Mammut's Ultralight 3.0 airbag slims weight way down while dropping the price for an airbag system at the same time. Brigid Mander photo.
Skiers and snowboarders have accepted – mostly uncomplainingly - that the tradeoff for the extra safety measure of an airbag in the backcountry is extra weight. It’s a small price to pay to increase the chance of survival if you are caught in a slide, but change is in the air.
Gear companies are going all out to make better, lighter, more reliable airbag options, from startups to those rethinking the scene entirely, like Arcteryx. Next fall, industry powerhouse Mammut will release its latest innovations on the market: an airbag system that is 30% lighter and 30% smaller, and lower-priced than their current offerings.
The Ultralight 3.0 Airbag
The flagship product of the new line is the Ultralight Removable Airbag System (RAS) 3.0, a 20-liter airbag pack that weighs just 4lbs, 3oz in total, 3.1 lbs of which is the safety system (airbag, trigger, and cartridge).
A mimimalist, low-profile pack that removes a lot of the inconveniences of previous, heavier, and bulkier versions, it nonetheless packs the same safety punch. It’s easy to ski with, or let me rephrase, a joy to ski with compared to my current airbag pack.
Mammut engineers redesigned the airbag, which not only weighs less but packs down smaller, and a new cartridge system interchangeable with all new Mammut packs, beginning next fall. (Note that the new, lighter system is not compatible with current and older RAS models.)
Out In the Field
The Ultralight 3.0 fit all of Brigid's gear for resort-accessed backcountry days and tours closer to home. Brigid Mander photo.
In the field (for most people), the Ultralight will be great for short days, like resort-accessed backcountry, or roadside ski touring laps. At 20 liters, you need to employ some thought in your packing to get all you need inside, but I was able to comfortably fit my shovel, probe, 32oz water bottle, midweight puffy, extra heavyweight mitts, light touring gloves, sunglass case, snacks, hat, Buff, and skins.
Brigid's gear packed in tight and tidy. Brigid Mander photo.
Because it opens only from the back and there are no interior or exterior pockets, I packed a separate light zippered pouch filled with extra ski straps, headlamp and other small tools and essentials to keep them organized.
Drawbacks of the Ultralight 3.0 Pack
Brigid dropping in with the Ultralight 3.0. Sophie Anne Blanchette photo.
One drawback to keep in mind with the Ultralight is that the diagonal ski carry sandwiches the pack fabric (100D Cordura) between your ski edges and the shovel blade, creating a lot of abrasion. If you are slinging ultralight skimo skis, this might not be an issue, but with heavier alpine setups like mine, to keep the rubbing from creating holes, I used a couple lines of strategic, preventative duct tape on the inside and laid my extra buff between the shovel and the fabric.) Mammut will also offer packs (see below) with the new light system but heavier, burlier fabric.
On the exterior, there isn’t much: ski carry straps, an ice axe loop, and a couple of other small loops you can use creatively. The waist belt is thin webbing with a smaller-than-usual metal buckle, but according to Dave Furman, Mammut’s hardgoods manager, surpasses the testing requirements for forces exerted during deployment in a slide.
Pricing and Options
The Ultralight 3.0 also goes down in price, making it more accessible to more people, at $490 for the pack and airbag. The cartridge, sold separately, is $190. However, you only have to buy the airbag system with the initial pack (the Ultralight without airbag is $140, for example), and then you can transfer it from pack to pack. The other new, airbag-ready packs in the line are made with slightly weightier, more durable fabrics, and come in 15, 28, 30, 33, 35, and 45-liter sizes.
The Bottom Line
Mammut's Ultralight 3.0 airbagpack drops weight from an airbag system like no other manufacturer has yet been able do – getting a 20-liter airbag pack down to just a hair over 4 pounds. It's got enough space for most all you'd need for resort-accessed backcountry missions and tours closer to home, and the fact that it comes in a cheaper price is straight-up awesome.
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