Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Welcome to our big avalanche backpack test 2021. Here we present all the avalanche backpacks we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best avalanche backpack for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should be aware of when buying an avalanche backpack.



  • An avalanche backpack is a useful addition to your basic freeride equipment. The integrated airbag reduces the probability of burial through the "Brazil nut effect" and thus increases your chance of survival in an emergency.
  • There are various avalanche backpacks with airbag systems on the market. The pioneer was the manufacturer ABS. All airbag systems work according to the same principle: emergency / triggered by release handle / balloon inflates / person ideally remains on the surface of the avalanche cone.
  • The most important and common avalanche airbag systems are: ABS, BCA, Ortovox Avabag, Jetforce, Mammut, Scott Alpride. Each of these systems has individual advantages and disadvantages.

The Best Avalanche Backpack: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an avalanche backpack

Avalanche backpack - yes or no?

Your answer should be: YES! An avalanche backpack is a valuable addition to your basic freeride equipment and can reduce the risk of avalanches. Thinking about buying an avalanche backpack? One thing first: an avalanche backpack is not survival insurance and can never replace common sense and training in avalanche risk management.

In combination with basic freeride equipment (avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe, first aid kit), an avalanche airbag can give you increased safety margin and increase your chance of survival. Why? With the help of the balloon, the likelihood of remaining visible on the surface of the avalanche or reducing the depth of burial is higher. This increases the chances of a timely rescue.

How does an avalanche backpack work?

An avalanche backpack or avalanche airbag is additional safety equipment for anyone who moves in the open ski area away from the secured slopes.

The primary goal of an avalanche airbag is to avoid a total burial, to reduce the burial depth or to increase the probability of remaining visibly on the surface of the avalanche cone.

Structure and functional principle of the avalanche backpack

The avalanche airbag is integrated into a backpack, so the two together are called an "avalanche backpack". The balloon consists (depending on the manufacturer) of one ("monobag") or two ("twinbag") signal-coloured (orange, red, yellow) polyamide balloon(s).

With a twinbag, the avalanche airbag is folded up on the right and left side of the backpack. In the case of a monobag, it is folded into one piece at the back of the rucksack. A release handle is attached to the front of the backpack. When this is pulled, the chamber inflates with the help of a nitrogen cartridge (cartridge) to a total volume of around 170 litres.

So what happens in an avalanche?

If a skier or snowboarder triggers an avalanche or is caught by it, he activates the release handle of his avalanche backpack. Within 1-2 seconds, the airbag inflates completely.

It thus offers the winter sportsman around 170 litres more volume and provides buoyancy in the masses of snow. The physical principle of the "Brazil nut effect" provides buoyancy in the snow masses. In a flowing mass (avalanche), the higher-volume bodies are floated to the surface (winter sportsman + avalanche airbag), the smaller ones fall to the bottom.

What chance of survival do I have with an avalanche backpack?

The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), is always carrying out test trials in the field of avalanche safety equipment.

Extensive research has shown that the burial depth can be clearly reduced when wearing an avalanche backpack, which increases the chance of survival in the event of an avalanche. Find out which avalanche backpack suits you best here.

What is the weight of an avalanche backpack?

Regardless of whether you like to live by the principle of "earn your turn" on the mountain or whether you always want to go downhill "comfortably", you should always have your avalanche backpack with you.

But especially when you are going uphill for longer ski tours or splitboarding, the weight becomes an important factor. The total weight of your avalanche backpack is as follows:

  • Backpack
  • Gas cartridge
  • Release unit
  • in combination with the release system.

The total weight of the currently available avalanche backpack complete systems ranges between 1900 and 3400 grams.

Are there avalanche backpacks especially for women?

YES! When choosing your avalanche backpack, it is not only weight and size that play a role. The fit of the backpack to your body is just as important. Women or small men therefore need smaller backpack models that adapt perfectly to their anatomy. A brief overview:

  • ABS: offers size S This is tailored to a shorter back and narrower shoulders of women.
  • Mammut: has a shorter version of the RAS and PAS systems in its range. This provides the best support for freeride enthusiasts.
  • Pieps Jetforce: also available as a women's model in size SM with a shorter back section.
  • Ortovox Avabag: Ortovox has also recognised the importance of offering special backpacks for women. Especially with the "Ascent 28S": light, compact and adapted to the narrower anatomy.
  • BCA: offers no special women's sizes All models in the "Float series" should, however, be equally safe for women and men.
  • Scott Alpride: no special women's size. Same as BCA as a unisex model that fits the body perfectly.

What do I need to know about the avalanche airbag cartridge?

The cartridge of your avalanche backpack is the heart, operator and possible lifesaver in an emergency. Almost all systems are operated with gas cartridges. The most important difference: there are refillable cartridges and non-refillable cartridges.

The Jetforce system (Pieps / Black Diamond) is battery-powered, therefore rechargeable and is used WITHOUT a gas cartridge. One battery charge allows up to four activations.

Safety note: Note the expiry date of your release cartridge. The expiry date is related to the number of times the cartridge can be refilled.

After about 20 refills, the cartridge will expire. Since the cartridge is usually refilled by the manufacturer, you should receive a new or fresh one each time. However, it is advisable to check the shelf life of your cartridge.

Refillable cartridges

  • BCA
  • Mammut: aluminium cartridge

Non-refillable cartridges

  • Mammut: steel/carbon
  • ABS: steel/carbon
  • Ortovox Avabag: carbon
  • Scott Alpride: dual cartridges

Operating temperatures (if known)

  • Mammut: -30 to +40°C
  • ABS: -40 to +50°C
  • Jetforce battery: withstands temperatures down to -30°C

What does an avalanche backpack cost?

You are convinced to buy an avalanche backpack? Be it your first, second, third or fourth. The price probably still plays a decisive role alongside the main factors such as size, weight, release system and cartridge.

The price range for avalanche backpacks is currently 550-1100 euros for a complete system. The Jetforce system is currently the most expensive at around 1100 €.

On average, a high-quality avalanche backpack complete system costs around 600-700 euros.

Note: Since with some systems you need a new cartridge after a release or have to refill the old one, you should also consider the follow-up costs. The Jetforce system (about 1100 Euros) may seem very expensive at first, but because it is battery-operated, there are no refilling costs.


Your personal safety on the mountain will always be very important. The manufacturers know that too. You will therefore rarely get an avalanche backpack for a bargain price.

You will probably also wait in vain for a sharp reduction (50-70%), as you are used to at the end of a season with many sports articles. BUT: Your avalanche backpack is an essential part of your safety equipment! So you should not save money at the wrong end!

A complete avalanche backpack system is no bargain. The price range is from 550 to 1100 euros. If you are travelling in the mountains away from secured areas, an avalanche backpack is still worth buying, as it is essential for your safety. (Image source: / cylonphoto)

Decision: What types of avalanche backpacks are there and which is the right one for you?

All airbag systems work according to the same principle: In the event of an avalanche, the trigger handle of your airbag is activated and the balloon inflates within 3 seconds. This reduces the burial depth and offers you increased safety margins.

For over two decades, the ABS brand was the only one to produce patented and TÜV-tested avalanche backpacks. In the meantime, a lot has happened on the market. Here's a brief overview so that you can keep an overview of the manufacturer jungle and orient yourself towards the highest quality brands:

  • ABS with P.Ride and Solid System
  • Pieps / Black Diamond with Jetforce system
  • Mammut RAS and PAS
  • BCA with Float Series
  • Ortovox Avabag and Scott Alpride

Note: The multitude of manufacturers, brands and airbag systems can cause confusion at first. It is important to know that brands or systems such as ABS or Jetforce now have licence partners who are allowed to install the system in their backpacks.

How does an ABS backpack work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The ABS brand is the pioneer of avalanche airbag technology. For many years, only ABS backpack systems were available. Due to years of experience and constant development of ABS technology, you can be sure that you will always make a good choice with an ABS backpack!

The P.Ride system was introduced by ABS in 2016. It still consists of a base unit and the Zip-On attachment. Zip-ons are available in sizes 18, 32 and 45 litres.

However, the P.Ride system is not characterised by new Zip-Ons, but by the remote release mode! Studies have shown that in around 20 percent of avalanche accidents the avalanche backpack was not triggered. The reason: human error in extreme situations.

The Partner Ride System (P.Ride) was specially developed for this purpose.

ABS Solid System

The Solid System from ABS has been in use since 1996 and is therefore the most tried and tested system on the market. The backpack also consists of a base unit and zip-on unit. Volume flexibility becomes child's play!

  • Size variation made easy: base units and different zip-ons make it possible
  • Tried and tested twinbag system with 2 chambers
  • Very large rucksack selection
  • Many years of knowledge and experience
  • Remote release possible with P.Ride system
  • Cartridges must be returned to the manufacturer
  • No head and neck protection due to twin bag
  • System cannot be removed from rucksack

How does a PIEPS / Black Diamond backpack with Jetforce system work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The PIEPS and Black Diamond brands developed the Jetforce system in 2014. Novelty: the airbag is no longer inflated by means of a gas cartridge.

A battery-powered high-tech blower enables the inflation in about 3 seconds. Another bonus: The airbag is refilled about every 20 seconds.

In this way, the volume of the balloon is maintained even in the event of a fall in the avalanche. In the event of a burial, the airbag, which is about 200 litres in size, deflates and can create a life-saving breathing cavity in the avalanche.

  • High airbag volume
  • Automatic refilling of the airbag through battery operation
  • Airworthy
  • Breathing cave by emptying the airbag
  • No follow-up costs through cartridge refilling
  • Price
  • No remote release possible
  • Weight

How does an avalanche airbag from Mammut work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

The renowned Swiss company took over the technology from Snowpulse in 2011 and has been continuously developing it ever since. The result is two very solid systems: the RAS (Removable Airbag System) and PAS (Protective Airbag System).

PAS - Protection Airbag System

The PAS from Mammut is designed to offer you extra safety. Why? The special shape of the balloon (comparable to an oversized neck roll) is intended to protect the head, neck and chest area in particular from injury.

The "Head on Top" technology is used here to keep the head on the snow surface and thus the airways clear. Note: In order for the PAS technology to protect you optimally, you should adjust the back length of the backpack to your body!

  • Increased protection of head, neck and chest area due to special monobag
  • Cartridges airworthy
  • Available with aluminium or carbon cartridges
  • Release unit with low weight
  • Large backpack model selection
  • No remote release possible
  • Price

RAS - Removable Airbag System

The little sister of the Mammut PAS is the RAS. A little lighter, cheaper and without the special head, neck and chest comfort protection. The balloon in the shape of a monobag offers you optimum safety with a volume of around 150 litres. Stowing the deployed airbag works without problems within a few seconds.

Both systems, RAS and PAS, are designed to be very space-saving, the difference is minimal.

  • Test release possible without pressure bottle
  • very light
  • established system
  • many backpack models available
  • No head and neck protection
  • cartridge must be sent in
  • no remote release

How does the BCA - Back Country Access work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

BCA - Back Country Access. The cheapest on the avalanche backpack market. However, with regard to the BCA Float series, inexpensive does not mean less quality, safety or inferior technology. BCA's company philosophy: a safe avalanche backpack made by freeriders for freeriders.

Simple and with a price advantage, easy to use, without complicated technology and additional features. The BCA Float is powered by an aluminium gas cartridge, which increases the volume of the avalanche backpack to 150 litres by means of a cable pull or release handle.

  • Simple, easy, inexpensive
  • Cartridges can be refilled yourself
  • System can be separated from the backpack
  • Suitable for right- and left-handed use
  • Limited backpack selection
  • Weight

How do the Ortovox Avabag and Scott Alpride work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Ortovox and Scott, both well-established outdoor brands, launched their own technologies in 2017: the Ortovox Avabag and Scott Alpride.

Novelty in both: Combining a lower weight with a larger airbag volume. In addition, the shape of the deployment handle was optimised so that it can be operated in the best possible way in every extreme situation.

Both balloons are inflated by means of a gas cartridge after deployment. Scott relies on the use of 2 cartridges and a mixture of CO² and argon.

Ortovox Avabag

  • Safety with ease
  • Award-winning market innovation
  • High airbag volume
  • Optimised release handle for left- and right-handers
  • Test release possible without cartridge
  • Only small backpack sizes available
  • Empty cartridges must be sent in
  • Price

SCOTT Alpride

  • Very cheap cartridges
  • System can be removed from the backpack
  • Suitable for flying
  • Low weight
  • TÜV-certified back protector integrated
  • No remote release possible
  • No carbon cartridge to save weight
  • Only one airbag

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate avalanche backpacks

In the following we would like to show you which criteria you can use to evaluate and compare avalanche backpacks. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a certain type of avalanche backpack is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:

  • Backpack volume
  • Airbag volume
  • Airbag shape
  • Total weight
  • Safety leg loop
  • External and internal pockets
  • Additional attachments
  • Preparation for hydration system
  • Release handle for left-handers

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Take a look at our avalanche backpack comparison table. In this easy-to-understand overview, we have compared the currently most important airbag systems with each other on the basis of the avalanche backpacks presented here!

Backpack volume

The backpack volume is the size of your avalanche backpack. At this point we would like to point out that the size of your backpack is one of the most important criteria when buying an airbag system, because it should be adapted to your freeriding behaviour or habits!

So first ask yourself for which activities you need your avalanche backpack? Do you only ride by the hour or by the day? Then a smaller backpack is sufficient! Do you want to take your own provisions and drinks? Do you go skiing or splitboarding? Maybe even multi-day tours?

The following table can help you answer these questions!

Activity ...has room for recommended backpack size
Daypack (for lift/skiing) avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel, provisions, 0.5L drink ~18 litres
Ski/splitboard daypack avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel, thermos, change of clothes, 2nd pair of gloves, climbing skins. 25 litres
Multi-day backpack avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel, thermos flask, change of clothes, 2nd pair of gloves, climbing skins, additional equipment, additional provisions, possibly tent and possibly sleeping bag (45 L) ~ 35 - 45 litres

For all other systems: Find a compromise in your choice of size! Right now you're riding more by the day, but don't rule out starting touring at some point?

But buying two backpacks would not be the ideal solution for you? We recommend a "compromise size" between 25 and 35 litres!

On individual freeride days you'll have a few unused litres of rucksack on your back, but if you want to set off spontaneously for an overnight stay in a hut or a multi-day tour, there's nothing to stop you!

Airbag volume

The airbag is the heart of your avalanche backpack. In an emergency, it inflates after deployment and keeps you on the surface thanks to the "Brazil nut effect". Depending on the manufacturer, the balloon volume of the backpacks and systems available on the market currently ranges between 150 and 200 litres.

Basically, the Brazil nut effect mentioned above applies: higher-volume bodies remain on the surface in a flowing mass, while smaller-volume bodies sink to the bottom. One could therefore conclude at this point that an airbag with 200 litres offers you more buoyancy than an airbag with 150 litres!

This is theoretically correct, but in practice all backpack systems available on the market offer a very good standard of safety. When making your choice, you should therefore not only look for the highest airbag volume, but also consider the shape of your airbag. Take a look at our comparison table!

Airbag shape

When buying an avalanche backpack, you can choose between two types of airbag shape, depending on the manufacturer: A monobag and a twinbag. With a twinbag, the avalanche airbag is folded on the right and left side of the backpack. It therefore consists of two separate chambers. In a monobag, the airbag is folded into one part at the back of the rucksack.

All newer airbag systems on the market now use monobags that inflate over the head or back. Only pioneer ABS still uses the twinbag system.

If you want additional protection in the neck, chest and head area, it is advisable to choose a special monobag shape for this. Do you think that a monobag is too insecure because you only have one chamber available?

Then a twinbag is the right choice for you! Whether monobag or twinbag, all avalanche airbag systems presented here have been tested and are very safe! Which form you prefer is entirely up to you!

Total weight

The total weight of your avalanche backpack, i.e. the combination of backpack, gas cartridge, release unit and release system, has already been discussed in detail above. Nevertheless, we would like to point out here that the total weight can be of great importance for your purchase decision.

Especially if you are going uphill for a longer period of time on a ski tour or a splitboard tour, every gram becomes noticeable. You should therefore ask yourself what activities you plan to do with your backpack and possibly take the total weight into account.

Basically, a smaller backpack volume saves weight. Aluminium cartridges are often standard and cheaper, but to save weight it is worth investing in lighter carbon cartridges!

Safety leg loop

The safety leg loop is an additional safety belt next to the chest and hip belt. This is to increase the safety that you can never lose your backpack by slipping upwards in the event of an avalanche. The safety leg loop is usually threaded between the legs from the hip belt.

Not all manufacturers offer an additional safety leg loop. However, in terms of a secure and optimal fit, this can be of important consideration when buying.

External and internal pockets

Basically, every avalanche backpack has various external and internal pockets. These are important for storing all your equipment functionally. Your equipment should always include your basic avalanche equipment (shovel, probe, beep, first aid kit).

In an emergency, it helps if there is more chaos than order in your avalanche backpack, so consider the arrangement of external and internal pockets! There should always be a special compartment for your basic avalanche equipment such as avalanche shovel, probe or first aid kit. (Your avalanche transceiver, which is also part of your basic equipment, should always be carried on your body)

Optionally, you will probably want to pack drinking, provisions and additional clothing. In addition to a special compartment for avalanche equipment, a second inner compartment would make sense! Some backpack models also offer special compartments for snow goggles, sunglasses, keys, helmets, etc.

If you attach particular importance to special inner and outer compartments, you should consider the functional arrangement of these when making your purchase decision.

Additional fastening options

Depending on the model, your avalanche backpack may have additional fastening options. These are practical because they make it easy to carry your own equipment or to transport additional items of equipment such as ice axes or ropes.

At this point, we advise you to consider the presence of additional fastening options with regard to your usage behaviour and planned activities when making your purchase. Most backpacks have attachment options for

  • Helmet
  • Ski
  • Snowboard
  • Snowshoes
  • Sticks or ice axe
  • Ropes

In addition, there are some backpack systems that allow you to integrate a back protector directly into the backpack. In general, you should always wear a back protector to minimise the safety risk.

The possibility to integrate it directly into your backpack instead of wearing it on your body could be interesting for you.

Preparation for hydration system

Drinking plenty of fluids is important! Freeriding is a physically demanding activity, so you should always make sure you drink enough fluids. To make this easier, some manufacturers offer an integrated hydration system. All you have to do is buy one as an accessory.

Standing still, taking off your backpack, taking out your water bottle, drinking, putting in your water bottle, putting your backpack back on is now a thing of the past! The hydration system is integrated into your backpack so that you can drink at any time through a tube on the front of the backpack.

Drinking bottles in your backpack can not only be bulky and heavy, but also a risk of injury in case of a fall. The plastic drinking bag in your backpack, on the other hand, is neither bulky, nor heavy, nor a risk of injury!

We think so: An integrated hydration system in your backpack can be a very relevant purchase criterion in addition to all other safety aspects!

Release handle for left-handers

In an emergency, things have to happen quickly. The activation handle must be activated immediately. It is always located at the front of the backpack on the shoulder strap.

For right-handers it is on the left side and for left-handers on the right side. This allows you to reach diagonally with your strong hand and activate the airbag! But be careful: Are you left-handed? Then you should make sure when buying your backpack that the release system is also compatible for left-handers.

Many manufacturers have already recognised this, but not all. In an extreme situation it is always important to keep a clear head.

Therefore, as a left-handed person, don't make it more difficult for yourself to trigger your airbag with your right hand because your system doesn't support left-handers. Therefore: Left-handers should definitely use suitable release systems for left-handers!

Facts worth knowing about avalanche backpacks

What should you always have in an avalanche backpack?

  • LVS (avalanche transceiver)
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Rescue blanket
  • Mobile phone with full battery (emergency call)

Other useful safety equipment: helmet + back protector

Important safety tips

To ensure that your trip into the freeride terrain ends well, you should do your "homework" and always have your basic equipment with you. Check them regularly, including those of your partner!

Did you know that the first functional avalanche backpacks were available as early as 1985?

As early as the 1970s, a hunter who got caught in an avalanche with his game on his shoulders experienced that he had more buoyancy due to the larger volume. After further tests, he patented his idea and created the first avalanche backpack.

In 1980, the hunter sold his patent to Peter Aschauer, who further developed the system to the current functionality of the avalanche backpack. The first marketable backpacks were available from 1985.

Lawinenrucksack mobile phone: Always take it with you into the field!

No excuses like "...But my new smartphone!". In an emergency, be it an injury or an avalanche, your mobile phone is essential! Avalanche risk management: acquire the necessary know-how! Practice using all the important parts of your equipment several times during the season:

  • Handling of avalanche transceiver (incl. search for buried subjects)
  • Assemble & use probe
  • Assemble & use shovel
  • Test release avalanche airbag

You don't wish an emergency on anyone. But since you can neither plan nor foresee it, it is all the more important to be well prepared for it. With this in mind: Be safe out there!

How can you better assess the avalanche danger?

In order to avoid having to use your avalanche backpack as much as possible, you should intensively study the topic of avalanches before setting off and be sure to follow the instructions and warning levels. This is especially important for off-piste skiers.

So that you can judge for yourself whether you can go out on the slopes with confidence or whether you would rather stay at home, we give you a few tips in the following table on how to recognise and avoid avalanches at an early stage.

Danger Description Tip
Gliding snow Gliding snow usually forms on smooth, steep slopes. It forms deep and wide cracks in the snowpack, called "glide snow mouths" Avoid the areas of glide snow mouths at all costs, especially below them.
Rain Rain adds weight to the snowpack and makes it unstable Even if you don't want to read this, stay indoors on rainy days and go après ski.
Temperature changes If a cold front hits the ski area, this can often pose a real danger even days later Always keep an eye on the temperatures and the weather and take such fluctuations into account when planning your route.
Fresh snow Fresh snow adds weight to the old snowpack and can make it unstable. Other factors such as temperature, wind and rain also play a role look out for warning signs or weather reports. This will help you to assess whether the fresh snow is critical.
Wind Wind creates drifting snow. The snow settles in a place sheltered from the wind and forms a blanket of drifting snow. You can recognise these blankets by the fact that they are rather dull and tense. The wind is also a major factor in the displacement of snow. Avoid such blankets of drifting snow and do not test yourself just because other skiers have already left a trail. Dangerous cracks can form right next to the track. Learn about all types of drifting snow beforehand so that you can understand and recognise them.
Snow after a long cold period When fresh snow falls after a long period, two different snow covers form that cannot withstand any stress Always keep an eye on the weather and react immediately to a change.

What do I have to consider if I want to fly with an avalanche backpack?

To ensure that everything goes well at the beginning or at the check-in counter on your dream freeride trip, you should observe the following: Travel recommendation: Flying with avalanche airbags

  • Remove the cartridge from your airbag system ("disarm"). However, check it in with your rucksack.
  • Print out the IATA table and add it to your backpack. This will make the relationship between the backpack and the cartridge clear.
  • Obtain written permission from the airline to transport your airbag BEFORE you travel
  • Pack your avalanche backpack (together with the cartridge) in such a way that it cannot be released under any circumstances!

Most airbag backpacks are operated with gas cartridges. These are subject to the category "dangerous goods" and are actually not allowed on board. However, a list of certain products, which also includes most avalanche airbags, is exempt from this regulation.

Airlines that belong to IATA are aware of this list, which is part of the IATA manual. You can usually download this IATA list and the data sheet of your respective cartridge from the manufacturer's page of your airbag system. It is important to check the airworthiness of your airbag system and cartridge BEFORE you travel.

How do I care for and maintain my avalanche backpack?

To ensure that your avalanche airbag is ready for use and in good working order every season, please observe the following:

  • At the beginning of the season: Unpack your airbag and check it thoroughly
  • Do a test deployment (without cartridge)
  • Be aware of a possible expiry date for your deployment system
  • After use in an emergency: It is advisable to check your backpack together with a dealer. Replace or refill your cartridge!
  • Keep your backpack in a dry place!
  • Care: Use water only. Never put it in the washing machine or similar!

Image source: / 16758106