Check out our Avalanche Safety Gear blogpost for insight into beacons, shovels, probes, radios, snow study kits and slope meters.
Obviously, you need a pack to carry all this gear, and it's worth considering going with an avalanche airbag pack instead of a traditional pack. Avalanche airbag packs have been shown to increase chances of survival in serious avalanches by 27%. The principle idea underlying the avalanche airbag technology is generally known as the Brazil Nut Effect, or more specifically, Granular Convection. Loosely stated, in a granular material containing a mixture of various sized objects, the largest particles will tend to rise towards the surface. By deploying an avalanche airbag during a slide, the airbag expands like a balloon and turns you into a larger, buoyant-like object that will effectively increase your chance of rising towards the surface of slide debris.
Avalanche airbags should not provide justification for entering avalanche terrain, and at the end of the day the most important safety component of backcountry touring is your awareness, understanding and judgement, and not any specific piece of gear you bring along!
Canister/Cylinder vs Electric Fan Avalanche Airbags
- Canister/cylinder avalanche airbags are deployed via a mechanical trigger that releases highly pressurized compressed gas (usually air) into the airbag, which rapidly deploys from its rip-zipper enclosure on top of the pack. The compressed air cylinder is refillable at a certified refill/exchange location (our Carbondale store). You cannot fly on a plane with a full compressed air cylinder, and we can only ship empty cylinders.
- Electric fan avalanche airbags are fitted with either lithium-ion or AA batteries and a turbo radial fan which is deployed via mechanical trigger or electronic actuation. The big perk here is that these airbags can be deployed again after a short recharge, and there are no travel restrictions.