Brian Lindahl with the BCA Float 27 Speed, CO Backcountry. (photo by Bindu Pomeroy)
By Brian Lindahl, Blister Gear Review
Perhaps one of the more interesting features of BCA’s Float 27 Speed avalanche airbag pack is its fully segregated airbag system. All the Float 2.0 system avalanche airbag elements are completely separated from the main compartment behind a zippered covering, instead of being loose and exposed inside the pack. As a result, there’s less chance of your packing job interfering with the deployment of the airbag, which is pretty cool.
If you’re traveling in avalanche terrain, avalanche airbags are a good idea — they’ve proven to decrease the probability of a full burial in the event of an avalanche. However, one of the chief complaints with airbag packs is that they’re heavy and that the airbag systems take up a lot of space, leaving less room for your gear.
Weighing in at just under 2600 grams for the entire pack + airbag system + and full canister, the BCA Float 27 Speed offers the solution as one of the lightest packs on the market for its size with a segregated airbag system and a dedicated section for backcountry gear.
Despite the low weight, the Float 27 Speed hasn’t been stripped down to the bare minimum. Its feature set is still pretty strong, and it has most everything one would look for in a ski pack.
An internal sleeve with a drain hole helps separate your shovel, probe and skins (or whatever you choose) from the rest of the pack contents. Above the sleeve is a zippered stash pouch for small essentials like a slope meter, compass, map, snacks, sunglasses, headband, etc.
The Float 27 Speed is also equipped with several useful technical features, like hipbelt gear loops for rock and ice protection and dual ice tool holders. There’s also a carabiner loop on the waistbelt so that you don’t have to thread the underleg strap through the belt every time (a nice feature for heli, snowcat, and sidecountry laps where you’re taking the pack on and off fairly often).
Finally, the Float 27 Speed is designed to work with the BCA’s own BC Link radio, with an elastic keeper in the main compartment for the body unit, and a loop on the chest strap to attach the head unit.
If you’re less worried about minimal weight and are looking for a more fully-featured pack with burlier materials, the 18/19 Float 32 will feature the Float 2.0 system and includes features like an internal frame, waistbelt pockets, helmet carry, and vertical snowboard carry. However, we have only used the Float 27 Speed, and can therefore not comment on the other 18/19 Float packs’ individual performance.
First off, let’s talk about size. How much stuff can you actually fit into the Float 27 Speed? As packs’ stated volumes can vary significantly between models, I usually just throw my gear in the pack and see how everything fits. It was tight, but I was able to fit all of my standard ski touring kit into the Float 27 Speed. For reference, here’s everything I’ve been able to put in the Float 27 Speed for an average ski tour:
- Climbing Skins (140 mm cut for 185 cm ski with a 105 mm waist)
- Ski crampons
- Boot crampons
- Emergency / first-aid kit
- Light Down Puffy Jacket
- 500 mL insulated thermos or 1L bottle.
- Gloves + headband + sunglasses
Without the bulkier items like ski crampons, boot crampons, and binoculars, the pack is much easier to open, close and sift through the contents. The Float 27 Speed 27 liter pack definitely doesn’t have as much room as my larger and much-heavier 35 liter pack, and definitely has more space than my comparably-heavy 18 liter pack.
Fully loaded, the Float 27 Speed carries well. The pack carries my skis well, even when not fully loaded. The buckles for both ski carry loops are a nice convenient touch over sliding the skis in and out of an adjustable loop. And, when not in use, the buckles and straps tuck away quickly and stay out of the way.
The BC Link radio head unit attaches to the chest strap in the ideal location for easy use, and I haven’t had issues with it flopping around or falling out throughout the day, even when taking the pack on and off or tossing it on the ground.
After 20+ days riding with the the Float 27 Speed this season, the pack is still in good shape and I haven’t noticed any durability issues.
On the downhill, the Float 27 Speed stayed nice and tight to my back, even with smaller sidecountry loads. I didn’t notice much of a difference between the feel of this pack and my old smaller 18 liter airbag pack on the descent, even on larger airs or pillow lines. This is impressive given the Float 27 Speed’s larger size.
The Backcountry Access Float 27 Speed is a solid, lightweight avalanche airbag sized very well for a typical mid-winter day ski tour. The fully segregated airbag system isolates the airbag mechanism and tools into separate compartments and has all the “necessary” features without too many extras, making it a good all-around option. Finally, and importantly, it felt comfortable both on the uphill and the down.
Read Brian’s complete Blister gear review here.