If you enjoy snowmobiling in the mountains or are thinking about getting into it, you need to heavily consider acquiring a snowmobile avalanche backpack. As a rule of thumb, buy the best avalanche transceiver, and the best avalanche backpack you can afford. The bottom line is, if you’re in a scenario where you need to deploy your beacon and avalanche backpack, you’ll want the best money can buy.
The truth of the matter is that mother nature is not the most forgiving. Riding in the mountains can be dangerous. Avalanches are the main cause of death during the winter months in mountainous areas. Being equipped with the proper safety equipment may mean the difference between life and death. In the event of an avalanche occurring, which is not all that uncommon, having a snowmobile avalanche backpack with you at all times increases your chance of survival exponentially.
Unfortunately, due to avalanches, we have had to say goodbye to fellow snowmobilers that have had a huge impact on not only our lives but thousands of other passionate riders. The passing of these fellow riders was not always because they were not properly trained or did not have the proper safety equipment with them. In fact a few of them did have all the equipment and also were very well trained, but the avalanche they encountered was unwilling to let them escape. This can happen even with all the training and the gear, but like we said above, the proper training and equipment can and will make your chances of survival much greater. Throughout the remainder of this article we discuss the top five snowmobile avalanche backpacks money can buy.
These Are The Best Avalanche Backpacks That’ll Save Your Life
1) Klim Aspect 16 Avalanche Backpack
Taking our number one spot is the Klim Aspect 16 Avalanche Backpack. You literally cannot go wrong with this product. When it comes to reliability this backpack is sure to please. Unlike many other avalanche backpacks, this one is battery-operated. No more purchasing CO2 canisters and forgetting them in the truck or forgetting to put a new one in. Because it is battery operated it allows you to use it multiple times in the same day if needed. Hopefully this is not the case, but if it is and you are lucky enough to survive each time you use it, you should ride your snowmobile back to the lodge and purchase a lottery ticket immediately.
Now we know you are thinking to yourself “well if it is battery operated, then will it be able to hold it’s charge very long in cold temperatures?” We will be the first to tell you yes, it will! We actually use the little bit bigger version of this bag, the Klim Atlas 26 Avalanche Backpack and it is unbelievable how well these bags stay charged. The last time we rode we charged the bags and used them all week without needing to charge them between rides. These batteries were designed to endure the cold for your safety.
As we mentioned above, we run the Klim Atlas 26 avalanche backpack. The reason we did not choose this bag as the number one pick is for two reasons 1) It costs $400 USD more than the Aspect 16 which comes in at $800 USD (for the non current color scheme) and 2) It is a tad too big for our liking and would prefer something smaller like the Aspect 16. The Atlas 26 has more space than needed and can tend to be a tad clunky when riding technical terrain all day. With this being said we think both backpacks are a great choice and would highly recommend either.
There are a few cool features about this bag that help it solidify it’s standing as our first pick. The first feature to brag about is its ability to withstand a gash in the airbag itself when deployed and still stay inflated. This is amazing. Typically avalanches consist of a lot of debris from trees to rocks. This backpack can take a gash in it from a tree branch and still manage to keep you floating on top of the snow. The second feature we would like to brag about is this avalanche backpack’s ability to be activated multiple times within the same period of time. Let’s say you are in an avalanche that lasts abnormally long and your backpack starts deflating. You can actually pull the cord again and this backpack will restart its cycle of filling up with air to keep you floating. Most, if not all, other backpacks only allow you to pull the cord once and when it loses its air that is it. It is done.
When it comes to downfalls of this bag we honestly cannot think of any that stand out enough to mention. We are not getting paid to say this either. This avalanche backpack is honestly just a solid option hence why we gave it the number one spot. We highly recommend this bag to anyone interested in mountain riding.
2) Highmark Ridge 3.0 R.A.S Avalanche Backpack
Looking for something nimble, affordable and highly functional. Here it is! Highmark nailed it with this backpack. As one of the more affordable avalanche backpacks on the market at $599 USD, the Highmark Ridge 3.0 Avalanche backpack is one chosen by many riders who aren’t looking to break the bank. With that said, it still requires you purchase an air cylinder which will cost you another $199 USD, bringing your end cost to roughly $800 USD. This is when you frown, say “aww” and realize why this avalanche backpack is our number two pick and not our number one.
Let’s put price aside for a second and explain why this backpack is still an amazing choice. The low profile, minimalist design of this backpack makes it the lightest avalanche backpack on the market weighing in at 5.5 pounds (includes airbag and cylinder). Some riders have said this bag fits them so well that they have forgotten they are even wearing it. This is great unless you also forget to pull the cord to activate it in the event of an avalanche. Studies have shown that riders do in fact actually forget to deploy or fail to deploy their backpacks more times than not, regardless of brand, when they find themselves in an avalanche. To offset the chances of this being the case Highmark optimized their handle on this backpack to be more intuitive to operate and height adjustable allowing riders to make it fit their body height more ideally.
As mentioned earlier, this avalanche backpack requires an air cylinder. Upon deploying the airbag the air cylinder integrated with an air volume amplifier fills the airbag with a combination of gases from the air cartridge and ambient air. As you can tell this is a much more scientific process than the Klim avalanche backpacks which inflate using a high powered fan.
Downfalls to this avalanche airbag would include the features it lacks compared to the Klim Aspect 16 or Atlas 26 mentioned previously. The biggest of these features it lacks is the ability to be deployed and repacked numerous times due to being operated by a pressurized air cylinder. Which brings up another concern. With extreme elevation changes, such as flying on an airplane, one needs to consider the risk of these pressurized cylinders popping. A way of avoiding this is not to let your air cylinders experience extreme elevation changes or buy them where you will be riding. These shortcomings are not a huge concern to some as they find comfort in not having to rely on batteries with these avalanche backpacks. Some will argue that the Highmark avalanche backpacks are actually more reliable than other backpacks such as the Klim battery powered backpacks.
3) BCA Float 15 Turbo Avalanche Backpack 2.0
Taking the third and final spot is the BCA Float 15 Turbo Avalanche backpack. Wow! What a name. If this thing doesn’t add at least 10hp then we will all be disappointed. In all seriousness though this backpack is another great option and honestly is more like a tie for second place with the Highmark Ridge 3.0 R.A.S. BCA is a very reputable brand and has produced numerous avalanche safety products that are highly trusted amongst the snowmobiling community. This avalanche backpack is no exception.
Coming in at $529.95 USD this backpack is a tad cheaper than the Highmark Ridge 3.0, but it does also require the BCA Float 2.0 air cylinder which costs you another $199.95 USD. When all is said and done you will have around $730 USD into this avalanche backpack. This really is not too bad considering it has the power to increase your chances at survival in the event of being trapped in an avalanche. You cannot put a price on your life!
This bag prides itself on its functionality. From a hydration pouch to a custom back molding. This bag was designed for comfort, storage and obviously safety. Also featured within this bag is a designated spot for your shovel, integration for a BCA Link Radio and dual zippered shoulder straps. There is a lot to like about this bag including it’s red, black and yellow color scheme.
As mentioned previously this bag does require an air cylinder which is sold separately. BCA prides themselves off their 200 authorized refill stations for these air cylinders across the world claiming it makes it the easiest refillable avalanche backpack on the market. We have to admit, this does beat buying a whole new air cylinder everytime you need one, but really the goal is to never need more than one. Implying that you have never had to use your avalanche backpack.
Being BCA has built a very strong reputation for themselves in the avalanche safety sector we would highly recommend their products. They also advertise a limited 3 year warranty on this avalanche backpack, which goes to show they stand behind their products. We would have no concerns running these backpacks ourselves, but choose to run the Klim avalanche backpacks for the reason stated earlier in this article. We do use various other products from BCA though including their Link 2.0 radios.
The biggest downfall we see to using this bag is the fact that it is operated off an air cylinder. Once we used the Klim battery powered backpacks we really have had no desire to use anything else, but our preferences are not everyone else’s preferences. We suggest talking to riders who use both types of avalanche backpacks and asking them what they like and dislike about their backpacks before you make your final decision.
We just presented to you three very similar bags in regards to size and function. By now you are likely overwhelmed with information and have more questions regarding these different avalanche backpacks. In short, all of the products discussed in this article are of high quality and used by many in the snowmobiling community. We would trust all of these products ourselves and feel very comfortable suggesting them to you for the protection of our own life while enjoying the outdoors via your snowmobile.
If you have any further questions feel free to leave them in the comments below or reach out to us on any of our social platforms @sledheazzz. We are more than happy to help you find the backpack that is best for you and answer any questions we can!