In a groundbreaking test in spring 2001, Frank Tschirky, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos, Switzerland, and his colleagues set off avalanches with 13 crash test dummies. Seven of the dummies were equipped with airbags. The dummies with airbags were buried less deep and were visible from the surface compared to those without. All but one dummy, without airbags, were completely buried and had to be located with an avalanche transceiver.
The bottom line: Airbags keep an avalanche victim closer to the surface.
An airbag pack is proactive safety, whereas a transceiver is reactive. If I had to make a choice, I’d pick an airbag.Bruce Edgerly, co-founder of Backcountry Access (BCA) of Boulder, CO,
At 22-liters, the BCA Float 22 Airbag Pack is day trip size, relatively lightweight and less spendy than the Euro options. When the 150-liter airbag is deployed, it creates the needed buoyancy and helps you float to the surface, decreasing your burial depth but also protecting your head and neck from trauma, in an avalanche. The Float 22 has a thin profile and enough volume to carry rescue tools, lunch, water, and extra layers. From a usable pack standard, it’s clean, simple and offers the essentials for day touring. The airbag system has been dramatically streamlined from previous models, and this accounts for some of the pack’s overall weight reduction.
One of the standout features of the BCA Float packs is that BCA’s airbag system uses compressed air canisters rather than nitrogen or CO2 gas found in other systems. The Float’s compressed air system is easily recharged at outdoor shops, or dive shops, around the world. BCA also uses a simple mechanical trigger versus an explosively charged one-shot system. BCA has 165 certified refill locations, around the world, making it the easiest refillable airbag system on the market.
Weight: 5.5 pounds / 2495 grams (entire system including cylinder), 4.2 pounds / 1905 grams (pack, airbag, engine, no cylinder), 2.45 pounds / 1111 grams (pack only, no airbag,engine, or cylinder)
Volume: 1342 cubic inches / 22 liters