Was just looking over the backcountry.com Black Friday sale and these definitely caught my eye because 1) they are expensive at full price (and even sale price) 2) I know a ton of you out there have considered picking one up and 3) they are the future once they start getting adopted and economies of scale kick in and bring the price down to everyman level. They’ve got the Float 18, Float 30 and Float 36 (pictured below) on sale, and while still expensive it’s probably one of the few times you’ll see them on sale. If you want to see the BCA Float in action you can go here and see a few vids.
Last March I nearly died in an avalanche while backcountry snowboarding in Japan. The slide sucked me under the surface of the snow and beat me within an inch of my life before spitting me out unburied. Hard tellin’ not knowin’, but had I been wearing an avalanche airbag pack that day I would probably have a lot less metal holding my pelvis together right now. The airbag would have helped keep me on the top of the slide and prevented the compression injuries I sustained while ragdolling under the surface.
Was thinking today that the BCA Float 30 pack was supposed to be in retailers hands in December (as was the Tracker 2, though I think that one was originally December 08…) and that I hadn’t seen or heard anything about anybody carrying them in the flesh yet – though I have heard whispers they’ve started shipping. Anyways, found yet another Float inflation vid, testing it’s ability to deploy in temps of -22 below (apparently some Euro standard requirement).
We went into the Sun Microsystems cold lab last week to test the first production Float 30 packs coming off the production line. The temp in this room was -30 degrees C (-22 F). This is the coldest temp at which avalanche airbags must be able to inflate (within five seconds), according to European standards. As you can see, the Float 30 deploys quite effectively at this temp.
It’s not just the air that was -30 C. We let the entire system reach -30 before deploying it. It’s amazing how stiff everything gets when it’s this cold (including BCA technician Jerry Helbak, shown in video). The system has to be very robust to be able to push all this stiff material out through the stiff pack material and Velcro closure. Then, at warm temperatures, you need to make sure it doesn’t make the bag explode. That’s quite a challenge getting the product to work over such a wide temperature range. This has probably been the most challenging part of the project.
Came across this video on the Backcountry Access Float 30 avalanche airbag being inflated. While BCA isn’t the first company to market an airbag pack for the backcountry they are definitely the most affordable option (by about 50%), with the Float 30 set to MSRP for a buck under $500 when it releases later this fall. Hopefully the trickle down effect will see their airbag tech in more packs at cheaper price points (people will pay $1k for skis and $400 for bindings, but scoff at a $500 pack that may save their life…) in their line so that there are more people equipped with this tech in the BC. More importantly, hopefully this pack doesn’t become a perceived ‘invincibility shield’ leading to bad decision making in the backcountry!
Obviously I’m just going on product shots and one video and have yet to taste/feel/smell the pack, but I like what I’m seeing thus far. I really like how the bag DOESN’T wrap around your head fully like some of the competing products, seems like with the BCA pack inflated you’d still be able to (relatively) comfortably try and get out of the situation. Good stuff thus far though.