Extreme sports like skiing and winter climbing often come with risks like avalanches that can cost you more than a few broken bones. However, wearing a backpack with an incorporated avalanche airbag has been proven to be effective in saving lives by preventing burial.
From the more modern battery-powered systems to the classic canister designs, here are some of the best avalanche airbags on the market and what you need to know about them.
Avalanche Airbag | All You Need to Know
What Is an Avalanche Airbag?
An avalanche airbag is a powerful, life-saving piece of equipment that will help ensure that you do not get buried in case of an avalanche.
In an avalanche, smaller objects sink to the bottom while larger objects tend to rise to the surface. With that said, avalanche airbags are often incorporated into backpacks. In case of an emergency, the wearer pulls a cord that inflates the airbag into a large balloon.
This makes the person wearing it larger, which, in turn, allows him or her to naturally rise to the snow’s surface. The airbag prevents the wearer from getting buried in snow and suffocating from it. This is key in surviving avalanches.
In fact, experts believe that skiers and mountain climbers who are wearing an avalanche airbag have an 89 percent chance of surviving the disaster. This is 50 percent more than those who are not equipped with it.
Of course, it is also important that the wearer actually sets the system up correctly, knows exactly how to use it, and pulls the trigger when needed. Practice is essential when it comes to operating this piece of emergency equipment so that pulling the trigger becomes second nature in case of an emergency.
Before you start practicing, however, keep in mind that most airbags’ balloons can only be deployed once before their gas cylinder requires replacing. On the other hand, newer models equipped with battery-powered electric blowers, while slightly more expensive, can make realistic practice easier.
You also have to familiarize yourself with the airbag’s inflation process to avoid mechanical failures when it is time to actually use it. Before hitting the slopes, make sure that your airbag system has been tested for any problems that may arise.
Make sure to consider these factors before choosing which of the avalanche airbags listed below are perfect for you.
1. Black Diamond JetForce Pro Pack 25L
Of all the avalanche airbags on this list, the Black Diamond JetForce Pro Pack 25L is one of the most well-rounded. Over the years, the brand’s JetForce series has gone through numerous iterations, but the Pro is the best one yet.
It has a lightweight battery-powered fan and modular design that raises the standards when it comes to the weight of electric designs. It also offers multiple deployments with just one charge.
This avalanche airbag is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to quickly update it and personalize its settings.
The backpack itself is also well-designed. It has a secure fit that gives the wearer easy access to his or her gear and is equipped with other valuable features like a hipbelt stash pocket, a helmet holder, and a diagonal ski carry.
The Black Diamond JetForce Pro also has a modular design. This essentially means that you can swap out your Boosters that come in 10, 25, and 35L sizes. This new feature gives the user maximum versatility for all kinds of snow missions.
2. Ortovox Ascent 22 Avabag Kit
The Ortovox Ascent 22 Avabag Kit is one of the best canister-powered airbag packs out there. While electric fan airbags seem to be the future, a lot of people still prefer classic and reliable canister-powered designs. This is where Ortovox’s Ascent Avabag comes into play.
The brand is known for being a leader in capacity, features, and performance. What makes it truly stand out is that it can be used for practice deployment without having to churn through multiple canisters.
It also has a 5.5-pound weight, which is competitive for canister-powered airbags. Its proprietary airbag is also removable and compatible with all the other packs on their lineup.
3. Backcountry Access Float 32 Avalanche Airbag 2.0
Most avalanche airbags clock in at over $900, but if you are on a budget, then the Backcountry Access Float 32 Avalanche Airbag 2.0 is perfect for you. This canister-powered Avabag is one of the most time-tested Avabags out there.
Both affordable and reliable, the Backcountry Access Float 2.0 has a simple mechanical system and a well-designed build that features straps for ski and snowboard carry, hipbelt pockets, hydration compatibility, a dedicated avy tool pocket, and a plush molded back panel. For more adjustability, features, and support, you can always bump up to its 42-liter version.
With the Backcountry Access avalanche airbag, however, what you get more than any other company’s airbags is convenience. BCA’s canisters are easy to use because they have over 300 authorized refill locations scattered around the world.
4. Black Diamond Pilot 11 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack
Being one of the users’ favorites for its “rideability” or how well the pack moved with the wearer on the down, the Black Diamond Pilot 11 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack is the brand’s heli and cat-oriented avalanche airbag pack.
The pack is large enough to carry food, gear, a layer, and an additional pair of gloves. Because it has a battery-powered fan that inflates its airbag, refilling it while traveling is also hassle-free.
Black Diamond’s Pilot 11 JetForce Avalanche Airbag is great for skiing and boarding. It has a small size that makes moving and riding with it easier for the wearer. For touring, however, its uses may be limited, so keep that in mind before purchasing this bag.
5. Mammut Avalanche Airbag Backpack Ultralight 3.0
At a weight of only 3 pounds, the Mammut Avalanche Airbag Backpack Ultralight 3.0 is one of the most lightweight avalanche airbags on the market. The backpack is designed specifically for the “light is right” crowd, as it weighs around 2 and a half pounds lighter than most avalanche airbags.
It has a removable, canister-powered airbag that gives you the option to save some serious weight. This makes it perfect for low-angle meadow skipping or for wearing around the resort.
The Mammut Avalanche Airbag Backpack also has a minimalist design. Despite this, it still has features like its diagonal ski carry straps, hydration-compatible sleeves, and ice axe loops.
A handy and reliable avalanche airbag can spell the difference between life and death when doing activities like skiing, snowboarding, or winter climbing. Before going on your next snowboarding vacation, make sure to prepare for the worst by equipping yourself with the best avalanche airbag for you.
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