Avalanche Airbag

Early on in avalanche safety classes, students are told they should try to “swim” (to stay on top of the heavy snow) if they are caught in an avi. Backcountry Access’ Float 30 acts like a life preserver, helping the skier/rider/snowmobiler stay near the top of the snow in an avalanche.

The Float 30 is a hydration-bladder-compatible pack with 30 liters of capacity to stow a day’s worth of ski gear. Bonus: It comes complete with a compressed 150-liter airbag.

Caught in an avalanche? Pull the trigger on the right shoulder strap and the airbag is deployed behind the user’s head and shoulders. The result: Buoyancy is increased and the victim stays closer to the top of the snow, according to the manufacturer.


Backcountry Access Float 30

Staying close to the top of the snow is important for rescue efforts, as well. More than 75 percent of avalanche fatalities are caused by asphyxiation (as opposed to trauma), and a buried victim must be excavated within 15 minutes to stand a chance of surviving, says the company.

Since avalanche snow is so heavy, reducing snow burial depths can mean the difference between getting pulled out in a few minutes instead of 30 minutes, increasing your chance of being pulled out alive.

Although the Float 30 doesn’t replace prudent backcountry behavior or avi training, it’s worth considering for those who venture into avalanche prone areas — in bounds or out of bounds.

The $499 pack will be available before you put your rock skis away this season — in late November or early December. www.backcountryaccess.com

—Stephen Krcmar

Posted by Sam Preston - 09/22/2009 08:52 AM

Aside from the price, this avalanche airbag is FAR inferior to others on the market. Check out this gear review on Skiing the Backcountry of the Snowpulse Lifebag, which inflates faster, provides more trauma protection and generally rocks compared to the BCA Float 30.

Posted by Jason Mitchell - 09/23/2009 01:52 PM

The Snowpulse Lifebag may be superior in some ways, but it does come in at more than double the cost. I know, I know… the value of safety is priceless, but still… people have to be able to afford all the other safety gear when venturing the backcountry and an extra grandy is not going to be within reach for many.

Posted by Fred Landerson - 09/24/2009 11:17 AM

Sam, have you tested this new pack? If yes, what did you think? If not, on what basis are your making your judgements?

Posted by Scott - 09/24/2009 03:36 PM

Um…just how does one test one of these? Obviously you can trigger them and see if they work, but finding an avalanche on demand…?

I’m only being partly snarky here — what standards are used to ensure that something like this isn’t an expensive boondoggle making people feel safe enough to go into dicey terrain and increasing the risk of injury or death?

Posted by Skiing the Backcountry - 03/16/2010 12:56 PM

We have tested the Snowpulse Airbag pack in terms of usability and it does everything that it claims to do. There has been a concern about peripheral vision wearing the snowpulse, so we tested that too. Our results show that there is plenty of peripheral vision when the Snowpulse Airbag inflates.

Snowpulse Vision Test

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