In case you doubt that perspective, then how does one explain Oakley offering a BC pack designed to incorporate the SnowPulse Removable Airbag System? As the RAS name implies, the airbag system can be removed, allowing the pack to log some hours of use in the summer too. In this case, Oakley only provides the pack, one with the ability to add a rider insurance policy for avalanche safety at a later date. Since this pack wouldn’t merit a review without that option included, the rest of this review assumes the RAS has been added.
The more airbag packs become commodities, as with any other pack, the distinguishing characteristics will be defined by the system of straps, zippers, and compartments. Whether they fit your packing strategy is bound to be somewhat personal. If you’ve adopted the SnowPulse RAS as your airbag system of choice, you now have one other pack to consider.
Oakley’s SnowMad achieves easy access with compartments stacked back to back, using a clamshell zipper around the top and sides to open up and grab deep and seal back up quickly. The zippers look like they’re #8′s which isn’t the strongest size but it seems zippers in general are more reliable in recent years. Time will tell on that detail.
There are straps along the sides for carrying skis A-frame style, or with a single external strap looped through the top corner slots you can carry diagonally with an adjustable loop on the lower right rear. Not a two-plank rider? SnowMad has you covered with a pair of straps on the rear to hold a snowboard vertically.
Shoulder straps are not excessively padded, but wide enough to distribute the load without digging in to your shoulders. The waist belt is similarly spartan in padding but wide enough that it distributes well, while cutting extra grams and bulk. As you would expect, the buckle is metal, and yes, there’s a leg strap to be complete in the safety department. Overall the padding and suspension would be insufficient for an overnight load, but it is just fine for a day tour.The SnowPulse HOT RAS
I’m a fan of the SnowPulse airbag system for a couple of reasons. First, in the paranoid skies of Amerika, there’s no point in attracting attention to the fact that you’re carrying an air bomb in your pack, or rather, one that expands at a rate the nannycrats have decided meets their definition of explosive. For the sake of the collective if it can explode, irrespective of the probability that it won’t, it isn’t safe to fly on a plane with. I find it ironic that a safety device needs to be defused to be safe to travel with, which then renders it impotent until you re-arm it so it can fulfill its original purpose as a life saving safety pack. It can be a hassle to refill at your destination, but since resistance is futile, it can be easier to empty the canister (beforehand), declare that you’re traveling with an airbag pack and assimilate with the crowds ’til you board the plane unmolested (unless you prefer to be and then I’ve heard TSA agents are more than willing to oblige your predilection). Seriously, if this concerns you, leave the cartridge behind and arrange for one to be waiting at your destination. The other reason is that some of the SnowPulse systems use an airbag that surrounds your head and extends down to your chest. In theory this will protect your head more and/or keep your head on top. Mammut, the licensor of SnowPulse technology calls this original configuration PAS. The SnowMad doesn’t use PAS, where the airbag expands in either side of your chest, but a simpler one called HOT technology with a shaped airbag that expands behind your head and down the sides a bit. The claim is that because the airbag expands partway down the torso it increases the odds your head will be on top when the avy monster stops flowing. Does HOT technology really work? Friends in Europe are adamant that airbags oriented lengthwise helps, but the statistics distinguishing it from simpler airbag systems are not yet established. It certainly can’t hurt, except in the way that every airbag can hurt, by tempting you to test the edge of fate a bit further.
The overall size of the pack is claimed to be 30 liters. I didn’t measure it, but it took all the stuff I normally carry, suggesting by comparison with other packs that the 30 litre figure is accurate. There wasn’t much spare room, due to the RAS pouch at the top which is about the only negative thing I can think of about the SnowMad, but it is equally true with every other airbag pack to some degree or another. Thus, the most annoying thing about the SnowMad – the volume and weight of the airbag system – is the main reason you would even consider it.
MSRP: $ 225
Weight: 2 lbs. (950 g) (unconfirmed estimate)
Weight: 1 lb., 14 oz. (850 g)
Volume: 150 liters filled, ~2 liters compressed.
Mammut Compressed Air Canister
Weight(full): 1 lb., 6 oz. (630 g)