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Thread: Review: abs Vario airbag pack
02-02-2008, 06:57 PM #1
Review: abs Vario airbag pack
x-post from tech-talk... only got a handful of views there, but thought it might get more viewings here.
Was given this as a xmas present from my dad and finally got it in the mail last week. If anyone is unfamiliar with the abs system you can go here:
The abs system has been for sale in Euroland for a few years, but due to bureaucracy it hasn't really made it over here. The system claims a 98% survival rate and there is a strong record of success when it comes to actual use from Europe. I believe the only person to die in an avalanche while wearing one was hit by a second slide while extracting himself from the first.
By sourcing disposable cylinders in Canada instead of the refillable ones they use in Europe, they've managed to get the design approved in north america, and it is now approved by homeland security to fly in checked baggage.
I was given the Vario system, which I believe is the second or third generation of the abs system and is new this year. I bought it through a company in Calgary, but Ive seen them online for sale in Golden (BC) and Utah.
The pack consists of a frame with your shoulder and waist belts, the airbags and the nitrogen cylinder. Onto this frame you can zip different packs, abs offers a 15L, 30L and 50L and Millet has two different packs available as well. I purchased the 30L and may pick up the 50L for overnight trips.
When my Dad told me he was getting this for me for xmas, I was kinda ho-hum at first. I never see them around, the reviews up here aren't great, the old pack design was terrible and I'd heard complaints about the weight and the fact that this was poorly distributed in the old pack. Plus the problems with finding new cylinders in N. america compounded my misgivings.
I've now had two days of touring and one day inbounds at whistler with the pack I can say that most of my misgivings were unfounded. My previous pack was the BD covert avalung, and while the abs pack is definetly bulkier and heavier, I find it more comfortable. The covert always seemed to bump into the back of my helmet.
The waist belt on the abs is well designed, lightly padded and comes with a burly metal clip system. There is a dedicated shovel and probe pocket, which isn't quite as slick as the covert, but definetly very functional. The pack is top loading and feels roomier than the covert, even though it's stated to have two litres less space. Because the airbags expand out the side of the pack, attaching skis a-frame style is not possible, however there is a good vertical carry system on the pack which worked well. The pack has pretty good compression straps, but due to the bulk of the airbags it doesn't go super flat for skiing inbounds/slackcountry.
The first day out i did notice the weight, however I was still trying to get the suspension system dialed, was carting around my SLR, and did about 6 hours of skinning for about 5 minutes of worthwhile skiing. Second day touring got a lot more skiing in and didn't notice the pack at all, and today at whistler enjoyed not having the pack digging into the back of my helmet. The compressed pack was slim enough that I didn't feel it was pushing me off the chair.
Overall I think it's a winner, the ability to stay on top during an avalanche is huge advantage when it comes to companion rescue, negating the need to be dug out. Of course you still run the risk of being strained through trees or rocks and the pack hasnt increased my level of risk tolerance, but I'm sure it lets my parents sleep better. With other companies like Millet signing on, there will hopefully be even more selection in terms of packs that attach to the frame, giving you even more choice.
Downsides so far:
-extra weight - just need to get stronger (the unit and pack weighs 6.6lbs)
-lack of a-frame ski carry
-I think I prefer clam-shell to top loading, but not a deal breaker
I'll try and add some pics later
02-04-2008, 04:52 PM #2Registered User
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
- Salmon Arm, BC
To add to this review I have the following comments after skiing with my Vario 30L for 3 days.
(my previous packs are a BD Anarchist 42 & a Dakine Blade.)
Here are my beefs:
- as cheese pointed out the clamshell top zipper kinda sucks - I'm afraid stuff is going to fall out when I put it in there.
- not a big fan of the elasticized top cover, since, when the pockets have lots in them its hard to roll it over to get access to the main part of the pack.
- shovel/snow tool pocket is big enough but the zipper accessing it isn't. THis actually only makes my snow saw tough to get it but if you had an AK size shovel I don't think it would fit.
- there are no loops in the snow tool pocket area to keep stuff (probe, shovel handle, etc) from moving around
- IMO they should take the snow shovel pocket that the Anarchist has and copy it since it is done right.
- no side access. I love this on both my BD Anarchist and Dakine Blade packs. Its only one zipper but it adds a ton of functionality.
- not super keen on the waist strap. I'm pretty sure they went to the metal buckle set up rather than the common plastic snaps for strength but the metal buckle is a pain to get tight (and stay tight) to take the weight off the shoulders.
- no insulated shoulder sleeve for a camelback whereas most packs (including my 2 previous) are coming std with this feature.
in closing I think that just looking at pack features besides the abs portion shows the ABS pack to be quite inferior (but markedly improved over previous versions.) That being said I would never switch back to my Anarchist due to the safety reasons/main function of the pack. As cheesetoff says hopefully they come out with a cheap, more features, better functional pack that zips to the base unit and I would probably upgrade in a few years.
02-05-2008, 12:12 AM #3
i find the extra bulk more annoying than the extra weight. also not a fan of the ski carrying system, i have been attaching mine "snowboard style" and they get in the way when walking. the "dessignated shovel/probe" pocket you two speak of is the one with the long vertical zipper? i interpreted this to be what is usually marketed here as "place to put wet stuff like skins" pocket, zipper design seems impractical for accessing shovel.
definitely an improvement over previous models but still some things to be desired. also wondering what happened to the leg straps all their packs used to have. curious to see how the snow pulse system comparesIch bitte dich nur, weck mich nicht.
02-05-2008, 09:45 AM #4
Last edited by IrieRon; 02-05-2008 at 11:46 AM. Reason: dangling participle?Do you by chance happen to own a large, yellowish, very flat cat?
02-12-2008, 12:19 AM #5
i've probably put in another 15 days touring with the pack since I wrote the review and have some more stuff to add
-did hate the metal belt buckle, but have it figured out now, just have to cinch it really tight before attaching.. but yeah the metal buckle meets way higher load standards than a plastic buckle, and obviously its important that the pack doesn't get ripped off in a slide, so overall i can live with it
- ski carry still kinda sucks, the straps start to come loose after hiking for a while and need to be retightened... i need to do some more finangling with this.
- top cover i have no problem with, although the zipper could be a little better.
- don't care about a pack having a camelback hose deal, as the one time i used it on my BD anarchist the stupid thing still froze and i couldn't drink... i'll stick to a bottle inside the pack
-weight no longer an issue, just get a tiny bit stronger, i've gotten used to the bulk... sent a couple 30 footers with the pack on... wait a minute, maybe i can blame the pack for my backslapping!
- overall it ain't perfect as a pack , but as a life-saving device it's pretty much dialed
02-13-2008, 08:06 PM #6Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2005
02-14-2008, 01:24 PM #7
2 guys got caught in a fairly big slide here, both had ABS packs and both ended up on top of the debris.
Which seems good to me.'I dare to dream and differ from the hollow lies'
01-13-2009, 01:46 PM #8Registered User
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
- North Vancouver/Whistler
Are you still happy with your pack long-term after this review?
Where did your dad buy the pack in Calgary?
I'd like to look at the 15l pack and wonder who carries it
Also anyone reviewed or bought one of these? SnowPulse? http://avalanchesafety.ca/index.php/...owpulseGallery
Last edited by LeeLau; 01-13-2009 at 02:28 PM.
01-13-2009, 03:21 PM #9Registered User
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
- Salmon Arm, BC
my comments still are pretty much bang on after using it for ~ 30days. The only thing I would change is the comment on the waist buckle. still not as easy as other packs but I can get it fairly tight all of the time - you just need to find the trick to tighten it while on.
Getting the snow tools out from the front pouch, while it isn't ideal, is definitely managable in a rush.
As I said in the other post. 18 might be small but at least with the vario you can always upsize it.
You might want to try Rocky Mountain Extreme - that's where I got mine. They had a salesman who came to my door with 4 packs (Escape and Vario) for me to try. It was pretty sweet service and competitive pricing.
No PST on these either since they are safety devices.
01-19-2009, 08:38 PM #10Registered User
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
- North Vancouver/Whistler
Got one and will review here
01-19-2009, 11:17 PM #11
Ive got a 15L vario. Got it last year cant remember what month maybe Jan?
Im 6'2" 195 and have size L. I have toured with it (day trips) probably 60 days and have no complaints. A large shovel does not fit inside the pack and will have to ride outside. I use the loop with the ice axe embroidery pic. This will not work if you boot pack with shovel because skis will be riding up against the shovel.
I only boot pack in side country situations and dont carry the shovel then anyway. As for how Im carrying skis, I place them vertically and use all three straps to secure. Also, have to place them high on the pack or the skis hit me in the legs on steep inclines.
The nitrogen bottle is a bother to me in that I worry about it loosing its contents. All I'm told is that if the little seal on the bottle mouth is not penetrated I dont need to worry. But, I still do. Also, this year the handle is starting to stick when I'm outside, so I pretty much leave it in most of the time and try to manage it with the velcro strap.
I bought mine out of an online place in Utah www.snowbigdeal.com
nice peeps to deal with.
Overall, I feel saver having the pack. But, with this years conditions that feeling has been negated. I travel alot alone and use the following gear:
Avalung (for a potential ride to keep throat clear)
full body armor (for trauma guard)
I still travel with beacon but if i got caught and buried it would only be for recovery if the batteries lasted.
Ive been in the bc the last four days and kept looking at a SW lee aspect that had been high marked by sledders prob in the last two weeks (barely visible), a beauty of a bowl about a 1200 ft vert drop, about a 6-8' cornice startzone at about 55/60 leading into 40's to 30's deg slope and I just had bad feelings and passed on it. Then I come here and see a post about MT avys and take a look and a totally tracked out chute slid big ( http://www.mtavalanche.com/photos/photos.php ) and with our base layer be facets I am just thankful I didnt indulge.My Company: Made in Colorado Clothing- check it out
02-20-2009, 08:08 AM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- Nov 2007
Last edited by ice19380; 02-20-2009 at 09:29 AM.
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