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Avalanche Airbag Buyers Guide

Skiing and snowboarding are fun, but there's a continuous fear of avalanches. Avalanches are getting common nowadays, so it is essential to carry the right protective gear that saves your life in that critical condition.

But which avalanche airbag to buy is still a question for many! Furthermore, some people even don't know about it in detail.

So, to help you buy the best avalanche airbags, we are here with this detailed buyer's guide. The guide comprises several factors that you need to check before clicking the buy now button.

Moreover, we have highlighted some undeniable benefits of carrying these airbags whenever you are out skiing, hiking, or snowboarding in the backcountry.

Reasons to carry avalanche airbags

As per some studies, wearing an avalanche airbag while skiing or snowboarding can increase the chances of survival up to 50%. You don't know when an avalanche arrives, and that's why wearing an airbag can save your life.

These bags are effective

Avalanche airbags are very effective and useful in the event of an avalanche. You can deploy the airbag, and it'll keep you afloat in the snow.

Easy to use

Using these airbags isn't that hard, actually. All you need is a little bit of training and knowledge. Watch a YouTube video on how avalanche airbags work, and you are good to go.

Good for storage

Some of these bags have multiple compartments so that you can carry different items as well. Just like an airbag, carrying a trans receiver is essential to send your location to the rescue teams.


Some people have a misconception that avalanche airbags are heavy. Well, modern airbags are lightweight, and you don't feel the bulk while carrying one.

However, it is crucial to check the weight before you purchase an avalanche airbag.

Things to look for when buying avalanche airbags

An avalanche airbag will only save your life if you are using the right one. These airbags are available in a range of options with different types, sizes, and features. To help you understand each and everything about these airbags, we have listed some factors below.

Go through the list of factors, and find out how to choose the best avalanche airbags.

Types of avalanche airbags

These airbags are available in a plethora of options. Choosing the right type of bag is important if you want it to save your life in case an avalanche hits you when enjoying.

The common types available in the market are:

  • Electronic activation
  • Canister activation

Electronic activation

These airbags have a built-in electronic system that doesn't depend on natural gas canisters. These are the modern airbags that skiers and snowboarders love to use.

There is a fan that draws battery from the batteries to inflate the airbag. The major benefits of electronic activation airbags are lightweight and convenient.

There is no need to replace the gas canisters when you have an electronic airbag. Also, they work better in emergencies, provided that you have purchased a branded avalanche airbag.


  • Travel-friendly as compared to canister airbags
  • Easy to use
  • Features self-testing diagnostic systems


  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Even in the electronically activated avalanche airbag, you get two options. You need to choose from supercapacitor and li-ion batteries.

Supercapacitor systems

Supercapacitors don't use any chemicals such as li-ion batteries, so they are good for transportation. These batteries store electrical energy even at high and low temperatures to power up the airbag system so that it deploys without any issues.

However, capacitors are a bit heavy when compared to Li-ion batteries due to their size.

Li-ion systems

The avalanche airbags with li-ion systems are cheaper when compared to supercapacitors. The batteries use a chemical reaction for storing the charge, so these batteries aren't that great for transportation in areas with extreme temperatures.

Also, you can only shop the airbag through a plan if the airline authorities approve its capacity.

Canister activation

Canister activation airbags are the common types of airbags used by people. These are the traditional airbags that store a gas canister that is responsible for inflating the airbags.

Usually, the gas used in these canisters is nitrogen, which is a noble gas and has no side effects on your health. When you pull the cord, the canister gets punctured, and the gas starts filling inside the airbags.

Canister avalanche airbags are also available in two different options: single-use canisters and refillable canisters.

Refillable canisters

If you love skiing or snowboarding, then going for avalanche airbags with refillable canisters will be a great idea. You can get the canister refilled multiple times, depending on your requirement.

However, getting the canister refilled can be a hassle, and you can only go to the certified centers to get the gas refilled.


  • You can check if the cylinder needs refilling as sometimes the gas leaks.
  • Compact and handy
  • Ideal for multiple uses


  • You need to be cautious when using them.
  • Only certified centers can fill the gas
Single-use/one-time use canisters

These canister systems are suitable for recreational users. If you need an avalanche airbag that you can use one time only, go with these canisters. Once you puncture the canister, it cannot be used again, and you need a new canister or a new avalanche airbag.


  • Cheaper than refillable canister systems
  • Reliable
  • You can check the gas levels anytime


  • Cannot be used more than one time

Number of airbags

After choosing the type of avalanche airbag, you should check the number of airbags it comes equipped with. Avalanche airbags come with one, two, or even more airbags depending on where you will be using them.

One of the biggest benefits of using an airbag with multiple airbags is that if one bag gets punctures, the other airbag deflates and saves your life.


The capacity of the airbag depends on where you will be using it. Also, it depends on the duration of the trip. If you are on a short trip, you should go for an airbag with a smaller capacity; on the other hand, you should go for a bigger airbag for a multi-day trip.

15-20L airbags

These are great when you have to travel to the destination via a helicopter or some other vehicle such as a snowmobile. When you have fewer things to carry, you don't need a massive bag for it.


These airbags are great for day touring. You can stash in a lot of items in these backpacks, such as a shovel, a pair of gloves, and much more.

35L or more

You should buy these airbags for multi-day trips. Due to the increased capacity, the bag gives you enough space to carry a lot of things.

Activation system

An avalanche airbag with a lousy activation system is of no use. You should go for airbags that are easy to activate so that you can inflate the bag in the event of an avalanche.

Canister-type avalanche airbags feature a pulling cord that you can pull to release the gas from the cylinder, which then enters into the airbag to inflate it.

On the other hand, electronic avalanche airbags also have a pulling cord that you can yank to inflate the airbag.

The activation of the airbag should be easy, and that's why most of them come with a front-activation pull cord.

When you are sliding into an avalanche, you don't get much time to act. So, it is indispensable to purchase an avalanche airbag that activates quickly.


The weight of the airbag will have a huge impact on its portability. You should go for an avalanche airbag that's lightweight so that you can carry some other gear as well.

The weight of the airbag depends on multiple factors such as the type and capacity. Always calculate the total weight by adding the weight of the airbag with the weight of your luggage.

It'll help you save a lot of money when traveling on a flight. Also, people that want to hike to a peak and come back skiing should go for lightweight avalanche airbags.

Pockets and carrying capacity

How many pockets do you need? The reason why we asked this question is that the choice of pockets is a personal preference.

You have to decide how many pockets you will be using, actually. Do you need one big pocket or multiple small pockets?

Make sure to check the pocket size if you want to carry your skiing helmet or goggles in it.


It is paramount to check the fit when buying avalanche airbags. A properly fitting airbag will snuggle your body, and that's what you need. Check the fit of the airbag to ensure that it fits you properly.

Avalanche airbag manufacturers offer them in a range of options with varying torso lengths. You should choose the ideal length depending on your body stature.

To get the best fit, it is advised to try the airbag. Wear the airbag on your back, and try to fasten all the belts. Now try to move, and run. If you find that the pack is just dangling with your back, then it is not the right fitting airbag.

The airbag should hold you tightly so that it remains sticking to your body in the events of an avalanche. One thing to keep in mind is that the airbag shouldn't restrict your movements.

When you are skiing or snowboarding, you need to move your arms and legs to create balance. Check every element of the airbag to ensure a great fit.

Ease of carrying

It is important to buy the right avalanche airbag if you want to travel via plane. One common problem folks face with canister airbags is that they have to empty them before boarding the flight.

Getting the canister empty and then refilled can be expensive as well as a task full of hassles. So, if you want to travel to your favorite destination for skiing or for any other sports activity, make sure to go with electronically activated avalanche airbags.

There is no need to empty or refill the gas. However, make sure that the batteries have enough charge to power up the fans whenever required.

Features of an avalanche airbag

An avalanche airbag can have a plethora of features depending on which model you are buying. Here are some common features you will see in these airbags.

Hip belt

A hip belt is a useful feature that you'll find in mostly all avalanche airbags. The belt helps in keeping the airbag attached to your body, and it doesn't fly off whenever you activate it.

Built-in compass

Some manufacturers offer a built-in compass in the airbags. You can use the compass to navigate your route in case you have lost all your gear and other such stuff in the avalanche.

Locking clasp

The locking clasp keeps the airbags from accidental activation. This feature is really helpful when you have a one-time canister avalanche airbag.

Multiple straps

Some airbag packs come with multiple straps that you can use to attach your ski goggles and other accessories. However, you should only use these straps for attaching your stuff while traveling, as they can hinder the activation of the airbag.

Airbag shape

These airbags have different shapes. Some are round, whereas some have a purely circular shape. The shape of the airbag has no significant impact on its performance. However, its size and quantity will certainly impact its performance.

Lockable zippers

Avalanche airbags with lockable zippers let you lock them to safeguard your stuff from getting stolen. You can use a small lock to protect your stuff from theft.


It is important to check the brand before you purchase the avalanche airbag. Always go for popular brands so that you get a good-quality airbag that inflates without fail.

There are a multitude of good brands out there, such as BCA, Black Diamond, ABS, and much more.

Some other considerations to make before you purchase the avalanche airbag

The canister should be easy to replace

There can be an event where you have to replace the canister due to any unforeseen circumstances. Always go for avalanche airbags that have easily replaceable canisters.

Also, the separate canisters should be easily available because you cannot fit any other brand canister with your airbag.

Airline compliant

Not every avalanche airbag is airline compliant, and that's why it is important to check it beforehand. Usually, electronically activated airbag packs are airline-approved because they don't use any gases.


Avalanche airbags are available at a range of prices that vary from affordable to expensive options. As it is a matter of safety, so you should avoid thinking too much about the money.

Go for a branded airbag that fits in your budget and has positive customer reviews.

Accessories to buy with avalanche airbags

When buying an avalanche airbag, you should buy some essential accessories as well. It is important to get all the required accessories to have a smooth experience with the airbag pack.

Refillable canister

Get a refillable canister with you so that you can replace it if the existing canister gets leaked. Also, these canisters are helpful while traveling. You can empty the canister before boarding the flight and can fill it again when you are at your destination.

Trigger test tool

The trigger test tool helps you in determining if the trigger is working fine or not. Inflating the entire airbag isn't a great idea, so you should use a trigger test tool instead.

Power supply

With the power supply, you can charge the batteries to keep your avalanche airbag functional. Buy the power supply kit depending on the capacity of the battery.

Carry attachment

A carry attachment is a separate bag you can attach with the airbag to enhance the storage. Always buy good quality and lightweight carry attachments to use with your avalanche airbag.

FAQs: Best Avalanche Airbags

Q: How does an avalanche airbag work?

A: It is important to understand the working of an avalanche airbag before you buy it. Both canister-type and electronically activated airbags have similar working. However, there are different components that do the job.

To help you understand how the airbag works, we are taking an example of a canister avalanche airbag system.

The trigger available in front of the bag is attached to the canister valve. When you pull the cord, the canister valve gets punctured, and the gas starts filling inside the airbag to safeguard you.

The same is the case with the electronic airbag. There is a fan system attached to it, which is responsible for filling the air into the airbag.

These days people prefer electronic airbags because they are reliable and can be transported through a flight. Also, there are no hassles of refilling the gas multiple times.

Q: Are avalanche airbags effective?

A: A short answer to this question is yes! Avalanche airbags are really effective, and they can save your life in the event of an avalanche. The airbag keeps you afloat in the snow, and that's how it can save your life.

However, the effectiveness and performance of the airbag depend on multiple factors, such as its brand. Always go for branded airbags that have positive customer reviews.

Q: Why is an avalanche dangerous?

A: An avalanche can be life-threatening because the snow tosses you into the air and on the rock. There are multiple injuries an avalanche can cause, such as internal bleeding and broken bones. With an avalanche airbag, you can reduce the chances of these injuries.

The airbag absorbs the shocks and keeps you protected from the injuries.

Q: Do avalanche airbags activate automatically?

A: Unfortunately, no! Avalanche airbags don't get activated automatically as there is no devices present that can sense the avalanche to trigger the airbag. You have to do it manually, and that's why regular practice is important.

Some people get immobilized by the fear of an avalanche, and that's why they forget to activate the airbag.

It is important to watch a YouTube video to understand how to activate the airbag and how to prevent getting injured during an avalanche.

Q: Are avalanche airbags dangerous?

A: Avalanche airbags are there to save your life, but yes, they can be dangerous sometimes if you don't know how to use them properly. Ensure that the airbag fits you properly so that it doesn't fly off after activation.

Also, practice using it multiple times to understand how the system works.

Q: How to find out if the canister has enough gas to fill the airbag?

A: It's easy to find out if the canister is punctured or not. Open the canister cap and check the seal. If there is no seal, that means there is no gas in the canister, and it is time to get it refilled.

You can even compare the weight of the canister with an empty one. It is critical to ensure that the canister contains enough gas to refill the airbag.

Q: Should I carry a secondary cartridge?

A: Definitely, it is important to carry a secondary cartridge so that you can replace it in case the existing ones fail to work. Expert skiers and snowboarders always inspect their avalanche airbags before they go skiing in the backcountry.

Check everything thoroughly, from the activation handle to the cartridge and other such things, before going skiing or any other activity.


With this comprehensive avalanche airbag buyer's guide, you can expect to buy the best avalanche airbags. Keep all these things in mind, and it will help you choose a perfect airbag that deployed quickly to safeguard you.

One thing that most people overlook is the brand. Always go for branded airbags that belong to prominent brands so that you get a good-quality airbag.

Another thing to check is the customer review. Skimming through the customer reviews will help you understand the product details better.

Lastly, check the fit because a properly fitting airbag is critical for saving your life in case an avalanche occurs. / - © Copyright 2020