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Avalanche airbags & backpacks

Avalanche airbags for extra security in the backcountry

You’re headed into the backcountry. You’ve got your safety system ready, with an avalanche beacon, avalanche probe and avalanche shovel in your pack. But maybe you want something extra in case of an emergency, and that’s where an avalanche airbag comes in.

Though it isn’t a substitution for other safety systems, an avalanche airbag can help keep you closer to the surface and make you a little easier to find. You need to deploy an avalanche airbag manually, so make sure you know how to use it before you head out. Take a look at our article on avalanche safety gear and training for more information and guidance on how to get started.

The main choice you have to make when picking an avalanche airbag is the inflation mechanism. Here’s a quick overview of your options:

Canister powered: Compressed air inflates the airbag. The canisters are lightweight and reusable, though you need to find a refilling facility to do so. Air travel restrictions may also require you to bring an empty canister if you’re flying to your destination.

Electric fan: A battery-powered fan inflates the airbag. Fans are heavier than canisters, but a battery pack will get you through multiple uses, and you don’t have to worry about how you pack your airbag – just stuffing it away will do.

As with any safety gear, practice with an avalanche airbag before heading into the backcountry. Enrolling in an avalanche safety course is a great option to be prepared.