Forums The Gear Room Airbag packs
Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 39 total)
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  • #575407
    312 Posts

    Who’s using what?

    Talk to me about your pack


    Ben Reynolds
    35 Posts

    I am using an ABS Vario pack here in Alaska. I’ve heli’d with the 30 liter and the 15 liter zip-on packs. The 30 liter was pretty baggy unless you filled it to the brim, and if you did that, the weight would then be quite far from your back. I decided to use the 15 liter exclusively as it is a much nicer set up for riding in.

    74 Posts

    ABS Vario with the 18L Ultralight pack and carbon canister. I really like it, carries nicely even with the additional weight I think it rides better than either of the Avalung packs I’ve owned. The weight of the airbag system is kept close to the body. I like the option of different size packs, though the 18L has been perfect for me for our typicaly quick Wasatch tours. I’m not one to carry a ton of crap in my pack like some though.

    291 Posts

    Two years ago I considered buying either an ABS Vario pack or a Snowpulse pack and decided for the Snowpulse Lifebag 30L for these reasons:
    – better, closer fit to my back, keeps weight closer to the back
    – better backpack itself in terms of mounting possibilities (although ABS packs have improved in the meantime)
    – protection for head and neck because of special design of airbag
    – higher likelihood for the head to be on top of the snow (and me breathing therefore) because of special design of airbag

    Nevertheless, a huge advantage of the ABS packs is their Vario system.

    1114 Posts

    I bought a snowpulse 45l for the above reasons, also refill is easy and cheap. The 45 cinches down pretty well also.

    113 Posts

    I use the ABS Vario as well. 15L for short couple hour tours. 50L for longer tours. Weight is well distributed, and lots of room for all your stuff in either bag. I found I just had to be a little creative with the 15L had some extra straps sewn on the outside

    235 Posts

    Looks like BCA are getting involved. Exciting designs too:

    291 Posts

    @nedrapier wrote:

    Looks like BCA are getting involved.

    Afaik BCA has entered the market with airbag packs two years ago.

    JIn Kazama
    46 Posts

    I used to have a 15L ABS airbag pack, an old model (before the VARIO models), made for backcountry snowboarders (all the hardware to properly carry the board on the back was provided) – it was of a pretty good quality but way too heavy.
    Since I moved to 100% splitboarding for bc (no snowshoes anymore), I bought a VARIO freeride with 2/8L, 15L & 20 L volumes (Since ABS moved to VARIO lines, they separate the base (that holds the airbag mechanism and the actual pack) and the volumes (stuff you zip on the base depending on what you’re going to carry). That’s great coz the base is ~700 EUR and the volumes are ~50 euros – you can actually have many packs depending on what you’re going to do…

    The vario freeride with 2/8L is what I use most of the time, when going off piste at the resort, it’s very slim (great for chairlifts), pretty light (2.3kg with the carbon bottle), I can fit my shovel/probe perfectly.

    I also use the 2/8L for small tours (less than 3hours uphill with no extra hardware (ice axes, boot crampons etc.) needed), I can fit my safety equipment, skins, gloves, ski crampons, 3-parts poles as well as a little water and food inside, the more stuff you put, the more the bag stretches, still it stays slim and going downhill doesn’t feel like you carry your whole house on your back (it actually feels like normal freeriding at the resort! – some people even wonder where I come from as I look like a regular snowboarder with no touring equipment)

    The 15L is great for a whole day expedition (I can carry more water/food and put some extra clothing/equipment). Still, it feels pretty good going downhill, the bag sticks well to your back and doesn’t bother you much.

    The 20L is kind of awkward, it looks like a Frankenbag, the vario freeride base is too small so they extended the bag on the top – I seldom it use anymore since I got the 15L volume. This volume is to be used when you’ve got lots of stuff as it has to be entirely filled to properly hold your gear, and 20L is a bit small for an overnight expedition (it can be done but half of your stuff will be on the pack, not inside).

    If you’re into more serious stuff (multi-day expeditions), check the VARIO (not freeride) lines, the bags are higher and you have more volume choices (up to 50L – even 70L for ski patrols…).

    The only minus since they moved to VARIO is the quality – it much lighter, that’s true but it looks much less “long lasting” – you can replace the volumes as they’re cheap but I don’t think that the base will be in perfect condition after 5 years of heavy use (my old ABS bag did not age a bit after 4 years!)

    In Europe (I mean France/Switzerland/Italy/Austria :)) the ABS bags are the norm, ski patrols use this system, you can easily find capsules in most of the well know resorts. Last year we saw the snowpulse system but it didn’t sell well, it looks unnecessarily complicated and unsafe. The reason ABS moved to an explosive handle is that a cable (as used in the snowpulse system) can freeze under certain conditions – ABS has 2 ballons, snowpulse only one – bad if you make a single hole… The only good thing about snowpulse is that you can recharge the canister the same way you recharge scuba tanks… Another thing about snowpulse is they’re on sale only 2 years after entering the market (and huge sale, you can get them for less than 1/2 the price…), I don’t think they’ll get much market share if they don’t improve their product!

    The really thing that sucks with those bags is the price : EUR 800 ($1100) for the base and a volume is WAY too expensive, but they seem to work pretty well – I still see too many skiers dying under a few feets of snow every year around here – most of them would have survived with such a system…

    291 Posts

    @JIn Kazama wrote:

    you can get them for less than 1/2 the price…

    Some of my friends want to buy one and would love to save some cash…

    JIn Kazama
    46 Posts

    I saw that 2 weeks ago in the shop “au vieux campeur”, in Albertville (1h from Chamonix) – I don’t know if there are any left (I only saw ABS bags today)

    376 Posts

    I’m torn between the BCA float 30 (or 36) and the Mammut ride RAS 30.
    I’m leaning twords the mammut as it’s 2lbs lighter
    any thoughts?

    25 Posts

    I’m interested in the Mammut as well…but am holding off because on their website they state that in Fall 2012 the system will be available and interchangeable with different packs for different applications. My money will be on a system that allows me to change up between light daypack and larger (40+L) pack that I can pack some kites in…

    Anyone have any beta on Mammut’s plans?

    14 Posts

    Last year I was deciding between ABS and Snowpulse. At the end I bought Snowpulse 45. I would sure like to have vario fetaure fro different volumes, but at the end neck and head protection and simple mechanic release made the decision. I also like that if in some case you are covered over head with snow, snowpulse start to release 150 L of air around your head.
    About punctures in baloons, I think that you must take care of this delicate equipment (also goes for ABS). The material for baloons at Snowpulse are really compact (in comparison to ABS from friend is thicker).
    The variable volume problem I solve with compression straps. It doesn’t look clean and nice as ABS but it is effective.

    42 Posts

    I got the Vario ABS, a couple of zip ons with different sizes. Just look for my rave on it, in an older post.
    My fave is the Ultralight 18 L together with the carbon canister, it’s light but not light enough for my liking. The ABS also has the Powderline, lighter, smaller with small carrying capacity (5L and 15L). Seems squishy when you have to carry all the essentials, definitely have to carry things outside the bag like crampons, skins and the like etc maybe, but nice system all the same. If you look on the web you’ll get a review on the Powderline. It’s meant to be for smaller tours and resort off piste.

    I just had a demo with the Swiss crew from Mammut. Seen the RAS RIDE (Snowpulse’s other system) system, tried it on, seen it triggered a few times, seen it packed. The bag and system Impressed me alot. Airbag is mono bag compared to the duobag ABS system. RAS Bag inflates to 150 L air. ABS inflates to 170 L duo bags together. Still no carbon canister. But Mammut is hinting it may come with a snicker on their face. I reckon they’re working on it. The non refillable canister (two types exist in Europe, don’t know what is available for US) is from the same source as the ABS so figure they’re probably testing as we discuss this issue. I actually heard during the session that the original ABS carbon worked with the RAS, apparently ABS pushed for a change in the carbon canister and this left the RAS system to work unreliably with the carbon canister. For those that have the ABS carbon canister don’t try to connect the RAS with it since it has not passed the tests yet. I bet it’ll come next season.

    Got the preview of the other zip ons. They are gonna go all sizes on either side of the current offerings. One has a back protection integrated. Feck I sound like I friggin work for them. I am gonna invest in one for my girlfriend. When she’s not using it, i’ll be rocking it.

    Regarding punctures, one can’t say if it holds when you scrape in sharp rocks, broken crap in the slide. But the Mammut guys say they have done rigorous testing. How rigorous, did not tell me.

    I would be more worried of the anchor effect, with the board on your feet, since the bag will hopefully hold intact, but this airbag is not going to work well with an anchor. You will probably be pulled down. Check out the instance of the skier completely buried with an airbag inflated. Its on the airbag avalanche stats list somewhere on the web, probably European paper. For this airbag to work efficiently, you need to be in the moving, flowing slide, like the larger pieces of muesli or cereal puffs when you shake the box, this extra volume helps to keep you on top of the smaller pieces of slab, smaller pieces end up on the bottom. The fancy word is Inverse Segregation.
    Get bombed directly on top of your head (does that happen often?, probably not) with no flowing, moving slide pieces, then this bag won’t float you for shit.

    So check out and install the DIY binding pull cords, to get your bindings off quick after you pull the Airbag trigger. I got a steel cable attached on mine, got a picture in an old post somewhere here. Just look for it.

    8 Posts

    Does anyone have any info on the board carrying modes of the ABS vario line?

    I’m interested in the 15L and the 25L but would like confirmation that they will carry my board in a stable way.

    I have had some packs in the past (non-airbag) that hold your board vertical, but the straps connect to the pack away from your actual back, which if the pack is not loaded fully, allows the board to swing around. In my experience I’ve found that the straps that hold your board to the pack must attach to the “back” of the pack… as close to your body as possible.

    Any one have any thoughts?

    312 Posts


    easy to attach some straps and cinch it down


    95 Posts

    The ABS Vario 25 should come with straps to cinch down on the gear loops attached to the bag. Mine did (25L version).

    68 Posts

    Anyone have experience with the Mystery Ranch Blackjack? Although it’s the heaviest (7.8lbs) I’m leaning towards this pack for it’s versatility. Plus it’s hand made in the USA by a company that makes some of the most bombproof packs of all time.

    151 Posts

    Anyone got any more reviews (i.e. 2012 vintage) on airbag backpacks?

    I currently use a BD avalung pack, but the more I think about it (I read skier Elyse Saugstads story about an avalanche she survived with an ABS pack at Stevens Pass last year), the more I think I should get one, particularly for Heli.

    I’m leaning towards ABS vario line, but the Mammut RAS system looks good too.

Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 39 total)

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