Refilling Snowpulse 2.0 Airbag Backpacks

Post by blogger | June 8, 2011      

WildSnow avalanche airbags category listing for backcountry skiing.

Airbag backpacks.

Snowpulse avalanche airbag backpacks have a user refillable air cylinder. This feature allows you to renew your spent cylinder and get back to your backcountry skiing adventures without delay or shipping costs (If you don’t want to refill it yourself, you can always exchange it for a full one through the mail. Contact Mountain Sports Distribution for this or any other service needs. They’re very helpful and quick). The new 2.0 system is vastly improved over Snowpulse’s 1.0 system, and will be available on all of their airbag packs in fall of 2011. Gone are the days of grease and o-rings and trigger pins; the procedure for refilling the 2.0 system is super simple, as described below. In order to refill a spent 2.0 cylinder you will need to purchase a refill kit. These retail for $30 for a 10-pack or $45 for 20.

After triggering the airbag, you must deflate it and repack the airbag, the method for this will vary with the model, so I'll leave that for pack specific posts.

Remove the cylinder from the pack and unscrew it from the puncture unit assembly.

With the cylinder removed, you can see that the pin of the puncture unit is up. There is a red bar across the opening, which prevents you from screwing a filled cartridge onto the pin and puncturing it.

To push the puncture pin back down and push the red bar out of the way, you'll need to use the reset tool, which comes with the pack.

Screw the reset tool all the way in, until it comes to a hard stop. There may still be threads showing.

Remove the reset tool and verify that the red bar is out of the way and the pin is down. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the red bar pushed to the side. The puncture unit is now ready for a new cylinder. An awesome feature of this system is that you can dry fire it without a cylinder installed. Great for testing and getting used to how hard you need to pull the handle. Of course, you should be sure to do a real test annually.

Now for the cylinder. Here you can see that the copper disc in the top has a hole in it from when it was punctured.

Get a pair of wrenches, and unscrew the disc housing from the cylinder head. It will be tight.

Here the disc housing has been removed.

Try to tap the disc housing against a table to knock out the copper burst disc and washer. However, you will likely need to use something to poke them out with- a nailset does the job.

Punctured copper burst disc and copper washer seal removed. Throw away the disc. The washer can be reused a few times, but should be replaced eventually.

Grab a new burst disc and washer. These must be purchased separately in the Snowpulse refill kit.

Grab the washer and place it on the cylinder head. Put the side with the groove that fits snugly against the head face down. (Smooth side up)

Washer installed, smooth side up. Don't fret it though, because if you put the wrong side down, you'll know if it leaks when you fill the cylinder with air, and it will most likely not leak and be fine.

Now place the burst disc on top of the washer and screw the disc housing over the top. If you reverse the order of the washer and the disc, the bag will still inflate, but more slowly.

Screw the housing all the way down to the head and get the wrenches back out to tighten it. If it's not tight enough, it will leak.

Now the cylinder is ready to be filled, using the same procedure as the Snowpulse 1.0 system. Once filled, screw the cylinder back onto the backpack’s puncture unit, secure it to the pack with the velcro strap, and zip up the cover. You are now ready for your backcountry skiing or ski mountaineering.

For air travel, the cylinder head is easily removed by hand from the cylinder body so that security can see inside. Be sure to only do this with an empty cylinder! Hand tighten it back on when you reach your destination, and don't lose the o-ring.

As an extra benefit, the new system is compatible with ABS cartridges. Though this is officially not recommended, I’ve tried this and it works fine. Thus, when the new and significantly weight saving ABS carbon fiber cartridge is approved by the US Department of Transportation (yes, still waiting, though it’s available in Europe) you’ll be able to use it with your Snowpulse (who are also working on a carbon cylinder but are a year behind). Another bonus is the added flexibility if you are unable to refill your Snowpulse cylinder but are able to obtain an ABS cartridge, which are about 40 grams lighter.

For our reports on the refill process for other brands, please see our index of Avalanche Airbag blog posts.


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20 Responses to “Refilling Snowpulse 2.0 Airbag Backpacks”

  1. Jason Gregg June 8th, 2011 5:15 pm

    Can I get my older Snowpulse, a 1st generation Pro Ride 15, converted to work with 2.0? Where would I send it MSD?

    Also you say that charged cyclinders can go in the mail. I have a cylinder that isn’t quite at 3000 and needs to be topped off. I’d just as soon mail it since there’s no place within an hours drive of where I live that can charge it.

  2. Mark June 9th, 2011 6:31 am

    Why are these systems so fiddly compared to say, SCUBA equipment?

  3. Lou June 9th, 2011 7:04 am

    Mark, my take is that this technology is very under-evolved. It’s cool. It saves lives. But when we look at this stuff 4 or 5 years from now it’s going to look crazy. That’s what Obewanskinobi’s crystal ball says, anyhow (grin).

  4. Nick June 9th, 2011 8:21 am

    Jason, good question, I’ll have to get back to you with an answer, but it doesn’t seem to me like it would be a big deal. MSD ( would likely be the place. They are generally super helpful and responsive. I broke a piece of my older generation snowpulse while tinkering with it and they shipped me a new part right away.

    You should discharge your cylinder (by putting it in the pack and firing it- a good excuse to test it), before mailing it. Snowpulse can mail it back filled, but it requires special shipping and packaging.

    Yes, I think these refillable systems will get less and less fiddly (look at the improvement over the first generation!), but it’s currently not a big deal or that hard. 5 minute job.

  5. Lou June 9th, 2011 8:52 am

    Not sure what all the manufacturers recommend, but I’d emphasize that any airbag owner should do a test discharge at least once a year, so this refill stuff is super important. We need to continue to cover it in detail as Nick does, but don’t let that imply that the process is particularly difficult or time consuming (though anything can be improved, hence, version 2.0!). Lou

  6. Einar - MSD June 9th, 2011 9:39 am

    Thanks for the great article! We are super stoked on the new Inflation System 2.0! Take it from a guy who does a whole whack of cylinder refilling… the 2011 system is soooo much easier! It used to take me at least 5 minutes per cylinder for an O-ring change. Now it takes less than 2 minutes to throw in a new burst disk!

    We at Mountain Sports are very happy to be working with a company that is continually striving to evolve and improve their technology. Snowpulse and their R&D Dept. are always listening to user feedback. Every year the bags just keep getting better!

    Unfortunately Jason, there is no way to upgrade the older Snowpulse packs to work with the new cylinders. We will continue to support the older products with both warranty service and parts (ie: O-ring Kits), so there is no need to rush out and exchange your existing Snowpulse Pack.

  7. Lou June 9th, 2011 10:21 am

    Thanks Einar for giving us the facts!

  8. Jim June 13th, 2011 1:22 pm

    I wonder if a smaller bag like a water life preserver might also offer safety benefits. It would also be light, more likely to be used, offer protection, smaller.

  9. Chuck Gorton June 19th, 2011 11:03 pm

    Just to clarify on a smaller bag. In water you only need about 11L of volume to keep you afloat, For TUV/CE certification of airbags you need 150L of air, although successful tests have been done with smaller volumes. Also the size of the person does not really have an impact as larger objects are more likely to end up on the surface. In turbulent flow (such as an avalanche) the bigger objects will rise which is one of the main reason avalanche airbags are so effective, that and reducing your overall density.

  10. Paul Brown December 22nd, 2011 7:11 pm

    I recently purchased the Mammut Ride RAS 30 pack. I also purchased some refill kits from Mammut. Instead of being flat, like the one in your picture above, the washer is curved, like a wave or spring washer. The burst disc also appears to be a little bit curved. They look like this:

    There also doesn’t appear to be a groove.

    Could there have been a design change, or Mammut’s different for some reason?

  11. Nick Thompson December 23rd, 2011 8:39 am

    Paul, thanks for bringing that up, I’ve been meaning to update this and have forgotten. Snowpulse and Mammut use the same refill kits, and yes they are as you describe. My prototype was slightly different. Also, the washer ring I received had previously been used, so I think had been deformed by the the cylinder to give it an impressed groove. I reused it several times and it held air fine. The instructions above still apply, just with no right or wrong side up on the washer.If you reuse a washer, you’ll need to pay attention to the right or wrong side up. I think the curve was added to make it easier to get the parts into the cylinder head, but that’s conjecture.

  12. Simon January 19th, 2012 4:12 am

    Does anybody have experience or know a shop in Utah where I can have it filled?

  13. Lou January 19th, 2012 5:53 am

    Chuck, indeed, there is a misconception out there that the lighter weight of the airbag “floats” it on top of the avalanche. Most if not all the “floating” effect is produced by volume, not lack of weight. Best example is shaking a can of mixed nuts, with the larger ones ending up on the surface. All the nuts have roughly the same weight per unit of volume of themselves, but the larger ones end up sifting upwards. Come to think of it, does anyone out there know the physics of this effect?

    Thinking more, I realize that the human body must not be quite large enough to float up to the top of typical avalanche. if we were all twice as large, would we need airbags? According to the “nut in a barrel” effect, perhaps we would not. Does that mean an NFL lineman would have a better chance of surviving an avalanche? Or some 400 lb morbidly obese person? Perhaps if I gained some volume or wore a larger down parka, my survival chances would be better?



  14. Mark January 19th, 2012 6:25 am

    I know they say the main principle is inverse segregation, but it seems like low density is at work as well.

  15. Ben January 19th, 2012 11:58 am

    Lou, in physics it’s known as the Brazil nut effect or granular convection, and . These are effects that happen when the mixture of solids takes on some properties of a fluid, such as convective flow. There are several possible explanations, including buoyancy of the large particles, and trapping of the large particles at the surface because they can’t go down at the edges of the convective cells. (Convective flow in a container usually seems to go up at center and down along edges.)

    A lot of the physics studies of the Brazil nut effect focus on what happens in a container with sides, and I don’t know if that describes avalanches well. There are no “sides” to limit the Brazil nuts/skiers from flowing down. So maybe the buoyancy is also important. Certainly given the choice between an bag filled with air and one with water or rocks, I would take the air. However, I’d also rather have a large bag filled with air than a small one with helium.

  16. Brett December 1st, 2012 9:42 am

    I think the shop that filled my cartridge did some minor damage but i have seen identical flaws in two cartridges filled by this shop. There is a metal sliver pushed up to the bottom of the threads beneath the O-ring from the base. The sliver is about 5mm long and 1mm wide and appears to be caused by pliers or a vice. It prevents the O-ring from seating properly.

    I was about to remove it but because I’ve seen identical markings twice I’m hesitant. Has anyone else found this kind of sliver on a cartridge? I plan on tracking down a new cartridge to compare asap but any suggestions would be appreciated.

  17. Chris January 4th, 2014 12:28 am


  18. Avalanche Safety Solutions January 6th, 2014 11:16 am

    Hi Chris,

    We have some Paintball Quick Connect adapters online @

  19. Nick January 6th, 2014 12:11 pm

    This is the adapter that Cripple Creek has been using:

  20. Nick January 6th, 2014 12:13 pm

    Be sure to get the correct adapter that you need. The one I posted above is for Fire Stations. The one posted by Avalanche Safety Solutions is for SCUBA shops.

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