Airbag packs are all the rage lately- and for good reason. The airbag system, which manually deploys an airbag around the users neck and head via a "pull cord" on the shoulder strap, allows for advantages previously unrealized in backcountry safety equipment. First it increases the victims surface area, increasing his or her ability to "float" in an avalanche. Second the airbag provides added protection/padding against trauma to the head and neck. While these packs are a great addition to your backcountry kit, they've traditionally run around $1,000. Gear Review: Backcountry Access (BCA) Float 18 Airbag Pack | Unofficial Networks

Gear Review: Backcountry Access (BCA) Float 18 Airbag Pack

Gear Review: Backcountry Access (BCA) Float 18 Airbag Pack

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Gear Review: Backcountry Access (BCA) Float 18 Airbag Pack

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Airbag packs are all the rage lately- and for good reason. The airbag system, which manually deploys an airbag around the users neck and head via a “pull cord” on the shoulder strap, allows for advantages previously unrealized in backcountry safety equipment. First it increases the victims surface area, increasing his or her ability to “float” in an avalanche. Second the airbag provides added protection/padding against trauma to the head and neck. While these packs are a great addition to your backcountry kit, they’ve traditionally run around $1,000.

The BCA 18, along with the BCA 30, have lower price points than the majority of airbag packs out there. The minimalist, as Backcountry Access refers to it as, is designed for shorter off-piste missions. Weighing in at 6.5 pounds (system), the pack is light as far as airbag packs go. There’s room for a probe and shovel as well as some other day-mission standards- extra layers, lunch, minimal first aid kit, etc. Once the airbag is deployed, it can be deflated via a release valve inside the pack. From there, you simply roll and stuff the bag into the pack much like you would with a sleeping pad. The cylinders are fairly easy to refill- many BCA dealers, SCUBA shops, and paintball stores will fill them.

The major shortcoming of the pack is in the Velcro compartment that contains the airbag when not deployed. About a half inch Velcro is all that keeps the unit in, and it’s simply not enough in the case of a big crash or when there’s strain on the back of the pack (like when you’re carrying skis). The compartment has a tendency to open up- at best just exposing the bag and at worst allowing the deflated airbag to come out and forcing the user to stuff it again (which can be a pain in the ass).

While this isn’t a major flaw, it can get tiresome constantly tweaking the Velcro. Other than this minor flaw, it’s still a piece of equipment that might save your life one day. 

 

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