An airbag backpack so light, you’ll forget that you’re wearing it.
The Mammut Ultralight Removable Airbag pack was created with one purpose in mind—to be the lightest airbag backpack on the market. With this goal in mind, the designers at Mammut slimmed down just about everything that can be slimmed down on a backpack, leaving a skimpy-looking bag of orange fabric and thin gray straps weighing only 1.7 kilograms, but still packing an inflatable airbag that one day, maybe, will save your life.
As someone who spends a lot of time skiing with a camera backpack on, I can fully appreciate the motivation to lighten one’s load on the back — but even so, this pack is pretty extreme. Designed with speed ski touring in mind, the Ultralight has been pared down to the absolute minimum amount of weight and fabric that can still conceivably be called a backpack (honestly, it looks more like a piece of women’s swimwear than an airbag pack). Aside from the airbag compartment on top, there are only two other zippered compartments on the bag—the pocket for the airbag release handle on the shoulder strap, and the back-access main compartment, which is just big enough (barely) to accommodate skins, shovel, probe, a water bottle, a snack bar or two, and if you’re lucky, maybe you can squeeze in an extra beanie. Anyway, with a pack this light, it would be foolish to want to pack any more than that.
Let’s be honest: most skiers and boarders do not need this pack, plain and simple. For the vast majority of us looking for an airbag backpack, there are plenty of models available from Mammut and other providers that provide more durability, features and storage space; yes, they all weigh more than the Ultralight, but most of us will be willing to make that compromise. This pack is built for the die-hards; if you’re not timing yourself on your ski-tour sprints to the top of the mountain, then you probably don’t need it. But if you do, then this pack might be your new best friend.
My admittedly modest ski touring qualifications place me firmly outside of the speed-touring category, but I took this backpack out for a rip around the local resort anyway to see how it felt, loaded nearly to the max with a DSLR camera and a water bottle. I must say, it’s an unusual feeling to know you’re packing some serious avalanche safety equipment on your back, and not even feel the weight of it there—this bag, even when loaded up, feels barely distinguishable from the weight of your ski jacket. A few butterflies might have stopped on your shoulders for a picnic.
Though snow levels were too low for me to kick off an avalanche and fling myself into it for testing purposes, at home I fired off the airbag, and after a brief moment of panic while the sound of rushing air filled the room, I felt the billowy safety of the bulbous red Snowpulse airbag behind my head—a reminder that despite its apparent skimpiness, the Ultralight still packs a punch when you need it most.