"That airbag is too heavy"
"I can't travel easily with that airbag"
"I never really know what it's going to feel like to pull the ripcord"
"The pack that this airbag is attached to kind of sucks"
"Where can I refill my canister after inflation?"
... Since the dawn of Avalanche Airbag packs - we've come a long way.
Canister systems have their place. They are tried, tested, and proved systems that are often more affordable and are locked and loaded ready to go.
Electronic fan bags with lithium ion batteries are great for those who travel, guide others and want to demo, or are in areas were canister refill stations are few and far inbetween. More self reliant, but overall these systems are HEAVY.
Then, as if from the story line of a hollywood film, we see the "SUPER CAPACITOR" - The Alpride E1 system that is the airbag system in this pack.
Since some of us slept through High school physics - a quick refresh. I do not have a doctorate in physics, so please feel free to correct me. It's about to get real nerdy.
A super capacitor is often used in applications in which rapid charge/discharge occur (see: cycling a fan to inflate an avalanche airbag quickly). This charge is stored in an electrical field between two plates - this is different from lithium ion batteries which store energy in a chemical form. Batteries also are slower to discharge their energy than capacitors. This is the reason why fan bag systems with lithium ion have larger batteries - the size of the battery must be big enough to allow for the correct amount of voltage to be reached to activate the fan. A super capacitor can achieve the high voltage necessary at a much lower volume/weight.
Capacitors can also be charged and recharge quickly, and a vast amount of times (essentially for this pack, you can recharge it more times than the life of the pack). The slight downside to capacitor for this function is that the charge will eventually dissipate over time. The way this pack helps mitigate this is the use of AA batteries. I will get into that in a sec.
What does this all mean for you the backcountry skier/boarder?
Less weight than other conventional fan bags, recharge capabilities, testing and demo-ing, limited change in activation due to temperature, and did i mention ... WEIGHT.
Recharge - this is where this bag begins to bewilder me. You can charge this pack using only two akaline AA batteries. YES, you heard me correctly. The way that this pack's capacitor holds a charge - you can reach the voltage using two AA batteries.
Yes, you can recharge the pack using the micro USB cord included. The charge cycle takes roughly 30 minutes.
To maintain charge for up to essentially the length of a season (around 4 months) - charge the pack via USB until the green light, the pop in the 2 batteries, and leave the pack off until it's time to hit the skin track. And make sure to turn the pack off after your tour.
Or do what i have been doing and "party tricking" it in my living room during dinner parties once a month. Recharge.
If you do forget to charge with the USB - pop in two batteries, turn the pack on and it will automatically begin to charge off the batteries.
For a full recharge the bag is marketed to complete one full inflation. I have been able to get 3 full inflations without recharge so the capacitors are clearly big enough for wiggle room.
TLDR: If you have been waiting to buy an Airbag because you "want to see what's next" - guess what? it's here.
5.8 lbs roughly. Lighter than any other fan bag, and goes toe to toe with even those lightweight canister packs in its pack size.
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