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The Student News Site of Seward High School

SHS Today

The Student News Site of Seward High School

SHS Today

Avalanche Backpacks

Snowmachining is one of my favorite sports, but I need to be safe from avalanches. Out of all the avalanche gear on the market, the most expensive you will find is the backpack. There are a variety of options, but it can be hard to find the right one to fit your needs. 

What is an avalanche backpack?  It is a special backpack that can keep you afloat during an avalanche. This is caused by a big airbag like a balloon. When you pull the handle, it deploys in under three seconds. Once it is deployed, it will stay inflated for up to four minutes. This is vital when it comes to survival. 

The hardest part of purchasing an avalanche backpack is the hefty price. They vary from $400 to $1500. People might think this is crazy, but the most expensive ones have a lot of cool features. 

The least expensive one is powered by a canister that is filled with compressed nitrogen. This is a great way to inflate it, but you can only deploy the airbag once. Once it is deployed, the canister is out. You have to bring the canister to a shop to get filled. The price varies depending on the canister; it could be $50 or $100. This can get costly because in some cases the air bag will go off if it is accidentally pulled. 

The most expensive one is powered by a very powerful electric fan. When you deploy the airbag, the fan is turned on. Once inflated, it keeps it like that for a certain amount of time. This is good if the avalanche is big, and if you get buried it creates an air pocket. Once it is deployed, you can repack it and use it again. If you forgot to charge the fan, you can use AA batteries, and it will work just fine. This backpack weighs six pounds with the fan while the less expensive canister backpack weighs 15 pounds. That is a significant amount of weight dropped. 

My honest opinion on the avalanche backpack is that if you have the funds for the fan-powered one, get it. They are built more sturdy than the cheaper ones. They also have a super reliable system that is tested from the factory. If you are still on a lower budget, then the cheaper ones are also a good solution. They still get the job done and keep you alive. 

Avalanche backpacks are not required, but it brings your survival rate up to 83%. That is good with how deadly avalanches can be. I have ridden with the fan-powered airbag and the canister-powered one. I like how light the fan is. It makes the ride a lot more enjoyable.

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    Trevor GuernseySep 13, 2023 at 7:23 am

    Great article Sam.