How to Choose: Which avalanche airbag is right for you?

October 1, yyyy

So you’ve decided to purchase an avalanche airbag. Congrats, you’re making your backcountry safety a priority. BCA offers a host of different sizes and styles of avalanche airbags, and each serves a different purpose. We’ve compiled a few pointers to help you hone your pick for packs this coming winter.

So you’ve made up your mind and decided to purchase an avalanche airbag. Congrats! This is a big day—you’re making your backcountry safety a priority. BCA offers a host of different sizes of avalanche airbags, and each serves a different purpose. We’ve compiled a few pointers to help you hone your pick for packs this coming winter.

Do all Float 2.0 packs come with the same airbag system?

Rest assured that all of the packs in BCA’s Avalanche Airbag 2.0 series are compatible with the 2.0 air cylinder—sold separately at backcountryaccess.com—boasting a size that’s 30% smaller and 15% lighter than the 1.0 series. No matter the pack size, this weight savings means you get to spend your time maximizing laps and have more flexibility to bring extra snacks.

The Float 2.0 also boasts a separate compartment where all airbag-specific components are housed so the “engine” doesn’t clutter the main interior compartment. Also included in all packs: zippered shoulder sleeves compatible with both the BC Link two-way radio system and your favorite hydration system.

The real goal when trying to figure out what size pack to pick from BCA’s offering is to identify what your primary method of travel is through avalanche terrain. Answering this question can be helpful in understanding what pack features and sizes are most suited for your needs on a daily basis during the winter months.

Sidecountry, Heli/Cat, Snowmobiling--and Small Folks

If you spend your days ripping sidecountry laps at the resort, on heli/cat trips, or snowmobiling, then you may want to trend toward a smaller pack size­—the Float 12 may be the choice for you. This is for the super minimalist rider who cares about maximizing efficiency while cutting on bulk. The 12-liter pack has the necessities like ski/snowboard carry, avalanche tool sleeve, removable helmet carry, and multi-gear loops for extra versatility, all the while maintaining a slim pack profile.

The Float 12 is also designed for smaller torso sizes, small-to-medium waists, and narrower shoulders. If you’re a size small or medium in other equipment, then the Float 12 is a great option. It is the preferred size among many of our female riders, especially snowmobilers. If you’re a snowmobiler and have a tunnel bag, why not carry as little as possible on your back and put everything else on the sled?

Short tours, dawn patrols, sled missions, and longer days in the sidecountry

Float 22 is more for close-in backcountry stashes that require more clothing and gear. It boasts nearly twice the volume, plus a dedicated shovel/probe pocket to keep those items isolated from the main compartment. The Float 22 has ample space for extra layers, lunch, and other necessities for a full day spent on the skintrack or the sled

Longer Day missions

Sometimes a cold day in the backcountry requires extra layers, a bigger puffy coat, a Thermos of tea, and other creature comforts to make long hours on the trail a bit more enjoyable. For those days when you feel like you need to bring a little extra, the Float 32 offers that comfort in the form of added space. Other notable additions are compression straps that can be used for when the pack isn’t fully loaded; load lifters to keep bigger loads riding high, and an internal support frame to balance heavy loads. Also, a fleece-lined goggle pocket makes sure your optics stay fresh and scratch-free.

Snow Pros and Lightweight Overnights

The Float 42 is designed for those who like to bring everything but the kitchen sink when they hit the trail. For snow professionals who are required to bring extensive first-aid supplies, rope, and even explosives, having 42 liters of useable space is not just helpful, it’s crucial. Because of the high volume of this pack, the main compartment is accessible through a back panel, so you don’t have to auger to the bottom of the pack to get something out. If you pack efficiently enough, you can even use this pack for hut trips and overnights.

This doesn’t even include our dedicated Float Turbo packs for snowmobiling, which we’ll address the next time.

For more information on BCA’s Float 2.0 avalanche airbags, visit backcountryaccess.com.