Avalanche backpacks for enhanced safety whilst touring
Voyaging through untouched snowy landscapes is an unforgettable experience. But when adventuring in alpine regions, avalanches always pose a threat. Avalanche backpacks are therefore a must-have whilst touring in such regions. These feature special mechanisms that can greatly improve your chances of survival, and they allow you to carry other avalanche safety equipment. In many cases, an avalanche backpack can save your life as well as the lives of your touring partners, so you should definitely have one as part of your freeriding and ski touring equipment.
Avalanche backpacks with airbag systems
Having an avalanche probe or shovel won’t help your touring partners if you’re the one buried under an avalanche. What can actually help you is having an avalanche backpack that includes a so-called avalanche airbag, which works somewhat like airbags in a car. The large airbag is inflated within a split second of being triggered and will help you float on top of an avalanche instead of letting you sink underneath it.
The airbag is activated by pulling a trigger on the shoulder strap. Some systems can even be activated by others via a remote control.
Some avalanche backpacks work in a different way by allowing a victim to make the best use of the residual air available to them. Snow can consist of more than 50% air, even in wet snow avalanches, so systems like the AvaLung System from Black Diamond make use of this air.
The system includes a breathing tube that creates an artificial air pocket. It recovers air from the snow when you inhale, and when you exhale, it releases it through a tube in the back. This significantly improves your chances of being recovered alive.
Any good avalanche backpack provides room for other types of rescue equipment. These include avalanche transceivers, avalanche probes and avalanche shovels. Additional features vary greatly depending on your needs and budget. For example, some backpacks feature additional back protectors that shield your back in the event of an impact. Some models also have well-insulated hydration systems that still work reliably after being out for several hours in the snow and ice.
Regardless of all their technical features, even the best avalanche backpack can't replace careful planning and experience in assessing the terrain.