Avalanche airbag packs are everywhere these days and for good reason, they save lives. The down side to them is their additional weight and having to carry it up and down the moutains all day. Backcountry Access's new Float 27 speed pack version 2.0 is now available and it aims to rectify this. So what’s different you ask? well, for starters it’s 30 percent smaller and 15 percent lighter than the original version. The entire avalanche airbag system is now self contained against the back of the pack at the top—this includes the cylinder, ejector, bag and engine, leaving more space in the main compartment of the pack for your touring essentials. This new self contained set-up makes more efficient use of the pack's internal space and reduces the risk of inadvertently damaging the engine system.
For the concise video version of the BCA Float 27 Speed 2.0 Avalanche Airbag review, watch below.
The Float 27 pack has been redesigned and now has a sleeker and more comfortable shape. All of your avi tools are securely stored inside the pack in their own sleeves and there is a small mesh zipped pocket to help organize those important items. All of the packs in Float lineup are designed to work with BCA’s BC Link Radio as they have a dedicated location inside the pack for the base unit and a sleeve which routes the mic through the shoulder strap. You also have the option of swapping the airbag trigger with that of the BC Link radio, depending on your preference for it being located in the left or right shoulder strap. If you are not using the BC Link Radio then you can use this shoulder strap sleeve for routing a hydration system. Both shoulder straps have zippered sleeves to keep their contents safe from snow.
The entire airbag system is detachable from the pack so that the pack can be used outside of ski season or when not skiing in avalanche terrain. The Float 2.0 Airbag system is designed to be more compact and also simpler and less cumbersome to use. This makes removal from the pack easier and reduces the risk of incorrect reinstallation.
Compression strap on each side of the Float 27 allows for gear lashing and load tightening while on the back there is a single stowable ice axe loop and two velcro gear loops. To carry skis the only option is in a diagonal orientation and while BCA states there is a horizontal snowboard carry, I could not figure it out for the life of me. On the hip belt, there is a single gear loop and an elastic pocket to store the leg loop. This leg loop must be threaded through the hip belt's crushproof aluminum hardware so that it is secured properly.
In order to create the buoyancy that will hopefully carry you to the surface of an avalanche, the BCA Float 27 Speed inflates a 150-litre airbag directly behind your head. Once deployed this also helps protects your head and neck from trauma while not obscuring peripheral vision. The Float 2.0 system uses a refillable canister that contains 2700-3000PSI of compressed air. This is higher pressure than the previous version which allowed BCA to reduce the canisters size by approximately thirty percent. To trigger the airbag you only have to pull the unique bell-shaped trigger which is located in the zippered shoulder strap. The trigger handle is designed to be pulled with gloves on and with any hand orientation.
Since the Float 2.0 system is a single-use canister it must be refilled before using it again. Luckily BCA has 200+ authorized refill locations around the world to facilitate refilling your airbag with for about $20. Like all compressed-air cylinders, the Float 2.0 system must be discharged before travelling by air in the USA as per TSA requirements.
With a weight savings of almost 200g / 7oz, BCA’s Float 27 Speed Float Avalanche Airbag 2.0 is an admirable upgrade, especially when you consider that all of the functionality of the system is retained. One of the most affordable airbags on the market just got lighter and small—always a good thing
Below you can see the tear away zipper that opens when the airbag is inflated.
The optimal size for a ski touring pack (in my opinion) is 30-35L, this ensures that it will adequately carry all of my safety gear, warm layers, food and other things I may need. This also goes for avalanche airbags, and while I’m happy to see that the Float 27 Speed Avalanche Airbag 2.0 is a true 27L and not 27L minus the airbag system's volume I still find it a little too small for a day of ski touring. This is mainly due to the fact that the Float 27 does not have a dedicated external avi tool compartment, but rather these tools have to go inside the main compartment and take up valuable space within. I’m also disappointed that there are no hip belt pockets. These are a must for small handy items like snacks and sunscreen. I find on most avalanche airbag pack that hip belt pockets are lacking and I'm not sure why. Same goes for an external helmet carry system, a must have and one that is not built into the Float 27 Speed. A lack of space for your gear leads to compromised decision making about what to pack, so the more space the better in my mind. I do understand that BCA was keeping the design of the Float 27 simple and streamlined in order to keep its weight down and while I appreciate this I just wish some features were not omitted in order to achieve this.
It’s for these reasons that I’d classify the Float 27 Speed as more of a slackcountry touring pack rather than a fully features day pack. Although this leads me to question what the 17L Float Speed Pack is for. Unless there are people that go touring with minimal food and no emergency first aid supplies or repair kits and tools then it must be for cat skiing operations.
Storage shortcomings and personal preferences aside, the Float 27 Speed is arguably a great avalanche airbag pack with solid internals that just works. They’ve proven their effectiveness at saving lives over and over again. The strides that BCA has made to make their airbag system more compact and lighter are impressive and add to this the fact that the Float series of airbag packs remain one of the most affordable on the market.
While I did find the Float 27 Speed a little small for my liking and without some of the necessities I feel a good ski touring pack should have, I think the quality of materials used and the thought that went into the design are obvious. I'm a big fan of stowaway loops and straps and the Float 27 Speed has several of these which aid in its sleek styling. The pack carried well and was, overall, very comfortable and easy to use. The airbag system worked flawlessly when I tested it and the re-packing instructions silk screened on the airbag were very helpful and easy to understand. If BCA could focus on making a 30-35L Float Speed then this reviewer would be much happier.
Price: $946CAN / $933US
(Pack and system: $695CAN / $699US, Air Cylinder: $199CAN/US, plus $50CAN/$35US hazardous material shipping charge)
Volume: 27L / 1648cu. in (with system)
Weight: 2.57kg / 5.7lbs (Pack only 1336g / 3.0lbs, Full system and pack without cylinder 1973g / 4.4lbs, Full cylinder 594g / 1.3lb)
Warranty: 3 year
|Comfort / Fit 2/2
Quality / Price 1.5/2
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