One popular solution is an avalanche airbag, but these can be big and cumbersome. For people exploring a mountainside, this is a problem. With Ortovox’s Avabag, the manufacturer has cut down on size and weight to provide people with something much more manageable.
The way an avalanche airbag works is quite simple. No matter the style, it essentially boils down to a large balloon that inflates at the pull of a cord. In an avalanche, larger objects tend to rise to the surface while smaller objects sink to the bottom. When the airbag inflates, the user becomes much bigger, allowing them to naturally rise to the surface of the snow. Suffocation is the biggest cause of death during an avalanche and this gives a climber the best chance of survival.
Ortovox has created the lightest airbag system available at just 1.5 pounds. Part of this is achieved by creating a balloon material that doesn’t require sewing or additional sealing. The compact activation unit sits inside the backpack, allowing it to remain free from all dirt, ice, and corrosion. With manual activation instead of electric, it becomes even more reliable. While packed away, the balloon takes up a very small percentage of the entire Avabag. It is also easy to remove in case of any malfunction or need for an upgrade.
In the case of an emergency, the pull cord is attached directly to the arm strap. The ergonomic shape and non-slip surface ensure an easy release with all types of gloves. However, all the equipment in the world won’t do you any good without proper training. Ortovox found that 12 percent of avalanche backpack users did not even activate their system during a real avalanche.
Because of this, the Avabag is built to allow repetitive training. Practice as often as required — to be conducted without an installed cartridge — to make sure you can react appropriately in a real situation. The system can easily be re-activated by using the pre-tension tool.
Currently, Avabags are available through Ortovox in a variety of sizes and colors. They all hover around $750, so be sure to pick the one that’s right for you.