January 6, 2006--
Black Diamond Equipment will be
showing a number of interesting and innovative new products for
fall 06 at the Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow later this month. Among
them: a new line of backcountry skiing specific backpacks,
all with an integrated "Avalung" avalanche burial breathing
device. The new packs will feature a collapsible breathing tube
that stows away in a zippered compartment built into the left
shoulder strap. On the right shoulder strap BD will include a
zippered hydration tube pocket.
The new Avalung packs extract breathable
air from the snowpack through an inlet located under a mesh panel
at the top of the left shoulder strap. Expired CO2 laden air
exits the Avalung through a vent built into the bottom of the
pack's right side panel. The design puts even more distance between
the inlet and outlet than does the traditional stand-alone Avalung,
resulting in even better performance in an actual burial. Indeed,
while we were in Salt Lake City last month a test subject spent
more than two hours breathing through an Avalung-equipped pack
during a controlled test burial, setting a new record for most
time under the snow after more than 100 of such tests.
BD will initially introduce their Avalung
backpacks in two different models, each available in two sizes.
The Covert (above right), will be offered in a smaller
"out the gate," 22 liter size, as well as a larger
32 liter version. A more technical multi-day ski touring model
called the Anarchist (below) will also come in two sizes
(32 & 42 liters). Both will incorporate the features backcountry
skiers have come to expect in a dedicated ski pack such as internal
shovel and probe pockets, hydration system pockets, straps for
skis, ice axes, etc. BD expects the addition of the Avalung to
add about $70 to the retail cost of a comparable non-Avalung
equipped pack, significantly less than the current price of the
stand-alone Avalung. For example, the 22 liter Covert is
comparable to BD's 20 liter Slide, a current model that
sells for about $80. Therefore, one can expect the new Avalung-equipped
Covert to sell for about $150.
These new packs with integrated Avalungs
may be just what BD's emergency breathing device has needed to
gain more widespread acceptance by the backcountry skiing community.
The old model has always been somewhat cumbersome and rather
inconvenient in that it needs to be removed before the wearer
can lose or add a layer, something many skiers will do several
times during a typical day tour.
Beyond that, the old sash style Avalung,
worn outside the clothing, looked funny, and it made many feel
as if they were wearing a sign saying "I'm expecting something
really bad to happen today." With the Avalung built into
the owner's everyday backpack it will just always be there, eliminating
the whole "do I really need to mess with this thing today?"
dilemma before each tour.
The "group dynamic" aspects will
be a thing of the past as well. It's just part of your backpack,
you wear it every time out, all year, regardless of conditions.
Before beginning a descent in avalanche country you can simply
pull the breathing tube part way out of its shoulder strap compartment,
at the bottom you can choose to stow it away again..... out of
sight, out of mind, except when it might just be the the thing
that stands between you and the horrible reality of death by
asphyxiation. Of course you can also just leave the beathing
tube out for the duration of the tour as well, the choice is
We have pointed this out before: you carry
a beacon in anticipation of the possibility of being buried in
an avalanche, why wouldn't you want to also have available a
device that very well might allow you to breathe while waiting
for your friends to find you and dig you out? By next season
you'll be able to have such a device built into your ski touring
pack. It will be with you every time you go out to ski the backcountry,
right along with your shovel, probe and beacon. It won't look
funny, and it won't be a hassle.
We have been skiing with and testing the
Covert model, shown in the photos below, for a few weeks now.
Watch for a full review here on Telemarktips.com, along with
specifications and additional information, very soon.
First Look Conclusion: These packs appear to be an ideal application of
the proven Avalung technology.
We predict that Black Diamond is going to sell a buttload of
these things next season.
Avalung breathing tube is on the wearer's left shoulder strap,
a hydration system pocket is on the other shoulder strap. Right:
The Avalung exit vent on the pack's right side panel