We first saw Ortovox’s new Ascent 40 Avabag at the Outdoor Retailer Show in 2018 and instantly knew it was worth a closer look. With a volume of just 1.8 litres, the Avabag is the world's smallest and lightest Airbag system and it’s now built into Ortovox’s new 40L Ascent pack. This cartridge-based system weighs only 1kg and the Ascent 40 pack another 1.29kg, making it the lightest avalanche airbag pack we’re reviewed to date—regardless of size. Ortovox achieved these impressive numbers by designing a minimalist pack that focuses only on the essential features such as ski/snowboard/snowshoe, helmet, poles and ice axe carry, three internal and one external pocket, rope fasteners, hip belt pockets, hydration compatibility and a dedicated external avalanche tool compartment.
With 40L of capacity, Ortovox's Ascent 40 Avabag can carry a hefty load, but the Avabag system won't weigh you down.
The water-resistant circumferential zipper opens up the entire pack which provides access to the full 40L of interior space. With this much space the Ascent 40 Avabag is ideal for big days in the backcountry or perhaps even a bare-bones hut trip. The pack itself is made with water-resistant PU-coated 420 denier nylon which is light yet tough and the padded 3D back panel helps distributes the load between the lightly padded hip belt and shoulder straps.
The Avabag consists of the airbag, cartridge and venturi system which sucks in additional external air along with that from the cartridge. The Avabag is self-contained at the top of the pack while the air cartridge sits along the pack’s left side wall. The airbag itself is made from fabric which is welded together so there is no stitching or additional waterproofing to add weight and take up space. The Avabag components are all removable and compatible with other Ortovox Avabag backpacks. If the Ascent 40 is too much pack for you then consider Ortovox’s other Avabags in a 28, 30 and 38L versions as well as 22, 30 and 40L models for women.
There are no electronics or batteries to charge in the Avabag system which means you can perform multiple test activations (as long as the cartridge is not installed in the pack). You can also travel by plane with the with the Ascent 40 Avabag, just ensure that the cartridge has been removed from the system and is in your checked baggage. Since the cartridge lid does not unscrew, TSA officials may raise a stink as they do like to inspect the inside of the cartridge to ensure it is completely empty, however, since the cartridge has a pressure gauge they should be satisfied when they see it reads zero
The trigger handle which activates the Avabag is stowed in the left shoulder strap and has been designed for optimal ease of activation. The non-slip handle can be gripped with a gloved hand and is suitable for both left and right-handed users thanks to its 360° form. The trigger length can also be adjusted from a short to a long position for different height users which optimizes individual fit
Water-resistant PU-coated material: nylon 420D oxford HD + nylon 100D robic ripstop
When Ortovox says that their Ascent Avabag’s are light, they’re not kidding, in fact it’s lighter than both of the other two airbags we reviewed this winter. And given that the BCA Float Speed 27L and G3 Cabrio AR 30L are both smaller than the Ascent 40 it’s truly impressive. The Ascent 40 is also 320g lighter than BCA’s 27L bag and 400g lighter than the G3 air bag. Add to this that the Ascent 40 is also less expensive than either avalanche air bag and I am continued to be impressed. The secret to Ortovox’s impressive numbers is pretty simple, they did away with a lot of extra features you’d find on other air bags which keeps the weight and price down. They also claim that their Avabag airbag system is the ‘world's smallest and lightest compact airbag system’ which I would have to agree with,… until you consider the size of the air cartridge. Ortovox uses a cartridge that is easily twice the size of BCA’s and the two cartridges that G3 uses with their Alpride system. While not much heavier in weight, the Ortovox cartridge is still pretty large, but as with most things, size doesn’t matter and Ortovox still maintains a full 40L of usable space in the Ascent bag.
While the Ascent 40 isn’t as feature rich as G3’s Cabrio pack it still has most of what you need. Ortovox made sure to included a helmet carry option as well as am external avi-tool compartment which I’m glad to see as I find these to be must haves on any ski touring pack worth its salt. What I did find the Ascent was missing was a fleece lines goggle pocket, a dedicated internal pocket and shoulder strap sleeve for a hydration system, a zippered hip belt pocket and a snowboard carry-system that didn’t require additional webbing straps. While these would add to the Ascent’s complexity and weight, I do find myself missing most of them day-to-day.
One feature that that could add a lot of versatility to the Ascent 40 pack is the ability to switch the trigger from the left to right shoulder strap and this way the empty sleeve could be used for a hydration system. Even though the trigger is designed to be used with either hand it would be nice to have a multi use sleeve on both shoulder straps for convenience
One feature I am a big fan of is the hip belt stash pocket which is made for keeping the safety leg loop out of the way while not in use. This is always something that was not been addressed on other air bag packs and I’d often find this strap tailing behind me on the skin track. I’m also a huge fan of the aesthetics of the Ascent 40, wether you pick the Safety Blue or Black Anthracite colour, you’ll be pleased.
While I didn’t travel by air with the pack it would be nice to have more information from Ortovox about this process and also a list of certified refill locations as BCA does for their Float Packs. The ability to travel with an air bag is a major buying decision for most so this would only help justify the ease of doing so.
Overall the Ascent 40 Avabag carried well and I could fit lots of clothing and safety gear inside the pack as the airbag system was self-contained and small enough even considering the giant air cartridge. The pack material was light and shed snow easily, yet stood up to abuse. While I do mis some of the features not included in the pack the simplicity of the Ascent’s design is greatly appreciated.
Price: $960CAN / $749.95US
Weight: 2290g / 5lb includes Avabag and Activation Unit. Avabag airbag system 690g, cartridge 310g.
Colour: Safety Blue, Black Anthracite
Volume: 40 litres / 2440cu in
Size: 31 x 60 x 22cm / 12 x 23.6 x 8.6in
Deployment System: Compressed air
Warranty: 5 years
|Comfort / Fit 2/2
Quality / Price 1.5/2
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