We’re very fortunate to have avalanche airbags. Yes, we have beacons, probes and shovels, but none of those actually prevent burial when someone’s caught in a snow slide. The avalanche airbag fills that space, and does it quite well, reducing mortality rate by 50% among those who successfully deploy the bag (from 22% to 11%). They do, however, have a decent flaw in their design: in order to inflate the bag, the product uses compressed air, meaning once its used, that air cartridge must be replaced before its used again.
To be fair, that really isn’t that big of a flaw. If you get caught in an avalanche and deploy the bag, it’s not that hard to avoid skiing again until it’s fixed. Tests or accidental deployments, however, become very expensive when relying on this method. The cartridges themselves can cost a pretty hefty amount. So, to solve this problem, Ortovox and Arc’teryx paired up to create the AVABAG LiTRIC, a brand new electric avalanche airbag.
A battery powered electric airbag system does seem to create some problems of its own, but they’ve thought this thing through. First of all, it’s pretty darn lightweight, coming in at 1,100 grams (~2.43 pounds), and with its Lithium-ion battery fully charged, it can power itself for two full inflations in a 60 hour period. Temperature also shouldn’t be an issue with this device, as it can supposedly operate from -22°F (-35°C) to 113°F (45°C). If you’re somehow skiing outside that temperature range, I think you might have some more significant problems. It’s also quite quick to inflate, and its bright orange airbag can assist in rescue efforts if needed. Activation is easy and the handle’s height is adjustable, plus the airbag is apparently quite easy to pack after use.
The only problem I can see associated with this is its product life. According to the Ortovox website, it only lasts for about 50 activations. Hopefully nobody is getting caught in more than 50 avalanches throughout their life, but one of the bug things I see the LiTRIC being uniquely useful for is training and avalanche classes, and if you test it every time you go into avalanche prone areas, there’s a good chance it won’t last that long. Of course, with compressed air airbags, you can’t really do that, and the product did win the 2022 ISPO Award. You definitely shouldn’t overlook it just because of the lifetime.
Compatible backpacks come in three categories, the Tour Series, the Freeride Series and the Zero Series, and cost around €1,150 euros on average (around ~$1,190 at the time of writing this story). That’s not cheap, but it’s still around the same price as some of the other airbags on the market.
Image Credit: Ortovox via YouTube