With all the reports of fresh powder this past week, thoughts quickly turn to avalanche safety when traveling in the backcountry. Avalanche airbags are quickly becoming a popular accessory in addition to the standard avalanche tools of beacon, shovel and probe. At Outdoor Retailer next month, Mystery Ranch is set to release the new Blackjack, an avalanche airbag equipped backcountry backpack.

The Blackjack backcountry backpack incorporates a removable avalanche airbag system from AVI Vest. Upon deployment during an avalanche, the 150L airbag will help to keep your head up, while the large volume will also help you float to the surface of the snow. The compressed CO2 air canister is refillable and can be set up for either a right or left side release. 

The Blackjack is a 2600 cubic inch backpack with side zipper access and a dedicated avalanche tool pocket. There are plenty of gear loops for ice axe, ski or snowboard carry, and the waistbelt features a leg loop harness to ensure you don't lose your pack in the avalanche. The backcountry backpack weighs 8lbs including the avalanche airbag and will retail for around $900. 

Snowpulse avalanche airbag system

Other avalanche airbag backpack options are the Float 30 from BCA and the Snowpulse Avalanche Airbag System (pictured above). There is even a remote-controlled avalanche airbag system that your friends can deploy for you. The Black Diamond Avalung pack is yet another avalanche survival alternative. Mountain Gear Blog did an interesting comparison of the two systems last year.

I wonder if someone will ever incorporate both systems into one backcountry backpack? Which one would you rather use if any?


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  1. The Blackjack uses compressed air not CO2. CO2 creates issues at lower temperatures. The airbag system is the same system that was developed by Avi Vest as stated above- check out the site to learn specifics about the system

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