Avalanche backpacks have become incredibly important safety tools for backcountry skiers all over the world. The devices don’t just increase your survival chances if you’re caught up in an avalanche, they also make it much easier for rescuers to see you. That’s why getting a reliable model is so important.
Many brands make high-quality or well-designed avalanche airbags. Even so, they each come with their own traits or differences. The following sections will cover such characteristics to help you discover which bag or backpack is best for your skiing style.
- Skiers who want additional features will enjoy the Ortovox Ascent 30. This bag is a bit compact but also has a lot of internal space. It’s tough and comes with plenty of attachment options.
- The Mammut Light Removable 3.0 is an excellent pack for people who don’t like weight. This is one of the lightest options around and comes with various high-end features like a deployment handle and aluminum frame.
- If you want a cheaper option, the Backcountry Access BCA Float 22 is a good pick. This pack is incredibly comfortable and comes in at a reasonable price tag. Perfect for single day treks or shorter trips.
Who Should Get This?
Every backcountry skier or anyone who often ventures out into avalanche territory needs an airbag. The devices are incredibly useful and they come in handy in any area where an accident might occur. Though they are not designed for more casual skiers or those who stay in-bounds, if you plan on going off the grid, even for a short day run, you’re going to need a pack for some much needed protection.
Best Avalanche Airbag & Backpack: What to Consider?
When picking out an avalanche backpack, you first need to consider its design. There are quite a few models out there, and they each use a specific system. The base unit design has a system that allows you to keep everything in one pack. In contrast, the integrated system comes with a fixed airbag size while detachable models allow you to use the pack without the bag.
Of course, a good avalanche pack doesn’t do much if it can’t hold up in tough situations. You need something that’s well-made and able to stand up to biting or tough elements. Strong materials specially made to handle backcountry environments are a must. It’s also important to favor models from trusted brands so you know you’re buying a quality item. That might cost more upfront, but it’s worth it in the end.
You also want to consider your avalanche backpack’s size. That largely depends on the type of skiing you plan on doing. If you’re going out on a lift-served backcountry trip, you probably won’t need anything bigger than an 18 or 20-liter pack. However, day touring probably requires something that’s at least 25 to 35 liters and multi-day trips require 40 to 50 liters.
Best Avalanche Airbag & Backpack: Our Picks
Those who enjoy going on longer ski tours will enjoy the Ortovox Ascent 30. This 30-liter model is compact and easy to carry, but also has plenty of internal space for your gear, snacks, or whatever else you need out in the backcountry. Though the cartridge is not included, the locking clasp, chest strap, and signal whistle ensure you’ll stay safe in any situation.
This model also tops our list due to its various features. It comes fully equipped with a rope attachment, compression strap, D-Skifix, and tough, water-resistant zipper. There are plenty of gear loops and it is hydration system compatible. On top of that, the strong outer material is fully water-resistant so you don’t have to worry about anything inside getting wet.
What We Like:
- Tough construction
- 30 liters of usable volume
- Zipper closure
- Included activation unit
What We Don’t Like:
- A bit large for smaller skiers
- Cartridge not included
There’s nothing quite as difficult as getting out into the backcountry and having to lug a heavy backpack with you uphill. That’s where the Mammut Light Removable 3.0 comes in. This pack is lightweight and incredibly portable, two features that make it easy to bring with you anywhere. It has one of the smallest packing volumes around and the aluminum frame creates optimum load transfer.
This model also gets high marks due to the bright balloon. The vibrant orange color stands out in any snowscape, giving rescuers a much better chance of locating you in the event of an accident. The Thermoformed back is also incredibly comfortable, allowing you to walk for miles with little issue. Add on the excellent diagonal ski carrier system and you have a complete device.
What We Like:
- Incredibly lightweight
- Diagonal ski carrier
- Aluminum frame
- Comfortable Thermoformed back
- Small packing volume
- Height-adjustable deployment handle
- Bright, colorful balloon
What We Don’t Like:
- Lacks dedicated safety gear pocket
The Backcountry Access BCA Float 22 is an excellent option for anyone who wants quality at a reasonable price. Though this won’t run you as much as similar models, it is still one of the most comfortable picks money can buy. Not only is it snug, but it moves with your body as you head downhill. The padding is also quite nice, and you never feel like you’re being weighed down no matter what you store inside.
While this doesn’t have as much room for longer treks, it still has enough interior space for other essential items like food, shovels, and lightweight gear. That makes it a great midweight pack for people who don’t plan on spending too much time in the backcountry. The tough design also holds up to elements quite nicely, which makes this a good pick if you like traversing through rough weather.
What We Like:
- Incredibly comfortable
- Backcountry friendly features
- Tough design
- Excellent value for the price
What We Don’t Like:
- Could be a bit bigger
Useful Tips and Information
A good avalanche backpack brings you a lot of safety, but it’s far from the only piece of gear you need out in the backcountry. There is a wide range of important items you need in order to stay fully prepared for any situation.
Beyond gear, there are a series of rules you need to stick to when traveling out of bounds. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the backcountry or a seasoned skier, this article will ensure you don’t run into any problems.
When going into the wilderness, you need to be prepared. Backcountry or off-piste skiing is fun, but it can also take you into some precarious territories. A good avalanche backpack ensures you have a layer of protection to keep you safe should something go wrong. That’s what the above models offer.
What avalanche airbag do you use and why? Are there any models we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Joseph Scalise is an avid writer, editor, and snow sports enthusiast who loves to spend his time outdoors. He began his love of writing early on in life and continued to pursue it as he grew older. While his time behind the computer doesn’t get him into the wild unknown as much as he would like, he never misses a chance to head up (or down) a mountain, across a river, or through a lush forest. When he’s not planning new trips, you can always find him typing away on his next project.