Mammut Pro X Removable Airbag 3.0 Review
“Alright, have you got your beacon, shovel, probe? Is your beacon on?”
“What about your airbag, is the trigger out? Are all the straps clipped?
When it comes to avalanche safety, most backcountry users and snow-avalanche industry professionals agree that beacon, shovel, and probes are absolutely necessary equipment all persons entering avalanche terrain must carry. Somewhat newer to that agreement is the need for airbags, float packs, as an essential avalanche safety item. Some might argue that airbags encourage taking greater risks, others may say they do very little for trauma-related injuries in an avalanche, but while there may be some truth to those claims (all which apply to your beacon, shovel, probe) avalanche airbags are still designed to increase your odds of walking away from an avalanche. If you want a good, quick read on avalanche airbag research/statistics, check out this article by Bruce Tremper on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website: https://utahavalanchecenter.org/blog/15943. If the stats have convinced you as they convinced me, you might be in the market for an airbag system now.
Choosing an airbag can be a big decision with a lot of variables and often a hefty price tag attached. It’s important to identify what and/or where you intend to use the pack the most, and how much stuff you’ll need to fit in it commonly. I’ve been working as a ski patroller for the past 4 years in Colorado, cat-ski guide one day a week, and like getting out in the backcountry for day tours on my time off, so I wanted pack that could handle lots of work abuse, carry gear sufficient for a big day out, but not be too large and unwieldy when skiing. Needless to say, I was super excited when I got the opportunity to test out the Mammut Pro X Airbag 3.0, which I now believe is one of the best and most versatile float pack-systems on the market.
Let’s start with the specs and features of the Mammut Pro X, no small subject. The Pro X is a 35-liter pack that weighs in at 1580 grams empty or 2590 grams with the airbag and cartridge installed or ~ 3.5 lbs. and 5.7 lbs. respectively (more on the airbag system later). It comes in one moderately adjustable size to fit a range of users, as well as a women’s version. For reference, I am 6’3” and 180 lbs. and I thought the pack fit me very well, but I could see it possibly becoming a bit large and loose for people under 5’6”. The pack’s main compartment has two access points, a small top zip for shoving things in quick (in my experience) and a full zip around the back panel and hip pads for duffel style access. Inside the main compartment on the back panel is a hydration-bladder pouch. The pack also has a dedicated shovel-probe storage compartment with a top zip for access and a special orange zipper pull to help you easily find it in an emergency, and sleeves inside the compartment to keep your probe and shovel in place while skiing. On the top front of the pack is a stiff-protective goggle pocket, and below it is an additional pocket with vertical zip and a couple of extra liters of space I dubbed the “mudroom” as it is all nylon (easy to clean) and separate from the other pockets. On the hip belt is one more small pocket on the left side for where I kept a ski strap and multi-tool for quick access without needing to take the pack off.
Additionally, the pack has a ton of straps, attachment points, and adjustments to achieve most needs. The shoulder straps and hip belt come pretty well padded and with the standard adjustments, and the hip pads can be removed to cut some weight (the webbing belt is permanent). The back panel, same as the shoulder and hip pads, has a 2-layer EVA padding for comfort that I found was moderately breathable but nothing special, which I think is fine for winter/skiing-oriented backpack. The sides of the pack have compression straps that also allow for an A-frame ski carry. On the front of the pack are two horizontal straps, which can be used for a vertical snowboard carry, an orange ice ax strap bottom left, and a black stowable ski carry strap bottom left. Also hidden below these straps is a zippered pocket that opens up to an external, mesh helmet carrier.
The pack’s main external fabric is entirely recycled and has a pretty burly feel to it. The main face fabric seems pretty waterproof, and while I’ve not had it out in the rain per say, it’s spent a lot of time in wet snow and the interior has remained dry. Furthermore, over the month I’ve spent testing the pack/fabric has shown little signs of wear, no cuts or visible abrasions, and that’s having patrolled with it 5 days a week and several big tours not having treated it too kindly. Along with the fabric it has sold U-Frame around the main compartment back panel zipper for structure which is very sturdy. Overall, I am definitely impressed with the pack’s/fabric’s durability and solidness and found it very suitable for a work-duty backpack.
Alright, let’s get into Mammut’s Removable Airbag System 3.0 and how it operates in their Pro X float pack. The Mammut airbag 3.0 system operates off of compressed gas, which makes it a cartridge-style system, i.e. you get one inflation per pull/cartridge fill. Mammut’s SnowPulse cartridges, fortunately, are refillable and can be refilled at many specialty ski/backcountry shops, and often SCUBA and paintball shops if you happen to be near one. Included with the cartridge are 3x gasket replacements, a test trigger, and cartridge refill holder. One of my favorite things about this cartridge system after having used/assembled a few from other brands was how simple Mammut makes it, simply screw the cartridge in. Other brands have made it very tedious to connect their airbag systems with their cartridges, requiring multiple lines/ports to connect in a specific order, all in an inconvenient location in the pack. The airbag itself is housed in the top of the backpack in a zippered compartment with a section of the zipper designed to pull apart and is fairly simple to fold, repack.
The trigger for the airbag is housed in a zippered pocket along the left shoulder strap with another orange zipper pull, Mammut’s way of saying “important.” To arm the trigger, unzip the pocket, and rotate the orange trigger piece till it locks into its T position, creating a big, easy to hit target should you actually need to use the airbag. To stow the trigger when not in use, you press the button on the end and rotate the orange trigger pull back in line with the shoulder strap and zip it closed to prevent accidental triggering. The trigger also has an adjustable length, small-medium-large, to adjust some for different people’s heights. It’s a nice idea, but the difference between the different pull heights is maybe an inch, it would be better if the adjust range was increased. That being said, I never felt like the trigger was out of reach, but being 6’3” I thought it could have been a bit lower still for my convenience.
You might have caught it earlier when I gave two weights for the pack, one empty and one with the airbag, but Mammut makes their Removable Airbag System 3.0, well removable – interchangeable between multiple packs. This awesome feature allows you to purchase just one airbag system, and swap it between multiple packs to fit the objective needs for a specific day, for example, you could have the 35 L Pro X for day tours and the 45 L Pro Protection for that next hut trip or overnight mission without purchasing two airbags, or any other pack as long as that pack is compatible with Mammut’s Airbag System 3.0. For more details on Mammut’s Removable Airbag System 3.0 they provide a user manual with some of the finer points I might have missed, and it’s also viewable on their website.
Switching gears, here are my thoughts on how the pack performed. In line with many good ski-mountaineering specific packs, the Pro X seems to grow outward/inward like an accordion when packed instead of upwards and over your head, which keeps your center of gravity lower and doesn’t push your head forward/down as much when wearing a helmet. Since the main compartment is right on your back, I found it generally kept the weight very close to my body limiting the swing weight while turning, but this certainly can be changed by how you choose to pack it yourself. I prefer to pack the main compartment as much as possible before putting anything in the shovel pocket, and moving last to the “mudroom.” I did end up using the goggle pocket mainly as a miscellaneous pocket for things like my headlamp, chapstick, etc., and I wouldn’t mind seeing Mammut include a similar small zippered pocket inside the main compartment for small items.
Among all of the bells and whistles the Mammut Pro X comes with, I felt like the pack still maintained a compact and tight fit when worn. With the U-Frame for rigidity and the waist and chest straps cinched, I never had any unwanted play in the pack while skinning or skiing, moving in unison with me each turn. I will say this isn’t the lightest pack I own if I am concerned only with saving weight, however, in the class of airbag packs, the Pro X lands mid-field on weight at 5.7 lbs. I only had one big day mission where I felt I loaded it up full with my skis A-Framed and my helmet in the mesh carrier, and the pack still moved fairly well even with some big wind gusts. A side note on A-Framing skis with an airbag pack; A-Framing skis on an airbag can really hinder the airbags deployment if needed, so it’s usually unadvisable in avalanche terrain. In my case, I was walking along a ridgetop without snow and my helmet off, well out of avalanche terrain, or rockfall for that matter. If I were to say, climbing the line I intended to ski (i.e. in avalanche terrain), I would have my helmet on, allowing me to carry my skis diagonally across the back of the pack which would not interfere with the airbag’s deployment. Otherwise, it was usually pretty easy to forget I was wearing it most of the time while out skiing.
While patrolling with the Pro X, there were a few things that stood out to me. I loved being able to ski up on an incident, zip open the whole back of the pack and grab what I needed quick without rummaging through the top zip blind. I also found separate shovel pocket useful for packing explosives, as I could keep residue off my personal stuff – layers, water, food, etc. One small thing that annoyed me a little was the waist buckle, maybe I’m just clumsy, but I found it a little hard to unclip on the go, like when I was skiing up to an incident or trying to load the lift fast as it usually took two hands, so I wouldn’t mind a slightly larger, glove-friendly waist buckle. Along the same lines, I did add a carabiner to the airbag crotch strap to unclip it a little quicker, easier while skiing. Overall, I found the Pro X 35 liter to be a great size for ski patrolling daily out of, rarely wishing I had a bigger pack save on one or two larger avalanche explosives mitigation work routes.
Mammut Pro X Removable Airbag Review
In all, I thought the Mammut Pro X with the Removable Airbag System 3.0 to be a great all-around day pack and intuitive airbag system. The Pro X has the capacity to carry whatever you need for a big day out and will stand up to heavy abuse. Since it employs Mammut’s Removable Airbag system, you have the ability to use the pack along or transfer the airbag among different size bags to fine-tune your gear needs with your objective. If you’re looking to get one airbag or add to the fleet, the Mammut Pro X Airbag 3.0 should be at the top of your list for its versatility, durability, and reliability.
A transplant of the Midwest, Austen immigrated to the promised land of western Colorado in 2012 in search of good climbing, deep snow, quality rivers, and a college degree when his goofing off allowed. He learned pretty quick the difference quality gear can make on the outcome of a day (or days) in the mountains and began looking for the best gear to abuse.
In the summer Austen is an avid whitewater kayaker, bouncing his boat down the steep, rocky waterways of Colorado, trad climber in search of the route less traveled, and works as a federal river ranger along the Gunnison River. During the winter Austen spends his time telemarking around the backcountry of western Colorado and working as a ski patroller up on the continental divide.
Austen says, “A hundred days of skiing and paddling each per year and you’ll figure out what is wrong or right with your equipment, especially when your lively-hood depends on it.” Austen also has his American Avalanche Association Professional Level 1 avalanche certification, EMT-B, and ACA swift-water rescue cert, as well as a member of the Search and Rescue team in Gunnison County for 6 years.