When you are a fan of backcountry snowboarding and skiing, then one of the many things you things you need to carry with you, should be an avalanche airbag backpack. Specially designed to be practical and to save lives, they are a must-have gear for backcountry riders. If you are caught in a slide, you pull the deployment handle attached to the shoulder strap of your backpack. A pressurized cartridge or electric fan inflates the airbag. Which helps to keep you near the surface of the avalanche and more visible to rescuers. After deployment, you can reuse it by simply deflating the airbag and replacing the air canister.
How they work
When properly worn and deployed airbag backpacks have been shown to be effective in increasing your chances of survival if you are caught in an avalanche. They work on the principle of ‘Inverse Segregation’. Which holds that in a moving collection of objects large and small (like an avalanche), the larger objects will rise to the top.
Deploying an avalanche airbag during a slide effectively turns you into a larger object. This greatly increases the chance of you ending up on top of the debris pile when the avalanche stops moving. Remember that wearing an avalanche airbag is no guarantee of survival. The first thing you should do making smart decisions to you avoid an avalanche in the first place. However, your chances of coming to rest near the surface and being found faster are enhanced by using an airbag pack.
Things to consider
I. What type of riding will you be doing when using this pack?
When you’re accessing the mountains on a helicopter you will probably need a smaller, more streamlined airbag pack than when you’re going on a multiple day cabin tour. Because then you are more likely to be able to carry a larger airbag pack.
II. Where will you be travelling to with this pack?
It’s important to know that different airlines have different procedures and regulations regarding people traveling with airbag packs and the cartridges. Make sure to contact your airline before flying to your winter destination. It’s possible that in some cases you may need to travel with an empty cartridge and replace it upon arrival. You can also choose to refill the empty cartridge but bear in mind that the number of qualified refilling stations also varies by location.
III. What is your budget and does the pack fit your body?
Avalanche airbag packs are available in different sizes at a wide variety of prices. We advise you to fit and try out different packs at your local store first. Their staff can help you find the best one for your body type, your riding style, and your preferred pack volume. If you’re planning to replace an existing pack you are already familiar with, then ordering online is no problem.
The Mammut Ride RAS Airbag Backpack features an inflatable airbag designed to keep your head at or near the surface of the snow during an avalanche. It’s a user-friendly all-rounder and perfect companion for freeriding, ski-touring and all-mountain pursuits.
Image courtesy of ABS and Uncrate.com