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Although hailing from a German company, the 26L Powder Avalanche Airbag Backpack from ABS is best described as the Swiss Army Knife of backpacks; it has it all.


ABS_Downdays-4Review by Mark von Roy

In the 1970s a Bavarian hunter named Josef Hohenester, carrying a recently slain mountain goat strapped to his backpack, was caught in an avalanche. While being taken by the avalanche, Josef remained on top of the slide thanks to the game strapped to his back and, of course, the physical law of “inverse segregation” (simply put: if a sack of objects of various sizes is shaken, the smaller objects go to the bottom, the larger objects rise to the top).

Anyway, we are not here for a lesson in physics. The important thing to note is that Josef developed the idea into expandable airbags for avalanche survival and Peter Aschauer purchased the patent to the idea a few years later. Over 25 years of research and development later, as well as the skiing industries acceptance and adoption of the technology, and we have the Powder Avalanche Airbag Backpack from ABS; the bag that does it all.

Integrating the proven twin-bag system, the ABS Powder base unit is the lightest base unit in the line and therefor the go to for any freerider looking for unrestricted movement as well as saving weight. You can zip on an 8, 15 or 26 Liter pack onto the system depending on what your needs are, so we tested out the 26L version, just so we could try out all the nifty developments and handy systems that this experienced backpack company has come up with.

Apart from the proven Twin Bag system the 26L pack has all the safety and practical features that you could wish for, and then some. With a dedicated, easy access sleeve for your shovel and probe, easy to use ski and ice axe mounts, it covers all the bases. Additionally the bag has an SOS emergency plan label printed on the inside with international emergency phone numbers and a basic emergency signal and communication guide. The material of the entire bag is somewhat see-through, allowing for more light enter the bag; meaning you can find your stuff far more easily. Handy and safe! Other features include a daisy chain that offers various mounting options, easy access pockets, hydrobag compatibility and lots of space to put extra clothing, camera gear, food and whatever else you may need. Other than that, it is really comfortable, is completely adjustable and really is intuitive to use — basically it’s the swiss army knife of backpacks.

We highly recommend you read the instructions thoroughly and test out the bag before using it. You need to be familiar with the ABS twin bag and it’s uses before heading up the hill. And on that note, an airbag is NOT a replacement other safety equipment (like transceiver, shovel and probe) or substitute for avalanche education. You need all of those too before heading into avalanche terrain! (Also, just in case, after testing the system you have to replace the cartridge and the handle!)

There is little doubt as to why many respected brands like Dakine, The North Face and Ortovox integrate the ABS system into their backpacks: it is reliable it is simple to use and it works seamlessly in many different models. The ABS Powder Base Unit with 26L pack is a solid backpack that has all the bells and whistles that any freerider can ask for.

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ABS, Airbag, avalanche