Best Avalanche Airbags

Oh, did you think that airbags were confined to just being used in your car in the instance of an accident? Guess what, they have more uses than that. For those of you who love winter activities, such as snowboarding, skiing, or ice climbing, you need to be prepared in the instance of a disaster. Trapped by nothing but glistening snow, this can only refer to an avalanche. When you get caught in an avalanche, larger objects will naturally rise to the top while smaller objects will sink to the bottom. With an airbag, your life may be spared.

The entire purpose of avalanche airbags is to provide you with a safety measure against an avalanche. While there are other design features that make them great, it all comes back to safety. Below we have gathered  and reviewed the top ten best avalanche airbags in the market today to help you decide which one suits your adventure needs best. Read on to learn all about our top-rated airbags.

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By Melissa Coleiro:

This buying guide for avalanche airbags has been put together to show you the best researched and reviewed products to help save you while adventuring in the snow. A great avalanche airbag to keep your eye on is the BCA Float 32, known for including a dual-ice axe carrying system and has ample space for all of your gear and goodies.

BLACK DIAMOND NITRO 26
  • BLACK DIAMOND NITRO 26
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Zippered panel access
  • Price: See Here
BCA FLOAT 25
  • BCA FLOAT 25
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Ice axe carrying system
  • Price: See Here
ORTOVOX TOUR 32
  • ORTOVOX TOUR 32
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Adjustable suspension system
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Avalanche Airbag Packs

Black Diamond Nitro 26 Backpack

Black Diamond makes another appearance on this list and their Saga 40 and Halo 28 and now Nitro 26 are closer in practice than 100 to 101. Honestly, you could flip a coin to decide and both would satisfy your needs.
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Safety Features
Just as the others, the safety of the Nitro 26 all stems in its airbag. If you are really concerned, you can practice deploying this airbag as often as you like. As the inflation is powered by a rechargeable battery, you can charge it when it gets low.

Convenience
If need be, you can easily transport this pack onto an airport with no restrictions. In addition, the design allows the airbag to be deployed even while skis or snowboards are attached.

Comfortability
As with their other airbag, Black Diamond designed this pack with features as spacious capacity and reACTIV suspension for long, adventurous days in the mountains and beyond. It also is hydration compatible with external-access hydration sleeve optional.


Seller Options
You can select from either black or blue or red (for colors) and small/medium and it is fleece-lined electronics and comes with a zippered organizer pocket
Pros

Comes with fleece liner for your electronics

Has updated firmware

Features a trekking pole and ice axe attachment

Cons

Could have been larger capacity options available

May have wrinkles in the material

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS FLOAT 25

Three straight airbags receive a near-perfect rating, which tells you a little something about the quality. What more could be said about this upcoming airbag? It manages to excel in every area that a mountaineer would ask; which includes ease of use, storage, comfort and inflation technology.
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Safety Features
Backcountry utilizes a compressed air cylinder for this airbag which will instantly inflate the bag to 150 liters. In order to limit the force trauma from debris and hidden obstacles and to minimize the evacuation time, this will assist in keeping you near the surface.

Convenience
If you are with someone else, they may not as so fortunate as you. In order to minimize the time, it could take you to dig out your friend, probe and shovel sleeves allow for rescue tools.

Comfortability
A few key design features assist in the overall comfort. One, the waist belt is adjustable to tailor for certain fits. Second, the compression straps help stabilize the pack while you are in motion.

Storage Compartments
Overall, this will fit 32 liters of equipment. Past the main compartment which can fit several pieces of gear, there are also hip-belt zippered pockets and a goggle bag.

Seller Options
Do not be too picky here as there are no additional seller options, only a black color and 32-liters of capacity.

Overall
The minor gripe about this airbag (outside of refilling it at certified locations, which is more of a note than a gripe), which will be addressed shortly, is so minuscule that it would be criminal for you to pass it up because of it. But, it is there and looking through an objective lens, you should be aware of it.
Pros

Includes a dual-ice axe carrying system

Has ample space for all your gear and goodies

Has a very extensive network of cylinder refills

Cons

When the pack is full, the goggle pocket is hard to access

ORTOVOX TOUR 32

There are so many features that make the ORTOVOX TOUR 32 one of the best avalanche airbags in the market for even snowmobilers. The height has an adjustable waist belt for your torso length, it also has dual hip belt pockets and a fleece lined goggle pocket all to keep you organized and stay fitting.
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Safety Features
The air canister and cylinder is not included. You will need to purchase the air canister to keep you safe while adventuring in the snowy weather.

Convenience
The trigger can be on the left or right side which you get to choose to help with any convenience while in an emergency. There is also many external straps and attachments including a fixed leg strap and an internal and external shovel attachment to help too.

Storage Compartments
A fleece lined goggle pocket, while obviously possessing the capability to hold goggles, will also store your water bottle. For quick access to small items, there are pockets on both sides of the waist belt. There are also dual hip belt pockets for extra storage too.


Overall
This is a wonderful avalanche airbag and has many overall features and attachments that will help keep you safe and organized when in need. It is able to hold everything you need when traveling to the backcountry.
Pros

You can decide where to place the trigger

Multiple pockets on the waist belt for easy access

Cons

Must refill air cylinder at certified locations

Backcountry Access BCA Float 27

Backcountry Access BCA Float 27
This Backcountry Access BCA Float 27 is a great avalanche airbag with plenty of wonderful reviews. It comes with plenty of compartments to keep you organized including main compartments with an internal tool pocket for your shovel and probe.
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Safety Features
The Backcountry Access BCA Float 27 is one of the safest airbags on our list with its buoyancy feature to help while kayaking and 150-litre airbag to help you in any avalanche

Convenience
Not only can you practice deploying the airbag, the deployment system also guarantees that you can transport the pack on an airplane without needing to pick up canisters.

Comfortability
The vertical ski-carry shoulder straps allow for a backpack-style airbag. Meanwhile, the compression straps help in weight distribution.

Storage Compartments
There are many different storage compartments including an internal tool pocket for your shovel and probe and main compartments.


Overall
This avalanche airbag creates buoyancy and helps you float to the surface in any dangerous accident. Not only does this airbag decreases your burial depth but it also protects your neck and head from any trauma in an avalanche
Pros

Comes with compression straps

Internal pocket for shovel and probe

Can be taken through airports and on airplanes

Cons

It does not come with the cylinder

BCA MTNPRO

BCA MTNPRO
Now, this may be the most unique airbag to make its way onto this list. As the name implies, it is designed to work as a vest but it also features a pack for your gear. All in all, it is quite an ingenious design and one that many will admire.
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Safety Features
As with other avalanche airbags, the main design of this product is to save your life when you need to be pulled to the surface. Even though it has multiple uses, you can tell this was designed with a snowmobiler in mind.

Convenience
With the integrated vest, there are several convenient features that go alongside with it. For example, the integration for BC Link radios and transceivers and the option for either a left or right trigger mount.

Comfortability
On the front, sides and back of this vest/airbag, there is one mm of hard shell protection in-between multiple layers of PE foam. To aid your shoulders, the waist belt also takes the brunt of the weight.

Storage Compartments
On the vest itself, there are storage locations for essential items; including two zippered pockets. Past this, the low-profile pack can carry larger gear that you may have.
Seller Options
What you see is what you get here; both in terms of color design and size.

Overall
Clearly, this is a little different than a traditional avalanche airbag. But, it manages to not only be creative but also effective. If nothing else, the vest is a convenient location to store valuables you want to be kept safe and secure.
Pros

The weight is evenly distributed

Quick access radio storage

Convenient vest design with front pockets

Cons

Main storage could be more

BLACK DIAMOND HALO 28

BLACK DIAMOND HALO 28
Black Diamond integrates jet-fan inflation for their Halo 28 Airbag and that is certainly what is most notable here. Not only does this provide exceptional inflation power, it does so in the blink of an eye.
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Safety Features
Yes, jet-flan inflation technology is integrated here and it is fabulous. Besides the fact that it will inflate within four seconds, it will deflate after three minutes to create an air pocket. Plus, the system also performs a self-diagnosis on every start-up to conclude if there are any issues.

Convenience
Even while your skis are attached to this bag, the system will still deploy when needed. In addition, it is also easily repackable and provides zero-cost user practice and friendly performance.

Comfortability
The zippered back panel access system and reACTIV suspension system with SwingArm shoulder straps should deliver enough comfort for everyone.

Storage Compartments
Past the main compartment, which when totaled with everything else will hold either 26-liters or 28-liters of equipment (depending on the size you pick), there is an internal pocket, a hip-belt stash pocket, and an avy-tools pocket.

Seller Options
Black Diamond provides you with a few color and size options. For colors, select between either black or fire red. Sizes, on the other hand, consist of either small/medium (26-liters) or medium/large (28-liters).

Overall
Some may feel this does not offer enough capacity and that is fine, but do not overlook the other design features that make it spectacular. Features such as the amount of separate storage compartments, safety and inflation technology.
Pros

You do not need to refill an air canister

Has updated firmware

Features puncture-resistant material easy to repack

Cons

Could have been larger capacity options available

ARCTERYX VOLTAIR

ARCTERYX VOLTAIR
If you have followed the brand, anytime you see an Arcteryx product, then it will not be a surprise if it features some sort of weather protection. Besides this, they actually implement a battery design for their inflation.
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Safety Features
Safety is at the forefront here with a plethora of design features. This includes an impeller that is custom-engineered to increase the pressure for superior inflation, a single-leg safety loop that is connected with a carabiner and enough air to inflate even when minor abrasions are present.

Convenience
With a durable and seam-taped design, this airbag is highly water-resistant. In addition, the pack can secure a single ice tool and features compressions straps for skis and snowboards.

Comfortability
While the adjustable sternum strap allows you to get the best fit possible, the compressions straps will help stabilize the pack when you are carrying skis or snowboards.

Storage Compartments
Past the dual main compartments, also integrated is an internal security pocket and an internal waterproof sleeve. All this considered, you can expect to hold up to 30 liters of gear and accessories.

Seller Options
The 30-liter capacity is the only size option, but you can select between two different colors (either black or cayenne).

Overall
When you see something from Arcteryx, you can expect only the best in craftsmanship and design. Their Voltair airbag is certainly no different and while it is not the cheapest version in the world, good luck finding any better.
Pros

The battery delivers several uses on one charge

It is water-resistant with the seams taped

Design is glove-friendly

Cons

Compartment for the ice tools could be built tougher

BLACK DIAMOND SAGA 40

BLACK DIAMOND SAGA 40
Black Diamond makes another appearance on this list and their Saga 40 and Halo 28 are closer in practice than 100 to 101. Honestly, you could flip a coin to decide and both would satisfy your needs. But, the Saga 40, in specific, does have minor blimps that slightly hurt its overall rating.
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Safety Features
Just as the others, the safety of the Saga 40 all stems in its airbag. If you are really concerned, you can practice deploying this airbag as often as you like. As the inflation is powered by a rechargeable battery, you can charge it when it gets low.

Convenience
If need be, you can easily transport this pack onto an airport with no restrictions. In addition, the design allows the airbag to be deployed even while skis or snowboards are attached.

Comfortability
As with their other airbag, Black Diamond designed this pack with a reACTIV suspension system with SwingArm shoulder straps. Plus, they also included a zippered back panel access.

Storage Compartments
All sorts of compartments are integrated here including an avalanche tools pocket, hip-belt stash pocket and a zippered top accessory pocket. But, all in all, expect to hold either 38 or 40-liters of gear (depending on the size you choose).

Seller Options
You can select from either black or fire red (for colors) and small/medium (38-liters) or medium/large (40-liters).

Overall
If not for a few minor flaws, this could have received an even higher rating. But, do not let this placement fool you, the competition is just really stiff and elite.
Pros

Utilizes a jet-fan inflation system to provide air

Repacking the airbag is incredibly simple

Rechargeable system allows you to always practice

Cons

Putting the clips back when they unravel is annoying

Mammut Light Removable 3.0

Mammut Light Removable 3.0
If you're looking for lightweight, look no further than the Mammut Light Removable 3.0. It's sized appropriately for most day tours and is the lightest airbag pack in the 30-liter volume range. You don't have to spend a ton to save a pound or more vs typical balloon pack models.
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Safety Features
Innovation is key here as Mammut has implemented a design to minimize the chance that your breathing is obscured when the airbag inflates and opens. The airbag opens in a horseshoe-esque manner to concentrate the floatation behind and above your head so you are facing above the snow.

Convenience
To ensure that the pack does not escape from your grasp, there are included leg loops for security.

Comfortability
Even with this pack loaded to the brim, you are still promised a comfortable ride. The pack fits a lot of people, from 5'4" to 6'2".

Storage Compartments
This pack doesn't have a ton in extra features, but it has a zippered pocket on the side of the waist belt and a fixed gear loop on the other. There is also a small zippered pocket on the top of the pack to help keep small items from getting lost. It is also hydration system compatible.

Seller Options
While you can’t pick from any other color option (just black), you can select a 35-liter or 45-liter model.

Overall
The Mammut Light Removable Airbag is a unique pack that will work for most backcountry skiers. It's lightweight, with a simple design, that can still hold plenty of your gear.
Pros
  • Extremely light
  • Moves well
  • bomber suspension
Cons
  • Not many features
  • No dedicated snow safety gear pocket

Backcountry Access Float 32

Backcountry Access Float 32
Backcountry is known for making exceptional outdoor adventure gear and their Backcountry Access Float 32 is another great product. This avalanche airbag has many different features making it a popular choice including having a fleece-lined goggle pocket to zippers with DWR coating and even is hydration compatible. This product may even save your life.
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Safety Features
The Float 32s 150-liter airbag creates buoyancy and minimizes burial depth and also protects your head and neck from trauma in an avalanche. This bag does not include the float 2.0 cylinder and so does not guarantee your survival. The cylinder must be purchased separately.

Convenience
There are many special features in the Backcountry Access Float 32 including its dedicated shovel and probe storage compartment as well as a helmet carry to keep you organized.

Comfortability
This avalanche airbag is very comfortable when it comes to long voyages and has wonderful ratings on its comfort and durability.

Overall Thoughts
There are several different storage compartments including several special pockets and comes with an adjustable waist belt. It is also made with DWR durable water-resistant materials.
Pros

Several different colors

Features an adjustable suspension system

Features a DWR durable water-resistant coating

Cons

That it does not come with the Float 2.0 Cylinder

The Main Points We Looked At For Our List

The Overall Design and Safety of the Inflation Technology

If they are not integrated with the utmost safety in mind and do not perform what they should, then they turn into an overpriced backpack. Anyway, one of the key design elements to take note of is the way the airbag is activated. Typically, this will either be by compression air or a battery or jet-fan.

Even though both are great, those with batteries or jet-fans do hold the advantage in terms of inflation. Here is why. With compressed air, you must get the cylinders refilled with air every time you use it. Not only this but you must do so at certified locations. With a battery-operated airbag, you can simply recharge the battery and are good to go. Again, both work fantastic but one is clearly more convenient. But, there are also other safety features to keep an eye out for. Features such as the system performing a self-diagnosis to see if there are any issues, inflating air in even when abrasions are present and even a locking clasp to prevent accidental activation.

Integrated Convenient Features

To be honest, these types of features are not necessary but they are ones to keep an eye out for. After all, anything that offers convenience to you is a positive. The question is, what is deciphered as a convenient feature? Well, as stupid and obvious as this is going to sound, any feature could classify. In reality, this entire guide could have been dedicated to it. This section is more for those features that are terrific but do not have a specific section they fall into with other airbags.

This could include the inclusion of leg loops for security. When an avalanche hits, the worst thing that could happen is for you to lose your pack. Also, how about water-resistance? You do not see it very often, but some designers will integrate water-resistant technology. Or, this could be as simple as having the option to choose which side the trigger mount goes on. Do you feel more comfortable activating the trigger with your left or right hand? Those that give you the option may appeal to you more.

How Comfortable They Are for Long Journeys

Safety and convenience are both great, but it can be argued that comfort is just as important (or even more). On long journeys, your back and legs will be aching so it is helpful when you have a pack that is not exaggerating the pain. Of all the specific comfort implementations to look for, perhaps the most important is adjustability. With packs, it is nice when you are given the option to adjust the shoulder straps and waist belt (if one is there). At times, you may want it tighter to fit snug to your body. However, this can grow tiresome and you may want the option to loosen it up. With avalanche airbags that offer a stable fit, it can quickly become a hindrance.

However, it does not stop there as padding and stabilization are also important. Padding is self-explanatory, as straps can get uncomfortable on your shoulders after too long. But, features such as a thermo-molded back panel and compression straps will assist in the overall fit and stabilization of the weight.

The Storage They Provide

There is a high likelihood that when you are off on your adventure, you will need to bring along gear and accessories for the trip. Why tag along another bag when most airbags provide you with enough storage space? That is if you choose the right one. It is important to analyze the different sections of storage that are designed into an airbag. For example, are there pockets on the outside for valuables, pockets on the hip belt, or interior compartments for accessories?

But, probably more importantly, what do you intend on using your avalanche airbag for? Is it for weekend trips or all-day adventures? This is an extremely important question as it will decide the capacity that you aim for. Speaking in a general sense, a pack that holds 20 to 35-liters of volume will work best as a daypack. Beyond this, packs from 40-liters to 50-liters will adapt for weekend trips.

Size and Other Options

A lot of times, you will only get one choice when it comes to airbags. At least, this is the case with most on this list. However, that does not mean it is not important as even a slightly different option can make the difference. For example, deciding between a 35-liter (great for a day) and 45-liter (better for weekends) version of the same bag. Though, color can also play a role. Unlike other types of gear and accessories, manufacturers do not put too much of an emphasis on color scheme and design. But, you will run across those that give you a few different color options. Not hugely important, as it certainly does not overshadow features like safety and comfort, but still something to ponder.

FAQ

Q: How Effective are Avalanche Airbags?

You know, it seems like a million-to-one chance that you could survive something as detrimental as an avalanche. However, as Dr. Pascal Haegeli (a doctor from the University of British Columbia) tried to prove an avalanche airbag can significantly increase your chances of survival. Dr. Haegeli conducted a study and concluded that those who have an avalanche airbag, in the instance that an avalanche hits, will see their survival rate double as compared to those who do not have it.

Though, it can’t be stressed enough that this is not guaranteed to save your life. While your chances increase, you can still fall victim to the furious disaster. Most of the time, as Haegeli points out, terrain traps such as gullies, cliffs, crevasses, and trees can cause you head trauma. However, having a 50 percent higher likelihood of survival is certainly not too shabby.   

Q: How Do You Refill or Exchange a Compressed Air Cylinder?

If you choose to forego a battery-operated or jet-fan operated avalanche airbag, then you may have to deal with compressed air cylinders. As stated before, this means that you must get them refilled at certified locations for future uses. But, that is a little vague so let’s further explain the process. Let’s say you are dealing with a BCA (Back Country Access) air cylinder, they have an extensive network of refill locations that are published on their Refill Center Locator web page.  

Examples of these locations include fire stations and SCUBA and paintball shops. Also, with BCA, they offer you an exchange program in which you can exchange empty air cylinders for full ones at their location. Basically, you want to ensure that you are near a refill center because if you are not, you may have a hard time finding the means to get compressed air for your cylinder.

Q: Will These Work in a Heavy Avalanche?

It may be hard for you to understand at first, but avalanche airbags actually work better when the snow is heavier and thicker. With the way that they work, floating to the surface because they are larger than other objects, the heavier the snow, the greater the density. For math and physics majors, you will then know that this means a lower volume. While it is not important to fully understand the algorithm that goes with this, take this into example. When the snow is wet and heavy, there is not as much volume that is required from the airbag to float you to the surface. However, when it is light and fluffy, it may require more volume and thus more air. Even though it seems confusing and backward, you are better off getting hit with heavy snow than light.

Q: How Often Should You Test an Avalanche Airbag?

This is the one area of concern for compressed air cylinders. Because you must get them refilled after each use, you may try to save your time and money and forego running a test to ensure there are no issues. However, can you imagine anything worse than having an avalanche approach and having your airbag have malfunctions? In this case, the airbag will do you no good and your chances of survival will be cut in half. But, for battery-operated airbags, you can test them as many times as you please as you can simply recharge the battery.

No matter, though, you should partake in a test run every once in a while. For instance, BCA encourages doing so at least once per year. Given that you should not run into avalanches very often, once should more than suffice. Honestly, there is a high probability you will hardly ever use your airbag but when you need to, it is comforting to know it already worked.

Q: Can You Fly with an Avalanche Airbag?

It is important for you to understand that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) will not allow air cylinders on commercial airlines. That is, as long as they are filled with air. If you keep them empty, then they will be allowed. If you need to travel via airlines and you want to bring along your compressed air cylinder avalanche airbag, this would be an ideal time to test it as the canister needs to be free from air.

However, the TSA will check inside to ensure that it is empty (and nothing else peculiar is inside). As such, before they even have the chance you could separate the head from the cylinder. From there, you will be good to go. But, more importantly, ensure that a refill center is near your destination. BCA, in specific, aims to do their best to have refill centers near every resort and every city near a ski area.  

Q: Is It Really Necessary to Use a Leg Strap?

It is safe to assume that some of you may think it is overkill for a leg strap to be included in an avalanche airbag. Just as some may believe that riding a bike with a helmet is not necessary. But, if you do not have the hip strap pulled tightly on the pack then there is a chance the pack will be pulled over your head when an avalanche hits. However, if you have it attached to your leg then this will be prevented. Of course, if you securely tighten the hip strap then you may not feel the need for a leg strap. Basically, it is an extra precaution and it can also assist in saving your life.  

Final Thoughts

When you are skiing, snowboarding, or partaking in an adventure that revolves around a giant mountain of snow, you must be prepared for the chance of an avalanche. It may sound crazy, but it can happen to you. While you can’t stop it, you can increase your chances of survival by investing in an avalanche airbag. Of course, as you now know, they offer many other benefits. Now that you have read the top ten best avalanche airbags you have a better idea which one truly fits your style. So for your next snowboarding or skiing adventure you can make sure you stay extra safe! 

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