Weight: 2.3 kg
Size: 15 Liters
I started looking for an airbag pack with a few criteria in mind. I know that I will be using the pack in very specific situations. For fast and light ski tours, an airbag is not only too heavy, but also unnecessary as avalanche terrain is usually avoided. For long distance, multi-day ski tours, a large overnight bag is required and the added weight of an airbag is not worth the effort as again, avalanche terrain is generally avoided. This leaves day trips to areas in avalanche terrain, either lift-served or accesed by skinning. These days usually involve one or multiple steep descents, my previous post on Mt. Fissile is a good example.
For these days, a small amount of gear is carried. A thin, low-profile bag is convenient for riding the chairlift when in-bounds. (My current bag is an REI Flash 18, a simple and light bag with an easy open/close top.) My two main criteria for choosing a bag were 1) a small, low-profile bag and 2) one that used the LifeBag system where the airbag inflates in a manner that completely surrounds you in order to protect your head and neck from trauma as well as burial. (See photo)
Though slightly skeptical about the cost versus usefullness of airbag packs, I picked up the Snowpulse ProRider 15 from The Escape Route in Squamish. The 15L size is small but I was still able to fit all the essentials for a full day of touring. Below you can see the bag fully packed and laid open.
The bag contains: Shovel/probe, hat, gloves, spare upper body layer, Nalgene water bottle, googles, camera, and my lunch.
Saturday and Sunday, I headed to the Duffy Lake Road for two days of tree skiing on Joffre Should and Mt. Chief Pascal. Between both days we skied 6 laps and over 2500m of vertical ascent.
The full zipper, allowing the bag to be completely unfolded was great for digging down to find things at the bottom. With a top loader like the REI Flash, this would require removing everything, an unpleasant thing to do when the wind is blowing and it is dumping wet coastal snow. Unfortunately, the zipper and the fabric around it is extremely stiff and it makes it hard to close the bag, even when completely empty.
The chest and waist straps are plenty beefy and easy to adjust but I found the shoulder straps extremely uncomfortable. Even on the first climb of the day I could feel them digging into my shoulder. With the LifeBag system, the airbag is partially stored in the shoulder straps in order to deploy around the body. Because of this, the straps are extremely bulky and hard. I believe this to be the reason for the discomfort. Even with the airbag system, my pack was one of the lightest in our group so weight should not have been a factor let alone cause shoulder pain.
- LifeBag System provides excellent protection.
- Thin, low-profile – easy to ride the lifts, plenty of space, reasonable weight.
- Good quality ice axe and ski attachment.
- Easy to deploy trigger handle.
- Fully unfoldable main compartment.
- Hard shoulder straps cause pain.
- Stiff zipper difficult to use with gloves on.
- Price (obviously)
Bottom Line: I returned the bag to Escape Route (they have a reasonable two week return policy) with the promise that I would be back. I plan to keep looking until I find something is either significantly less expensive or more comfortable but I dont want to compromise on both. I suspect this may be coming in the next few years.