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ISPO Report 2017 | Avalanche safety equipment

New avalanche transceiver from Mammut, lightweight cartridge airbag systems from BCA and Alpride

by Lea Hartl 02/04/2017
BCA and Alpride now have similarly lightweight and small airbag systems as the other manufacturers. Some companies that previously bought in airbag systems for their own backpacks are taking them out of the range completely after winters with low sales. Mammut has completely redesigned Barryvox avalanche transceivers - one in the mid-price segment and one high-end device.

Airbags - cartridge systems

Ortovox, Mammut and Arva already presented their new, lighter airbag systems last year. This year, Mammut has added an additional backpack model with the R.A.S. system (Flip, 22l). Arva has also expanded its Reactor range (various models between 15l and 40l) and slightly revised its backpacks (e.g. carrier system).

BCA: Float 2.0
BCA has also revised its tried-and-tested Float system and given it a diet. According to BCA, the new airbag system weighs only 637 grams (without the rest of the backpack) - this puts BCA on a par with other manufacturers who were already competing for the lightest airbag system at ISPO last year and are only presenting small changes this year. The Float 2.0 Speed 27 backpack weighs around 2.5 kilos complete. As before, the cartridges are filled with normal breathing air.

The weight saving in the Float 2.0 system was achieved primarily through a more efficient blower, which makes it possible to use a smaller cartridge with the same performance. The Float 2.0 system fits completely, i.e. including the cartridge, in the separate airbag compartment. The remaining storage space in the backpack remains free, which means you no longer have to pack around the cartridge and the volume is more usable. The Float 2.0 Speed 27 is a rather minimalist backpack - the other features have also been slimmed down compared to the Float 1.0 backpacks that are still available. Like the previous version, the Float 2.0 system can be completely removed if you want to save a little more weight.

Alpride: Alpride is an airbag system that is used by various backpack manufacturers without backpacks being offered under their own label. The Alpride system has also been revised and is now smaller, lighter and more compact in the backpack in version 2.0. At 690 grams, the weight of the airbag system is in the same league as that of other manufacturers. Scott has a 20l and a 30l backpack with the Alpride 2.0 system. Millet also uses Alpride, as does Ferrino and the new company Integrated Avalanche System (see below).

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Airbags - Electronic systems

Pieps/ Black Diamond - There is a software update for all Jetforce backpacks. This can be carried out in the Jetforce Service Centers. Among other things, the update refines the engine control. The update also includes a special, energy-saving storage mode. (To ensure that the motor starts up quickly when switched on, the Jetforce backpacks are not completely off even when they are actually switched off and consume a little power.)

Arc'teryx - no innovations to the Voltair presented last year.

Airbag and breathing aid combo systems

The Italian company Ferrino continues to produce backpacks that feature an airbag system (Alpride) as well as an Avalung-like breathing system (Airsafe) and a Recco reflector. The breathing tube is built into one backpack strap and the airbag handle into the other. The backpacks are available in 20l and 30l versions.

Ferrino now has competition from Integrated Avalanche System. The Alpride system is also used here, but the breathing system is a proprietary development. In contrast to the Avalanche and the Airsafe used by Ferrino, the valve is located directly on the mouthpiece. Firstly, this reduces the dead space through which the air has to be sucked, and secondly, it saves the somewhat bulky valve box on the shoulder of the rucksack harness (the handle is a little larger). In addition, with the Integrated Avalanche System, the airbag and breathing system are activated with the same movement - you pull the handle and then put it in your mouth. The developers consider it unrealistic for anyone to set off with the tube already in their mouth. This handling is recommended by Avalung and Ferrino.

Currently, there is a 24-liter backpack from Integrated Avalanche System for which the RRP is said to be €850. A smaller and a larger model are to be added by the 2017/18 season. Before the backpacks are available in stores, a presale is planned where they can be pre-ordered at slightly lower prices.

Miscellaneous airbags

The Polish start-up Aerosize has been in existence for a whole 4 months and presented its new airbag idea for the first time at ISPO: the airbags, which previously seemed a little bulky, are not completely inflated by compressed air in a cartridge, but have a kind of frame. This is inflated with the cartridge and stretches the rest of the balloon. Air is somehow sucked in from the outside (?) to inflate it. It is hoped that this will result in a much smaller, lighter system. Since you don't have to inflate the whole balloon, a smaller cartridge is sufficient. Due to the small volume, it should be possible to accommodate the system not only in backpacks, but also in vests and a kind of chest strap that can be worn under any backpack.

Some companies that have purchased airbag systems for their own backpacks in recent years have completely discontinued their airbag lines. Deuter and Vaude no longer have any airbags, as it was apparently no longer possible to make a profit with them. The POC Jetforce backpack is also no longer available. Evoc, on the other hand, continues to produce Zip On attachments for the ABS system.

LVS devices

There are no innovations from BCA, Arva and Ortovox. Pieps has released the first software update for the Pieps Micro, which was launched last year. The update increases the specified search strip width to 50 and allows lithium batteries to be used. Pieps notes that the specified search strip width is not calculated theoretically from the power of the antennas, but is determined by means of checkerboard tests in the field. In addition, the Pieps Micro is now available in different colors.

Mammut: Barryvox S
Mammut is launching a new version of the Barryvox in two variants: The Barryvox (RRP €280) and the Barryvox S (RRP €380). S stands for Super. The new development was necessary because the old Pulse and Element devices had reached their hardware limits, which could no longer be overcome with software updates. Both new devices emphasize three points: 1. higher performance, 2. easier handling, 3. faster rescue, as they are easier to operate.

Both devices have all the features that are now standard - from the marking function to the group check mode. The search strip width is specified as 70 meters. It is also emphasized that the Y antenna is now more or less as strong as the X antenna, making the reception field circular. Antennas of the same or similar strength reduce the influence of unfavorable coupling positions on the reception range.

The buttons for switching on and off and for marking are very orange and stand out clearly from the rest of the device, which is the purpose of the bright color. The Barryvox has no other buttons. The Barryvox S also has more inconspicuous scroll buttons on the side, which can be used to navigate through the menu. The menu system for scrolling is based on cell phone menus, for maximum ease of use.

The display on the Barryvox and Barryvox S is significantly larger than on the older models and is apparently easy to read even with polarized lenses. The display on the Barryvox S is slightly larger than on the Barryvox without S and can also do a little more. The Smart Search function includes a directional arrow that not only turns when you move, but also bends around the corner if you walk in the wrong direction. Different beeps also indicate if you are not following the arrow correctly. Schematic instructions are shown on the display for each search phase. The Auto Guidance function bridges phases in which you lose the correct signal due to signal overlaps, for example, and still sends you in the right direction.

The main aim of the new Barryvox devices is to make handling easier and the search more intuitive. The more expensive Barryvox S is also recommended for beginners, as there is more support on the display when searching. Mammut sees the raison d'être of the little brother without the S in the fact that some people cannot afford an expensive device. The Barryvox without S has the same hardware and therefore the same search and reception performance as the Barryvox S. For the lower price, you have to do without certain extras. This can and should be compensated for by a little more practice. More special functions of the Barryvox S, such as different profiles depending on the area of application, adjustable autorevert function, etc. are more interesting for the professional sector and organized rescue.

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Other miscellaneous

Ortovox have redesigned their shovels and probes. The probes have been provided with additional color markings, which should make it easier to see if you have suddenly probed less deeply, e.g. if you have probed a buried person instead of the ground. There is also a shovel with a saw integrated into the handle and shovels with a chopping function. The shovel blades and handles are compatible between the different models.

Pieps is now finally offering the i-probe in a 300 cm length. The already familiar shovel models (with saw, with chopping function, with curved handle, etc.) are still available, as are accessories such as the Pieps Checker and the Slope Inclinometer 30° Plus.

ABS, together with the company Avalanche Float, is presenting a system that releases snowboard bindings from the feet in the event of an avalanche instead of a new airbag backpack this year. A system ("Resero") attached to the binding is triggered via Bluetooth using the airbag handle on the backpack, which releases (?) the pins installed on the binding straps so that they open. The system is not triggered immediately when the handle is pulled, as you may still be skiing at this point and have a chance of getting out of the avalanche, but only when a "fall sensor" reports that you have fallen. The system is compatible with normal soft boot bindings (straps, highback). It will be available both individually and in combination with the P.Ride airbags. Individually, the RRP is 400€. The system is based on the P.Ride technology - this invention from ABS presented last year allows airbags to be triggered by other people via a radio connection.

Recco has reduced the size and weight of the large aerial search receivers (beach ball-sized spheres hanging from a rope under the helicopter). They now weigh approx. 60 kg and are 40 cm high. The receivers have a footprint of about 200m. This makes it possible to search one square kilometer in 3 to 6 minutes from the helicopter. 4 of these receivers are already in use in the Western Alps, 11 more are to follow across the Alps. The 60-kilo spheres are of course not to be confused with the small, now really quite handy receivers for skier avalanches, which are not used to search several square kilometers.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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