It won’t keep you on top of an avalanche like an airbag system, but should you get buried, it can prolong your survival time. You breathe through a tube, like a snorkel, at the top of the shoulder strap. It takes in clean air from the snowpack and expels CO2-tainted air out the bottom. This is the first BD pack that lets you add the system (sold separately for $100, 9.5 oz.) into a special compartment for days when you need it, while keeping the pack light and versatile enough for daily use.
“I toted nearly 25 pounds of winter gear in total comfort on a day-long ski up Stevens Peak, Idaho,” one tester says.
There’s no top access to the main bag, but the foam-and-plastic framesheet peels back to reveal the pack’s entire contents. “The front pocket is for safety gear, the main compartment for my extra clothes,” says one Washington tester. “And the roomy, 8-inch-long hipbelt pockets fit my granola bars and my camera.” A nylon helmet sleeve tucks away into a hand-size pouch on top of the pack; we liked the convenience but wished there was less bounce.