Airbag Packs

Discussion in 'Alpine Touring Gear' started by Bobby Tarr, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Hey Powder People! I hope everyone is enjoying the snow.

    I am getting ready to pull the trigger on an Avy Backpack (purchase.) I am interested to hear what you fine folks are using and what you like and what you would change. I have tried on more than a couple packs and have narrowed it down to a few. Included in the list is the Mammut Pro and Ride, BCA 32 and 22. FWIW, I did call BCA today and they said they should probably start selling just packs next year and they will be bringing a BCA 27 to market (hydration compatible, goggle pocket, interchangeable trigger placement...) I am leaning towards a smaller pack due to day trips (can't see myself doing hut-to-hut anytime soon.) Having the option of swapping to a larger pack as the need comes is interesting, but I want a small, close fitting pack for the majority of use. I typically wear cargo pants when riding/splitboarding, so I have my 1st aid kit in my L1, phone and sandwich in R1.

    So, let's hear it!

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  2. idsnowghost

    idsnowghost Staff Member

    Spokane, WA
    Unfortunately "small, close fitting" doesn't describe many airbag packs (yet… BD Jetforce next season?).

    Panda and I use ABS packs. (Twinbags ftw!) Hopefully some of the guys here who use the BCA packs will also let you know how they like theirs.

    We like the ABS Vario packs for the versatility (zip on a 18L or 30L etc from a variety of brands, depending on the objectives) and redundancy (dual airbags). ABS also uses Nitrogen gas and an exploding cartridge to fill the bags. This means the bags will always fill at the same rate, independent of operating temperature. CO2 while easier to refill, will inflate slower in very cold temperatures. ABS has been doing this for over 20 years now and have things figured out (and patented). My only negative would be weight, but that's a moot point until a better option comes out (BD/Arcteryx?).

    I posted a PSA on here for ABS packs on last summer for $323 shipped. I remember seeing BCA and Mammut RAS packs for just as inexpensive. Might keep an eye out later this Spring for deals..
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  3. Thanks Mike! I tend to travel a lot, so that is weighing in on the Nitrogen versus compressed air systems. I like a lot of things about the ABS systems (twin bags, volume, packs, etc,) but the big downside is the no travel side of Nitrogen.
  4. I agree with Mike, not many options out there that seem "small and close fitting". A buddy and I opted for the BCA Float 32. It is neither small, light or close fitting but for us, it ticked a lot of boxes. The Float 22 is a nice size, but I found it difficult to get everything in that I would want for a long day tour. Then, the Float 32 went on a screaming sale in October, so our decision was made. In the end, the 32 is growing on us quite a bit. Probably my biggest gripe is that weight in the pack "feels" like it carries a bit far away from the body. However, it holds a ton more than the 22, and has some nice additional features (like hydration compatibility and helmet carry, goggle pocket, etc...) and I believe it weighs only a pound or two more. Satisfied so far, especially given the price. Oh yeah, canister fills are less than $4 at the General Store :D
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  5. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Actually, when traveling, you proclaim it is an "avalanche safety device". This is what get's it on the plane, albeit in your checked baggage.
    Mike noted the pluses on the ABS.. I'm not knocking BCA or Mammut, but ABS is my preference. I have used the BCA with heli operations. On one trip the breakaway zipper continued to come undone which was a pain every stop to fix. The last time I flew, it did not. I think this is because BCA put a few velcro flaps on to help keep the pack from separating.
    With ABS, it is full velcro, which I have never had pull out. A few times it has stretched open, but that would be more that I repacked it wrong than the velcro failure.
    As noted above, I se shaving 2 bags as a big bonus. IF you happened to get pulled down through trees, one bag hits a tree and pops (which just saved you from breaking your neck possibly), there is still another bag to help keep you afloat and/or give a larger air pocket, god forbid, you are buried.

    Also as Mike noted, if you wait until Spring you can get some smoking hot deals. Or look around, like on forum, where someone may be selling theirs.

    BTW… Good to know where your first aid kit is if I ever tour with you! Which brings another topic, I wish i could design bc gear.. I'd design a bib with better pockets, such as cargo, that maintain a light weight to carry easy access items.
    Bobby Tarr likes this.
  6. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Thanks for sharing about you and Dilly's BCA's Brandon

    Hope you are well!!!
  7. mooseknuckles


    Another ABS Vario user here. I find great value in being able to zip on different pack sizes to the frame. I have an 18L and a 25L pack that I take based on conditions, location and whether I will be on a splitboard or skis. Regarding fit and closeness to the body...not going to happen. We must accept the equipment for what it is, a potentially life saving device. Air travel is not an issue as Panda pointed out and Mike is right about grabbing one on sale as the deals are out there. There is no one perfect bag just like there is no one perfect ski or board for all conditions.

    I never thought I would need a 40L pack...I have a feeling that will change soon enough.

    Happy Shopping!
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  8. Have you guys with the Vario packs been able to get a charged canister on a plane? My understanding is the TSA will not (intentionally) allow it (but outside the US it is fine) or are you renting/refilling on the far end?

  9. Mike T

    Mike T

    I've got a Mammut RAS -- it's just OK. I liked the compressed air for ease of filling / refilling -- you can actually practice with it! However, the pack itself leaves some things to be desired. First, it's short. I'm tall (6'1") and it just doesn't quite carry the load right -- sits up too high. Second, it sticks out a lot, which can be awkward. Third, there is no dedicated diagonal ski carry on the top of the pack. You have to use the bottom loop and the snowboard straps. I'm sticking it out, just because I want a jet bag next year. I did see a Scott pack the other day, uses the same RAS system, that looked a bit better built. They had them in the store at the base of Jackson Hole, but I can't really find them online.

    I'd go with the BD one, if you want to use compressed air
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  10. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Mike T… I think I saw something about Scott making packs. I'll have to look into them to see what they offer.

    All-in-all… The Vario with ABS makes it super convenient for changing sizes. Also, there are other brands that make a zip on now: EVOC, DaKine and a few others (can't remember). DaKine has a diagonal ski carry as well as vertical board carry. So a splitter can be in split mode and carry like skis!

    As for the ABS canisters, we know someone in town that is a rep.. trying to work out something there.
    Bobby Tarr likes this.
  11. Garret


    Hayden, ID
    I have a Snowpulse 15 L pack. It is pretty close fitting, and small... sometimes almost too small. At first I was worried about the space issue but after a couple day tours it seems to be perfect for my needs. I can fit shovel, probe, skins, beanie, 1L water bottle, lunch, minimal snow study kit, and a thin layer, but it gets really tight. It has one big head and shoulder/side airbag, and because of the shoulder bags, the shoulder straps start out very stiff. After 4 or 5 days they got to be loose and fit well. We just travelled with them a week ago, and we had to ship the canisters seperately.
  12. Larry ment to reply to you on Facebook on this subject but blew my knee at the weekend and have been doped up on anti inflammatories and visiting the physio :(. I will still send you a PM on the subject but though I would add my knowledge. Like Bobby i'm considering an avy pack for myself and the wife for next season and have spent hours investigating. January it's not a problem for us as we drive to the Alps for a month so we can take canisters in the tunnel to Europe, however any powder after that is a flight.
    Having spoken to a number of people here in Europe generally the rule is you can fly with a full canister either ABS or Snowpulse as long as you notify the airline at least two weeks in advance so it is noted on your booking, also always have a copy of the IATA rules in the language of the country your flying from and tell them at check in you have it!. There are some exceptions to this and some airports in France appear to give you grief but this is getting less and less. Also there are differences as to how to pack it depending upon airline and airport some will have you attach the canister and others you must have it separate. I have attached a link to a UK forum which covers Flying with Avy bags in great detail and people experiences.

    For us and others the question still seems to be flying back from States or taking an internal flight in the states and TSA. I understand that you are generally ok as long as the canister is empty (generally).

    Anyway what I'm trying to get is If i fly to the states how easily can I rent an ABS canister or refill a snowpulse. Ideally I would like to go for ABS in particular the MASS solution but if this means having to buy a canister and leave it at each destination if we visit multiple places then I'm heading towards snowpulse and begging the local fire department.

    Final point Scott are making big claims on their bags that they are IATA compliant but again no info on TSA the bags a great price here and the canisters low cost just cannot see if they have a board carrier. If they did and I could get the canisters easily stated side this would be a serious possibility.

    If anyone can shed any light on the TSA situation or renting of canisters this would really help.

    Larry will PM you, enjoy the spring riding
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  13. Thanks Bushy!

    Good luck with that knee!!!!

    I have been searching for more information and everything I have found sounds like a "no" for a filled canister in the US, thanks to TSA. That isn't to say people aren't getting around that. But the letter of the law seems to be a negative.. (side note, I travel in excess of 150-200k miles a year for work, so I decided to asked TSA in both Spokane and Denver airports, on trips through and both said no love.)
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  14. Thanks Bobby time for R&R and I had just serviced the MTB's. Surprised at Denver as they must a large number of avy bags passing through. Looks like it's going to have to be a refillable unless there is a way of renting canisters in each location you potentially visit! Will continue to investigate as really do want to go ABS, will email Scott about their Alpride bag and how easy it will be to get the canisters as they are only £35 here.
    Bobby Tarr likes this.
  15. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Hey Steven… Damn Bro.. A knee!!! Get that rehabbed and ready for next season for sure!!! Knock on wood.. that is the only thing I haven't efed up!
    Really good info on flying with a ABS canister.. I know if you came to my area I'd get ya hooked up. Doesn't help though for the other places though. Getting refill's done is super easy.. any dive shop will do also. Again, I am a ABS fan due to the versatility as well as reliability. As these systems become more known I could see TSA making arrangements. Maybe a letter campaign… Hmmmm

    Yeah.. Send me a message or txt.. I'll FB ya my #.

    Tell the Ms.'s that ya need lots of massages around that knee!!! And kiss the pup for me!!
  16. Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2014
  17. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Excellent deal Steven… I believe there are a few people wanting this!
    Great find!! You taking care of that knee!!! Next operation happen yet?
  18. Thanks Bushy! I might have to pull the trigger on that one! Like the colors, size and config!

    Just home from the UK last night. Enjoyed the nice weather. It was warmer in London that in CDA!
  19. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Liberty Lake, WA
    Damn Bobby… You were in UK!! I'd have to find a way up to See Steven (Bushy) if I got there.. Well, to se this dog. Don't really care for Bushy! LoL

    That pack is a good pick, the beauty is, you can get aftermarket zip-on's. Mike has an EVOC, I have the Vario SB15. Dakine makes a zip on as well… And the price is insane good!
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  20. Thanks Larry, the dog says hi, reminds me I must upload the video of her ripping up Austrian slopes, will edit myself out just for you!!! Off to see the surgeon on Tuesday so hopefully not to long to wait until I go under the knife, bored out of my mind.

    Bobby, you got out just in time, storms and flooding have returned but it is Wimbledon fortnight!!

    Might need a favour of someone there are some Mammut refillable canisters on GearTrade, I cannot purchase as overseas but they are a great price even with import duty. If anyone could get one or two for me I can wire the money and postage to them if they could send on to me here. I have sourced Mammut Ride 22l bags from Germany, with RAS for 340 EUR each so not a bad price.

    Enjoy the glaciers and be safe.
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