KLIM is distributor of ABS pack – inflatable avalanche pack

Posted in Backcountry Skiing by Brig Graff - 10.03.2008

Most of us on are more into self-propelled outdoor adventure than motorized outdoor pursuits. You know, backcountry skiing, road biking, mountain biking, trail running, etc, instead of motocross and snowmobiles. But I have to say — I have a lot of respect for snowmobilers and am even considering picking one up myself. However, I have a bad impression that most snowmobilers do NOT respect avalanches like they should until they see it first hand. A good friend of mine lost his buddy while snowmobiling in Idaho. Saddest story…just highmarking, not thinking anything of it, and released a slide.

It seems if you are motorized, it’s easy to just blaze out into the backcountry and quickly get in over your head in avalanche terrain. Whereas with backcountry skiing, you are going slower and don’t have the hubris to think, “Hey, if I see an avalanche I’ll just punch the throttle and out-run it!” Instead you realize your vulnerability a bit more and (I hope) have taken classes and carry the right gear.

So against that backdrop, I am thrilled that KLIM (a snowmobile gear company) now has the rights to distribute the ABS avalanche pack in the United States.

I first heard about the ABS pack from Bruce Tremper (an expert avalanche forecaster) when I was taking an avalanche class from Exum Mountain Guides in Salt Lake. This was several years ago, and Bruce mentioned this very interesting new backpack that was available in Europe. The pack has CO2 cartridges, and if you found yourself caught in a slide you just pull a cord and it inflates a large airbag. That effectively makes you a larger, lightweight object, so you get sifted to the top of the debris as it slides. It’s just like when you shake a bag of potato chips and the bigger ones settle to the top. Here is how KLIM describes the pack:

“With the ABS avalanche airbag, you have 170 liters (6.0 cu ft) of additional volume within seconds that can prevent you from dropping back into the flowing masses of snow and/or can reduce the depth of burial. This separation process in which items having a larger volume float to the top is called the “Inverse Particles Principle”. Cold dry powder snow has a very low density but a large volume. A person on the other hand has a high density but less volume. In order to be able to float on the snow’s surface and to avoid sinking, a person needs an additional volume of approximately 1.5 times of the persons total weight, which the ABS Avalanche Pack System provides.”

The ABS Pack also boasts a 98% survival rate. That’s almost unbelievable, given the lower average survival expectancy of people who happen to get caught in avalanches.

Now, it isn’t all rosy — the pack retails at almost $1,000. Though that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, I will have to see it personally before I make up my mind.

And you’ll get a chance to do just that, if you live in Salt Lake City. We will have one of the packs with us at the OSH Theater on the University of Utah campus (the building just south of the Union bldg), at 6:30pm on Friday October 3rd. This is immediately before the Poor Boyz Production ski movie premiere at the theater, so please stop by the OSH at 6:30 to take a look, and stick around for the ski movie.


2 Responses to 'KLIM is distributor of ABS pack – inflatable avalanche pack'

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  1. Brig Graff

    I saw this pack last night —- VERY cool. I was impressed. They have a couple of different models — the navy blue one shown here in this article is the smallest, slimmest one and is the one I saw and is about the size of the Dakine Heli Pro. It’s called the Freeride and barely has space for your skins, shovel, probe, and maybe a hydration pouch. But for most dawn patrols that’s all you need.

    It is built mainly for snowmobilers who don’t need to carry skins, so they throw on the pack with shovel & probe and they still have room to throw lunch in there. But for skiers, it is the best option we now have. That is, unless you want the one that is just a size larger — which is about the size of the Dakine Ridge.

    Four things I wish the Freeride had:

    1) A cargo pocket on the hip belt, for a digital camera & energy bars;
    2) A standard clip on the hip belt — it is currently more of a climbing harness-style closure clip and you can’t wear it loosely or it will come undone;
    3) A way to carry your skis diagonally for when you need to boot pack instead of skin;
    4) An insulated and integrated hydration pouch.

    These aren’t show stoppers, given the huge benefit of actually LIVING through an avalanche and making it home to see your kids. But for a normal pack, if it didn’t have the ABS airbag system I would see those as real design downfalls for backcountry skiing — even for a lightweight freeride pack. Again, the pack was designed for freeriding snowmobilers, not with backcountry skiers in mind particularly. But the safety of the ABS system overrides all those downfalls, and I think I’ll be picking one up this year for skiing.

  2. Brig Graff

    You know, integrate an Avalung into the pack (like this one by Black Diamond: ) and I think this pack could crush it among backcountry skiers. Still pricey, but the ABS pack seems it would *drastically* increase the likelihood of survival.

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