Initial field testing at home in the Lake Tahoe Backcountry. Photo: Matt Bansak

Initial field testing at home in the Lake Tahoe Backcountry. Photo: Matt Bansak

Over the past three months I’ve worked as a ski guide in Kashmir, Alaska, and Greenland. Skiing in such parts of the world requires the right safety equipment. At the core of transporting the proper tools into the backcountry is a worthy pack, and having the added benefit of airbag technology in this day and age is a no brainer.

Ample storage, comfort in carry, and reliability are three things I’m looking for in an airbag, among other things. Through my guiding season I have traveled, skied, and put a BCA Float 42 airbag through the ringer. In the end, it’s met most every test I’ve thrown its way. It swallows up my whole junk show no matter how much I seem to pack in there, the airbag system is easy to use, and although when fully loaded I might look like I’m skiing with another person strapped to my back, the pack carries exceptionally well.

Working for Ice Axe Expeditions in Greenland, we're fortunate to collaborate with local legend Larseeraq Skifte.

Working for Ice Axe Expeditions in Greenland, we’re fortunate to collaborate with local legend Larseeraq Skifte.

Pros

  • Durably made. I know I’m not the only who’s fed up with new pack designs that shave weight by using low quality materials. The bags rip, tear and fail with heavy use. To use this pack as hard as I have over the past few month and barely have a blemish is impressive and a welcome change.
  • Convenient storage features such as the helmet carry pocket, avalanche safety sleeve, and separate compartment for airbag storage are all well placed. I could easily fit a bivy sack, multi-tool, first aid kit, repair kit, as well as an oversized snow shovel/saw, snow study kit, and probe in the utility sleeve. That left the whole main compartment for everything else, which was a huge upgrade from my last airbag.
  • No matter how packed, the Float 42 carries a load well on the ascent and descent. At times I would have everything listed above with a camera, rope, boot crampons, ski crampons, food, water, extra gloves and layers in there. Even this loaded, the Float 42 would disperse the weight well across my waist, back, and shoulders maintaining a necessary sense of integrity.
  • Easy to use airbag system. The one 150L airbag is deployed by compressed air (it’s highly recommended to remove the head piece from the air canister as two pieces before flying) and fired on command each time it was tested. The trigger design is also easy to deploy and stow, and doesn’t get in the users way while touring or skiing.
My pack doesn't get much fuller than guiding for Points North Heli-Adventures in Alaska. Thankfully, my pack never felt like "too much" to ride some of favorite terrain that requires no compromise in gear performance.

My pack is as stuffed as it gets when guiding for Points North Heli-Adventures in Alaska. Thankfully, the Float 42 never felt like “too much” to ride some of our favorite terrain that requires no compromise in gear performance.

Cons

-If you don’t have much to put in the pack it can feel bulky.

If you work in the ski industry as a guide, safety professional, or are looking for a pack for extended outings whether they be all day or multi-day, this is a perfect pack. The only drawback I had in testing was the pack feeling a bit too much unless I had it filled. Otherwise, all the features that makes storage so easy, with its overall comfort and performance give the Float 42 a bump above other similar packs out there. Utilizing a compressed air canister is also a much easier way to travel, refill and ultimately get the most use out of the pack. This is a highly recommended piece of equipment for any dedicated backcountry skiers kit, along with most of the other high quality products BCA makes available to the backcountry community.

Contemplating the options of the Himalaya. Photo: Jerrod Fast

Contemplating the options of the Himalaya while working for The Adventure Project. Photo: Jerrod Fast