Airbag backpacks : the perfect companion for all your off-piste ski outings
The transceiver shovel-probe trio is an off-piste essential, and the airbag backpack completes your avalanche safety equipment. Avalanches can occur at any time when you are off-piste : recent snowfalls causing snowpack instability, steep slopes, and natural or human forces can all be factors. Although avalanches are highly dangerous due to the power of the snow, which sometimes carries huge elements along with it, using an airbag backpack can reduce your risk of burial. Together with the transceiver-shovel-probe trio, it can minimize the depth to which the victim is buried and consequently aid the search process. In the best-case scenario, it can even help to avoid burial in the event of a minor avalanche. So using an airbag backpack can help increase your chances of survival if you are the victim of a snow slide. Let’s explain why !
Airbag backpacks : what are they ?
In appearance, the airbag backpack looks like any ordinary ski backpack. The airbag is actually located in an additional compartment at the rear of the backpack, against your back. The rest of the backpack is just as you would expect, with one or more storage compartments. The other subtle difference is on one of the backpack straps: the release handle. When an avalanche occurs, you must manually pull on it to trigger the airbag mechanism. The airbag then deploys from the backpack in seconds while remaining attached to it. But how exactly can the airbag reduce your chances of being buried in an avalanche ? Let us tell you more !
Airbag backpacks : operation
How, exactly, would a balloon deployed from your backpack allow you to rise back up to the surface of the avalanche? Quite simply, it is due to the phenomenon of reverse segregation: the largest particles rise to the surface when they are in motion. So the purpose of the airbag backpack, once deployed, is to increase your volume considerably, bringing you to the surface as the avalanche is moving. To check out this phenomenon, take a packet of muesli, and shake it: you will see that the biggest pieces of fruit are now at the top of the packet. Thus, by increasing your lift, the airbag backpack maximizes your chances of rising to the surface of the avalanche, reducing the depth of your burial. One crucial advantage when searching for an avalanche victim: the closer they are to the surface, the quicker and easier it is to free and identify them if they are on the surface.
Although all airbag backpack models operate identically, how the balloon is triggered and inflated varies from system to system. Several triggering systems are available on the market :
- -By cable, using pyrotechnic pressure with a compressed air cartridge
This was the first airbag system to appear on the market. Pulling the handle engages the needle, which pierces the compressed air cartridge. This enters the balloon and inflates it.
- -By cable, using gas pressure with a gas cartridge
The operation is identical here, but gas inflates the balloon. Each cartridge can only be used once with these two systems because it is completely emptied after use. So it will have to be recharged after each trip.
- -By button, with a battery-powered fan
To trigger this system, you press a button rather than pull a handle. The battery lets you trigger the system several times before it has to be recharged.
In addition to the airbag system, the balloons' shape and volume differ from brand to brand. Let's take a look at our Reactor airbag system and its specific characteristics !
Airbag backpacks: take a look at our ARVA Reactor system
Our airbag Reactor system has a trigger handle with a gas cartridge. It is the lightest on the market: just 680 grams. Our airbag system is also removable so you can transfer it from one backpack to another. Some of our models are even modular, and you can simply zip on a different pocket to change the bag's capacity without affecting the airbag system. We offer two gas cartridges: steel, or carbon, which is even lighter. Designed to withstand a pressure of 300 bars, they can be recharged after each use. The shape of our balloon is very special too. Our U-shaped balloon envelops the skier's head and upper body, providing better protection as well as better lift for them. The 150 L balloon is also split in two, forming two separate balloons. This means that if one of them is pierced, the second remains inflated. Finally, the last important feature : our airbag system is designed, developed and manufactured in France.
So, now that you have an overview of our ARVA Reactor airbag backpack let us present our different models to help you choose the one that is right for you and your skiing practice.
ARVA airbag backpacks : making the right choice
Airbag backpacks for freeride skiing
Also known for its 100% recycled fabrics, the Calgary 18 needs no introduction! Eco-designed, the Calgary 18 Airbag offers a low-profile back for an ultra-compact capacity, a weight of only 1,780 grams, and all the equipment and accessories you need for your freeride outings.
Another flagship product for freeriding: our Reactor Vest 15. A genuine second skin, it allows you to take only the essentials with you for your most enjoyable descents.
Airbag backpacks for ski touring and snowshoeing
Our latest Tour range is designed for and aimed specifically at ski and snowshoe hikers. Our Tour airbag backpacks are exceptionally light and are modular: you change the volume of your backpack with a zip! Compatible with the ST26 and ST30 airbags, our range of airbag backpacks for ski touring offers you a wide range of sizes to suit all your needs thanks to our SWITCH system.
Airbag backpacks for mountain professionals
Our Flex range, meanwhile, has been designed specifically for mountain professionals. Multi-purpose, from freeriding to mountain rescue, these airbag backpacks are extra-robust for intensive use. Have you found the airbag backpack you need ? Now it's time to equip yourself with a gas cartridge before you set off to enjoy the powder snow.
Avalanche airbag backpacks : how to refill the gas cartridge ?
As you know, each time the airbag cartridge cartridge is triggered, it is emptied completely, making it unusable for the next trip. So you must fill it again before your next session. You have two options for this :
- -Send it directly to our premises in Annecy
- -Have it recharged by one of our partners offering cartridge refilling
Check our refill centers
Besides the gas cartridge, your airbag system also deserves special attention. Indeed, like any mechanical system, a regular check-up ensures that everything is still working correctly as the years go by. Let us explain how to maintain your airbag backpack !
Airbag backpacks : what about servicing ?
We strongly recommend that you have your airbag backpack checked every three years to ensure it is working correctly. This is ideal for regular use (about 20 trips per year). If you go out between 20 and 60 times a year, it is better to aim for a check every two years. The check must be carried out annually for more intensive use and professionals. Depending on the package you choose, your airbag backpack check will include between 9 and 11 checkpoints, including the cable, the handle, the firing pin, the condition of the airbag and the attachment system. These checkpoints ensure the reliability of your airbag system over time. So, your airbag backpack is ready to go, and you want to travel with it. We provide you with all the information you need to take your trusty companion with you.
Airbag backpacks and air travel
How to travel with an airbag backpack ? As you can imagine, transport rules vary depending on your destination.
For travel via, to or within the USA
Transporting full cartridges is prohibited in the United States. So you have five options if you are taking your airbag backpack to the USA :
- -Travel with an empty cartridge (if necessary, trigger your airbag) and fill it at your destination
- -Travel with an empty cartridge and an empty refillable US cartridge: you can refill the latter on-site
- -Travel without carrying a cartridge and get one on-site (rental, for example)
- -Order a cartridge through us.arva-equipment.com and have it delivered to the place where you are staying in the USA. Alternatively, use an approved carrier to have your own cartridge shipped
- -Send us your empty cartridge, and have it delivered full to the place where you are staying in the USA
To travel outside the USA
- -Depending on your chosen airline, check whether it is better to have your airbag backpack travel in the hold or in the cabin
- -Ideally, you should request written authorization from the airline for even more protection
- -- To prevent accidental triggering, the cartridge must be unscrewed from the airbag system and fastened with its safety cap. The cap acts as a valve
- -Print three copies of the IATA document and the Reactor cartridge data sheet: the first copy must be attached to the cartridge, while the other two copies must be presented on the outward and return journey
Check our article about how to travel with an avalanche backpack
Find your ARVA airbag backpack on our website
Tour 32 Airbag Reactor, Calgary 18 Airbag Reactor : find the best avalanche airbag backpack to suit you and your skiing and snowboarding activities. Remember to complete your equipment with a steel or carbon gas cartridge. Make sure you have a high-performance transceiver-shovel-probe pack pack ARVA-pelle-sonde to slip into your airbag backpack and complete your avalanche safety equipment.