Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling

Best Avalanche Backpacks 2017-2018

The avalanche backpack has become a vital safety tool for backcountry adventurers. Although wearing an avalanche airbag is no guarantee for survival, it has proved to significantly increase your survival chances as it facilitates you remaining afloat in the event of an avalanche (read this article for specific statistics). This is important for two reasons. First, you will be more visible to rescuers and second, you will be safer from moving objects which could potentially injure you.

In the event that you are caught up by swiftly moving snow, a quick yank of the cord attached to the bag’s shoulder strap causes the airbag to inflate in a second or two thus increasing your vo7lume and making it easy for you to stay afloat. Most of these bags use gas cylinders to pump up the airbag, however, some will have the cylinder included in their packages while for others you will have to purchase the cylinder separately.

  Price Name Our score
Check on Amazon Arcteryx VoLtair 30L Backpack 4.8
Check on Amazon Mammut Pro Protection Airbag Backpack 4.4
Check on Amazon Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack 4.5
Check on Amazon Dakine ABS Signal 25L Backpack 4.6
Check on Amazon Backcountry Access Float 32L Airbag Pack 4.7
Check on Amazon Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack 4.2
Check on Amazon K2 Ski Backside Float Pack, 30L 4.6

Jump straight to the Reviews Section

 

With many companies offering airbag packs with varying versatility, design, and durability, it is important to get the right backpack that meets your specific needs.

 

Some features you will need to bear in mind when making your selection include:

Your intended activity

In this regard, going for heli accessed lines require only a small airbag compared to a multi-day riding event.

You will look for a different backpack if you are snowmobiling, of course. Since you are not carrying weight on your feet when riding a snowmobile, you may consider choosing a heavier and bigger one thus having extra storage space.

 

Destination

Various airlines have regulations on traveling with airbags and cartridges. Some airlines may require you travel with an empty cartridge that would require refilling on arrival while others require you to meet the packing standards they have put in place.

 

Size

As far as size is concerned, it is important to know exactly where you intend to use the airbag and which riding style you intend to undertake. For instance, while a puffy coat of about 20 liters is sufficient for occasional heli and cat trips, a day tour may require a slightly larger capacity pack of up to 35 liters.

 

Type of activation

There are two common types of activation:

  • the canister or cartridge activation;
  • electric fan pack activation.

A canister is a metal fiber cylinder that holds high pressured gas which is what inflates an airbag. These need refilling on arrival as TSA restricts travel with a filled canister.

Electric fan packs, on the other hand, are designed to use a battery powered fan to pump gas into the airbag and this represents the current technology used in backpacks like Black Diamond Jetforce.

 

The right fit

As with all other gear, getting an avalanche backpack that fits well is vital. Depending on your height, go for one that will fit well in terms of volume. In this regard, also consider the position of the cord and on which side it will be easier for you to pull it from.


 

Best Avalanche Backpacks

Here is a review of the 7 best avalanche backpacks based on functionality, construction and design.

 

1. Arcteryx VoLtair 30L Backpack

Arcteryx VoLtair 30L Backpack Cayenne Regular (Misc.)


List Price: $1,300.00 USD
New From: $1,300.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The Arc’teryx VoLtair 30 is an all round airbag pack designed with great functionality as well as comfort. You will love the fact that this backpack is not only resistant to weather, but also easy to use and has excellent padding on the shoulder straps for your comfort. The VoLtair’s airbag system comes with the convenient battery powered fan that’s strategically positioned making it easy for you to pull its trigger in different ways when the need arises to inflate it. The 22.2 Volt lithium batteries (sold separately) are powerful enough to inflate the bag up to 20 times at 14F. When inflated, it encloses your head to enhance protection from shock yet still allows you a good side view.

The VoLtair’s leg strap is a feature to behold. It is easy to use as it has been designed with a small carabiner connected to the waist belt making it easy to hook and unhook with one hand. Its mechanical trigger too is out of the ordinary and by far more reliable compared to the electric counterparts. With easily noticeable armed and not armed symbols, you will know at a glance if it is off when you are touring.

The pack, however, comes in only one regular size and hence will be more appropriate for small folks of between 5.4” and 6.2” better. The roomy gear compartment saves you a great deal as it can carry a number of important items you will need during your tour.

 

2. Mammut Pro Protection Airbag Backpack

Mammut Pro Protection Airbag Backpack – One Size – Black/White (Sports)


List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The Mammut Pro Protection Backpack is designed for long term touring as it comes equipped with one of the finest airbag systems. The pack is designed with a supportive back panel and a higher volume if you will need to carry some extras with you but only if you can comfortably bear this extra weight.

The backpack’s interchangeable airbag system operates quite efficiently thanks to its compatibility with different backpack models that use the Protection Airbag System (P.A.S.). Its P.A.S. is designed to reduce trauma and comes integrated into the backpack and shoulder straps and uses canisters integrated within it to inflate. This feature makes it easy to deploy so that it inflates around your head and neck.

The backpack performs perfectly on the overall and can maneuver steep, narrow or difficult terrains. The Mammut Pro Protection Airbag Backpack is considered a heavy backpack and hence not appropriate if you prefer a lighter one. Other important features include its meshed helmet holder, aluminum frame for protection, and a goggle pocket.

On the downside, its front pocket will only fit average size snowboards or skis and its trigger, positioned on the left strap makes it more convenient for right handed users.

 

3. Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack

Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack (Sports)


List Price: $1,449.95
New From: $1,099.95 – $1,449.95
Used from: Out of Stock
Variations::

Here is a ski airbag backpack that will provide a good level of comfort with a very decent design. The Halo 28 Backpack is also among the heaviest weighing 7.5 lb (3.4 kg). This backpack makes an excellent option for descents, especially on steep slopes. A remarkable feature is that it is designed with multiple deployment options to cut across different convenience preferences.

Apart from the back panel, this backpack comes with loops at the top and towards the bottom for your skis or snowboard. Underneath the top loop is a goggle pocket while the lower strap conceals a helmet pocket.

Its lithium ion battery powered trigger can be used four times in a day before the need to recharge which quite frankly is more than a user needs. So forget about the cumbersome task of refilling canisters.

The only con with this backpack is that the access to its back panel is not convenient thanks to it’s a little-complicated zipper which makes packing a bit difficult. The Halo 28 is, however, among the best airbag backpacks that you can invest in, especially if you are considering air travel and deployment convenience.

 

4. Dakine ABS Signal 25L Backpack

Dakine ABS Backpack, 25-Liter, Black (Sports)


List Price: $699.95 USD
New From: $699.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The Dakine ABS Signal backpack is based on an innovative technology that has greatly revolutionized avalanche airbag system and helped a great deal to protect skiers and snowboarders in avalanche situations by keeping them afloat. The DA KINE ABS Signal backpack designed with an activation handle which with a single yank instantly inflate its two airbags on either side of the backpack. With a 170 l volume, these airbags are quite effective at rescuing someone who is going down fast.

The backpack is made of TwinBags which provide stability to the body while still increasing the buoying when you find yourself in a threatening avalanche zone. Other great features you’ll find in this backpack include a retractable ski carry, a vertical snowboard carrying system, a shovel pocket, helmet carry and a separate ice axe carrier. Quite uniquely, it also comes integrated with a rescue whistle hanging from a strap for easy access.

For comfort, its shoulder straps and padded waist belt are designed with minimal strain as this backpack is bound to get heavy if you were to make use of all its pockets and loops.

 

5. Backcountry Access Float 32L Airbag Pack

Backcountry Access Float 32 Airbag Pack Blue 32L (Sports)


List Price: $549.95 USD
New From: $550.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The Backcountry Access Float 32 comes as an improvement of the earlier model with its U shaped snow safety pockets and a 150-liter airbag to protect your head from trauma and also decrease your burial depth in an avalanche. You will find its dedicated safety pockets and padded waist belts quite effective for carrying snow tools like shovels.

When it comes to refilling, this pack’s air bag uses a compressed air canister which has the advantage of easy and cost effective refill. Of course, you will have to observe air travel regulations concerning gas canisters in case you intend to travel.

Its modular trigger mechanism can be worn either on the left or right shoulder making it a great option for both left and right-handed individuals. Secondly, it is customizable and can be adjusted for touring and snowmobile.

Other great features in this back pack include its fleece lining useful for placing your goggles. The pack has a diagonal carry system that is easy to setup and use. The float 32 can carry compressed and clipped traditional boards. You will also find its zippered hip pockets useful for putting ski straps and even snacks. On the overall, this backpack makes an unbeatable option for backcountry adventure.

 

6. Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack

Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack (Sports)


List Price: $1,743.19
New From: $1,149.95 – $1,743.19
Used from: Out of Stock
Variations::

The saga 40 backpack comes with some great convenience and comfort users. Firstly, its design is based on JetForce Technology just as its name suggests. This technology features an inbuilt large, perhaps the largest at 200 L, airbag system compared to others in its space. It performs self-diagnostics at certain preset time intervals to keep the airbag ready for use at any time indicated by a green light and saves you the hassle of checking the system every other time. Secondly, the airbag is battery powered so it only takes charging at home and you are good to travel without having to worry about refilling a gas canister.

The Black Diamond saga 40 is the first airbag system to make use of a fan powered by a battery to inflate its airbag. The rechargeable ion battery will provide more than four deployments per charge in addition to its reACTIV suspension connected with the SwingArm shoulder straps for easy carrying along with a zippered back panel for convenient and fast access.

This backpack comes with a dedicated pocket for your snow tools and a Tuck-away diagonal ski carry that can also be used to deploy the airbag with the skis connected.

If you are looking for an avalanche backpack for a multiple-days trip that you can carry over a long period then the Saga 40 JetForce makes a great option. Finally, it makes an excellent choice when you need to carry a heavy load on steep slopes.

 

7. K2 Ski Backside Float Pack, 30L

K2 Ski Backside Float Pack, 30 L (Sports)


List Price: $368.95 USD
New From: $368.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The K2 Backside float backpack has several designated storage areas hence its recommend for people who spend considerable time on backcountry adventures. This pack allows you to carry all the necessities that you need since it has a large volume and other storage pockets for your gears. The pack has a molded back panel that is designed according to the natural shape of the human back to give it a good fit and support.

With so many waterproof compartments, be sure your items will remain dry throughout. It is also easy to access the pack since you don’t have to remove its buckles or straps. You can also carry devices to shred the snow on the integrated diagonal ski carry or the vertical snowboard. The pack has easy-access Stash Pockets on its waist belt functional for carrying items like gloves, tools, camera, and snacks that you may need to access while on the move.

The pack’s airbag is designed based on the Float Bag Technology that uses 2700 psi compressed air. The airbag is placed strategically behind the head to offer a good vision and support in the event of an avalanche. In addition, the customized Airbag trigger can either be placed on the left or the right side based on an individual’s preference. It has a hydration sleeve that is placed on the alternative shoulder with the trigger which plays the crucial role of keeping the fluid flowing.

 

Conclusion

Getting the right fit requires trying out your selected avalanche airbag physically since not all manufacturers provide a wide choice of torso lengths. You may also need to test the backpack by putting it on with the weight you intend to carry to test the resilience of its straps and waist belt.

Depending on the avalanche bag that you choose, it is vital that you observe the manufacturer’s guidelines on regular checks of the trigger mechanism and the airbag. Finally, the best avalanche backpack for you may not be the best for someone else, so even with reviews, better spend your time getting what’s best for your needs.