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Airbag Backpacks

Powder, powder, powder – lots of fresh snow over night and heading up the mountain in the morning, sounds great doesn’t it? Unfortunately, lots of snow usually also means that the danger of avalanches increases. And this should not be underestimated. Each year, you hear of several cases of avalanche burials, who hopefully survived. How could you increase your chances? With an avalanche backpack. The backpack should NOT be your only means of safety equipment, instead it should be used additionally to your tracker beacon, shovel and probe.
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More Airbag Backpacks Facts

The avalanche backpack has become a firm component of freeriders’ and tourers’ safety equipment. Next to its functions, this is also due to the fact that the market has been growing, new brands have entered and started producing these backpacks, which has lead to decreasing prices. However, the avalanche backpack should always just complement the touring equipment, not replace it. When out in the backcountry, you should always have your beacon on your body and avalanche probe and shovel in your backpack. Furthermore, is the alpine know-how crucial. It needs a lot of training and experience to be able to estimate a slopes, its snow conditions and risks around properly. Wind signs, gradient, exposure and subsoil are important factors that are also influenced by skills and size of the group of people.


HOW DOES THE AVALANCHE BACKPACK WORK? “THE BRAZIL NUT EFFECT

”The avalanche backpack helps you in case of being buried underneath the snowmasses in case of an avalanche. How this is done, can be explained using the brazil nut effect. Through the airbag, a large, but light mass is created and strapped to your body, which will help you rise through smaller, heavier bits in case of a snow slide. As of this, the airbag helps you reach, or stay at the surface.


THE DIFFERENT AIRBAG SYSTEMS

Thanks to lots of manufacturers, there are a wide variety of systems to choose from. Generally, the airbag acts to prevent being buried as good as possible. Additionally, there are systems to prolong your chances of survival underneath the snow masses by providing the person in need with air in diverse ways. One of these systems is the JetForce, which is being used by Black Diamond and Pieps.

You trigger the airbag manually by pulling a strap on the shoulder belt, which makes the airbag be inflated. In most systems - BCA Float, Arva Reactor, Mammut R.A.S. und P.A.S., Ortovox Avabag, Scott Alpride or ABS Vario – a cartridge is used, filling the airbag with air or gas. The JetForce uses a battery driven nozzle. All manufacturers have their own system, some provide cartridges in different materials, letting you choose between steel, aluminium and carbon. Another difference is in the balloons themselves: they are formed differently to secure your neck, head or chest area, have different volumes and come as one or dual systems.


DECIDING ON WHICH AVALANCHE BACKPACK YOU WANT IS NOT EASY

Next to the different functions and characteristics of the different systems are a couple more factors that play an important role. The backpacks (and systems) have different weights and offer various amounts of storage space. If you are only out and about for individual days, you will probably need about 10-25 liters of volume in your backpack. If you are planning on doing multiple-day tours, then you would definitely need more storage for all your equipment. Also, you could go for an backpack that lets you remove the airbag system and install it in a different compatible backpack. Another important aspect is whether the cartridge can be refilled, how this is done, if you have to send the backpack to the manufacturer, and what it costs. Another good to have is additional protection built into the backpack and good ski or snowboard carry attachment. For some, it is also relevant how easily the backpack is to travel with, meaning whether or not you can take it on an airplane.


READ MORE REGARDING AVALANCHE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

How avalanche backpacks work: An overview of diverse avalanche airbag systems
How to fly with an avalanche airbag
Find the right avalanche-safety equipment