Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks

Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks: Top 5 of 2024

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by James

If you love skiing backcountry, you could run the risk of being caught in an avalanche. Although it’s never possible to completely remove the chance of burial, having the right gear can make all the difference.

Avalanche airbags are the newest addition to the snowslide safety scene. They work by inflating an airbag that helps you float on top of the sliding snow.

These backpacks can prove to be lifesaving in serious situations. With that in mind, we have reviewed the best avalanche airbag backpacks on the market.

Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks AT A Glance

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Summary

Price

    • Powerful electric supercapacitor airbag

    • Battery charges in less than one hour via USB

    • Dedicated avalanche equipment pocket

        

        

    • Lightweight and powerful float cylinder

    • Snow safety pocket with ice axe carrying options

    • Over 200 cannister refill locations around the world

        

        

    • Powerful battery inflates airbag in 3.5 seconds

    • Bluetooth compatibility for settings and updates

    • Super lightweight for a battery powered airbag

        

         

    • Extremely lightweight design

    • Float system and airbag are stowed to save space

    • Hydration sleeve adds backcountry practicality

           

           

    • Rechargeable Jetforce airbag technology

    • Ski carry allows airbag to deploy while in use

    • Dedicated avalanche and ice tool pockets

           

           

    Why Do I Need The Best Avalanche Airbag Backpack?

    Powder skiing can be fantastic, but it can also be dangerous. If you plan on heading into the backcountry, you need to take precaution.

    Transceivers, probes and shovels are all common requirements for backcountry safety. Avalanche airbag backpacks are still a relatively new concept, but have proven to be effective when deployed correctly.

    One study looked at avalanche accident data between 1994 and 2012, where at least one person was wearing an airbag. It concluded that those wearing an inflated airbag had an 89% chance of survival, compared to 78% for those who were not.

    If you want to maximise your chances of snowslide safety, you should make sure you have the best avalanche airbag backpack possible. Although you hope you never have to use one, it could prove to be a lifesaving investment.

    Airbags work great to protect your safety, but they should be included as part of a full avalanche set up. In order to cover all bases, we have also detailed the best avalanche beacons, best avalanche probes and best avalanche shovels.

    Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks
    The Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks Add Safety To Powder Days

    How To Choose The Best Avalanche Airbag Backpack

    Inflation System

    Avalanche airbags are generally use two types of inflation system: canister or electric. Each option has unique advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss below:

    Canister

    Canisters are the original and most popular airbag inflation method. They use a cylinder full of compressed air or gas that is released into the airbag when you pull the handle.

    Canister airbags are generally cheaper than their electric counterparts. They are also lightweight and don’t require any charging, making them great on longer backcountry tours.

    However canisters are only able to inflate once before they require a refill, making practice or multiple deployments an issue. Additionally, the canisters can be expensive to refill, as well as posing an issue during air travel.

    Electric

    Electric airbag inflation is the newest method available and is proving increasingly popular. They use a battery-powered high-speed fan to full air into the airbag upon deployment.

    Recharging electric devices is as easy as plugging them into the wall, removing the need to purchase canisters. They also allow for multiple deployments and are permitted on aeroplanes.

    The downside is that they are usually more heavy and expensive than canister airbags. Additionally, they have a more complex design that requires professional help if it malfunctions.

    Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks
    Both Electric And Canister Airbags Save Lives During A Slide

    Capacity

    Just like a regular ski backpack, you need to make sure your airbag pack has enough space. Since you will most likely be heading off-piste, you need to make sure you have space for your avalanche tools, food, extra clothing etc.

    The best avalanche airbag backpacks generally have a capacity between 20 and 40 litres. The airbag will usually take up around 2 litres of this space, so be sure to factor this in when making your decision.

    Smaller airbag backpacks are great if you’re not venturing too far away from civilisation. They provide a space large enough to carry your avalanche equipment, while remaining light and comfortable.

    If you are heading into remote areas, then look for a larger pack. Although heavier, they will give you enough room to carry the gear needed for a backcountry adventure.

    Weight

    Backcountry skiing can be a challenging pursuit. It requires a high level of physical fitness, especially if you need to carry a heavy airbag.

    Lighter airbag backpacks can provide a comfortable carry, but are often low capacity. In addition, the lighter options tend to have canister inflation systems, so be sure you’re comfortable with this.

    Heavier airbag backpacks are often higher in capacity and offer more features. Battery powered inflation systems tend to add weight to your pack, so many of the heavier options will be rechargeable.

    It’s important to find a product that you’re capable of carrying at all times. If you decide to leave your airbag behind due to its weight, then you’ve decreased your chances of avalanche safety.

    Features

    Although the your main focus will be on the airbag unit, the backpack itself should offer many of the features expected from a ski backpack. Common additional features include ski carry straps, avalanche tool pockets, helmet carry facility and easy accessibility.

    These features can all make your life easier, both on and off the mountain. Be sure to establish the type of skiing you will be doing and the equipment you need to carry in order to make an informed decision.

    Avalanche backpacks will also have features that are airbag specific. These include the airbag compartment, airbag pull handle and additional strapping to make sure your pack isn’t ripped off during deployment.

    These features can provide safety through durability, increasing your chances of snowslide survival. If you look at the pros and cons, you will get an idea of the key feature effectiveness.

    Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks
    Added Features Can Make Your Ski Touring Life Easier

    Best Avalanche Airbag Backpacks Reviewed

    Black Diamond Jetforce Tour

    Key Features

    • Deployment: Electric Fan
    • Capacity: 26 Litre
    • Weight: 2.63kg (5lb 13oz)

    The Black Diamond Jetforce Tour avalanche airbag backpack uses a high-tech and high-quality design that will improve your mountain safety. It has an electric turbine-based fan airbag system that is highly powerful and quick to deploy.

    The battery is easy and quick to recharge via USB or AA batteries. It also features a dedicated avalanche equipment pocket, spacious accessory pocket, helmet holder and hip-belt stash pocket.

    If you are looking for a durable, reliable and accessible airbag pack, this is one of your best options. Its airbag deployment system is high-tech, while the backpack itself is super convenient for your backcountry gear.

    Pros

    • Powerful electric airbag
    • Rapid deployment
    • Battery charges in less than one hour
    • Dedicated avalanche equipment pocket
    • Convenient hip-belt pockets
    • Visible on/off indicator light
    • Accessible main compartment

    Cons

    • Airbag mechanism can impede packing
    • Avalanche tool pocket not big enough for some shovel blades

    Backcountry Access Float 2.0

    Backcountry Access Float 2.0 Airbag

    Key Features

    • Deployment: Canister
    • Capacity: 32 Litre
    • Weight: 2.94kg (6lb 6oz)

    The Backcountry Access Float 2.0 is designed to be practical and reliable for backcountry skiers. It uses a canister airbag inflation system that creates buoyancy during a snowslide, while also protecting your head and neck from trauma.

    The airbag system sits within a separate zippered compartment, freeing up the extra large main compartment for your ski touring gear. In addition, it features an avalanche tool sleeve and external ice axe carry loops for added practicality.

    The Backcountry Access Float 2.0 is one of the most reliable and affordable avalanche airbag backpacks available. It uses a design that has been refined over the years to provide serious off-piste protection.

    Pros

    • Canister airbag system is reliable
    • Tried and tested design
    • Canisters can be refilled globally
    • Large main compartment
    • External ice axe carry loops
    • Tool sleeve adds practicality

    Cons

    • Lacking some backpack features
    • Airbag adds a lot of weight

    Black Diamond Jetforce Pro

    Key Features

    • Deployment: Electric Fan
    • Capacity: 25 Litre
    • Weight: 2.92kg (6lb 7oz)

    The Black Diamond Jetforce Pro is one of the most high-tech avalanche airbags around. It uses battery powered Jetforce technology that provides rapid inflation and can deploy multiple times from a single charge.

    This pack is also bluetooth compatible, allowing you to perform updates and adjust settings remotely. Additionally, it has a practical diagonal ski carry that allows the airbag to deploy while the skis are attached.

    The Black Diamond Jetforce Pro has a host of key features and an electric airbag that’s capable of fast and powerful deployment. Its combination of technology and design quality makes it one of the best avalanche airbag backpacks available.

    Pros

    • Electric battery is easy to recharge
    • Multiple deployments from each charge
    • Bluetooth compatibility
    • Ski carry doesn’t impede airbag
    • Dedicated avalanche tools pocket
    • User friendly layout

    Cons

    • Top price bracket
    • Helmet carry not operational when skis are attached

    Backcountry Access Float Speed

    Backcountry Access Float Speed

    Key Features

    • Deployment: Canister
    • Capacity: 17 Litre
    • Weight: 2.54kg (5lb 10oz)

    The Backcountry Access Float Speed is one of the most lightweight and convenient avalanche airbag backpacks around. Although its capacity is on the smaller side, its float system and airbag are sufficiently stowed in a small storage compartment for maximum packing space.

    This avalanche pack is uses an ergonomic design, with a molded back panel and height-adjustable waist belt making it comfortable. It also includes easily accessible avalanche and ski equipment storage spaces.

    If you are looking for a lightweight avalanche pack to accompany you off-piste, the Backcountry Access Float Speed is a great option. It has a wide range of useful features and a design that is sure to improve your mountain safety.

    Pros

    • Reliable canister airbag
    • Canisters can be refilled globally
    • Float system storage maximises space
    • Ergonomic design is comfortable
    • Lightweight construction
    • Avalanche and ski equipment storage

    Cons

    • Not enough pack space for some
    • Refilling canisters can get expensive

    Black Diamond Saga JetForce

    Key Features

    • Deployment: Canister
    • Capacity: 40 Litre
    • Weight: 3.5kg (7lb 11oz)

    If you’re looking for an spacious avalanche airbag backpack, look no further than the Back Diamond Saga Jetforce. It has a 40 litre capacity that features ski and snowboard carry, avalanche tools pocket, ice axe pocket and helmet holding capability.

    The airbag uses Jetforce electric fan inflation that is rechargeable and travel friendly. It also uses ‘reACTIV’ suspension and ‘SwingArm’ shoulder straps to make carrying a large amount of gear easy.

    The Black Diamond Saga Jetforce is great for backcountry touring. Its large capacity, wide range of features and battery powered floatation system make it an excellent pack for powder lovers.

    Pros

    • Powerful Jetforce airbag
    • Rechargeable battery system
    • Multiple deployment airbag
    • Large 40L capacity
    • Ski and snowboard carry
    • Designed with suspension for a comfortable carry

    Cons

    • One of the heaviest options
    • Lacking exterior gear attachment points

    Summing Up

    Hunting for powder in the backcountry is one of the best skiing experiences you can have. However, the risk of a snowslide can pose a significant threat.

    The best avalanche airbag backpacks can greatly increase your safety. They provide a practical way to explore the off-piste with an element of safety.

    Every airbag on this list is designed to keep you safe. If you stick to the options we have outlined, you can start to worry less about survival and more about skiing.