The first pack delivered will be the Patrol 24, a 24 liter pack built around the life saving system using dual airbags and a pyrotechnic trigger pioneered and perfected by ABS of Germany. Fabric for the pack will be a durable 315 denier Cordura® with an avalanche tools pocket and organizational sleeves inside, plus a simple tuck-away ski/board carry system. The quick deploying airbags will be made from Bombastic™ nylon, similar to that used in auto airbags.
Total weight for the Patrol 24 is targeted at 6 lbs. 9 oz. (~ 3 kg). This will include a new cartridge developed by The North Face which is even lighter than the carbon-fiber cartridge developed by ABS.
Still under development is an airbag style vest. The vest will have several utility pockets designed with ski patrollers in mind, as well as a small sleeve for tools like a shovel and avalanche probe. No word yet on the cost.
This announcement by The North Face is important for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that the marketing clout of one of the outdoor industries largest companies is now building and promoting a life-saving product for backcountry aficionados, whether they earn their turns with sweat, pay for a heli ride, or burn petrol for their freshies. More importantly, by adopting the ABS system The North Face will be instrumental in overcoming the restrictions to traveling or shipping the cartridges that trigger with a small explosive device.
In the paranoid states of America if a device is known to be explosive it is automatically considered dangerous. A legal loophole already exists per the IATA (International Air Transport Association) to allow flying with an ABS pack, but few TSA agents are aware of the exception. With The North Face actively promoting a product that uses the ABS pyrotechnic trigger they will necessarily be pro active in not only raising awareness of the legality of flying with ABS packs, but could be instrumental in lobbying for more realistic guidelines. This writer hopes they won’t use that influence to have the rules rewritten to give them an unfair competitive advantage with regard to avalanche airbag system technology.
The North Face
Weight: 6 lbs., 9 oz. (3 kg)
Sizes: S-M, M-L
Airbag System: Dual Airbag ABS system