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ABS 101 – The Avalanche Airbag Backpack System

January 16th, 2013 By   

TMS employee Meaghen blew off a pack in the shop and she absolutely loved the scent released from the Airbag Backpack System (ABS) compressed nitrogen cartridge!

Do you ever have nightmares of being buried in an avalanche, completely helpless, panicking as you anxiously await rescue? Are you venturing out into avalanche territory and just want to protect your butt? Or maybe you should invest in your loved one’s peace-of-mind because when they kiss you goodbye on powder days they often wonder if you’ll return safely. No matter the case, if you’re going to spend time in the backcountry you should be aware of avalanche risk, and if you’re even slightly educated you should know that risk is high. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Ask yourself one question: “What is my life worth?” Then one more: “What’s it worth to my friends and family?”

One of the latest technologies in winter sports is the avalanche airbag backpack. Several companies have recently put out their own versions of the airbag system, but they all replicate the original ABS Airbag Backpack System, tried and true since 1985. In fact, ABS packs produces a 97% survival rate, and that last 3% counts fatalities due to head injuries or the user’s failure to deploy their airbags. In the past 27 years, ABS packs have deployed 100% of the times a handle was pulled. It’s tough to count the instances a skier fell off a cliff or wasn’t conscious to think of pulling their handle, but those account for the other 3%. Don’t those numbers sound reassuring?


What is an avalanche airbag pack? Here’s the nitty gritty on how it all works, straight from the source at ABS:

In short, when you get stuck in an avalanche you pull the handle on your shoulder strap. Compressed nitrogen releases from a cartridge tucked away in your pack, and in less than three seconds two large airbags fully inflate around your head and back. The ABS airbags keep you on top of the snow, so your ski buddies can pick you off the top of the avalanche debris rather than have to search for you and eventually attempt to dig you out.

ABS has teamed up with a few other familiar brands who are also making ABS-compatible backpacks, like DaKine and The North Face. The Dakine ABS Backpack is actually a zip-on backpack that attaches to an ABS Base Unit, while The North Face ABS backpacks are full-on avalanche airbag backpacks.


Here’s another option: The North Face Powder Guide ABS Vest

ABS Powder Guide Vest ABS vest deployed












ABS for ski patrol or for quick backcountry trips when you don’t want to carry a full backpack. The ABS vest works the same way the ABS backpack does, only without the extra storage space a pack would provide. There is still plenty of storage for the essentials, as you can see from the image above, and a broken-down avalanche shovel fits perfectly in a pocket on the backside.

Take a step down into the Filling Dungeon, where they fill and refill ABS cartridges:

Unlike most outfitters, Tahoe Mountain Sports is HAZMAT certified, so we can ship full ABS cartridges. This comes in really handy when you’re traveling by plane and want to avoid holdups at the security line. Instead, just place an order with us ahead of time and we’ll ship ABS cartridges to your destination.

Need some tips on how to reset ABS airbags? It can be a bit confusing at first, but this video will give you the know-how to do it in a jiffy from here on out.

Now you know the basics. If you’d like more information about Airbag Backpack Systems or avalanche safety equipment, contact your favorite outdoor retailer, Tahoe Mountain Sports.

ABS Vario 25 XT Zip On Ski Pack
ABS Vario 25 XT Zip On Ski Pack
MSRP: $139.95


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2 Responses to “ABS 101 – The Avalanche Airbag Backpack System”

  1. […] Sage: “Airbag packs are the way of the future, but they should not play into your backcountry decision making process. I have not been in a situation that I have deployed my air bag, and hope to not have to, but wear it for that “just in case” situation. I have, however, been on-deck while watching a partner pull his. A small pocket slab released while he was skiing a steep feature in Alaska. He started out trying to outrun it – this path lead to a cliff and he was unable to ski away from the landing. The snow rapidly caught up with him, and soon he was hit with a blast of moving snow. I remained alert, focused on keeping him in sight as snow pushed him towards a bergshrund below. I could see that his airbag was inflated and relieved as [I] could see the airbag holding him up, and allowing him to be pushed up and out of the small crevasse rather than being pushed in by the wave of snow.” Click here to learn more about ABS avalanche airbag backpacks. […]

  2. […] Want a quick course in Avalanche Airbag technologies? Read this detailed blog about ABS packs: […]

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