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Avalanche Airbag Comparison | 01/26/2011, by rwberman
The first thing that everyone grabs when they thing they are going into the backcountry is your beacon, shovel, probe and that mix tape from the summer of '81. Standards for safety in the backcountry right? Well, at Outdoor Retailer, the airbag systems are making the biggest push to be a necessity along with you beacon probe and shovel when heading out into the backcountry. Five companies are showcasing their finest in airbag technology.
Here are our top two airbags that will be coming out in 2011/2012. If you are thinking of buying one, be sure it is one of these:
Best Bang for Your Buck:
BCA wins this award. They come in with the least expensive airbag on the market. BCA is known for their quality craftsmanship and their airbags are a great choice for those who want a tested and true airbag at a good price. BCA stands behind eveything they make so you know your investment in their airbag is a great one.
Big Pimpin Spending G's
This award goes to Snowpulse. If you have some extra cash and want supreme-ultra-super-duper-protection go with the Snowpulse Lifebag model. It is the only airbag that protects your vital areas (except your family jewels) from trauma and increases your chances of ending up with your head on top of the avalanche debris. Other airbag systems will tend to end up with the airbag above the snow, but you'll most likely be head down just under the surface.
So that's our take, but you can decide for yourself:
Note: When viewing the videos, be sure to know that some of the airbag cynldiers were not filled to capacity and actual fill times will be faster.
Avalanche Airbag Comparison Chart
(& Northface in 2012)
|6||5.2 - 7.4||
|3||6.5 - 8||$685-785|
|3||6.7 - 6.9||$840+|
airbag: Avi Vest
|4||6 - 7.3||$899+|
ABS - ABS has been making airbags for over 25 years! Their dual side airbag system has a combined 170 liters of space making them the biggest airbag on the market. Two base systems where the airbag is stored has allowed ABS to make 6 packs to fit your needs. Also, ABS has the only cableless handle system as well as a wireless activation so you can remotely trigger your buddies pack if he is in need of a little hand. Their packs start around $1040.
Backcountry Access (BCA) - The Float backpack is the least expensive airbag backpack on the market and comes in three sizes 18 liters, 30 liters, and 36 liters. In it's second year of production now, BCA has improved many of the features on the pack and airbag system. For example, the back panel now has a separate compartment that zips open to provide access to all of your ski gear. The BCA bags start around $685.
Mammut - The Ride Airbag system or RAS is a removable airbag system that can either go into a 22 liter or 30 liter pack. From personally playing around with this pack it was very easy to repack the airbag. The Mammut airbag starts around $840.
Mystery Ranch - Mystery Ranch specializes in user-friendly, durable ski packs and their airbag pack doesn't disappoint. The Blackjack pack ($850) comes airbag equipped but can be removed and replaced with a empty brain making it a great pack for both winter and summer backcountry use.
Snow Pulse - Snow Pulse has two airbag systems. Their Trauma Protection Lifebag series is a system that fully protects the head, shoulders and down the chest- making it what they claim is the safest system out there. The other system is a removable airbag system (R.A.S) with a square shaped airbag. Having two models, Snow Pulse has a variety of packs to accommodate your backcountry needs ranging from 6 to 7.2 lbs in weight. Snow Pulse prices start right around $900.
Other Companies- Stay tuned for partnerships between The North Face and ABS in 2012. ABS also partners with Arva and Millet, but packs from these companies are not yet available in the US.
Have you used one of these avalanche airbags? Please share your feedback, comments & questions!