The core of the Float series packs remains essentially unchanged, which is good because that’s the main reason you would be interested in one. Nor does it need much refinement. It just works, using a cylinder of compressed air in combination with a Venturi valve to fill a 170 liter bag. As it fills, it blows out a burst zipper behind your neck at the top of the pack. It uses a mechanical trigger to open a valve letting the dried air out. It is simple to operate, and simple to maintain. You still need to follow some pretty strict procedures when refilling and connecting, but nothing a bit of diligence can’t handle. In other words, read the directions and don’t throw them away. Or go to BCA’s website and download ‘em.
The problem is the main compartment packs weird. The zippered outside panel is bigger at the top than the bottom and with anything in the top goggle pockets it causes it to flop around when you open it. It makes you feel like you’re cleaning up a junkyard. And there’s no way to cinch the compartment tight in case you’re going light and don’t need all 36 liters. Then there’s the two interleaved pockets up top, one for the shovel, the other zippered tight at the top to make it a problem to put anything in, but voluminous at the bottom. What is that about? I’ll admit I’m partial to a clamshell style pack so I don’t want to be too negative, but based on competing designs, and the look of the new Float 32, I’m not alone.Now about the weight, here’s what those of us who have been using them agree on. You definitely notice the weight when you lift the pack to wear it. Once it’s on your back though, it doesn’t seem that heavy. Yes, it is heavier but really only about 4 pounds more and on a day trip or overnighter the penalty isn’t that hard to bear.
If you’re in the market for an airbag pack, one big enough for an overnight trip, my complaints carry little weight compared to the life saving value of the Float 36. Check ‘em out if you can find ‘em. I’ve heard retailers say they can’t sell skis to save their life this season, nor can they keep airbag packs in stock.