Avalanche airbags are commonly installed in backpacks outfitted with a compressed-air system. They help avalanche victims remain near the surface during slides, increasing chances of survival.
This week, a new company announced the “first ever” jacket with an integrated ABS Airbag system.
SubQ Designs’ Jackson Airbag Jacket is a modular product that contains an avalanche airbag system in a harness that is worn with the jacket.
The jacket also has pockets and stash areas to carry snow safety equipment in the backcountry.
ABS Airbag: From Pack To Jacket
The ABS Airbag system is found in dozens of backpacks made by many brands. The packs range in size from small daypacks with just enough room to carry a shovel, probe, and water, up to large packs for multi-day backcountry trips.
Airbags work on the concept of aggregation: In an avalanche, the heaviest things fall to the bottom of the slide, similar to how gold miners pan for gold. Because a human wearing a deployed airbag has a much larger surface area and the same weight, they are more likely to sift out to the top of the avalanche.
The airbag also can protect against head and neck trauma in some instances.
Until now, airbag systems have been largely integrated into backpacks. The North Face introduced an airbag vest — the ABS Powder Guide Vest — in 2012. It was made in conjunction with Germany’s ABS GmbH, which also provides the airbag technology for the Jackson Airbag Jacket.
ABS Airbag Jacket Preview
The Jackson Airbag Jacket is an intriguing design. It has integrated features aimed at the backcountry skier, snowboarder, or snowmobiler.
“The Jackson Airbag Jacket is the result of over three years of technology design and testing,” said Corbin Redli, founder of SubQ Designs. “It is designed to equip experienced backcountry and side-country travelers with a lighter, versatile, and overall more efficient backcountry safety system.”
The system starts with an ABS airbag in a vest worn close to the body. Over this vest, which attaches via a harness system, the user wears a jacket that has openings designed to work with the interior ABS vest.
A clip-on shovel/probe carrier can be attached or removed for personalization of the setup, depending on usage needs for the day ahead. Total weight of the system (jacket, vest, ABS airbag system) is about 9 pounds.
- Enlarged helmet-compatible hood
- Oversize collar with microsuede chin guard
- Powder skirt with three-point pant attachment
- 10,000mm/10,000mm waterproof breathability
- Elastic grip sleeve loop lock with adjustable cuff
- Two oversize chest pockets for skins
- Underarm two-way zipper ventilation
- Two internal stretch mesh pockets for goggles, phone, accessories
Pack and Vest Specs
- Two airbags with 170 liters volume
- Breathable antibacterial mesh
- Easy-access beacon pocket
- Hydration bladder sleeve with hanger
- Ski/snowboard carry straps with 4mm glove-friendly buckles
- Pack cover has expandable zip, tank-access specific zip
- ABS Vario-pack compatible
The new SubQ Designs website launched today. Pre-sale price is $1,299, and orders are accepted today through December 31, 2015. Product will be available for shipment the first week of January 2016.
We will be testing the design in the coming weeks and will update this story with links to a full review once we have the product in-house and on our backs in the alpine wilds this winter.