Best Avalanche Airbags in 2021

Avalanche Airbag

Published: July 14, 2021

Skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling come with risks, especially when off-piste. And one of these risks is being caught in an avalanche. Wearing a backpack or vest that has an avalanche airbag has proved to increase survival rate, and can save lives by preventing burial. That is why more and more people are investing in these gears.

A backpack with an airbag system includes a large balloon or balloons that inflate by just pulling a cord, and is designed to make the wearer rise to the surface of the snow, thus preventing burial in the event of an avalanche. They have been shown to work effectively, and are a good investment when going off-piste.

There are lots of avalanche airbags on the market, which is why we have listed the best ones for you to choose from.

**Brief disclaimer:
This article only serves as a guide for comparison of avalanche airbags, and does not promote the use of an airbag pack without proper knowledge. Thus, if you are a beginner backcountry enthusiast, we encourage you to take an AIARE Level 1 avalanche course. Furthermore, Lanceview.com, its associates, affiliates, and partners will not be held responsible for any harm or injury that arises from the use of these products.

Best Avalanche Airbag: Our Quick Answer

 

Go to Comparison Table

Best overall

1. Backcountry Access Float 22 2.0

Backcountry Access Float 22 2.0

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 6.2 lbs.

Volume: 22L

Type: Canister/Cartridge

The Backcountry Access Float 22 is the best airbag backpack when going on backcountry adventures, including sidecountry, heli, cat skiing, and snowboarding.

What we like about the Backcountry Access Float 22 is that it is an all-around avalanche backpack, because it is suitable for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, and functions well for day-touring. The Float 22 uses compressed air for inflation, and features the new 2.0 cylinder, which is 30% smaller and 15% lighter than the older version, meaning it can be stored inside the airbag compartment instead of the main compartment. It also features a compartment for your BC Link radios, a hydration sleeve, dual zippered shoulder straps, and a molded back panel. Its cylinder can be refilled by Backcountry Access, or an authorized retail location, which is available in 200 locations around the world.

The Float 22 also has straps on its front pack to allow for a vertical snowboard carry. Its airbag deploys from the top of the pack above your head, so you can come to a stop in a heads up position, which will increase the odds of you being on top of the debris when the avalanche stops. The airbag system is removable, making it interchangeable too. Unlike the older version, the Float 22 allows the trigger to be worn inside either shoulder strap, and you can customize the height of this trigger with the use of four horizontal webbing loops on the strap’s compartment to make it easier to grab. The other side of the shoulder strap is compatible with a hydration tube. The overall layout of the Float 22 now features a larger and longer safety gear pocket to accommodate the most average sized probes, saws, and shovels. Other features include a large zippered hip belt pocket, and its internal mesh pocket allows for storage of smaller and easily lost items.

What we do not like about the Backcountry Access Float 22 is that it only comes in one frame size, and is not compatible with 1.0 cartridges. Thus, it is not big enough for all-day touring, except if you pack light. All in all, this airbag pack has a great design, is lightweight, and inexpensive. It possesses user-friendly features that makes it versatile as an all-around avalanche airbag backpack.


 

Best lightweight airbag

2. Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0

Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 5.6 lbs

Volume: 30L

Type: Canister/Cartridge

The Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0 is the lightest avalanche airbag backpack in the 30L volume range.

What we like about the Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0 is that it is appropriately sized for day tours, and it is versatile and functional. It features Mammut’s 3.0 airbag system, which is still compatible with 2.0 cartridges. Plus, it is made with more robust materials, and packs smaller than the 2.0 version. It is also 30% lighter and 20% smaller than the older version. Its deployment handle is customizable to your height, and its inflation system has also been updated to accommodate both the air volume amplifier and deployment mechanism together to save weight and space. It also features a dedicated pocket for your gear, and an extra gear loop. This pack uses Mammut’s Protection Airbag System (PAS) that offers an airbag that wraps around your head for great trauma protection. It also uses compressed air canisters, and is refillable at most outdoor gear shops, dive, or paintball shops.

The Light Removable Airbag features a diagonal ski carrier that is compatible with wide skis and splitboards, and even traditional snowboards via a vertical carry. Its straps continue all the way around the pack to offer compression and an option to carry skis in an A-frame style — although carrying skis in an A-frame style is not recommended, as it can affect the airbag’s deployment.

What we do not like about the Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0 is that it has no dedicated safety gear pocket, and it does not have that many features. Overall, this avalanche airbag backpack is the best lightweight pack in its class, and is recommended for those looking for simplicity and functionality.


 

Best canister-powered airbag

3. Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag

Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 5.8 lbs.

Volume: 30L

Type: Canister/Cartridge

The Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag is suitable for anyone who likes to set out on long days off-piste.

What we like about the Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag is that it has numerous high-performance touring features, ski carry methods, and it is perfect for carrying a larger load, since it offers 30L of usable volume, which leaves plenty of room for your essentials. Unlike most airbag packs, the Ascent 30 Avabag allows you to practice deployment without the canister. It has been designed with touring in mind, and features an ergonomically padded hip belt. Plus, the shoulder straps are designed to distribute weight when turning and twisting. It also offers a 3D foam back system to maximize protection on your back. It has a front compartment for storing smaller valuables, and it is hydration-system compatible. It also has a key holder, and an emergency card for easy identification. Other features include a diagonal ski carry, a rope fastener to allow you to attach your mountaineering ropes to the top of the backpack, and a safety leg strap. Furthermore, you can access the main compartment easily with the use of a two-way front zipper.

What we do not like about the Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag is that it has a heavy airbag unit, and the material used is not the most durable. All in all, this is the best canister-powered airbag that gives an option to practice deployment, and is removable and interchangeable with Ortovox’s full lineup of airbag backpacks.


 

Best avalanche airbag vest

4. Backcountry Access Float MtnPro Vest

Backcountry Access Float MtnPro Vest

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 7.5 lbs

Volume: 20L

Type: Canister/Cartridge

The Backcountry Access Float MtnPro vest is designed for extreme winter enthusiasts, and is now 6% lighter than the previous version.

What we like about the BCA Float Mountain Pro vest is that it is lightweight and breathable, and is incorporated with an avalanche bag. Comfortable and not intrusive, this vest is designed not to interfere with your normal body movement. An avalanche backpack may be a bit bulky to wear, so most people prefer a vest, which will not restrict their ability to have full control of their equipment. The Float MtnPro vest is designed to accommodate other Backcountry Access products, like an avi beacon, BC link radio, and few other essentials, such as hydration systems. Its hard shell and polyethylene foam will provide full front, back, and side protection. Its airbag consists of a small compressed-air cylinder that is refillable and can fill a 150L bag by just pulling a cord. Its trigger has multiple positions, making it easier to adjust to your riding style, and offers multiple adjustments, including hip belt and side panel adjustments. It also has a dedicated external pouch for a transceiver, and a tether loop for a snowmobile kill switch.

What we do not like about the Backcountry Access (BCA) Float Mountain, or MtnPro, is that its zippers are a bit difficult to manipulate. But overall, this is the best avalanche airbag vest that has a foam-wrapped hard shell on its front, back, and sides, to provide optimum protection without restricting movements.


 

Best for touring

5. Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L

Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 5.7 lbs

Volume: 26L

Type: Electric Fan

The Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L is a solid, all-around, electronic avalanche airbag, which is also one of the best safety gear for touring.

What we like about the Jetforce Tour 26L is its user-friendly design. Indeed, it features a Alpride’s E1 electronic airbag system, and this is the first airbag pack that utilizes a supercapacitor to power the fan. Black Diamond is one of the two companies that is currently allowed to license the supercapacitor technology of Alpride, which is far better at providing power in a short period of time than a traditional battery. The Jetforce Tour 26L also comes with a micro USB cable, so that you can plug it into an outlet for charging. It can be completely charged in around 20 minutes, and can also be charged with two AA batteries for just around 40 minutes. Alpiride also claims that the charge is good for three months when stored in the ‘OFF’ position. Each charge is good for only one airbag deployment, but if you carry extra sets of double AA batteries, you can get one deployment per set, which means you can practice and become familiar with your bag easily. The pack’s trigger is interchangeable, meaning it can be set on either the right or left shoulder. This system uses a mechanical trigger, which is more reliable in the long run. It also features a huge safety gear pocket for larger probes and shovels. Even though it only has 26L of volume, it is already large enough for most people, even for all-day touring. It also features a helmet carrier, which is easy and quick to deploy, as well as an internal zippered pocket inside the snow safety gear pocket, and a stow-away diagonal carry system. Finally, it has a single small zippered hip belt, and a gear loop on one side for racking gear.

What we do not like about the Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L is that it has wide shoulder straps and frame length that are most likely geared for taller and bigger body builds. Overall, this pack is comfortable and can handle weight well. It comes in S/M and M/L sizes, and gives a good balance of comfort and support, making it an excellent all-around pack for backcountry touring.


 

Best for snowmobiling

6. Snowpulse Highmark Spire 3.0 PAS

Snowpulse Highmark Spire 3.0 PAS

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 6.10 lbs

Volume: 18L

Type: Canister/Cartridge

The Snowpulse Highmark Spire 3.0 PAS is one of the best sledding-specific designs on the market.

What we like about the Snowpulse Highmark Spire is that it features the lightest weight airbag technology, the Snowpulse 3.0, which is now owned by Mammut. This 3.0 inflation system incorporates an air volume amplifier and deployment mechanism into just one housing, thus reducing the overall weight and size of the pack. In the Spire 3.0, it uses the same pressure cartridge system as the previous versions, so you do not have to worry about purchasing a new cylinder. This vest is one of the most popular airbag vests used for snowmobiling or sledding, and the most admired one for its Protection Airbag System that wraps around the head and shoulders when deployed to provide trauma protection and floatation in an avalanche. One of the advantages of this vest airbag is the fit, as it wraps around your body and takes the weight off your shoulders, thus providing more freedom of movement. Other features include an exterior shovel carry, compression straps for adjustability, and inside the pack is a sleeve for your probe and two zipper pockets. It also comes with an adjustment for handle height, so you can move the handle position up or down. It also has two pockets on the front for your transceiver and other essentials.

What we do not like about the Snowpulse Highmark Spire however is that its back portion is quite long, and it does not offer enough space inside. So, you have to think about what essentials you want to put in your pack and what can go on your sled. Overall, this airbag vest offers the latest and lightest technology, as well as a quality protection system, making it the best avalanche airbag for snowmobiling.


 

Best budget airbags

7. Backcountry Access Float 32

Backcountry Access Float 32

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 7.06 lbs

Volume: 32L

Type: Canister/Cylinder

The Backcountry Access Float 32 is a good value option for those looking for inexpensive, yet quality airbag packs.

What we like about the Backcountry Access Float 32 is that it features the Float 2.0 cylinder that is 15% lighter and 30% smaller than on the previous version, and is stored inside the airbag compartment to free up space on the pack’s main compartment. It also has straps for a vertical snowboard carry, and an ice axe storage inside the front tool compartment. It utilizes a single 150L airbag that inflates above your head when deployed. Plus, the size and shape of the airbag are similar to that of the Mammut RAS series. It is also removable and interchangeable. Its pull trigger is now modular, and can be worn on either the right or left shoulder strap. Backcountry Access uses a simple mechanical system that is reliable, but needs to be checked regularly. Its cartridge uses a pretty standard fitting as well, and can be refilled at most scuba, paintable, and outdoor gear shops. Additionally, the Backcountry Access Float 32 features a huge dedicated snow safety gear pocket, and has 32L of usable volume. It can carry skis in an A-frame style, and has an easy-to-use diagonal carry system that is quick and easy to set up. Furthermore, its compression straps can be flipped around and clipped across to carry a traditional snowboard vertically. It also has an attached helmet holder that is stowable and easily deployable, and now features two medium-sized zippered hip belt pockets, which aren’t found on older versions. Additionally, it features an adjustable hip belt, a fleece-lined goggle pocket, twin ice axe holders, and an internal ice axe holder, so that it can avoid the airbag if deployed.

What we do not like about the Backcountry Access Float 32 is that it only comes in one size, which may not fit shorter people. All in all, this pack is comfortable and provides a good balance of support and freedom of movement. Plus, it is inexpensive.


 

Best of the rest

8. Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 30

Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 30

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 5.14 lbs

Volume: 30L

Type: Electric Fan

The Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 is also one of the lightest supercapacitor-powered airbag packs on the market.

What we like about the Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 is that it utilizes Alpride E1, a supercapacitor technology, as well as an electronic trigger with buttons and LED lights. It is similar to canister-based airbag packs, which are light and easy to grab. This avalanche airbag backpack fits a wide range of people, and is comfortable and well-fitting for ascent and descent. Its 30L volume is enough to accommodate your basic gear and essentials. It also has a top pocket with fleece lining, separate sleeves on the main compartment for safety equipment, a stow-away ice axe or pole fixation, versatile daisy chain loops, and light hip belt with a safety leg loop. It also has an inside map pocket with a key holder, helmet fixation, and sternum strap with emergency whistle. Additionally, it has a diagonal ski carry system, side compression straps for an A-frame ski carry system, and a front snowboard fixation function.

Its E1 system can be charged via a micro USB cable, or two AA batteries. Charging it via the USB cable will take around 20-40 minutes, while charging it with AA batteries takes around 40-80 minutes, and also depends on the batteries. A fully charged unit is good for a 3-5-month use when it is turned off for storage, and about 1-3 months when left on.

What we do not like about the Scott Backcountry Patrol E1, on the other hand, is that it’s not roomy enough for carrying specialized gear. But overall, it provides an excellent fit, and has the best all-around airbag system.


 

9. Arcteryx Voltair 30L

Arcteryx Voltair 30L

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 7.10 lbs

Volume: 30L

Type: Electric Fan

The Arc’teryx Voltair 30 is a good all-around pack that comes with quality features, making it suitable for everything from day tours to hut-hut ski tours.

What we like about the Arc’teryx Voltair 30L is that it features a 22.2 Volt lithium-ion battery in its airbag system, which is capable of inflating the bag 20 times in 14-degree weather. The airbag system has a 150L bag, which is a wrap-around design to protect your head from trauma. It also has a mechanical trigger, which is slightly more reliable than an electric one. This trigger also easily identifies whether the pack is ready to go or not. The Voltair features a leg strap, and a mini carabiner into the waist belt that is easy to clip and unclip even with just one hand. This pack only comes in one regular size, and can fit most people between 5’4 and 6’2. It offers the best articulation and supportive airbag, compared to most avalanche airbag packs. It is very comfortable, even if you have to carry heavier loads. The Voltair also features an avy gear pocket that is big enough to accommodate 300cm probes. It also features larger shovels, and has room for skins. Finally, it offers a diagonal and vertical ski carry that is easy to use.

What we do not like about the Arcteryx Voltair 30L is that it is one of the heavier airbag packs in its category. But all in all, this pack has the best airbag system on the market, it fits well, it is extremely water-resistant, and it is easy to travel with.


 

10 ABS Avalanche Twin Airbag Pack

ABS Avalanche Twin Airbag Pack

Click to view on amazon.com.

Weight: 6.17 lbs

Volume: 15/30L

Category: Canister/Cartridge

The ABS Avalanche Airbag pack has been redesigned or renewed to be simple, safe, light, and fast.

What we like about the ABS avalanche airbag pack is that it utilizes Pyro Tech, the proven pyrotechnical ABS release system. It has a unique airbag system with two independent airbags, where one can still function to protect you even if the other one is punctured or damaged. These airbags have 170L of volume, and range from about knee-height to above the head to keep your entire body protected, and will provide needed floatation to remain on top of the debris. They use compressed nitrogen with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism. This compressed nitrogen is in a smaller canister, and will take up less room in your pack than that of a compressed air canister. The canister can be filled at ABS headquarters, or swapped with an ABS canister exchange at any certified ABS exchange center.

The Pyro trigger in this pack is very easy to pull, and its handle can be switched up from right to left. ABS also has a wireless system, so that you can use it with any ABS system, and remotely set off your buddies’ airbags.

What we do not like about the ABS avalanche airbag pack, however, is that it may be too long for most users. But overall, this pack is comfortable, and has adequate features that suit backcountry sledding, and ski touring missions.


Best Avalanche Airbags Comparison Table

Foto Avalanche Airbags Weight Volume Type
Backcountry Access Float 22 2.0

1. Backcountry Access Float 22 2.0

6.2 lbs.22LCanister/Cartridge
Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0

2. Mammut Light Removable Airbag 3.0

5.6 lbs30LCanister/Cartridge
Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag

3. Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag

5.8 lbs.30LCanister/Cartridge
Backcountry Access Float MtnPro Vest

4. Backcountry Access Float MtnPro Vest

7.5 lbs20LCanister/Cartridge
Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L

5. Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L

5.7 lbs26LElectric Fan
Snowpulse Highmark Spire 3.0 PAS

6. Snowpulse Highmark Spire 3.0 PAS

6.10 lbs18LCanister/Cartridge
Backcountry Access Float 32

7. Backcountry Access Float 32

7.06 lbs32LCanister/Cylinder
Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 30

8. Scott Backcountry Patrol E1 30

5.14 lbs30LElectric Fan
Arcteryx Voltair 30L

9. Arcteryx Voltair 30L

7.10 lbs30LElectric Fan
ABS Avalanche Twin Airbag Pack

10. ABS Avalanche Twin Airbag Pack

6.17 lbs15/30LCanister/Cartridge

 

FAQs

How effective are avalanche airbags?

Studies show that the risk of critical burial for victims who don’t carry an avalanche airbag is 47%, while the risk for victims with an inflated airbag are down to 20.1%. An avalanche airbag can potentially save one’s life. It is a unique emergency equipment that will help you avoid a full body burial, which is the main cause of death among most avalanche victims. In 2007, Brugger’s study showed that there is a 81% success rate for those without a deployed airbag, and a 97% success rate for those who deployed an airbag. While airbags and transceivers are there to help in the event of an avalanche, they still are not a perfect solution, and we must not depend on them. Thus, having proper knowledge and experience is much needed when going off-piste.

Do I need an avalanche airbag?

Airbags are more effective in moderately sized avalanches in an open terrain, without trees and cliffs. Hence, it may not help you in the event of a huge avalanche, or a tiny slide, because these could bury you. Avalanche airbags may be a huge investment, but they are an essential safety device. They are as important as your probe, shovel, and beacon. Additionally, it is better to be prepared when going on extreme adventures.

Buying guide

We do not recommend buying an airbag right away without proper knowledge and experience. Thus, our guide below is only here to provide additional information about some factors you should consider when choosing an avalanche airbag.

What type of riding will you be doing?

Airbag backpacks vary in features, sizes, and volumes, so it is best to know what type of riding you will be doing to determine what pack is best for you.

How about an airline compliant bag?

Airlines may have different rules and regulations in regards to traveling with airbag packs and cartridges, hence, it is best to check with your airline before flying. Electric fan-powered airbags can make travel easier, because you’ll avoid the need to travel with an empty cartridge, and just refill or replace it upon arrival.

Transferring the airbag and inflation mechanism to another?

Some manufacturers have airbag models that offer this option. These make it possible to use the same airbag interior features with multiple styles and sizes of packs.

Does it fit your torso length and body types?

Yes, some airbags are available in more than one length.

Determining your budget?

Avalanche airbag packs come in a wide range of price points, and may come out as a huge investment.

How about the ski or snowboard carry system?

Some avalanche airbag backpacks limit the ways you can attach items, so that it would not block the airbag apparatus and avoid puncturing it.

What about comfort?

Regardless of its functionality, you still want an avalanche airbag backpack or vest that is comfortable to hike and ride in.

How an avalanche airbag works

For airbags with a canister activation system, a compressed gas container is attached internally to the system, and upon deployment, the system releases the airbag by filling it with air from this canister.

Different airbag manufacturers use different mechanisms.

The ABS system makes use of a small pneumatic pyrotechnic charge to be able to puncture the canister, and release the gas into the airbag. BCA, on the other hand, uses a cable system to release canister pins, and release the gas to inflate the airbag. In both cases, once deployed, the system will inflate within 3-5 seconds, and will provide additional volume to help you stay afloat, or partially above the debris of an avalanche.

As opposed to popular beliefs, it is not the air in an airbag that keeps you afloat in the snow. An airbag system works on the principle of inverse segregation, meaning that an item of a higher volume will rise to the surface when agitated in a granular medium. In the case of an avalanche, this means that smaller items will sink, while larger ones will stay aloft.

Deploying an airbag pack, in the event of an avalanche, will expand the victim’s volume, and this will help keep them as high as possible in the powder. With this being said, properly worn and deployed airbag packs may increase your chances of survival if you’re caught in an avalanche. However, you have to remember that wearing an avalanche airbag pack does not guarantee survival.

 

Avalanche airbag activation systems

Canister/Cartridge

This cartridge, or canister type of activation system, makes use of a metal or carbon fiber cylindrical container that carries highly pressurized gas, and is used to inflate the airbag. Canister activation systems are powerful and reliable, but can only be used for one deployment before needing to be refilled or replaced. Furthermore, it is difficult to get through the airport if you plan on traveling with one. Currently, many manufacturers offer refillable canisters that can be filled with compressed air at certain outdoor gear or sports shops, while some canisters are not user-refillable, and must be returned to a dealer to be refilled.

Electric fan

The newest avalanche airbag packs, from brands like Black Diamond (JetForce) or Arc’teryx (Voltair), make use of battery operated fan systems to inflate the airbag and eliminate the need for cartridges. This type of airbag activation system is inflated by a high-speed fan, and can be deployed multiple times on a single charge. This system also makes air travel much easier, and will give you the ability to practice inflation of your airbag at home or on snow, as you have more than one activation per battery charge.

 

Volume/Capacity

Firstly, you have to determine where you’ll be using an airbag pack, and what sort of riding you’ll be doing with it. An 18 to 20-liter pack, or even smaller, may be perfectly adequate if you plan on doing lift-served backcountry with occasional heli or cat trips, because you only need to carry a bit of food and water, plus maybe extra clothing. For day touring, however, a pack with a capacity of 25 to 35L is adequate. For longer trips or multi-day hut touring, look for a pack with a capacity of 40 to 50L. However, not all manufacturers calculate a pack’s volume the same way, and the canister and mechanism may take up more space.

Fit

Fit is important, as with any backpack. However, not all manufacturers offer a choice of torso lengths, so you have to look for brands that offer different pack volumes and sizes.

A harness strap is included in some airbag packs. This is to be fastened between the legs to ensure that the pack will not get torn off your body in the event of a slide. Some packs also offer some adjustability on the shoulder straps and hip belt.

Avalanche airbag packs can also restrict how you carry your skis or snowboard, and you have to check that nothing blocks the path of the inflating airbag. So, make sure you understand the different carry options. Furthermore, think about whether you are more comfortable pulling the cord with your left or right hand, as some models offer the option of switching sides, while others do not.

 

Air travel

It is possible to fly domestic or international with an avalanche airbag. However, it can be problematic, so you have to make sure that you know the specific rules for your system and destination before planning to fly. Basically, it comes down to where you will be traveling, whether domestic or international, and what system you carry. Flying with an electric fan pack should not be a problem, as they do not contain compressed gas or explosives, and are categorized as a consumer electronic device when the battery is installed in the pack. If you plan to do a lot of air travel with your pack, electronic airbags are the best option.

However, you can also fly with a canister or cartridge activation system airbag, but it can be troublesome depending on the airline and the officials you interact with. These compressed air cylinders are categorized as hazardous goods by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), but in some cases, “avalanche rescue backpacks” are considered an exception.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires travelers, on flights originating from the United States, to show that the gas cartridges are empty and not connected to the airbag. Therefore, you will have to either fill up your cartridge when arriving at your destination, or buy or rent a new filled cartridge after landing, so you can use the airbag pack. If you have a refillable model, it is best to travel with some extra gaskets, seals, and grease that you will need for the refill. Once it is empty, you have to separate the head from the cylinder, as it is TSA’s job to verify that there are no explosives inside. You also have to be diligent about storing the parts in their own container, as contaminated parts, like the threads or O-ring on the cylinder or head, can lead to problems. It is best if you carry your avalanche airbag on the plane with you to prevent any damages or loss.

For international travel, it is important to be flexible, because not all U.S. flying regulations are accepted elsewhere. The best way is to verify by calling the airline you plan on flying with, and request more details about flying with this equipment. There are also other ways to go about traveling with your airbag backpack without bringing the cylinder, and this is by checking if your destination has shops and dealers that sell the specific canisters you need.

One thing you can also do is not to throw away the box of your canister. Instead, place the canister back in its box, so that TSA can easily identify what it is.

Testing & maintenance

Avalanche airbag manufacturers recommend a periodic inspection of the airbag and its trigger mechanism, as well as an annual test deployment. You have to inspect your airbag and its handle for signs of wear, or some weak spots after any deployment. Test the airbag to see that the system works before the start of each season, and have the entire system inspected as recommended by the manufacturer.

As with all personal safety gear, it is important that it is cared for and maintained, so that it can perform as it should. Your airbag pack should be stored in a dry and cool place. If your bag is caught in wet weather, it is best to unpack the airbag to allow it to dry before repacking it, as any moisture within the bag can freeze while on the mountain, and would lock or delay the inflation process in case of an emergency.

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