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New Products from Backcountry Access (BCA)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 



Backcountry Access has a couple of innovative new products for the safety of backcountry skiers that we want to highlight this year -- the Dozer probe/shovel and the Float Airbags.  



When assembled, the Dozer, an all-aluminum probe/shovel, is designed to be used upside down, like a bulldozer, which is thought to be more ergonomic than the standard method:




This video of a Float airbag in action during a shoot Jan. 29, near Montezuma, Colorado, demonstrates why any backcountry skier would be in the market for this product:



From the company site:

Preventing or minimizing burial depth is the key to reducing avalanche fatalities. That’s because the majority of time in an avalanche rescue is spent on excavating the victim. An airbag is designed to keep you at or near the surface, minimizing excavation time.


The Float airbag is unique in that it is reusable and affordable. Other notable features:



The trigger has a hiking mode so you don't inadvertently set it off, and can be positioned either left or right, depending on preference. The valve releases the entire cylinder of air into the bag after deployment.



Because its design increases volume without increasing mass and it is deployed from a backpack, the airbag protects the head and neck while enabling full vision and mobility of the arms and legs so the victim can swim to the surface of the slide. 



The airbag apparatus is both reusable and removable to use the pack for other purposes.



Here are the innards.



The cylinder is refillable at 150 authorized stations in the United States and Canada for about $5 to $10. 


We asked if a person could buy a second cylinder as a spare; the rep said that wasn't standard but probably could be arranged. "After one avalanche, most people probably wouldn't want to go out again right away." 


*The pack comes in 22 liters for day trips and 32 liters for overnight. There's also a specific model for snowmobilers. 

Edited by nolo - 2/1/12 at 10:17am
post #2 of 17

Awesome products. Thanks for posting, Nolo.


That said, I don't want to be the guy demonstrating the product in the video. Boards into a sketchy area and waits for it to collapse . . . Sure, it was controlled and all that, but no thanks. That's kind of like being the guy/girl who gets to "test" the shark bite suit. Eek. Not for me.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

That was not a "demo" but a spontaneous situation, dsloan, that was caught on film because it happened during a shoot for a feature film. 

post #4 of 17

Oh, wow. I didn't realize that. Sorry if that was explained and I missed it.

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm glad you clarified that for all of us, dsloan. My wording was ambiguous. redface.gif

post #6 of 17

Thanks for pics, Nolo. Still not sure about trigger, guess I need to check it out in person.


Also, not sure if same handle design, but a BCA shovel just received a very bad review over TGR: 

BCA Bomber Shovel review: fail.

"I have a weakness and it appears to be buying shovels that I do not need.

I recently bought the new BCA B2 Extension shovel 


It has a flat blade with an angular bend, so it cuts a really clean pit wall. Ok, so that is a trivial feature. But I liked the size vs weight.

I was teaching an AST class today and it failed me big time.

1. the end of the shovel shaft is open (where it enters the blade slot). So when you dig, snow is forced into the shovel shaft with every single plunge of the shovel. Who designed that?! It packed in so tight that it jammed the U-shaped spring which the locking lugs are attached to. Every time after digging, I couldn't remove the blade without a lot of fucking around to clear the hard-packed snow from the exposed U-spring. This is a design flaw IMHO. At one stage I almost lost the U-spring and locking lugs in the shaft, which would have meant I could not attach the blade.

But it got me in the end...

2. due to reasons unclear, the lugs that lock the two shovel shafts sections together when extended became lost inside the shaft. I pushed them in to collapse the telescopic shaft, then when I tried to extend the shaft to use the shovel, I could not lock it in place. For the remainder of the day I could no longer lock the two shaft sections together, therefore could not use my shovel at all. Luckily this failure happened near the end of the day.

I do not recommend the BCA bomber series of shovels for anyone who works in the snow with their shovel out, nor for avalanche class student shovels. I teach 10-12 AST classes a year and dig 80-100 days as a volunteer scribe for a local avalanche organisation. I wont be using BCA. Even if they were free.

Did BCA honestly test these shovels in the hands of people who actually use them numerous times a day?

I dug two profiles, demonstrated chopping blocks once, buried my backpack three times, and joined in as a digger on one companion rescue. And the BCA shovel was not even up to that minor workload. Today was a little below freezing, snowing moderately. Snow pack is high water content.

And yes, it cuts a very clean pit wall. It also doesn't have a long neck-socket on the blade meaning it takes up less room in your pack. I really liked that (for the one day I carried it)"


post #7 of 17
I'm defiantly going to get myself an airbag pack next season. Just seems like the best way to prevent burial in case of an avalanche.
post #8 of 17

All that makes skiing in the east not so bad after all.

post #9 of 17

The airbag is awesome.

post #10 of 17

What's the final word on checking airbags on airplanes - possible or no-no?

post #11 of 17
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post

What's the final word on checking airbags on airplanes - possible or no-no?

The compressed gas canister would be a no go.


post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by bplatt03443 View Post

The compressed gas canister would be a no go.




post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by bplatt03443 View Post

The compressed gas canister would be a no go.




Yeah, that's what I'm thinking also - buy gas on arrival. The other concern I have is that airlines need to distinguish this pack (without a gas canister) from packs that do not have replaceable canisters - and would they be willing to do that instead of just an outright NO AIRBAGS rule?

post #14 of 17

Flying with a compressed air vessel is not an issue. Paintball players do it all the time. I have friends who fly a couple times a month. The regulator head needs to be removed to ensure the cylinder is empty. It is advisable to put the cylinder in your checked luggage.

post #15 of 17

So I could be wrong on this but watching that video several times now it seems like that air bag had very little impact and the boarder was very lucky. I mean he was still standing for quite some time while riding the slide and considering that not even his board was buried I have serious doubts the bag actually did anything in this case.


That being said there are numerous other cases where an airbag has been documented as instrumental

post #16 of 17


Originally Posted by mtcyclist View Post

The airbag is awesome.

Airbags are mostly awesome.  The one downside is airbags will result in  traveling further down the slope. Obviously cliffs and the shredder  (trees) could be a concern when you are pushed further down the hill possibly at a higher speed by a fast moving avalanche.  

post #17 of 17

Possibly I've misread your post but it would appear to imply that it is better to be submerged in an avalanche debris pile higher up the mountain than surviving the avalanche with an airbag that might deposit you lower on the slope but on top of the snow..   


Also on what testing are you basing your conclusion that airbags result in a lower position on the hill? 


I have one of the larger BCA airbags that I use in the backcountry in the SLC area.   Fortunately other than a test firing I've not had to use the bag in a slide, hopefully I won't but I've been impressed by the workmanship, quality of materials, design, and comfort of the bag.

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