|ABS Vario||Mammut RAS||Snowpulse||BCA|
|Double airbag / Multi-chamber system||yes||no||no|
|Activation||pneumatic||Bowden cables||Bowden cables||Bowden cables|
|Unobstructed view and unrestricted movement||yes||yes||no||yes|
|Prevent supine position||yes||dangerous supine position||dangerous supine position||N/S|
|Most probable position when avalanche stops||horizontal||vertical||vertical||vertical|
|Easy pack and use after activation||yes||complex||complex||complex|
|Weight including cartridge||2,9 kg (Vario 25)||2,9 kg (22 Liter)||?||3,7 kg (Float 30)|
|Weight including cartridge||2,9 kg (Vario 25)||2,9 kg (22 Liter)||?||3,7 kg (Float 30)|
|Carbon cartridge||yes (280g)||no (Steel 504g)||no (Steel 504g)||no (Steel 660g)|
|Exchangeable pack system||yes||no||no||no|
|Suitability for left-handers||yes||no||no||no|
Since January 1, 2003, it has been possible to check in an ABS backpack as passenger luggage. The arrangements are set out in IATA Regulation DGR. Tab. 2.3.A. However, you must declare the ABS backpack at the time of booking, or during check-in at the latest, to make sure there are no problems when the bag passes through the security scanner. Follow this link to read the relevant section from the IATA Regulation, and details of how to register your ABS backpack and what do to at check-in. For the ABS TwinBag, the cartridge should be screwed in, but it is essential for the activation handle to be kept separately in the strap pocket. One spare activation unit may be carried with each ABS backpack. Heliski operators in Europe, Asia, North America and South America still apply different rules for carrying and using avalanche airbags.
However, an increasing number are recognizing how important and necessary it is to use or at least permit the use of airbags, which are easily the most efficient emergency equipment for avalanches. If heliski operators refuse to allow avalanche airbags, the reasons, frankly, are selfish, financial and administrative. All national clubs and associations recommend airbags for heliskiing. You should think twice before booking with a heliski operator that will not let you use avalanche airbags. Follow this link for a list of heliski operators that work with ABS.
The Base Unit and Powder Base Unit are frameworks carrying the integrated, complete ABS system including TwinBags (double airbag). This is all you need to get going on the mountain Â it is the “engine and chassis”. There are also packs – the “bodywork” – which you are free to choose and zip on as you please. The packed volumes range from 5 litres to 40 litres, and you can select from a range of colours and features. This is the ABS Vario system. The Base Unit and the Vario system have many benefits and they have been tried and tested many thousands of times:
Yes, and we can guarantee it. The zips are always manufactured to the same dimensions, which means a new Zip-On can be zipped straight onto, say, a five-year-old Base Unit.
For the cartridge, you can have a look to find out. Unscrew the protective cap and check the seal. It will be obvious if the cartridge has been pierced. However, you can never be 100% certain of a perfect seal. The cartridge is under immense pressure. A hairline fracture or a defective seal or thread, etc. could cause a leak and a loss of pressure. This would prevent the system from working properly. That is why it is essential to check the cartridge regularly before using it. The only way to do this is by comparing weights. The net weight without the cap is printed on each cartridge. It is very easy to check the weight. If there is a discrepancy of more than 5 grams, you should not use the cartridge. Simply ask us for a free replacement. In the activation handle, the pin used for attaching to the pressure tube must be securely fixed. You can check this by pulling gently with your fingers. Above all, make sure that none of the red band is visible on the pin – the red band appears when the handle has been activated. Important! Never force the pin out using pliers or your teeth. This could cause serious injury.
Yes, if this is more convenient. You just need to check the weight of the cartridge regularly to make certain it is completely filled. It is best to get into the habit of doing this before every use. You can screw the cartridge in and out whenever you like without having to fiddle with a pretensioning mechanism, as in manual Bowden cable systems.
Definitely. You should never delay activation until you are already being carried by the avalanche – instead, you need to pull the activation handle the instant you suspect you might have dislodged a slab. If no avalanche materializes, so much the better. It’s good to err on the side of caution, and although you now have an empty cartridge, there’s no harm done. To get the system working again, you need a second cartridge with activation handle. The cartridge and activation handle form a single unit – you cannot trigger the cartridge without a charged activation handle, and a charged activation handle cannot deploy the airbags without a filled cartridge.
The ABS is a piece of emergency kit that can make the difference between life and death. The manufacturer recommends returning the equipment for a general check every three years. Before every season you are also recommended to practice a real activation with a filled cartridge. You should monitor the activation as it happens, check that the airbag is airtight, and inspect the general condition of the equipment and the backpack. The manufacturer’s maintenance involves testing the function, replacing seals and checking the general condition. Sports retailers usually hold special test weeks at the start of the winter season. Our newsletter contains details of the retailers taking part. Subscribe to our Newsletter on the ABS web site.
By only ever attaching the activation handle to the system when you are out on the mountain. When you are not skiing/snowboarding, we strongly recommend removing the activation handle and keeping it in the pocket on the hip strap. With the handle attached, you can use the red Velcro fastener for extra protection.
The cartridges and activation handles can only be refilled by the manufacturer. Replacement cartridges and handles are only available from ABS dealers. The same rules apply to all countries.
ABS’s latest high-tech initiative is the carbon cartridge, a major step forward in avalanche airbag quality. Not only does the cartridge weigh Â¼ kilogram less, but it also has much better burst characteristics. The manufacturing process is very costly, and the expensive materials inevitably push up the price paid by the customer. But once you’ve experienced the weight difference, there’s no going back to those heavy steel cartridges. More information
Yes – the cartridge as well as the activation handle. For cartridges, the expiry date is expressed as the number of refills. The maximum number of refills is 20. A record is kept of each refill. When you send us an expired cartridge to refill, we will keep it and automatically send you a replacement free of charge.
No!! The closure of ABS cartridges is only designed to work with the ABS filling system. Only ABS filling systems can be used to open ABS cartridges without damage. Other manufacturers try to copy the ABS system and claim that ABS cartridges can also be used to activate their airbags, but these claims are definitely false. The certification body TÃœV has issued a warning about this.
Every avalanche situation is different, and it is not easy to act consistently and correctly at a time of great stress. Our practical experience suggests that up to one-fifth of all avalanche victims with an airbag
ABS Wireless Activation by companions is an effective and practical solution to these problems. A wireless activation handle is attached instead of the standard white activation handle. This means that all ABS TwinBag systems can be retrofitted. To form an activation alliance with your companions, everyone briefly closes the handles at the same time. If one member of the group activates the avalanche airbag, everyone else’s airbag deploys in the group. Different settings can be used to customize the way the airbags are deployed. Click here to find out more about Wireless Activation.
This is impossible to answer because you are not comparing like with like. The ABS system is designed to prevent the victim from being buried. The purpose of an avalanche transceiver is to quickly locate someone who has been buried. An ABS backpack is no good at locating victims, and avalanche transceivers are no use in preventing burial. Apart from the deadly effects of the fall itself, burial is the cause of all avalanche deaths. An avalanche transceiver is necessary because even an ABS avalanche airbag cannot prevent burial in all conceivable situations. This means that the best emergency kit for avalanches includes an ABS avalanche airbag, an avalanche transceiver, a shovel and a probe.
As is so often the case, the standard kit represents the bare minimum. If the avalanche transceiver is working, a buried victim is always found, but in many cases too late. The options for rescuing victims alive depend largely on factors that have nothing to do with the avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe:
If you are only buried to a depth of 50 cm, have unblocked airways and are in an air pocket, your chances of being rescued alive are high if an experienced rescue team is looking for you. However, the average burial depth is about a meter, and three-quarters of buried victims have blocked airways. It is asking a lot of the rescue team to find you within 15-20 minutes and dig you out so that your airways can be cleared. For easily the best chance of survival, it is best to avoid being buried in the first place. That is why we strongly recommend going one better than the standard kit and using the ABS avalanche airbag to make the standard kit superfluous in practice.
Even if it is compacted, avalanche snow contains a certain amount of air for breathing. Provided your airways are clear, you can breathe this air. However, after a short time, your warm breath forms an airtight cavity in front of your mouth, preventing the carbon dioxide escaping into the surrounding snow. CO2 poisoning quickly follows, ultimately resulting in suffocation.
Avalung is an emergency device intended to help victims breathe under snow. The mouthpiece must be inserted into the mouth during the descent. Avalung uses a system of valves to take breathable air from the front of the body while expelling poisonous CO2 to the back. The idea is to keep the victim breathing in the avalanche and extend the survival time – assuming (a) you have managed to insert the mouthpiece, (b) the enormous weight of snow does not make it impossible to expand the rib cage, and (c) your airways are clear. If your mouth, nose or throat are blocked with snow, it will be virtually impossible to breathe through the snorkel. The Avalung is worn over the clothing with a support system. However, Avalung does not prevent burial and cannot reduce the burial depth. In other words, you will still need your companions to rescue you.
Absolutely not. An avalanche ball is just an old-fashioned avalanche cord with a kind of Chinese lantern attached to the end. The device is worn over the clothing or on the backpack, and the avalanche victim has to trigger the spring mechanism him/herself. The avalanche ball is no help to the victim while the avalanche is descending or when it comes to a stop. In particular, far from preventing burial, the device cannot have the slightest influence on whether the victim is buried or not. If the system works as it should, the ball will be about 5 meters downhill from the victim when the avalanche stops. The rescuers can pull the avalanche cord tight to locate the victim and start digging him/her out.
None of the major organizations or manufacturers recommends doing without an avalanche transceiver. The avalanche ball has to be triggered manually, and there are situations in which this does not happen or is not possible. Sometimes, the avalanche ball is itself buried. If the victim is not carrying a working avalanche transceiver, precious time is wasted locating him or her and the chances of survival are low. The avalanche ball is useless when it comes to providing help such as locating victims and digging them out.
Genuine secondary avalanches are actually quite rare. But subsequent snow movements can be a real problem. The ball normally comes to rest on the surface, downhill from the victim and attached with a tight avalanche cord. With a small amount of additional snow, the ball may move to the side and upwards slightly. But once the cord has been covered with snow, the ball becomes a point of fixed resistance for the new snow, so with enough snow, it will be buried.
Recco is an avalanche rescue system that uses passive reflectors and active search devices. The reflectors require no power supply and can, therefore, be inexpensively included in winter sports apparel and equipment. Unlike avalanche transceivers, mountain rescue services can only search for avalanche victims if they are equipped with Recco search devices, usually from a helicopter. Radio signals are transmitted from the search device and are returned by reflectors in the victim’s clothing. Although the deployment times of the rescue teams are getting shorter, a lot of time is wasted bringing the search system to the avalanche. For this reason, Recco reflectors can only be classed as an extra tool.
|1. Avoid avalanche||Training, professional guides, defensive behaviour|
|2. Prevent burial||Consistent use of ABS TwinBag system|
|3. Locate victims reliably||Avalanche transceiver, Recco reflectors|
|4. Help your companions||Rescue equipment, shovel and probe|