Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Backpack
Volume (M/L size) 28 L; 1,700 cu in
Manufacturer’s Stated Weight (size M/L): 7 lb 8 oz
Blister’s Measured Weight: 7 lbs 9.6 oz
- 840 denier ballistic Nylon
- 210 denier ripstop Nylon
- 315 denier Cordura
- Fan-powered JetForce Technology airbag system
- ReACTIV suspension with SwingArm shoulder straps
- Zippered backpanel access
- Dedicated avy-tools pocket
- Single ice-axe attachment
- Tuck-away diagonal ski carry (allows airbag to deploy while skis are attached)
- HiLo helmet holder
- Hipbelt stash pocket
- Internal accessory pockets
Days tested: 13
Update: 7.7.15 — Recall Information
On July 7, 2015 Black Diamond issued a recall notice for all Pieps, BD, and POC packs that use the Jetforce system. The recall has to do with the software controlling the inflation apparatus, which has prevented some packs — .7% of packs sold globally — from deploying properly.
No one has been injured due to this issue, and it is easily remedied by sending the pack back to Black Diamond for the software update. Please visit www.jetforcerecall.com for details on how to do this. During our time using the Jetforce pack we did not experience any problems with deployment.
More and more people have begun using avalanche airbag packs over the past few years, and the number of models coming out is growing.
The main idea behind avalanche airbags is to decrease the density of the rider relative to the snow around him in an avalanche, because less dense objects end up closer to the surface of a sliding, aerated snowpack.
When deployed, an airbag effectively adds a lot of volume while adding very little mass, decreasing the density of the rider and helping her end up on top.
I first owned and used an airbag pack about ten years ago, and have had quite a bit of experience with them since. Given the large, open terrain I typically ski in Alaska, using an airbag makes sense for me, so throughout the winter, I ski with one much more often than not.
(As the use of airbags has become more common, so has the discussion concerning their effectiveness. I’d suggest reading this article by Bruce Tremper if you’re curious about the survival statistics of those caught in avalanches while wearing airbag packs.)
While the popularity of airbag packs has increased, the technology behind them hasn’t evolved much, and the downsides to using an airbag have remained. In short, airbag packs are heavy; traveling on a plane with a full air canister is forbidden; refilling their air canisters is a hassle; and many airbag packs don’t function all that well as backcountry ski packs.
Black Diamond has attempted to address these issues with their new line of JetForce airbag packs: the Saga 40, the Halo 28, and the Pilot 11. Instead of a compressed air canister like every other system currently on the market, the JetForce packs each use a high-output battery powered fan to inflate their airbags.
I spent almost 3 weeks skiing with the 28-Liter Halo 28 JetForce airbag pack in New Zealand, and have some initial impressions on this new, innovative piece of equipment.
The Halo 28’s fan-based airbag system presents a number of significant advantages over a conventional system. I’ll cover those first, then move to an overview of the airbag’s deployment process, then jump in to the functionality of the Halo 28 as a ski pack in general.
Powering On the JetForce System
The Halo 28’s airbag system is powered on with a red button on the bottom of the trigger / pull handle. After holding down the power button, you’ll hear the JetForce fan make a loud, short whir to let you know the system is on and ready. While the pack is turned on, there is a green LED light near the base of the handle that pulses every few seconds. This light is very bright and isn’t difficult to see in very sunny conditions.
Like other airbag packs, pulling down on the Halo 28’s activation handle, situated on the pack’s shoulder strap, deploys its airbag.
Airbag Deployment Stages
Upon activation, the Halo 28’s fan turns on and the airbag fills completely in 3.5 seconds, which feels at least as fast as the inflation rate of other canister-based systems.
Following activation, the fan continues to run at 100% power for an additional 5.5 seconds to ensure that it is fully inflated.
The fan then runs at 50% power for 50 seconds more in a maintenance stage. During this stage, I am told that the airbag will remain fully inflated even with a seven inch long tear in it.
Over the next two minutes, the fan will power on in short, quick bursts every 30 seconds to make sure that the airbag has maintained its maximum volume throughout the avalanche accident, and to provide increased visibility during a rescue.
After the three minute deployment cycle described above, the Halo 28’s airbag automatically deflates, which has three potential benefits:
First, if the victim is fully buried in an avalanche, the deflation of the bag will create a large air pocket around the head and neck.
Second, the deflation of the pack may also aid in the extraction of the victim from heavily packed snow.
Finally, after either a practice deployment or a real rescue scenario, the auto-deflate function makes the bag much easier to repack. You’ll still need to open a release valve located on the pack’s fan unit to completely evacuate the bag for repacking, but the whole process is still much, much easier than other systems I’ve used.
So that’s the airbag deployment and deflation process. Time to cover some of the practical advantages of the Halo 28 compared to other, canister-based airbag packs.