BCA Float 32 Airbag Pack – Great Touring Daypack
BCA Float 32 Airbag Pack – Great Touring Daypack
Is the BCA Float 32 Airbag Pack a good one to buy? If you are looking for an avalanche touring daypack, this is a great place to start your search.
BCA Float 32 Airbag Pack Review
Want an entertaining evening? Then go out for a beer with two friends, one who swears their life is made safer by using an avalanche bag and the other who believes said tool impairs their risk-mitigation process.
I will not cover the arguments here, although I will tell you that I happily ski with people in both of these camps as long as they are willing to modify decisions after gathering data and hear and respond to my perspective. I will also suggest reading Rob Coppolillo’s article “The No Beacon Day” to help ponder how gear impacts choices and contemplate how terrain choice will have the most significant impact when it comes to risk mitigation.
The kind of day carrying an Avalanche Bag feels really worthwhile
After saying all this, avalanche bags have saved lives, especially in winter, so is the BCA Float 32 a good one to buy? For me, that is a resounding yes. After becoming accustomed to the additional weight, there appear to be a few frustrations that avalanche bag wearers can incur. So how does the Float fare in light of these?
Space, this appears to be the number one complaint I encounter. More often than not, the additional safety equipment (the airbag and inflation system) does not allow for the total amount of claimed volume. The Float does well here. I most frequently use a 38l pack to cart around everything I like to have with me in the winter and allow for a bit of “just in case” space.
The 32l works out pretty well, which is down to three ingredients. One the snow safety gear pocket is sizable and not only stows beacon shovel and probe, but it also fits skins and other damp items; wet gloves anyone? This feature also helps keep the main storage area dry.
Secondly, the airbag and inflation system have a compartment to themselves. Finally, the zip for the main compartment opens the entire length of the bag, and all the straps undo, allowing the lid to open fully. This design feature makes it easy to stuff items and organize packing. Given that the airbag uses space at the top of the bag, accessing the bottom makes a huge difference in using all the available capacity.
Massive Safety Pocket and hinged access to open up the whole bag makes the most of space.
With the additional weight of an airbag, the carry system of the pack has to distribute weight comfortably, and because skiing is a dynamic sport, it needs to hold it in a way that does not put the rider off balance and yet moves with them.
The Float 32 does an admirable job of this and also provides a bombproof harness that prevents the bag from creeping up the torso if deployed. I have no problem skiing exciting lines with a loaded Float 32.
The airbag and inflation system is a straightforward one. The airbag is the popular single, slightly U-shaped pillow that research shows as effective in raising its wearer to the top of moving snow. This design is likely the most frequently seen for a reason.
It is simple and effective. Likewise, the inflation system is a simple one that uses compressed air. While fan-operated airbags can re-inflate after initial deployment and are easier to carry on planes, these designs are generally twice the price. It is relatively easy to find places that will refill compressed air canisters, and they can even be full when carried on international flights. Check before you fly, though!
The ability to easily transport skis and other paraphernalia sets good ski packs apart. Again the Float 32 is capably outfitted. I can carry my skis vertically or diagonally. I can also attach my ice ax in several configurations.
This consideration deserves particular attention because airbags and sharp points do not make good bedfellows. Think about how your sharps could interact with the airbag if deployed before choosing how you will stow them. There is also an excellent helmet carry system and fleece-lined goggle pocket.
Durability is a crucial feature of this pack; it can be thrown around hard and takes the rough handling that is sure to result from a day blasting through the trees. After several months of abuse, it still looks in a similar condition to the day I took it out of the box.
Other features of the Float 32 that I appreciate include: I can choose which shoulder to place the trigger system and then use the other for my radio.
The pack design incorporates a home for the BCA Link radio; it has worked just as well with another brand. I appreciate having an insulated slot in the shoulder strap to stow my radio out of harm’s way yet easily accessible when needed and for keeping the tube to a hydration bladder free from ice.
The zipped internal pocket provides a valuable space to put small items where you will locate them quickly. This is where you will find my headlamp, tools, first aid kit, etc.
The final thing I want to say about these packs is there is no point in carrying one unless you use it properly and reliably in the event of the poo hitting the fan. Please acquaint yourself with how they work, check the mechanism before going out, practice using them. And finally, figure out the rituals that will prepare you to execute properly if the time comes.
In summary, given the abuse my Float 32 has received, it is in great shape. It carries well and feels good when skiing, which has resulted in my warming to it significantly. For me, the icing on the cake is the snow safety gear pocket and access to all parts of the main compartment. We haven’t even looked at the weight or price yet, and these both stack up well to favor the Float 32 when comparing it with similar bags. If you are looking for an avalanche touring daypack, this is a great place to start your search.