part of the pack.

  136. Lou Dawson September 14th, 2012 6:39 am

    Thanks Nick!

  137. Nick Thompson September 14th, 2012 7:31 am

    Thanks etto, correction made.

  138. Richard Ross September 19th, 2012 5:33 am

    Hi There,

    I have an older ABS Vario that I bought in early 2010 – do you know if the Dakine Altitude Pack is compatible with this base unit?

    That pack will let me kill 2 birds with one stone 🙂



  139. Nick September 19th, 2012 7:09 am

    The ABS Vario zip on interface has not changed since it came out, so the Dakine should work.

  140. Richard Ross September 19th, 2012 7:10 am


  141. Amanda September 21st, 2012 10:50 pm

    Hi there,

    Thanks for all your hard work on this stuff… It’s really helpful. Any suggestions for a pack for smaller people? I’m a 5’4″ woman who usually goes with a 15″ pack. I’ve only had the opportunity to try on the BCA models, which were a poor fit, but if all the packs will have that same poor fit, I guess I’ll just go with it then.


  142. Nick Thompson September 22nd, 2012 8:32 am

    The ABS Powder 15 has a really short torso length. Small volume though. My wife (5’0″) found it to be very comfortable. She is also happy with the RAS Pro 35 (we bought it for her last season), think it’s a size medium.

  143. Jonny September 24th, 2012 2:24 am

    According to Mammuts website the Mammut RAS 30 light with the RAS system only weights 1800g that is 3,96lbs. It is listed at 5,4lbs in the chart.
    And the Ride RAS 30 is listed at 2400g that is 5,3lbs. The chart above says 6,83lbs as real weight.

    Is the numbers at Mammut´s webbsite wrong or have the updated the packs?

    And According to Scott`s webbsite the Air 30 RAS weight is 1400g including the RAS system, that`s 3,1lbs!!!

  144. Josh September 24th, 2012 6:13 am

    The pack weighs 1800g without the air tank.

  145. Jonny September 24th, 2012 7:04 am

    If you click on “Details” http://www.mammut.ch/en/productDetail/261000120_v_0599/Light-R.A.S.-ready.html
    It says that the pack weights 950g without the airbag system.

  146. Nick September 24th, 2012 7:29 am

    Many manufacturers list their weights without the air cylinders. Also, sometimes even without the airbag itself. The weights in this chart include all for an apples to apples comparison.

  147. Ben October 1st, 2012 2:52 pm

    Anyone know the difference between the lifebag 35 lite and the lifebag 30? i.e. aside from the obvious weight and volume difference. Snowpulse website descriptions seem lacking for my simple mind.

  148. aaron trowbridge October 25th, 2012 3:32 pm

    Wildsnow et al may be interested in reading and commenting on this recent study:

    Avalanche Balloon Packs: A detailed Canadian perspective on their
    effectiveness in avalanche involvements
    and the operational challenges with their
    use in avalanche safety programs.


    There are some interesting anecdotes in the accident reports that have me curious about the different bag design and body positioning during and after the slide (feet downhill and headup, facedown and headdown etc…)

  149. Nick October 25th, 2012 3:58 pm

    Awesome Aaron. I’ve been waiting for this study to come out, thanks for the heads up. I’ll take a gander.

  150. Bob October 28th, 2012 12:18 pm

    I just bought a MAMMUT Snowpulse RAS 30 light. Could someone tell me the recommended ski carry direction? The tags on the pack are generic for the whole line of packs and say it has diagonal carrying straps and a snowboard mount. I don’t see any diagonal carry straps for skis. From looking at pictures of the airbag deployed it appears that using the side compression straps to carry vertical would interfere with the airbag. Any advice?

  151. Lou Dawson October 28th, 2012 2:35 pm

    Bob, in my opinion it’s super important to actually trigger the airbag at least once with these packs, then go through the process of renewal. That way you know it works, and will hesitate less on the trigger. When doing so, easy to figure out how to carry the skis so the airbag can work. Indeed, “A-frame” side carry would obviate the airbags. Though if you’re in a situation where you’re not in avy danger during the climb the A-frame is still nice to have as an option. Lou

  152. Nick October 29th, 2012 7:24 am

    Look for a little tab and tiny loop on the upper right (if you were looking at the pack from behind). You can either hook the horizontal compression strap to it or attach your own strap to it for diagonal carry. That’s at least how I remember it.

    Diagonal carry is a better bet if you anticipate being in need of the airbag. A-frame does interfere. As Lou said, do a test deploy of the bag and then try to strap the skis on- then you’ll have an idea of how it works.

  153. Bob October 29th, 2012 7:51 am

    Thanks guys!

  154. Pat November 2nd, 2012 11:02 pm

    Hi all,

    Can anyone tell me a bit about the mammut rocker pack versus the 22L ride? Other than the 4L, what features get sacrificed?

  155. Toby November 3rd, 2012 6:25 am

    Jonny: example of weight breakdown: RAS 30 light: Pack 950g + Airbag system 850g + cylinder(euro) 500g = 2300g total

  156. Chris November 3rd, 2012 10:03 pm

    I have been seriously considering the BCA avy airbag pack, but the guys at Summit Canyon mentioned that there were issues with misfirings either last winter or the winter before, in that they were not inflating. Any confirmation this problem and/or advice on going with one manufacturer over another outside of this info page. Thanks Lou

  157. Nick November 5th, 2012 7:14 am

    I haven’t seen either, but my understanding of the differences:
    Ride 22:
    – Integrated avalanche airbag system:
    Removable Airbag System R.A.S. – one system for different backpacks
    – Easily stowable deployment handle
    – Safety leg loop
    – V-frame 6 mm aluminum, adjustable
    – 2-layer, high-density EVA back padding, hip and shoulder belts with stretch fabric cover
    – Front pocket for avalanche safety equipment
    – Diagonal, stowable ski attachment
    – Snowboard carrier
    – 2 front gear loops for helmet fi xation
    – Padded goggle pouch
    – Zipped inner compartment with key clip
    – Removable, padded hip belt
    – SOS label with emergency instructions
    – Hydration system compatible

    – Integrated avalanche airbag system:
    Removable Airbag System R.A.S. – one system for different backpacks
    – Easily stowable deployment handle
    – Safety leg loop
    – Pocket for avalanche safety equipment
    – Diagonal ski carry system one-sided
    – Padded goggle pouch
    – SOS label with emergency instructions
    – Hydration system compatible

  158. Nick November 5th, 2012 7:18 am

    I’m not aware of any misfiring issues with BCA. Two seasons ago, they revised the design of their cartridge because it was sometimes too difficult to release. I actually broke a handle trying to get it to trigger. This is no longer an issue with the new cartridges.
    BCA’s new Float 32 is pretty sweet- way lighter, and overall better thought out than their previous packs.

  159. Pat November 5th, 2012 9:06 am

    Thanks Nick,

    Sounds like the ride 22 has a heap more features. I’m looking at both to complement the pro 45 as a slackcountry pack. I keep falling back on the worry that the rocker won’t have the space for the things I want to bring. While that is also a concern for the 22, it’s much reduced by the ability to carry some things on the outside of the pack via snowboard straps.

    Getting pretty close to a final decision I guess.

  160. Nick November 5th, 2012 9:24 am

    From what I can tell, the Rocker 18 is intended more for slackcluntry/mechanized skiing where you don’t carry much of anything. Ride 22 gives you some more space and features so you can carry a bit more and do short tours. Guess you just need to figure out what you’d be using it for and what you’d be using your pro 45 for. Is 0.7 lbs worth it for a bit more space for days when you wouldn’t want the 45?

    Nice to have the flexibility to use one system in multiple packs!

  161. aaron trowbridge November 6th, 2012 12:30 pm

    I’ve been scratching my head about airbag packs. I’d love your opinions and responses to these thoughts.

    Avalanche Balloon Packs: A detailed Canadian perspective on their effectiveness in avalanche involvements and the operational challenges with their use in avalanche safety programs.


    I like the idea of having a tool that helps me directly, rather than relying on others skills. I don’t have a good analytical response to the stats right now. My sense is that there are roughly 3 categories of slides and airbag effectiveness that fits well with terrain choices and decision factors.

    1) simpler and smaller slides (~simple). Don’t need airbag or not effective ( up to knees, flowing particle physics don’t come into play/no swimming i.e. knocked over and buried shallow).
    3) very bad terrain hazards/traps or huge terrain (~complex). Air bag not helpful due to deep burial potential from terrain traps and physical trauma. (cliffs, trees, gullies etc)
    2) middle size and distance slides with no serious terrain hazards (~challenging):, flowing physics come into play with active swimming, lower likelihood of trauma. Airbags likely very effective in this situation.

    Re: stats I’m not sure the data is big enough to fully prove these ideas, but I think anecdotal reading of the accident reports point in this direction.

    #1 terrain for higher hazards. #2 terrain for low-moderate hazard. #3 is classic considerable hazard terrain.

    Considerable hazard always the trick of the backcountry game. If you practice good route selection you should be limiting yourself to terrain that has lower likelihood of sliding that MAY correspond to higher survive-ability. I think that if things go wrong having an air bag for these situations could be very helpful. So much of our time is spent in “challenging” terrain in considerable hazard that I’m leaning towards it being a part of my toolkit so long as you don’t eat the risk.

    Now that they have the bag technology figured out I want them to re-learn how to make good light mountain packs with enough space to pack a full kit (45-55L big day glacier gear and hut tripping size).

  162. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 12:36 pm

    Aaron, nice breakdown! I think you are spot on. Indeed, just as happened with beacons lots of people and media is treating airbag backpacks like they’re the second coming, while “balloons” have some fairly obvious limitations in terms of their life saving ability. I like them, but as always it comes back to using the brain first.

    In a practical sense, the most important thing in my opinion is to know whether you’re skiing an avalanche slope with obstacals you can hit if you get slid, or if you have an open ride. In the latter case your chances of survival with airbag (or without, for that matter) are so much better. If you’re in timber terrain or above cliffs, slides are way ugly and brutal and depending on an airbag pack in such places is a bit of a joke

  163. Mark Stevens November 8th, 2012 3:34 am

    Going backcountry in Japan, and my enquiries suggest that at present no av airbag cannisters have Japanese accreditation and hence cannot be filled at local scuba/paintball shops. have been told that the benjamin hand pump will fill bca cannisters but am unsure about other packs. Has anybody heard different-my sources are bca, and backcountry.com

  164. Nick November 8th, 2012 7:07 am

    The BCA cylinders aren’t really any different than Snowpulse’s or Mammut’s as far as filling goes other than the latter two need 3000psi instead of BCA’s 2700psi. The air rifle hand pump idea is intriguing, but I’d be concerned about using ambient air as there’s moisture in it which could freeze and clog when the air is released (cartridge gets very cold when it goes off). All the manufacturers have stressed that you need to use DRY air (which is why some paintball filling centers may not be ideal). Bummer that Japan isn’t on board with allowing dive shops or fire stations to fill. Sounds like BCA is working on getting refill centers there, but it’s an uphill battle. Perhaps this is a situation where the ABS system would work better as you get them shipped to you already filled.

  165. Lou Dawson November 8th, 2012 7:33 am

    Nick and Mark, I’ve got some experience with compressed air and other compressed gasses, and YES, freezing moisture is a real problem (as is moisture in general, which reminds me, I need to drain my air compressor tank…). Nick is correct in saying you need to be super careful about using dry air to fill these cylinders. Main thing to remember is that as Nick says, the _decompression_ of the gas in the cartridge is what cools it, so it doesn’t matter what the ambient air temperature is.

    If you hand pumped air into a tank, from what I understand you’d at the least have to put something such as the following item between the pump and the tank. Even then, you’d want to be testing by blowing off the cartridge and seeing if your moisture system was extracting enough humidity out of the air.


    Problem is, the above probably isn’t rated for the kind of pressures we’re talking about. Instead, you need something that takes moisture out _before_ the air reaches the pump. Or perhaps use the hand pump coupled with a regular air compressor that’s set up with the moisture extractor.

  166. Vikster November 8th, 2012 8:34 am

    Hi, and thanks for a great site that was very helpful when looking for the right pack to get!

    I Just received the Mammut Pro R.A.S. 35 and figured I’d give my fist impression.

    As far as size selection, 35l is as far up as I will ever need to go in size, but I will probably get the Rocker R.A.S as a complement for when no/little stuff in needed (slackcountry skiing).

    I got this model since I wanted a pack with good design as a backpack regardless of the avy-features. In my view, this appears to be one of the best that can do all of the things I was looking for.

    * Great back padding and carry system, adjustable alu U-frame, padded hip belt – and design based on real backpacks.

    * Good ski carry for both diagonal and A-frame (even if the latter is not recommended when you may have to deploy the airbag.

    * Back panel that opens for easy access to stuff so you can put the pack on the ground and access the main compartment fully and easily without having to remove skis/snowboard from the back and without having to get the shoulder straps soggy and dirty.

    * Side compression straps.

    * Good holders for axe and poles (even with skis it seems).

    * Good avy compartment with dividers for shovel and probe.

    * Helmet holder.

    * Pocket on the hip belt.

    * Smart storage and ample compartments.

    * Decent accommodation for hydration system (with sleeve).

    * High quality and durability (visible in lots of metal buckles and good zippers and such).

    With the product now in hand, I must say it looks very solid and they appear to have made some minor last minute changes to the design compared to the pictures on the Mammut site.

    For instance, the rather flimsy looking plastic buckle for the leg loop (intended to make it convenient to take the loop on and off without having to open the main waist buckle I guess) which I was quite concerned about has been eliminated completely in favor of a real sturdy loop with good stitches.

    Also the adjustment buckle for the leg loop on the real product is metal, not plastic as in the product pictures on the site.

    I have seen other manufacturers using the same kind of plastic opening buckles for the leg loop (like North Face on their new pack I believe), but for me, they do not instill confidence as the link that may have to endure brutal force and help keep the pack on my body, in case I ever need to actually use it. I’d much rather have to open the main buckle and have a safe solution.

    On the down side, I have yet to find any kind of guide to the features on this specific bag. All that I seem to have gotten is general instruction on the R.A.S. system. It all appears pretty straight forward, but some good instructions on how they intend for you to put stuff would not have been bad on a product of this kind in my view. Things like that should be very easy to put on the home page. For a great example of how that should be done, check out F-Stop (awesome camera packs for the back country!). For instance: http://fstopgear.com/product/mountain/loka

    All in all, very impressed with the sturdy look and feel of the still relatively light pack (for a 35 liter airbag-equipped unit). Seems bombproof and can’t wait to try it out!

  167. Lou Dawson November 8th, 2012 8:47 am

    Vik, that is a terrific report, really appreciate it! Lou

  168. Vikster November 8th, 2012 10:28 am

    Thanks Lou, hope it can help someone! Here is the manufacturer site for the Mammut Pro R.A.S. 35/45:


    My guess, when comparing to my pack, is that the product image is of the 45l version (does not look as bulky in person, but I have not stuffed it like crazy either). The 360 rotation image on the Mammut site is of the 35l and gives you a pretty good feel for the product.

    Also, I just weighed it and it is exactly 3.2 kg, complete with system and air container, which means that the figure in your excellent overview above is exactly right (7.1 lb).

  169. Chris November 8th, 2012 5:59 pm

    Do you mind saying where you found your RAS Pro and how much it cost you?
    I’ve been looking for the 35L pro model and been unable to find it.


  170. Vikster November 10th, 2012 1:42 am


    I’m en Europe, got it at http://www.sport-conrad.com/ as soon as they got it in stock (had pre-ordered). They are pretty big over here, and they should have been among the first to get it I guess.

    Should be out in the US very soon I suspect (if not already).

  171. Vikster November 10th, 2012 1:51 am


    Just saw that it came up as not in stock there again,so they must have sold the ones they got in their first delivery (it can only have been up as in stock for less than a week).

  172. Jeremy November 11th, 2012 11:30 am

    How many people are carrying out test activations on their airbag backpacks?

    ABS recommend a yearly activation, and Snowpulse/Mammut recommend a yearly inspection, and activation without firing the cartridge/inflating.

    My concern is that many buyers will make the purchase, and think that is an end to it. Both ABS and Mammut recommend weighing their non-rechargeable cartridges, to check that they are within 5g of the weight printed on the cartridge. For the steel cartridges, that means set of scales with much better than 1% accuracy. I suspect most people will use their kitchen scales, where 1% makes no difference when making a cake, but would appear to be the difference as to whether you survive an avalanche because your airbag under inflated.

    I have raised this because I purchased a ABS Vario in November 2011, and carried out the initial test activation which went perfectly. However, I have just carried another test prior to my first trip in December, and the airbag only partially inflated (about 70%), I then tried a second cartridge and the result was the same, only partial inflation. One cartridge was 12 months old, but the other was only 1 month. According to my scales, both were within the weight limit.

    I have had a 33% inflation success rate, so have no confidence in the product at the moment.

    I only tested the airbag on Friday evening, so have not yet had a chance to contact the reseller and service centre, for assistance. I will post again when I receive feedback.

    I could not see anything on ABS’s website regarding under inflation after activation.

    However, what I find frightening is that on Mammut’s website (see link below) under FAQ, is the section “AIRBAG DOES NOT INFLATE FULLY”. I really do not want to see anything regarding the failure of airbags under FAQ, I want it under a priority failure reporting section.


    If under inflation is really an FAQ, then there are a lot of people out there with a false sense of security, that their airbag will work first time, every time.

  173. Lou Dawson November 11th, 2012 4:09 pm

    That’s why I recommend doing multiple test inflations every season, not even just one. It’s like target shooting before you go hunting. You’ve got to have confidence in your equipment. To continue the hunting analogy, some guys might grab a gun that hasn’t been fired in a year and go out after some wapiti, but most guys will at least sight the thing in, and might even do so again during the season if the weapon gets banged around or otherwise abused. Lou

  174. Nick Thompson November 11th, 2012 6:37 pm

    Nothing is ever fail safe, that is why you must pay careful attention to your equipment and perform tests. Good on you for doing the tests. As to why your ABS bags did not fully inflate with a full cartridge, have you double checked that the red button on the valves is loose and able to move freely? If it’s sticky you have a problem. Also that you are packing the airbags correctly? Have you talked to your dealer or with ABS about it? Bummer to hear of your problems, I’ve inflated more ABS bags than I care to count and have not once had a problem.

  175. Jeremy November 12th, 2012 1:29 pm


    Thank you for the comments, I fully agree with you. I’m from an Engineering and IT background, where Disaster Recovery plans are standard practice. But like the airbag, if they are never tested, they are pointless and just give a false sense of security.

    There is no ABS Service Centre in the UK, only a distributor, so my backpack will be sent to the factory in Germany, with an estimated turn around of 3 weeks. However, the distributor have have offered a loan backpack, if mine is not returned in time for my first trip in mid December.

    With regards to the under inflation tests, as far as I can see I am packing the bag correctly (I checked again both the instruction manual and on-line ABS instruction video clips). Both red buttons move freely, and the bags stay inflated after inflation, only releasing pressure via the buttons. During inflation, both bags exit the pack at the same time immediately after the release is pulled, and fill equally, but just do not complete filling.

    I will feedback once I get the report back from ABS.

  176. doug haller November 13th, 2012 9:17 am

    Great resource and community contributions.

    Since travel is often a goal of skiers could your next version of the table please include specifications on air travel. It’s hard to decipher the data when it is imbedded in the comments.

    My current understanding from all the conversation above is that it would be best to rent or buy a full cartridge once in the destination country. At the very least, it sounds like all tanks need to be empty while in flight and filled upon arrival.

    Unlike many of the propane stoves, it seems like there needs to be some standardization if skiers are to buy or rent cartridges when their plans require air travel.



  177. AVIATOR November 13th, 2012 9:40 am

    First of all, as stated above,in many cases you CAN travel with a filled cartridge.

    When you can’t for some reason, plan ahead, check that you can refill at your destination, do your regular test release at home before you leave, you need to do it regularly anyway.
    Travel with the empty cartridge and refill when you get there.

    If you can’t refill where you’re going, order/ship filled cartridge to your destination ahead of arriving.

  178. Vikster November 27th, 2012 11:45 am

    I have now also had my Mammut Rocker R.A.S for a week (comments on the Mammut Pro R.A.S 35 above) and figured I write a few words.

    Decided the yellow pack (Ready version without system, since I had that) to contrast from the gray Pro. It looks pretty nice, but it certainly is not a “design” pack. It’s very understated (apart from the color) and packs from manufacturers like Black Diamond certainly looks way cooler. This is a pack for someone who is after quality and functionality first and foremost.

    This is an 18l slack country pack that will carry your skis diagonally (or snowboard centered), your skins, your safety gear and some minor other items. That’s it.

    It uses the main compartment for shovel and probe but it has pretty good dividers and pockets for your safety gear. There is also a very good bladder pocket for drinks.

    The Rocker certainly will not simultaneously take two ice axes, skis, helmet, and crampons – all in dedicated fittings on the outside – and lots of gear in the pack, like the Pro 35 does so very nicely. However, even with skins packed inside, there is room for a small down jacket, medical kit, some snacks – and the pack still remains very light, and nice and snug to carry.

    Most impressive is to my mind is the general quality of the pack and the carry system that, although minimalistic, does a great job. It is very obvious this is product from a maker of great backpacks, not only avy-gear.

    Once again (see what I wrote about the Pro) the changed it a little bit from the pictures on the Mammut site and there is no flimsy plastic buckle on the leg loop. I think that is a very good thing.

    Since this is one of the lighter airbag-pacs with systems to carry, it is pretty much ideal for regular lift based off-piste skiing with some minor slack country walks or skinning.

    In fact, I doubt there is any airbag pack that will be less noticeable and prohibitive while skiing (if you take away the ones that are only a system with a cover and no room even for safety gear). Since that of course is the main idea with this pack, I must say it excels!

    So any bad points?

    One complaint is that there is a padded divider tab in the back that you could use much better to protect the safety gear if the space behind it went all the way to the top. As things are now, I find it a little strange to use and in most ways I pack, I end up not using it at all. Maybe someone else has gotten this, if so please share!

    It would not have been hard to have a tuck-away helmet holder like on the Pro pack (it uses no space so would have been fine on this model as well. .

    Another slight negative is that even with the small size, I feel it should have been possible to have a separate safety-gear compartment with its own zipper that would have made access to safety gear easier.

    Lastly on the negative side, I think they could have put a lower set of compression straps on the side so that you would have been able to pack some stuff (like poles) on the outside of the pack with more ease. Granted, that is not the idea with this pack, and I have the bigger pack for that, but for those that only get this one, I think that would have provided more flexibility with little downside.

    All in all, a very good pack – and to my mind pretty much the perfect complement to the Pro R.A.S 35 giving you two great airbag packs that will do most things I will ever need at a very competitive price point (since you can use the same system).


    Finally, a few words about the system in general.

    Having moved the airbag system between the two packs and having done a test deployment and re-packing – I must say I am very impressed with the robustness and ease of use of the R.A.S system.

    Moving between packs takes a few minutes. Repacking is very easy and done in 5-10 minutes even on the first attempt.

    The packs – being great packs in their own right – can be used just fine without the system without extra weight or loss of space compared to regular non-avy packs.

    I look forward to reading what you guys think once you get a chance to test these additions to the Mammut line; but for flexibility, and actual quality from a straight forward backpack perspective, I think they must be pretty tough to beat!

  179. Gingerlicious November 28th, 2012 11:46 am

    I’m lookig for my first airbag backpack. Will be mostly used for long days and some alpine touring.The RAS Pro 35L seems perfect. I looked at the 45 L size at a store the other day. and it seems well thought throu.

    One question: The left shoulder strap featured two zippers, and I assumed that one could be used for routing the hydration system, and the other for the airbag trigger. On pictures I can see that the largers zipper is used to place the cable for the trigger, and the smallest and lowest zipper is used for the trigger itself.

    Would it be possible to route the hydration tube as well as the trigger in the left shoulder strap? What is the alternative? Is there any routing for a hydration tube in the right shoulder strap?

  180. Nick November 28th, 2012 12:11 pm

    You could probably route a hydration hose in there, but it’s not recommended. Just make sure it won’t interfere at all with pulling the trigger.

  181. Nick November 28th, 2012 12:11 pm

    Vikster- thanks for another great review!

  182. Vikster November 28th, 2012 11:34 pm


    Like Nick says, you could probably route it through there; but I would say it is not advisable as it would run next to the airbag cable and may even interfere with grabbing the handle. Keeping that side as clutter free as possible would be my advice.

    The Mammut Pro R.A.S. 35 (and 45 I guess, if that was the one you looked at) has an hydration opening on the right side, and a smallish hydration pocket on the right side inside the pack.

    There is no internal routing for the cable in the right shoulder strap, but it does have two good external flexible straps for that very purpose, and I assume they will work very well after testing at home.

    I will probably use a bladder with an insulated tube to protect from freezing which may be advisable even for an internally routed hose.

    In my opinion the Mammut-intended method should be the best solution for hydration.

    Look forward to trying both the packs out on the slopes in Austria over Christmas and in Italy in feb (with some luck also in Japan in Jan)!

  183. Vikster November 29th, 2012 2:04 am

    In reference to what I wrote about the Mammut packs above, here is an alternative to the Rocker R.A.S for slackcountry skiing that uses the same system:


    It may be worth noting that there is also the 30l Scott alternative (included in the awesome overview on this page) to the larger Mammut packs for R.A.S. owners.

    The Scott pack includes design elements from Snowpulse, so I am guessing that there might be some collaboration there.

    Both of these packs look cooler than the Mammut packs, if that is important to you.

    Also, English is not my first language, so sorry for poor spelling and awkward wording in my posts guys!

  184. Lou Dawson November 29th, 2012 5:45 am

    Vikster, lots of non-English folks here, no problem with spelling and such. Nice we can have some sort of common language. Indeed, one of the unexpected and coolest things about WildSnow is how international it has become. Lou

  185. Vikster November 29th, 2012 2:37 pm

    Well Lou, provide a great site, and we will come from all over!

    Regarding what I wrote about the Rocker R.A.S. – I feel really dumb, but I just realized the padded protection for the safety gear I was wondering about was actually the soft interior goggle compartment, so no wonder it did not work the way I wanted. Not sure why they made that one a loose flap on the inside, but no need to figure that one out for me. Sorry about that one, still getting to know the packs.

    Also took some pictures – including both bags fully packed externally and one of bladder tube routing on the right shoulder strap (since someone asked):


  186. Christian December 3rd, 2012 5:37 am


    I just bought a Mammut pro RAS. You mentioned a “Decent accommodation for hydration system (with sleeve)”. Where is it? I can’t find it in my bag. There is just a opening for the hose. Coul you post a picture of the bladder in your bag? Sorry for my poor English,


  187. Vikster December 3rd, 2012 10:51 am


    You could see the hydration sleeve in the pics I posted (and wrote in the description); but here are some new pictures showing it with bladder packed:


    If you hover over the descriptions you will get some more info, but in all the pictures I used a 2 liter bladder, but only filled to about 1.5 l (50 oz) since that is approximately what the Pro R.A.S. 35 will hold in the smallish hydration sleeve according to my tests – hence “decent accommodation” in my review.

    The Rocker has a bigger sleeve in the back and I also included some pictures of the hydration system on that pack.

    Finally, I included some pictures of an alternative (and bigger) sleeve you can use in the Pro R.A.S. Packs if you need more than 1.5 liter (50 oz). The problem with that placement is that it the hose can’t be to short and it will make it harder to use the back-panel opening, which I happen to think is one of the best features with this pack.

    1.5 liter to use while the pack is on my back (can have more inside for breaks) is fine for me, but be on the low side for some. Hope this helps clarify a bit.

  188. Vikster December 3rd, 2012 11:00 am


    Note also that the hydration opening on the right (marked with H2O) actually enters the pack “inside” the sleeve, so I really don’t see how you could have missed the sleeve; and that makes me wonder if your pack is different from mine.

    I.E. when the bladder is packed and sleeve closed, the hose is not visible inside the pack at all since bladder and hose all sits on the right side completely inside the sleeve (opposite side of the pack from the sleeve for the air canister for the airbag system).

    It will be interesting to know if your pack is configured differently, if so please let us know and, if possible, take some pictures!

  189. Christian December 3rd, 2012 1:44 pm

    Hey Vikster,

    thank you for your fast reply and the pics! My pack isn’t configured differently to yours. I just didn´t recognize the sleeve because it´s so narrow in relation to my bladder (deuter streamer 2 l). As you said the hose enters the pack in that sleeve, so it realy seems to be intended to hold the bladder. But totally filled my bladder wouldn´t fit in. I´ll see if I can find a bladder which fits better. To me a bottle with a hose seems a good idea (something like that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKqPj1TK2jE).


  190. Vikster December 4th, 2012 3:30 am


    I think what you have should work at least as well. Just try filling less water – between 1.2-1.5 liters should work fine. The bladder will probably be safer than a bottle like the one you linked in your pack, as far as protecting from leakage.

    Since a bladder is soft and shapeable, you should be able to get as much hydration as possible into the sleeve using one, just take care not to have the tube get too squeezed on the way up if you stuff the sleeve too much. It will get better as you drink, but I found I had to go down to about 1.5 liter to have it work well from the start.

    Good luck!

  191. Richard December 19th, 2012 10:05 pm

    Thanks Nick,

    You guys have the most comprehensive run-down on airbag packs out there. What a great source of information. Keep up the good work. 🙂

    It’s a shame the manufacturers haven’t done more to explain the logistics of airline travel with these things. It seems they leave it all to the user to find this stuff out, instead of posting an “idiots guide to airbag travel”. 🙁

  192. Achim December 22nd, 2012 2:30 am

    Hi !
    Thank you for your great comprehension!
    I have a snowpulse lite 35 on large here and my weightscale shows 2400 gr without Cartridge. Very disappointing. I would like to send you the weight in gramm to make the overview easier for Europeans. Would you publish them? Can I just post them here or rather send an excel file to some email adress? Regards

  193. Nick Thompson December 24th, 2012 10:47 am

    I weighed the Snowpulse Lite 35 at 6.63 lbs (with cylinder). If you subtract the 1.43 lb cylinder, that’s 5.2 lbs, which is 2358 grams, very close to your 2400 grams. There is some variance in the weight of the filled cylinders, so that would explain the difference.
    I’d like to have all our weights convertible to grams and ounces with the click of a button, but need to figure that one out with Lou.
    If you have any weights for packs that we haven’t weighed ourselves, that would be interesting to see. thanks.

  194. Rodney December 28th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Just bought the Mammut RAS 22l – been very happy with it. Can get gear in for sidecounty and it is very comfortable to use (had the Snowpulse version 1 pack 35l and this was very uncomfortable).

    Been trying to understand pack sizes. It is hard to find stores that stock the 35l and 45l Pro models. Are these litres before or after the RAS system (e.g. is the 35l rather smaller after the deduction of the space for RAS system)? Keen to get a pack for long day tours.

    I was initially keen on the 30l Lite model – but concerned as folks seem to think this is considerably less well made.

    Interested in thoughts!

  195. Paul January 10th, 2013 12:11 pm

    I want to address the two approaches that are mentioned for the problem that avalanche transceivers fail to help many of the people burried after an avalanche.: 1.Provide air to prevent the otherwise suffocating buried victim. 2.Prevent burial in the first place.

    I full agree with the airbag to prevent burial in the first place. But even with an airbag there can be the issue that your head is down and that you sufficate.
    Is it an idea to make a tube from the airbag (which must be filled with air and not nitrogen ofcourse) that lets out a bit of the air in the airbag towards the mouth of the victim. Two things will happen: the victim gets fresh air and the airbag will (slowly) deflate. This will give the vistim additional room to move and it will create airspace around his head. This should make the survival time significantly longer allowing (together with the beacon) much more people to be saved.

    Please give feedback whether this is a crazy idea. If not i think you people are in a good position to advice the manufactures of this possibility.
    And: No I don’t want a patent application. Consider the idea in the public domain, so that no company can patent it and everyone can use it freely

  196. Steve January 28th, 2013 6:07 pm

    Great information here Nick, thanks so much, I have been looking for this type of information for a couple of weeks now in order to decide on what system to go for. I am looking for the lightest possible system and I think from all the information provided that the BCA Float 22 at 5.5lbs is the lightest (if anybody thinks I am wrong on this I would welcome to be put right).

    I have been in touch with BCA and aksed them if they are planning to introduce a carbon cannister which of course would make their system even lighter but they said they have no current plans.

    What would be great of course is a test of all the systems to see which one is most effective when it is really needed but I guess we are some way off this happening perhaps.

  197. Lou Dawson January 28th, 2013 6:10 pm

    Many of the airbag makers seem to feel their systems are light enough, at least that’s my impression. In my opinion, if that’s the case they are very wrong and may pay a stiff price for their neglect of the weight issue.

  198. Nick Thompson January 28th, 2013 6:43 pm

    Don’t hold your breath for a carbon cylinder in the US either. No one is pursuing it with any energy at the moment. The argument is that you don’t lose enough weight to make it worth their hassle.
    Steve- If 22 liters is enough for you, then the Float 22 seems like a good choice.

  199. Steve January 28th, 2013 8:07 pm

    Yes 22 litres is plenty enough for my use. I am in the UK so I was thinking about the ABS Powder Base with a carbon cannister but as this is still not as light as the BCA Float 22 and the latter is cheaper.

    I don’t suppose ABS’s carbon cannister would fit the BCA Float 22 would it, or is that a silly question?

    Thanks again for all this excellent info.

  200. Nick Thompson January 28th, 2013 10:08 pm

    Nope, only BCA cylinders work with BCA.

  201. Simon February 16th, 2013 10:12 am

    Mammut introduces a new airbag series with additional trauma protection. I also saw in a dealer’s catalogue that the refillable Snowpulse 2.0 cartridge has been (visually) updated.


    Looking forward to a thorough test when it’s available to you wildsnowers!

  202. Marc March 1st, 2013 1:16 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I came across this one on youtube:


    What they actually say is that you keep floating as long as the avalance is moving and fluid. But as soon as you stop you will get burried by all snow following. Makes sense to me.

    Maybe it’s old news as it was already posted in 2011.

    What’s your opinion on this?
    Is there more recent test data / experience on these balloons?

  203. etto March 1st, 2013 3:32 pm

    Marc, that is essentially the gist of it. The physical principle behind the balloons is that bigger (and lighter) objects will flow towards the top in a mass of moving particles. The important part here being “moving”. When there’s no motion, nothing will make you magically float upwards. In addition an avalanche/snow in motion acts almost as a fluid, but the snow gets really solid when it stops, think concrete. Which means that when the mass of the snow that includes you stop, you stop. Any additional/later snow on top will stay on top. However the balloon(s)_might_ contribute to a bigger air pocket in the snow for a buried person.

    This means that if you’re not in the avalanche but get it on top of you in the zone where it stops, an avalanche airbag won’t be much help in avoiding burial.

  204. SR March 5th, 2013 2:14 pm

    Tremper has some further good comments on the UAC blog on airbag pack effectiveness, including the relationship of terrain choice to effectiveness. Because some still point to individual fatalities involving airbag pack users and try to question the effectiveness of airbag packs overall as a result, I think each good discussion of the big picture is still quite helpful.

  205. anon April 27th, 2013 9:28 am

    Both Salewa Packs are not listed in this Overview (not listed on salewa.com but on the abs-airbag.com as a system-partner) have a look to:
    Salewa Verbier 26 Pro ABS
    Salewa Mountain Guide 38 Carbon

  206. Lou Dawson April 27th, 2013 9:36 am

    Anon, it is difficult keep up with all the variations on this. We’ll try to add those in. Thanks, Lou

  207. Mason May 22nd, 2013 9:20 pm

    I am researching for my term paper on the potential application of sensors in deploying an avalanche airbag when the skier is unable to. This could serve as a failsafe if the skier is knocked unconscious, can’t move their arms to pull the cord, etc…

    The obvious type of sensor to use is accelerometers, however it is difficult to estimate what sort of threshold determines when an avalanche or extreme crash has occurred. I would propose having several accelerometers placed on various limbs and using the signals from them to determine when the airbag should be deployed.

    -what sort of time frame is appropriate in determining it is necessary to deploy the airbag? Somewhere in the range of seconds… Is it common for skiers to be thrashed around for 10 or more seconds in an avalanche, or would a smaller time window be more realistic?

    -at the start of an avalanche is the acceleration experienced by the skier unnatural; is it typically much greater than a skier would be able to accelerate on their own? Any speculation or guesses on the acceleration experienced could be very helpful!

  208. Lou Dawson May 23rd, 2013 6:53 am

    Mason, get a grip (grin), how could an avalanche accelerate faster than a falling object such as a skier hucking a cliff? Neither have rocket engines, they’re both gravity powered.

    The idea of sensors and some logic to auto-deploy an airbag has been discussed many times, it’s a tricky problem. A microprocessor is definitely required. I’m not sure it’s possible, because the best time to pull the trigger is during that split second when your mind says “it’s the big A!” Perhaps even standing in a runout zone looking up at an avalanche coming down on you.

    On the other hand, it would be amazing to have some kind of failsafe that would trigger the bag if the owner didn’t do so, after they started the avalanche ride. I can’t think of anything unique to getting caught in an avalanche as compared to normal skiing and falling that could be used for a sensor system. But perhaps I’m overlooking something.

    The electric fan airbags that are rumored to be in development have the electric power for a microprocessor, and also can be deployed multiple times judging from the Arcteryx patent we published a while ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks working on those projects had also been working on an automatic trigger, since an unintended deploy would be a simple matter of packing the bag and continuing the day, instead of going home for a new gas cylinder.

  209. See May 23rd, 2013 7:39 am

    Sphincter pressure switch.

  210. Rodney May 23rd, 2013 8:55 am

    Not sure that works unless you are only scared of avalanches. If you have about to jump off a cliff or get chased by a bear, not sure you want the bag to go off!

  211. SR May 23rd, 2013 9:14 am

    Have they looked at sound patterns? Depending on lots of things, I’m not sure there’s one acoustic profile to a slide, anymore than there’s one characteristic way people get caught, of course. And, everything from fighter planes to trucks could have a somewhat similar profile sound-wise — could be fun to forget to deactivate that feature! But, sudden onset of a given type of rustle or rumble???

  212. Lou Dawson May 23rd, 2013 10:01 am

    See, award goes to you for best comment of the week. LOL

  213. Erik Erikson May 24th, 2013 6:39 am

    Mason, really thought about that but I can´t figure out a usefull solution of a sensor deploying an airbag. The only thing I could imagine is a such device one can turn on and off and only use on the uphill. Here an accelerometer could work as a heavy fall or drop is more unlikely while skinning up (but not impossible!).
    But if we think “science fiction” already, SRs comment about sound patterns stirred an idea: Maybe it would be possible to develop an airbag that opens on a certain command given by voice respectively a device recognizes a human voice saying a certain word.and opens the airbag… I mean such things exist in cell phones (saying a name and the phone calls the person automatically). Nevertheless I would not like having to rely on such a complicated thing and better stick to the handle…

  214. Lou Dawson May 24th, 2013 11:29 am

    Yeah, human brain and nerves are good for something…

  215. daniel November 14th, 2013 10:29 am

    Hijacking this thread for a specific question.
    Does the use of ski leashes reduce the effectivity of airbag systems significantly by causing some sort of anchor effect?
    What does everybody think of using both airbags and leashes?
    2 out of 3 pairs of skis in my quiver have leashes instead of brakes. Bad choice? Did so because I rarely fall, ski little resorty and liked the weight saving.

  216. Lou Dawson November 14th, 2013 5:09 pm

    More than 40 years of studying avalanche accidents. Ski brakes or break-away leashes are key, airbag or not! Just think about it, it’s a no-brainer. Lou

  217. Daniel November 14th, 2013 11:37 pm

    So what kind of breakaway link would you suggest? What do you use? Cheers!

  218. Lou Dawson November 15th, 2013 7:14 am

    Daniel, if you use our search function (at top left), try phrases such as “safety strap” or “ski leash” or “breakaway ski leash,” you’ll find some ideas. Main thing to remember is that the breakaway leashes are not a good idea if you fall and release your bindings very often. If you fall much, use ski brakes. It’s also fairly common now for skiers to use neither brakes nor straps. Doing so can be pretty risky, especially if you’re in a remote location and can’t find a lost ski. Also be careful what you use at resorts, you don’t want to injure someone with your runaway ski. Lou

    Search examples



  219. Jack Crognale November 26th, 2013 10:22 am

    Hi folks, I was wondering if anybody has had any experience with the Evco zip on airbags? I was looking at the 40L+5 pro model. It zips on to the Vario Base and seems really well made. Tool pocket is on the outside, (where it belongs). It actually looks like you could get a full size Voile shovel along with your stick and saw inside unlike most of the packs I have looked at. For those that are curious they can be found at Evocsports.com. Cheers, Jack

  220. Jack Crognale November 26th, 2013 10:24 am

    On the Evoc bag it was the Patrol 40 I was looking at not the pro 40. I think the pro 40 might lean more towards snowboards. Cheers, Jack

  221. Jeremy November 26th, 2013 11:03 am

    Hi Jack,
    I considered the Evoc packs (the 40L was not available at the time), when looking to replace the fairly useless standard ABS zip ons, but could never find any in a retail shop.

    In the end I went with the Dakine Altitude/Vario 40L zip on. At the time it was the only zip on I could find for the Vario that allowed an A-Frame ski carry. It appears to offer very similar features to the Evoc. The pack may be a bit heavy for some, but I like the features.

    I can fit a Ortovox Kodiak shovel and G3 300cm probe in the outer designated tool pocket.

  222. Jack Crognale November 26th, 2013 11:12 am

    Thanks for the input Jeremy. I haven’t seen the Evoc in the States either. I saw them in a shop in Europe. The Dakine seems to be a nice pack also. Cheers, Jack

  223. charlotte December 6th, 2013 7:53 am

    I do mostly slacking, back country skiing and day trips and am thinking about getting an airbag system this season but will only be getting about 4/5 days skiing this year.

    It seems like with the speed of progress of these products (improved fit, weight and features) I might be better waiting for a season on this purchase to buy one next year when the options may be even better.

    Any thoughts on whether I can really expect massive jumps in quality?

    I am a petite 5’2″, 42kg athletic frame with oesteoporosis so features like back supports are important to me, as are weight and comfort. I have been looking at the ABS options or the Mammut shorter ride but am still not convinced either way…
    Any suggestions on what product I should be going for if I invest in this now would also be welcomed?

    Thanks –

    – I just discoverd wildsnow.com and feel like my life has just become a whole lot more fulfilled. Great site and great community! Thank you all!

  224. Lou Dawson December 6th, 2013 7:58 am

    Hi Charlotte, if you’re only getting 4/5 days of skiing, and if you’re a careful skier, I’d say dong the big airbag purchase this year would perhaps be unnecessary. If you’re spending all those days in avalanche exposure, perhaps just rent one. The pace of improvement in these systems is indeed speedy. I feel the new electrical ones coming out next year will eventually result in significantly lighter weight, as well as ease of use.

    Sounds like you’re a WildSnow Girl now!


  225. charlotte December 6th, 2013 8:03 am

    Thanks – thats great.
    – charlotte

  226. Les December 7th, 2013 10:01 pm

    Dry Guy waterproofing spray offers superior advantages to other waterproofing methods and keeps your fabrics breathable!

    Whether it be your winter jacket, ski jacket or even fleece jacket, waterproofing your outerwear is easy, and when you have a good product, you only have to do it once during the season.

    Now Available on Amazon


  227. Erik Erikson December 8th, 2013 12:21 am

    Hi Charlotte, just one little advice: if you`ll settle for an airbag featuring the snowpulse (or now mammut protection) system (which I prefer personally by the way): I´d recommend wearing the pack for some time before buying it. You seem to be very slim, and I know very narrow shoulderd and small women who find the straps of the pack uncomfortable over time, cause they are wider and bulkier than usual (that is because the airbag itself is partially packed into the straps).

  228. Charlotte December 8th, 2013 1:01 am

    Thanks Erik

  229. Paul Goehner December 12th, 2013 11:52 am

    Just adding a sincere THANK YOU to you Lou and all the other contributors giving of their time and knowledge to help me and many others make a good decision on which model to go with.

  230. Jeremy February 24th, 2014 1:28 pm

    Hi Lou,

    It looks like Mammut have waited until mid season to release their new range of airbag packs:


    The Light Portection Airbag at 2120g looks interesting, even if all the compressed gas Airbags are potentially endangered by the proposed Electric packs next year.

  231. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 1:50 pm

    HI Jeremy, weight is indeed still an issue for nearly every true human powered backcountry skier so good to see it’s an issue with the companies making this stuff. Disappointment with Jetforce is it’s quite heavy, but I still hold by my prediction that the electric fan tech is disruptive to the industry. I used a Jetforce for the last three days, and while I wouldn’t carry it as my daily driver due to combined weight of the pack + my normal backcountry gear (I left nearly everything behind but shovel and probe), with a lighter sack as well as 2/3 weight battery it’ll compete so I’m optimistic. As a first-year product they had to build it beefy, with major battery life, so they didn’t have people whining about issues (other than weight) from the start.

    Funny timing on the Mammut stuff, as BD just put a bunch of pre-retail JetForce packs out to the wild.

    Mammut 2120 grams = 75 ounces = 4.6 pounds, compared to the Jetforce I have here is about 7.5 pounds. Both packs claim about 30 liters. That’s pretty major as a weight difference.


  232. Erik Erikson March 4th, 2014 7:46 am

    Just got an IMPORTANT information about possible manufacturing defects concerning the screw-joint between release mechanism and venturi-valve in Mammut respectively snowpulse-packs of the seasons 2011/12 and 2012/13.
    Here is the link to the mammut homepage where they call to immediately check this. There seems to be no english version, but the pictures speak for themselves.
    I´d strongly recommend to check if you have a pack that is concerned!

  233. Nick Thompson March 4th, 2014 8:48 am

    Thanks Erik! Shows up in english in my browser.

  234. Erik Erikson March 4th, 2014 9:05 am

    That´s good. Was afraid that I would have to translate all the technical terms for the wildsnowreaders.. would have been kind of hard, as I am far from being a native speaker in english… 😉

  235. Gord Ferguson October 9th, 2014 9:23 pm

    Fall 2014: We’re going to need an airbag review update for 2015.
    I’ve been looking at the options and it’s complicated. For me the biggest concerns are weight and capacity. If the pack’s too heavy or isn’t big enough to fit my gear, it’s not in the ballpark for me.
    I’m considering 2 packs, one large and one small. The Mammut RAS system looks pretty good for that but I doubt a 40L pack will be big enough for overnighters especially in winter so that may be a deal breaker.
    It doesn’t appear that we can get carbon cylinders in Canada (I’m in Calgary) which would be worth the extra money if I could get one.
    Any new reviews in the works?

  236. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2014 6:57 am

    Hi Gord, it’s indeed a total jungle out there when it comes to airbag rucksacks. I’ve been trying to get a strategy going on how to cover them, and we’re making progress. Meanwhile, apologies for our industry overview being a bit long of the tooth. At least it gives an idea of the variety. I told Nick I’d get in there and clean it up, so perhaps we can do that sooner than later. Nick is out of the picture for blogging, with a new kid (congrats!) as well as a full time job, but we should all thank him for the work he did on this.

    Meanwhile, I still predict that the electric fan packs will be the way of the future and that compressed gas will be obsolete. Why? Simply because of the amazing hassle of the gas packs. I’ll give you yet another example. I know a guy who went to all the trouble of taking his airbag pack down to South America, and sought out a place in Santiago for a canister fill, only to find out his canister leaked and there was no recourse for repair. So there he was, no airbag, with best intentions. Bogus. With an electric system he’d have carried everything intact on the aircraft, no issues.


  237. Gord Ferguson October 10th, 2014 8:06 am

    The electric fan idea is really intriguing I agree, but the BD Jetforce is way too heavy in my opinion and I’m not sure I can wait for them to get lighter. Even though airbags offer a last resort safety valve if you get caught in a slide, dragging around a big heavy load isn’t much fun while climbing or skiing so weight is my first consideration. In my case I don’t fly to ski destinations so the compressed gas isn’t such a problem. The lightest pack I’ve found so far is the Mammut Protection PAS 30L which is 2.43kg (5.3lb) with a carbon cylinder, so I’ve just got to determine if it has enough capacity for what I want to do.

  238. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2014 8:18 am

    Gord, I have to agree about weight. The heavy load of the Jetforce is a big disappointment. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they included features like a steel cable connecting the shoulder straps to allow a slight bit of extra movement that in my opinion is superfluous, and they should have sourced an even lighter material for the balloon. Even so, there are so so many pain points with the gas units, just watch. The electric packs are going to take off like a retail rocket.

    One solution to the weight issue is to go with the latest tech in everything else.

    I now do most of my ski touring in places where I don’t need to carry much extra gear. I think I can make the Jetforce work by just continuing that trend. If I save a pound or two over what I normally carry, I’m in the ballpark.


  239. Steve October 10th, 2014 5:05 pm

    Most users, certainly in Europe, only need very small packs as they use them as day packs and not touring of any sort. Therefore the most important things for them is weight, easy on and easy off, no problems with flying and of course that the thing works.
    I have a BCA Float 22 which is one of the lightest on the market. I still think it is too heavy and I prefer to ski without it but overall I prefer to wear it.

  240. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2014 7:13 pm

    Jetforce with a lighter pack and a 2 inflation battery would be light enough. We wait. Lou

  241. Steve October 11th, 2014 10:51 am

    The BCA Float 22 litre weighs 5lbs 8ozs with a full cylinder whereas the Jetforce Pilot 11 litre weighs 7lbs 3ozs. I currently have the former so I will not be changing until an alternative at least weighs the same.

  242. Georgio Littman November 30th, 2014 8:02 am

    Found another possible competitor for the airbag market while searching around the net.


    Not much up on their website but looks like there will be a reveal soon.

  243. Lou Dawson 2 December 4th, 2014 11:33 am

    All, I did an extensive re-write and edit on this, trying to keep it current. Any mistakes are mine and I’m happy to correct with your help. We’ll update all winter. Lou

  244. Steve December 4th, 2014 12:14 pm

    what is the lightest system and presume the canister would need to be carbon?

  245. Clyde December 4th, 2014 1:21 pm

    Still think the most interesting airbag system is the modular ABS coming out from North Face next year. The option of using it with any ski pack you own (unlike RAS) is a huge plus over other brands. It will premier at OR/SIA this winter and be available next season, roughly same weight and price as other ABS rigs (read: too much of both).

    Agree ABS needs to reinvent their canisters. pretty dumb. I’m surprised nobody has taken the old spring-loaded K2 Avalanche Ball concept and turned it into a pack–that idea was ahead of its time. Such a pack could be cheaper and more reliable than all of the rest.

    Would be nice to see a chart with price, weight, and pack volume on all these models, plus cost of refills. Include Ortovox packs even if they are Euro butt ugly. Since you mention Snowpulse is owned by Mammut, it’s also noteworthy that BSA is owned by K2/Jarden. Waiting for the BD Jetforce recall announcement in 3, 2, 1….

  246. Lou Dawson 2 December 4th, 2014 1:55 pm

    Clyde, thanks for the thoughts about spring loaded, one has to wonder if that could be done for way less weight.

    We tried the chart, way too complex. It’s out of date as soon as it’s published.


  247. Nick Thompson December 4th, 2014 2:45 pm

    Thanks Lou for cleaning this up- that chart was way out of date and way too cumbersome. A few corrections though:

    Mammut is also making the wrap around the head airbag style as Snowpulse. It is removable just like the RAS system. Both Snowpulse and Mammut call this new system “Protection.”

    Mammut doesn’t use the ABS system, they use the Snowpulse system.

    ABS’s explosive trigger mechanism and nitrogen canister, while more of a hassle to refill (you can’t- have to swap for new), is intended to provide better reliability (no studies to confirm this) over mechanical triggers and compressed air (or battery). This may seem outdated compared to the Jetforce, but it’s lighter weight and you have a huge selection of compatible packs from many different manufacturers to choose from. It’s also very convenient for non-US air travel- you can fly with a filled canister and handle.

    A-frame ski carry is possible with ABS, I believe ABS is the only system that is compatible with A-frame carry. The Vario 40(42?) has a nice A-frame carry system.

  248. etto December 4th, 2014 3:05 pm

    I’m somewhat surprised by your rather harsh “… but in our opinion their explosive trigger mechanism and nitrogen filled canister (“activation unit”) have become outdated, we don’t recommend their packs.” given the rest of your description of the ABS offerings. In your own words they are the least cumbersome in use, and the most widely tested.

    Also, considering Wildsnow has an international readership, as you often refer to yourself Lou, I find the emphasis on North American air travel misleading. Flying with ABS packs in Europe is routine, and does not present any problem.

    As Nick pointed out, with the 40L zip-on A-frame carry is possible, and works well.

    I would be WAY more skeptical of beta testing any new avalanche airbag than other gear, so I’m surprised that a site that normally cautions against early adoption recommends it for such a critical piece of safety equipment (thinking of the BD and Scott offerings)

  249. Gord December 4th, 2014 3:18 pm

    Hey thanks for the airbag update. FYI the Black Diamond Jetforce packs are in stock and for sale at MEC in Calgary. They have the 40L the 28L and the 11L.
    Check them out at mec.ca

  250. Rick Boebel December 4th, 2014 3:21 pm

    It’s not just North America that makes it hard to fly, a friend going to Gulmarg from New Zealand had his ABS mechanism and canister confiscated, never to be returned, at the Delhi airport. Perhaps once you get out of Europe traveling isn’t that easy. I have a BCA Float 22 and travel with it quite a bit in US, Canada and NZ. I empty the cylinder take of the top and put it in my pack as carry on. Haven’t had any trouble in 2 years. The pack has the additional benefit of not having a lot of room so I need to think about what I put in it besides skins and water. My son has their new Float 42 and he doesn’t have this problem but then again he’s a lot younger. 8^)

  251. Lou Dawson 2 December 4th, 2014 7:24 pm

    Etto, you do have a point. I’ll look at my edits. Credit where credit is due, ABS did pioneer things to some degree, but that doesn’t mean the technology they developed is good forever, that only happens with tech bindings (grin). Seriously, the spring loaded trigger mechanisms are in my opinion totally adequate and reliable. Needing an explosive device for trigger just seems so old-school, and the problems it creates are real. I stand by my not recommending ABS, but indeed a matter of opinion.

    As for early adoption, you have a point about that as well. I think what’s happened with the airbag packs is they are much more strictly vetted before retail due to them being a safety device, hence I’m more confident. Still, I’d tend to be more behind Alpride as it’s a re-do of proven technology, while Jetforce is probably something for the more cautious consumer to watch for a while before buying.


  252. Gabe December 4th, 2014 10:50 pm

    No mention of the new BCA float Tech packs. It would be nice to see a review of these to see them in a bit more detail.

  253. Matus December 5th, 2014 5:26 am

    Sorry for not reading all the comments.

    Just a note regarding air transport: it almost NEVER is flawless in Europe. It depends on the security guy who actually checks your baggage.

    Every year I fly from Europe to Norway, Russia, Lebanon etc, and it always seems to be matter of luck – if and how they let me transport my Snowpulse. It is good to have the relevant IATA papers packed with the cartridge. However, they do not provide 100% assurance that your avy backpack will pass through the security check.

    Heading to Japan this winter, so this will be another experience.

  254. rich December 5th, 2014 6:31 am

    Im also heading to Hakkoda from Zurich Feb 20- Mar 1 with my Protection bag. Would be good to know how you fare with a full canister if you go before. Otherwise Ill give you a heads up if you wish.

    Btw, to all, I have the 30lt bag and I love it. Heaps of space, easy access.

  255. Matus December 5th, 2014 6:40 am

    @rich please contact me on kuchyna at gmail dot com (do not want to spoil this blog with our private conversation).

  256. Nick Thompson December 5th, 2014 6:55 am

    I’ve heard in the past that getting a cylinder filled in japan is nearly impossible, but hopefully that’s changed. Please let us know what you find out.

  257. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 7:17 am

    Gabe, thanks for the comment, I tried to keep this fairly current as to what will be available soon if not now. I’ll check up on the BCA stuff and add in if appropriate. Airbags are becoming like skis, too many to cover every one in detail, perhaps we need and “Ultimate Airbag Quiver?” Lou

  258. Dan Nelson December 5th, 2014 11:18 am

    Great discussion (albeit overwhelming). I’ve had the same argument beacon/shovel/probe vs Airbag. Fortunately, we aren’t forced to choose.

    I have a Mammut Light 30 RAS Snowpulse system. After a year of heavy use, the straps and material are still in tact. Surprisingly comfortable given minimalist padding/bulk. My only complaint is that the zipper on the top designed to bust open when airbag is deployed often opens spontaneously requiring re-zipping quite often. Also had to return initial system as the cartridge cross-threaded when screwed in initially, but otherwise, seems like ideal weight/price. The Protection model seems unproven for the extra bulk/price/weight.

  259. Gord December 5th, 2014 11:38 am

    I’ve been trying these on and am close to buying the Mammut RAS 45L as it is very convertible, collapses easily to smaller size, removable airbag, not much heavier than the 35L, large enough to work for hut trips, $200 cheaper than the Pro Protection Mammut packs.
    The thing I don’t like about the Pro Protection packs is that the shoulder straps are fixed and you can’t pull the top of the pack up closer to your body. When you load the pack it hangs back off your shoulders, so problematic when you’re skiing I’d say; and of course $200 more dollars, (well…..Canadian dollars)

  260. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 12:04 pm

    More on BCA Tech, sorry Gabe, I didn’t realize you were talking about the _Float_ Tech. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my take is it’s just another Float airbag system equipped pack but with extra doodads on the rucksack.


    Happy to review, but if the doodads add yet more weight don’t expect our take to be very positive.


  261. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 12:17 pm

    Made some edits per Nick’s info.

  262. Marcel December 5th, 2014 3:40 pm

    So MR is out 2 years for a new ski/ride line? Any rumors, info about what to expect from them? snowpulse, battery operated, abs?

  263. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 5:33 pm

    All, thanks to David I added solid info about IATA regs to end of blog post. Beware that the IATA says “with approval of operator” as an out, so despite whatever the general consensus is, the specific “operator” could refuse avalanche airbag gas and other stuff such as pyro triggers. Lou

  264. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 5:35 pm

    Marcel, Mystery Ranch was using the WARY plumbing, I have no idea who they’ll switch to but wouldn’t be surprised if it was ABS. I doubt they’ll create their own, nor do a fan pack. I’m told they’ll show the stuff at this coming winter OR show. We’ll try to cover it then, as will 342 other bloggers. Lou

  265. shane December 7th, 2014 3:53 pm

    Gosh, I skimmed some of these comments and maybe someone already mentioned it but I didnt see my gripe voiced. This past spring my 3 pals and mi e went to AK and were fortunate to have a factory rep loan us 3 airbag packs. We rented a 4th. Without exception we noticed that the packs were woefully undersized in terms of carrying the most basic BC gear. I had to leave behind my puffy jacket, 1st aid kit, and a fair bit of water and food. Those are things that I use on every trip. IMO, until the pack makers can make packs with a higher carrying/organizing capacity but lower outside volume, I need to sacrifice airbag safety for the ability to carry the stuff that comes into play on every trip without being so bulky that it hinders my descent.

  266. Kristian December 7th, 2014 6:03 pm

    Just came back empty handed from a trip to buy a Scott Alpride.

    Was surprised to find that it is an over engineered heavy pack more suitable to lift and motorized ascents. Asked for a scale and was amazed at how heavy it and most of the other inflation packs were. The Mammut RAS Light 30 Liter was the only single pack with a reasonable size versus weight.

    Again, I have to wonder who is actually designing these packs? Almost certainly it is not those who actually climb to earn their turns. And what’s with all of the back zip packs? Ever tried to actually get something out of your’s or your partner’s back zip pack in serious steep terrain? Everything spills down the mountain guaranteed.

  267. Michael December 7th, 2014 6:24 pm

    Lou et al, any word on the K2-BCA Float 30? K2 lists the weight as “4.4 lbs in total” and comes de facto with the BCA reputation since K2 bought BCA.

    Of course its new but, if the listed weight is correct it could be a sweet little deal!

  268. Paul Simon December 7th, 2014 6:55 pm

    Kristian, you are absolutely right! Today’s airbag packs are for heli skiing and sidecountry use. Way to heavy for ski alpinism. And this is not going to change for quite some time. Making the right decisions is still the best way to stay out of trouble. 90% of the time I am touring solo, even without beacon or shovel. In a lot of situations being caught in a slide would be fatal with or without one of these fancy airbags. But this is not something for the masses: They want 100% security and a lot of fun. Let them have their fun, but don’t be rude to me because I dont carry any avy gear on tours where I am completely alone.

  269. Kristian December 7th, 2014 7:27 pm

    Paul, I am the same as you. I try to avoid unstable conditions and I do carry gear since there are sometimes others in the area. Also a FastFind PLB. And I ski cut the tops of couloirs as a precaution. It’s almost surreal when the snow does release and that gigantic mass silently tumbles away.

  270. Matus December 8th, 2014 12:19 am

    Kristian you are right about the weight. I believe that it is possible to cut it down and maintain the safety requirements. They need to make the backpacks much simpler. Who needs all those zippers, straps, compartments?

    BTW, I have Snowpulse Pro 35 RAS (the first gen) which is approx. 2700+ grams including RAS avy system and steel cartridge. You can feel that it is heavier than the regular backpack but it is not deal breaker. The RAS makes it really flexible solution – you can leave the unit in the tent/hut if you are heading to safe terrain.

    The 35L is the real minimum for me – with the RAS, shovel and probe inside, the remaining space is very limited. I would like to see 40L light alternative.

  271. Lou Dawson 2 December 8th, 2014 5:47 am

    All, thanks so much for voicing your concerns about weight and the overall airbag hysteria that has gripped the media and ski touring public for quite some time now. Vote with your wallet, don’t buy the heavy klunkers, or as many people have done defer your purchase until you find a pack that’s reasonable in meeting your needs.

    And yes, the airbag is not a 100% survival solution. It’s a better solution than a beacon, but the issue of physical trauma is still very real. As we always say, there is only one 100% certain method of avalanche safety, and that’s to not get caught in an avalanche.

    In my opinion, the present state of small volume heavy backpacks is caused by several things. To begin, panel loaders are inherently heavier than top load packs (due to zippers and such), but panel loaders tend to work better for constructing an airbag pack that looks good on the shelf. Fact is most shoppers want backpacks that are “clean” and feel/look like airline luggage, so the market responds.

    Building a nice, light, top-load airbag pack isn’t that tough. I can sit here and look at the Alpride and figure out a design philosophy in about 3 minutes. But there has to be the corporate will to do it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but are there not several top-load or hybrid top-load airbag backpack configurations presently available?

    In any case, the key with lighter backpacks is you have to forgo features that seem nice when you’re in the mountaineering shop, and go for simplicity. I know some of you have to have your tool compartments, skin compartment, hydration features, and so on. That’s fine. But I’ve recently spoken to a number of people who’ve realized they don’t need _any_ of that stuff. They just want a sack with an airbag system, as light and inexpensive as possible, preferably that they can easily airline travel with.

    The keystone species in all this is in my opinion Jetforce. Supply of Jetforce will be limited this winter so it’ll be difficult to get a sense of what consumers really want, but by next winter we’ll be able to see how the heavy Jetforce pack sells from a more realistic supply base. If it does well, we’ll know that convenience trumps weight. If sales of Jetforce limp along, that’ll be because it’s heavy. In my opinion, in the end, the company that makes the pack that’s light — and consumer friendly — will be the company that wins.

  272. Lou Dawson 2 December 8th, 2014 6:10 am

    The BCA Float 32 that Louie uses weighs 6.75 lbs unmodified, with full cylinder. The Alpride 30 we have here weighs 6.4 lbs unmodified, with stock cylinders installed. The BCA is simple and light with good volume, Alpride appears to have a lot of extra fabric and is smaller in volume, though not tiny.

    Regarding promised weights of airbag packs, before getting too excited make sure the stated weight includes the full gas cylinder. That’s the only way to normalize the comparo. Also, know that marketing folks are notorious for under-stating weights during pre-production phase of marketing a product.


  273. Phil December 11th, 2014 4:40 am

    Having worked in a mountain shop for some time, I’m always amazed at how many customers (who are about to spend a fair amount of money on a rather technical piece of gear) are mostly impressed by all the marketing bells and whistles on the packs (e.g. the zillions of compartments or the classic question “there ain’t no raincover?”). Even when you tell them they should try to pack it with their usual gear to see what size it shoud be and what it will weigh, a lot of them don’t bother to do it.

    Unfortunately, weight-conscious ski tourers are not the shopping majority. I think as long as we’ll have those customers looking at an airbag as a holy grail of safety, with weight not being an issue, manufacturers won’t force their designers to really trim the whole product line down instead of having a single, half-hearted “light” option sitting beside all those heavy models. And with all the lift-served sidecountry being made available at resorts, they have a bunch of movie-looking freeriders not really caring about the weight at all and ready to splash some $$$…

    The Jetforce seems the technology of the future, but I think it will take some (many?) years before they get the weight significantly down.

    On another note, maybe you should update the Snowpulse/Mammut section to make it a little clearer. Mammut acquired Snowpulse some years ago and almost all (ski) airbags are now marketed under the Mammut brand (at least in Europe). They basically have the two systems, PAS and RAS, each with different models available. PAS being the “wrap-around” airbag and the RAS seems to ba a good option for using the pack for something else.

  274. rich December 11th, 2014 6:28 am

    perhaps a pragmatic approach would help 1st time buyers.
    the most important choice is that you commit yourself to having a airbag next time you step out into the wild. Everything else is surely secondary.

    Secondly, while bag weight may be a criteria, it’s a luxury choice which becomes pretty inconsequential once you look at all the gear on your bedroom floor that you must & want to bring along.

    So instead think about the gear you have and you generally need worst case and then decide on size. $10 bets you will end up for the largest bag there is and the colour you want is sold out..

    Personally, there’s nothing I hate more than having to stuff to the brim all the must have gear into a bag, only to have Murphy’s law kick in and ensure that the one item you need as the snow swirls around you, is in the inaccessible corner of your brand new bag and under all the stuff you meticulously shoved into the bag at 4am.

    So in my case I’ve opted for the Mammut Pro Protection 35Lt bag giving me room, albeit not plenty, to pack all the ‘must have & probably need’ gear in and still have space for couple of ‘you never know’ items. Added to that is the comfort that you will never say to yourself ….
    ‘damn, should have bought the bigger bag’.
    Because there simply isn’t one. Happy days.

  275. Lou Dawson 2 December 11th, 2014 9:40 am

    Phil, thanks, when I have time today I’ll work on the overview. Lou

  276. Matus December 12th, 2014 12:46 am

    The times they are changing: look what I received from Quantas/Jetstar when asked for the persmisson to get my Snowpulse to the plane in Japan. An official approval!


  277. Lou Dawson 2 December 12th, 2014 4:57 am

    Matus, impressive!

  278. Lukasz Dudek December 22nd, 2014 9:55 am

    does any one have detailed pictures of BCA Float 42L ? :/ google shows only three, the same pictures :/.

  279. Jeremy December 22nd, 2014 10:18 am

    I don’t think that this had been posted here.

    ABS have issued a recall of all steel cartridges filled in Europe (before 3rd Dec 2014), and a recall of all twin air bags (for checking) that have been fired using a steel cartridge. This is due to contamination found in some steel cartridges.


  280. Lou Dawson 2 December 22nd, 2014 10:23 am

    Thanks Jeremy.

  281. John Hebda January 5th, 2015 10:23 pm

    Lou – any idea if BCA changed their Float 32 bag at all this season (’14/’15) vs last season (’13/’14)? I can’t seem to find any info online about whether or not there were updates this year. Thanks!

  282. Lou Dawson 2 January 6th, 2015 1:57 pm

    I’d say your best bet for that is the horse’s mouth at BCA customer service. Too many airbags, too little time here at Wildsnow.com. Lou

  283. Eric January 6th, 2015 11:55 pm

    Lou, how does the capacity of the Alpride 30 compare to the BCA Float 32? I’ve packed all my things into a Float 32 with room to spare. But I put the same things in the Mammut Light Protection pack (30L) and it was about to split a seam it was so full. The upside was that it was about 8 ounces lighter than the Float 32 (and it’s a top loader!). Probably too small for me though….. 🙁

  284. Lou Dawson 2 January 7th, 2015 12:31 am

    Hi Eric, the Alpride is a true 30, but I think you’d still find it smaller than the Float 32. The clamshell zipper design is an annoyance. Lou

  285. Adrian January 7th, 2015 8:18 am

    BCA Float 27, 32 and 42 offerings seem pretty good in terms of usable volume versus weight. Mammut backpacks are too small, 30 liters is a very small 30 liters to begin with and then you have to substract the volume of the airbag system. ABS Vario zip-ons over 30 liters are way too bulky, with all the weight too far off your back.

    Like Mammut offers a refillable cartridge alongside its pre-filled steel and carbon cartridges, if only BCA did the same. Imagine shedding 300 grammes of the weight of their Float backpacks by exchanging the standard steel cartridge with a carbon pre-filled one. Carbon weight for the 95% of ski trips, original steel cartridge for any plane travel. I would trade in my ABS Vario today!

  286. Eric January 7th, 2015 12:06 pm

    Thanks Lou, the Float 32 seems to be bigger than my current BD Covert 32L, so I’m thinking/hoping the Alpride 30 should be about the right size.

    Adrian, I agree. The Mammut 30L that I have is much, much smaller than the Float 32 or my BD Covert 32L. I suspect you are correct, it was barely a 30L pack, then they put in the airbag and associated plumbing, bringing the effective capacity down to something in the 27L range I’d guess.

    Whereas is it seems like BCA actually measures the capacity *after* all the airbag and plumbing are in place. A more true measure of capacity in my mind, or at least usable capacity for what I bring with me.

  287. jw7 February 2nd, 2015 8:15 am

    Arva and North Face now have accessory add on air bags for the pack you already own. New for 2016


  288. Jason March 28th, 2015 12:19 pm

    Subject: MAMMUT Alyeska Protection Airbag Vest


    Can you provide any advice or have any experince with this vest?


  289. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2015 1:48 pm

    Never looked that great to me, so I’ve not tracked it. Too much stuff, too fiddly… The backpacks with integrated system are bad enough… Lou

  290. Rob April 9th, 2015 1:27 pm

    I’ve had the Snowpulse Guide 30 since the end of 2011 and I’ve “dry tested” it regularly, meaning I unscrewed the cartridge and pulled the trigger to check if it works. I’ve also regularly checked the weight of the cartridge, but apart from testing it in a shop when I bought the backpack (with their test cartridge), I’ve never really inflated the airbag. So today was the day I finally pulled the trigger with the cartridge installed and … it failed!
    I heard the pop, I’ve heard the gas but no big red balloon around my head. After inspecting the pack I noticed that the trigger mechanism that connects the cable and the cartridge came loose from whatever it is attached to on the other end (the valve?)

    See pic here: http://puu.sh/h7DBI/e8f6532cff.jpg

    It wasn’t unscrewed, it looks like it was pulled out because the thread looks a little bit damaged. I’ve never removed this part from the pack, never unscrewed it or anything like that and I’ve always taken good care of my backpack.

    Anyway, I’m just posting this here so other people know that it is not enough to occasionally check the weight of the cartridge and the trigger cable to make sure the pack works. You need to do full-on test inflations if you want to be sure. Like I said I’ve only done one when I bought the pack. We did it in the shop for demonstration purposes and after that I’ve never really inflated my pack and I’ve been skiing for who knows how many days with a faulty pack.

    If today was a real avalanche situation when I pulled the trigger only to realize nothing happened, I most likely wouldn’t be able to write this post.

    I’m taking the pack back to the shop tomorrow. I have no idea what they will tell me.

  291. Lou Dawson 2 April 9th, 2015 4:01 pm

    Rob, thanks for that. Safety gear that is difficult or expensive to test has no future. There, I said it. Lou

  292. Rob April 10th, 2015 12:16 am

    I found this video on Mammut website explaining exactly what happened to my airbag pack and what to do in order to prevent it:


    I wasn’t familiar with this “fault” and usually I hear about all the recalls of safety/climbing/skiing equipment.

  293. Mammut April 10th, 2015 11:09 am

    Rob, if you are in the US or Canada and haven’t already you should call North American Mammut customer service at 800-451-5127 and they can help you with your airbag. There is complete info on this issue here: http://www.mammutavalanchesafety.com/2015/01/january-2015-update-service-bulletin.html

    Also, and this is not directed at anyone in particular but as a PSA for everyone, it is true as someone mentioned above that an airbag is a piece of safety equipment, therefore it is critical to check it before use the same way you would check a climbing rope for damage before use. There are user manuals online here: http://www.mammut.ch/en/avalanchesafety_usermanuals.html . It’s important to go through all of the checks in the Quickstart for your system before each time you use it–this really and truly only takes a couple minutes, I know because I’ve timed it while helping to develop these guidelines. No matter how an airbag is made—ultralight or heavy freeride gear, compressed gas, pyrotechnic or battery-driven–it’s clear that nothing lasts forever, especially relatively lightweight equipment under heavy use. People really do need to think about and treat an airbag like a piece of climbing equipment. If you are a climber you think nothing of checking your rope before every use by flaking it out and feeling for abrasion and soft spots–it’s understood that doing so is the minimum required to ensure you are climbing on a rope that will actually hold you in a fall. Please treat your airbag the same way–take a minute and make sure your cartridge is full, the airbag is armed, and the system components are all intact and fastened as they should be. All of this info and what checks to do for a Mammut airbag is found in the user manuals I linked to above. Hopefully this is a good reminder for people and maybe it will prevent a future problem for someone.
    Hope this helps

  294. Lou Dawson 2 April 10th, 2015 11:18 am

    Thanks Mammut, excellent points and information. Lou

  295. Mammut April 10th, 2015 11:24 am

    For people interested, it’s worth noting that Mammut actually measures all of our packs volumes and publishes pretty accurate sizes based on these measurements. However, we measure the airbag packs WITHOUT the airbag system in place—an RAS system takes up about 3l of useable space within the pack, while a PAS system takes up about half of that because much of the volume is stored in the shoulder harness rather than the pack body itself. The RAS system is about 3 oz lighter than the PAS system, although both are among the lightest airbag systems available. Both systems have a +/- “parallel” range of packs from very small up to 45l with a similar progression target users. Both systems can be removed from the pack and switched between multiple packs within the same system—Lou referred to this as fiddly in his comment above, and it is perhaps more fiddly than a fixed system, but the feedback we’ve gotten is that many people have chosen not to buy an airbag because they aren’t going to spend that much money for a pack they can only use half the time; in other words most users aren’t strictly touring or strictly riding lifts to access uncontrolled terrain, they are doing both on a regular basis, and an interchangeable system allows them to use one airbag and switch it between a lightweight but larger backcountry pack and a smaller freeride pack, with minimal investment. This interchangeable system is also among the lightest of any airbag system on the market, so the loss of function as a result is truly minimal for most people. Our hope is that by offering an interchangeable system that a user can get one system and two packs to cover nearly all of their needs while also offering maximum value. For folks with a lightweight priority, we have a 30l Light model available in both our RAS and PAS system. The PAS Light pack does fit a bit more gear as mentioned above, but also note that the top-loading RAS Light 30 weighs in at only 5lb 9oz including the airbag and full refillable cartridge—and that’s my measurement on a postal scale, not a pre-production measurement from a prototype. I’ve personally used both and both fit gear for me for a full-day trip including a pretty warm size XL down jacket, 115mm skins, my helmet, crampons, etc. Sadly, due to federal transport regulations the carbon cartridge that is available in Europe cannot be legally purchased or shipped in the US or Canada, so that option isn’t available here. Nevertheless, we are trying hard to address people for whom weight is a primary consideration, we just have to do it within the realities of market-size and production requirements–this type of airbag pack is truly a niche within a niche compared to the freeride/sidecountry oriented products.

    For those who travel by air to ski or ride, we also have a developing cartridge rental program worldwide—there are a good number of accessible locations in Europe that rent cartridges, as well as a number in both the US and Canada. Most mechanized and guided operations also have cartridges or airbag packs available for their clients as well. In the US and Canada there are suppliers that can ship a full rental cartridge to your destination so its waiting for you in case there isn’t a rental location nearby. The Mammut dealer search has a checkbox for “cartridge rental” that will show available locations globally, or in the USA Tahoe Mountain Sports (www.tahoemountainsports.com ) and Snobigdeal (www.snowbigdeal.com ), and in Canada Avalanche Safety Solutions (www.avalanchesafety.ca ) can ship full rental cartridges for a surprisingly reasonable fee, eliminating the need to travel with yours.

    Again, hope this info helps people out, and thank Lou for this site, it’s a great resource and I hope I’m not breaking any rules posting this info to answer questions posed in the comments above.

  296. Rob April 11th, 2015 6:07 pm

    Mammut, thanks for your post, however, I am in Chamonix and will most likely have to deal with the Swiss Mammut customer service. I took the bag to the shop I bought it at, they looked at it and agreed that the connection point is probably not safe anymore since the trigger/cartridge holder unit was pulled out of the venturi box. They suggested sending it back to Mammut, but now I need to find a proof of purchase (receipt) first if I want the shop to deal with Mammut. Who keeps these receipts longer than 3 years anyway?

  297. Rob April 30th, 2015 10:42 am

    UPDATE: Apparently if you are in an avalanche and your Snowpulse airbag fails due to a well-known factory defect (well-known but apparently not serious enough to warrant a product recall, just a tiny bulletin notice on their website which the owners of Mammut backpacks might notice or not), and you send it back to Mammut for inspection/repair, they will charge you 100 Euros. That’s right 100 Euros to repair something that wasn’t your fault. What a great customer service. I can’t wait to buy more Mammut products!

  298. Anthony D. June 26th, 2015 5:28 am

    The new inventions of airbags have came into existence. The halo bags,the airbags which helps also in wildsnow and its good!

  299. Lou Dawson 2 June 26th, 2015 10:01 am

    Anthony, your comment looked a bit spammy, so I deleted your URL link. Lou

  300. DrM August 17th, 2015 5:39 pm

    Hi guys !
    I have been reading up on avalanche airbags and find both the article and the comments very informative.

    The link is a recall by Black Diamond for their JetForce range of bags ,all details in link.

    I hope they manage to iron these problems out because , if totally reliable, the benefits of no gas cartridges would be brilliant.


    Would be interested to hear comments regarding this.
    Kind regards from New Zealand ( where the snow is great right now !) :wink

  301. Lou Dawson 2 August 17th, 2015 6:14 pm

    Hi M, we covered that about a million years ago in internet years (grin). I’d offer that if WildSnow.com missed something like a Black Diamond airbag pack recall, we might as well close up shop and go skiing.



  302. DrM August 17th, 2015 6:33 pm

    Hi Lou !

    Thank you very much for that link .
    Now that I have found WildSnow.com I can keep up with all the latest news !
    ( she says , crawling back into her Hobbit cave )
    Kind regards

  303. Wojtek January 14th, 2016 12:23 pm

    A quick question on the ABS bags.

    Another site (http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Avalanche-Airbag-Reviews) says:
    “ABS also claims that having the airbags on the sides, instead of near the head, helps keep your body in a more horizontal position, thus preventing you from sinking into the slide by spreading out your surface area. This claim was supported in a study conducted at the University of Chicago.” Also a mention of this effect in this post “They argue that their dual bag “wing” design puts an avy victim in a horizontal position and therefore less exposed to the dynamic forces of an avalanche.”

    Does anyone have the original reference? I couldn’t find it.


  304. Jeremy C January 14th, 2016 1:25 pm

    @Wojtek, the ABS website describes the principle of operation, I’m not sure if that is what you were after, or the University of Chicago study?


  305. Jeremy C January 14th, 2016 1:35 pm

    @Wojtek, this might be the 2001 study referred to, but you need to pay to get it.


  306. rob January 14th, 2016 3:40 pm


    the nature article cited was a study done with glass beads and poppy seeds. avalanche physic may be the same as this bit i think you would need a slightly more complicated model. I cant see why this study supports being an more horizontal position is better or why having two airbags vs one is will get you into a horizontal position. Two probably is better than one as if you pop on in the avalanche (say on a rock) you still have one left but i’m not sure this nature paper has much to do with it.

  307. Lou Dawson 2 January 15th, 2016 12:45 am

    Floating above the B.S. in airbag marketing is harder than surviving a class 4 slide.

    For example, the boffins will tell you that weight has nothing to do with rising to the surface due to brazil nut effect, but ask them if the same thing would happen if the airbag was filled with lead pellets, and they start mumbling about “combined effects.”

    Truth is, give this whole deal another decade and a bunch of real-world testing.

    Main thing to know is the airbag increases your odds of survival, but only so much. Too many people gear up with helmet, airbag, beacon and end up taking more risk, from what I’ve seen.


  308. Jeff January 25th, 2016 10:45 pm

    From the incident report on the recent fatal avalanche in Utah:

    “Despite being found with his avalanche airbag inflated, the victim was completely buried 4-5′ deep. Maximum debris pile depth was estimated at 15′ deep.”

    Are airbags giving people a false sense of security leading to a higher risk threshold?

  309. Lou Dawson 2 January 26th, 2016 12:47 am

    Jeff, I definitely unequivocally am of the opinion that airbags, helmets, beacons etc are the basis for some degree of risk homeostasis. I believe it is very individual, some folks undergo no change in behavior, while others I’ve seen really doing crazy stuff, mainly in center punching avalanche paths during dangerous conditions, when they’d never do so if stripped of their “safety” gear. Lou

  310. Fred April 1st, 2017 1:49 pm

    I highly recommend against buying ABS airbags – the company is a mess. I tried to get a refill canister/handle in Seattle this year, and only one dealer in the whole state has had any in stock all year. When I went to get it, they would only sell it to me and not do an exchange, for $200! They said ABS has been totally unresponsive, they have 40+ exchanges sitting around, and it was unclear if they were continuing the canister exchange program. It was a surprise to them that they even got the last shipment, as it wasn’t clear to them if the company was still in business.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to WildSnow.com and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version