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Justin 10-05-2012 12:10 AM

avy packs
Started looking for an airbag back pack. I am liking the mammut so far due to the fact that if i want to use different packs i can just buy a different sized pack and move the system.

Anything that i should be aware of when buying or are these not really going to help? I have taken the 1st avy course and might take the second. I am not planning on ending up in a slide but $1000 to live seems reasonable if they work.

DrnknZag 10-05-2012 08:51 AM

I've started looking at avy pack as well by request of my girlfriend. I've narrowed my choice down to the ABS Vario, Mystery Ranch Blackjack, BCA Float 32, and North Face Patrol 24 ABS.

IIRC, there are three or four main manufacturers: ABS, Snowpulse, Avyvest, and I think BCA. The Mammut packs you're looking at use the Snowpulse system. North Face uses ABS, and Mystery Ranch uses Avyvest. BCA I believe makes their own, but I'm not 100% sure.

I haven't read much about the Mammut packs, other than they use Snowpulse technology. Being able to switch bag sizes is pretty a pretty nice option, although I believe the Mammut bags just have a removable airbag section that you can stick in other bags, so you technically are still buying another backpack.

The ABS Vario packs have a much better system IMO, where airbag is in the base unit, and you can zip on separate bag sizes. There's a reason you see most pros with ABS packs, they're very well made and I believe have been around the longest perfecting their technology. The only problem I find with the ABS packs is their price and availability in North America. The base unit and canister will run you close to $1100, then closer to $1300 once you get a bag on it. I have yet to find a vendor that sells a large variety of the zip on packs, which in my mind defeats the purpose of being able to switch bag sizes. I'm hoping more vendors will have product available this year. REI and Backcountry have been known to have some, but not a huge selection.

BCA definitely has the best priced packs in the states. Pretty much under $750 out the door for the Float 32. I HATE their packs though. I just don't find them comfortable at all. I'm hoping that's changed with the brand new Float 32 though since I have a buddy with a BCA proform which would get me in under $600.

Mystery Ranch definitely intrigues me. Their pack looks awesome, but the overall weight of the pack is keeping me from buying it already. It's got a really sweet frame and is super customizable (which probably doesn't help the weight). It's a 43L pack, so it's big enough for longer tours, but compresses down very nicely. I really really like this pack, but the weight still bugs me.

An airbag isn't a replacement for extensive avy training and knowing what you're doing. Nor should it give you more confidence when riding in sketchy terrain. Same goes for the Avalung (which I ride with too). But it does give you one more out if the shit does hit the fan.

Anyway, check out, they've done a ton of reviews on airbag packs.

killclimbz 10-05-2012 08:54 AM

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The Mammut packs appear to me to be the best tailored towards backcountry riders. Designed so that you can carry your board in split or together mode. Being able to swap out the system is nice. In reality, I am not so sure how handy that will be. I can see it being useful for hut trips, but I am not sold that their large pack is appropriate enough for that sort of thing. On top of that, on hut trips, riding with a large pack just sucks. I know that I always bring a smaller "sidecountry" style pack with me for hut trip laps. Maybe that is the way to go, a smaller pack you can bring on those trips. I'll be rocking the 30 this year.

Airbags work, I have no doubt about that. If I had to choose between having a beacon or an airbag, I'd probably take my chances with the airbag. They have had a much better success rate with live recoveries than beacons have ever had. Not that I am going to do that, but it's worth noting.

A bit of advice on the avy course thing. Get at least a season or two under your belt before going for your level II, if you haven't already. Level II is great, but so many people take it right after their Level I. They have no boot to the ground experience. You need some of that. The Level I course taught you everything you need to know to travel safely in the backcountry. There is nothing new in the Level II that is going to make it easier. You will get some heightened awareness to problems that aren't discussed in the Level I. It might allow you to make the choice to ride something you wouldn't have, but it's just as likely to make you back off.

killclimbz 10-05-2012 08:57 AM

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I should note that I have a lot of friends who have airbag packs. The Mammut owners are by far the most happy with how the bag carries and deploys.

DrnknZag 10-05-2012 09:05 AM


Originally Posted by killclimbz (Post 523411)
I should note that I have a lot of friends who have airbag packs. The Mammut owners are by far the most happy with how the bag carries and deploys.

Good to know....the Mammut packs were one of the few I couldn't find a lot of first hand reviews on.

killclimbz 10-05-2012 09:15 AM

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I think the other point is all of the airbag manufacturer's packs work. ABS has been around the longest so they have the most success stories. Personally I like the bags that surround your head, not that I would not use an ABS pack. They are quality.

Justin 10-05-2012 10:34 AM

Thanks for all the info guys. Hut trips are deffinitaly in the picture. We are already planning one for january so maybe i should go with a smaller pack? I was hoping to get 2 bags so that i would always have the airbag available. Seems kind of stupid to buy one and then store it in a bigger pack:dunno:

If i were just to get one pack and bring it along for a hut trip what size would you recommend? Just a general range, as i am not sold on one brand yet. I will need to try some on. I will be doing day trips and one resort i ride at has some inbounds terrain that requires avy gear so i would probably use it there as well.

Yeah i defintally need more experience, the only reason i was thinking about taking it soon was the company that i went through says you have to take them within a year of each other. I figuired it was probably just to get you to sign up but was unsure. A couple of people have told me now just to wait. I have some friends and friends of friends that have experience so i will be tagging along this year.

killclimbz 10-05-2012 11:02 AM

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Well here is what I was sort of thinking. Generally speaking on hut trips, the skin in doesn't have a ton of avalanche danger. Well at least in the states. I know in Canada, there are times when you are exposed for an hour or more. Which I fine terrifying. Anyway, it looks like the largest airbag pack you can get is a 45 liter pack from Mammut. I don't know about you, but that is rather small. My hut pack is a 55 liter pack with an additional 20 liter removable pack. Even then, I find that stuff can be crammed for just a two night hut trip. Though you could probably get away with riding with a 45 liter pack all cinched up when your overnight gear is stashed in the hut.

I find a 30 liter pack to be about perfect for your typical day trip use. Lets you carry what you need but also not so large. That is your everyday pack in the Mammut line up. Then maybe instead of going with the 45 liter pack, you might want to get the 22 liter sidecountry pack as your second. Then use a regular large pack to hump your stuff in and just clip or strap down that pack on the outside. If you are clever enough, you can probably use it to hump some extra items in while it's attached to you pack. Maybe stash the cartridge and bag in you main pack, that sort of thing. Then once there use that pack as your tour pack.

Again, this depends on where you are going. The Canadian hut trip can be a hell of a lot different than the Colorado experience. In my region, once you get to the hut, most of the stuff you ride is fairly close. At a hut like Janet's Cabin some of the best stuff lets you lap right by the hut. So it's do a run, skin back to the hut, eat some soup, warm up, then skin back up to the ridge, lather, rinse, repeat. Most of them offer this in some way or the other. You are not out on all day tours, so not as much extra gear needs to be carried. It could be totally different where you are going. I would check with your experienced buddies and see what they think.

Justin 10-05-2012 11:30 AM

awesome, thanks for all the great info. I will pop into mec and try some different brands on, and check with some freinds. Thanks for all the help.

DrnknZag 10-06-2012 01:14 PM

Has anyone had any experience with the Mystery Ranch Blackjack pack? I'm really leaning towards this pack, even though it's the heaviest of the bunch. Mystery Ranch is known for making some of the most bombproof packs of any company out there, and I really like the fact that they are hand made in the USA. One of the main reasons I like the Blackjack is how customizable the fit is, and I've heard it carries incredibly well. That is what probably brings up the weight of the pack though. Another reason I'm liking it is it's versatility. It looks like it compresses very well for a 42L pack, and is large enough for longer trips. The airbag is also removable to give you a really nice backpacking pack for the summer. Anyway, has anyone had their hands on one?

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