The Ortovox Ascent 22 is designed as a daypack for off piste or day touring with an airbag built in for avalanche protection.

Avabag is Ortovox’s relatively new airbag systems and is similar to ABS and Mammut products in that it uses compressed gas canisters to inflate the bag. Unlike ABS it does not need an explosive charge, relying instead on a mechanical trigger to inflate the bags. This means you can test the system, with or without using a cartridge (though if you use one it will need to be refilled for around €25) and won’t need to replace the trigger each time. There’s also a refillable canister available that you can top up yourself at diving, paintball and other shops that have compressed air refills. The system has fewer airline restrictions than ABS without the explosive element. The version I tested had the carbon cartridge which reduces the weight slightly but of course costs more. The system weighs around 690g and the bag in total is 1,640g, pretty light for this size of bag.

In practice the system fits neatly in the bag, taking up a small amount of space up at the top and sides but unlike many airbags it isn’t too heavy or bulky. I normally use an 16l Black Diamond pack with a built in Avalung but this 22l seemed to have a lot more space even with the Airbag system. I was comfortably able to pack a metal shovel, probe, first aid kit, head torch, bivy bag, spare gloves, hat & goggles, down jacket, food, water bottle, skins & ski crampons, sunglasses & cream plus a compact SLR with a zoom lens in the pack. In the 18l there was no chance of getting the SLR and extra jacket in with the skins and crampons.

Comfort-wise, it felt no bulkier than my regular pack and had some nice ergonomic 3D foam on the back area that stopped any solid items inside the pack from digging in to me. The chest straps and waist belt prevented it from bouncing about too much, even on rough terrain, and its low profile meant I didn’t have to take it on and off at lifts, even with the camera inside.  There’s a leg loop that keeps the pack in place should you deploy the airbag, and this is hardly noticeable when skiing which is important as some bags can pull & rub uncomfortably.

There are various loops and straps, most of which tuck away into the bag to avoid catching on lifts etc. These are useful for attaching helmets, skis, crampons, axes or poles when touring or climbing and are built of tough Kevlar or cordura-type material to withstand friction. There’s also space for a hydration bladder.

I guess it is a personal preference thing, but normally I’m not a massive fan of the Ortovox aesthetic, however I quite like the shape and style of this pack so would definitely consider it. I tested the orange version, but it also comes in black which would be more less likely to fade or show wear over time.

Fortunately I didn’t have to use the Avabag function of the pack, but in practice it is supposed to help avalanche victims ‘float’ to the top of the moving snow, using the principle of granular convection in which (like in a box of cereal) larger items end up at the top. Anecdotally these types of pack tend to work better in open terrain and lighter snow. Terrain traps, trees and rocks or heavy spring snow can all hinder the performance of airbags. With all backcountry safety equipment, prevention is better than protection. Knowing the terrain, the snowpack and the weather and making an informed decision is better than hoping something saves you when it all goes wrong. That said, airbags are becoming the norm for backcountry skiers and guide and at over £500 for most of them it’s not a throwaway purchase.

I’ve ridden with a few others and this is by far the most comfortable and well thought out for day touring with good space and little bulk or weight.

Pros:

One of the best airbags I’ve tried, light, good space, comfy and the system isn’t too much hassle or cost to maintain

Looks great

Cons:

It is an airbag, so it costs quite a bit and needs a bit of attention when flying, storing etc. you can get it in non Avabag version too so a little lighter and more room inside.

Price:

£590 (£195 without Avabag system)

www.ortovox.com

 

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