BCA Float 22 – Avalanche Pack Splitboarder Review
SplitBoardReviews.com RatingManufacture: BCA
:Great price for entry into avalanche air bag backpack, light weight, compact size
:Not as many features as other packs, hard to carry poles, not goggle specific pocket, Non-hydration pack compatible
The idea behind BCA Float 22 is that it keeps you at or near the surface of an avalanche by increasing your buoyancy. We like to think of a the analagy of a ping pong ball in a jar of beans. If you put the ping pong ball in the bottom and pour the beans […]
The idea behind BCA Float 22 is that it keeps you at or near the surface of an avalanche by increasing your buoyancy. We like to think of a the analagy of a ping pong ball in a jar of beans. If you put the ping pong ball in the bottom and pour the beans on top. If you shake the jar, the ping pong ball rises to the serface.
The system uses a air canister much like a paint ball gun. It stores 2700 PSI of compressed air that can be refilled at local authorized dealers, paintball stores, scuba shops, or from home with the proper $55 attachment, and access to highly compressed air. The pack inflation is a patented super efficient venturi system that is TUV and CE certified.
The Float 22 is designed to be a minimilist avalanche safety pack, just big enough to carry the essintials and a sandwich. Perfect for short day tours, helli runs, or sled laps. The shovel, probe pocket has a seperate compartment with a drain hole. It also has a helment hammock on the outside and a diagnal ski carrying system.
There are a lot of reviews out there about the proven avalanche air bags. We take a hands on look at the Black Float 22 used in the Backcountry of Utah, USA. We used the backpack on many various condition, it both spring and cold winter conditions. I am about 5 foot 10 inch and 175lb.
The design of avalanche air packs is to prevent or at least keep the depth of a burial to a minimum. This is a key to reducing the danger of an avalanche. Minimizing burial depth is key to quick evacuation, and a safe recovery. The Float 22 is designed to do just that, it increases boiency with a large airbag inflated on top of the pack to keep burial to a minimum.
The BCA Float 22 uses C02 canister vs. Nitrogen canister that most other avalanche air bags use. The benefit to this, while not as dependable in cold weather is that the canister can easily be refilled from paintball and scuba shops. C02 refills are usually around $15 as compared to Nitrogen refills that are around $75 with a new trigger. With the cost of the Float 22 and Float 32 in addition to the cost of refilling a canister makes the BCA avalanche back pack one of if not the most affordable pack on the market. It’s perfect for those who live in fairly stable climate where the temperature don’t drop too low. It provides that little additional insurance in backcountry, and chances are your going to buy and use a backpack anyway. So why not add a little extra protection and piece of mind.
To differ from the other BCA Float reviews online we wanted to take a look at the BCA Float 22 and how it performs as a splitboarders backpack. Splitboarders demands for a backpack and avalanche air bag are a little bit different from those of alpine touring (AT), or other that are facing the dangers of the backcountry.
Splitboarders need a pack that can carry the essentials tools like probe and shovel, but there are also some other nice to have necessities that we look for in a backpack. Splitboarders need to be able to carry their poles, skins, and packables for the assent like helmet, jackets, etc.
Here are some of the major features of the backpack and how we feel they perform.
The helmet attachment is a bit finicky, If a helmet is not in the cradle, it has a tendency to just fall off. It’s attached by 4 simple “J” style hooks that require tension to keep the helmet attachment connected to the bag. Once a helmet it attached it works very well, it also helps to double as a jacket carrying system as well. We found ourself using the helmet attachment with a helmet in it and a jacket strung through the helmet and backpack to carry during the ascent. Additionally, when packing for the car ride we also used the helmet as an additional pocket for our goggles, as there is not much additional room inside the pack.
It would have been nice to have some additional options for attaching jackets and other goods to the outside of the pack. If a daisy chain or some compression straps were added. One additional concern that arouse with the thought of adding additional attachment points is that it may interfere with how the air bag works or it may inhibit it’s use.
The float 22 has two main pockets, one for your rescue gear (probe and shovel) and another main compartment that is shared with the canister, hoses, and air bag. Additionally, there is a small internal zipper pocket with a key retainer inside that isn’t good for holding much more than a couple granola bars and your wallet. There is also a pocket on the hip strap that is very convenient.
The float 22 isn’t designed to be more than a light duty day back, but we felt that a couple more pockets would have been nice. One pocket we always look for in a pack is a padded pocket for sunglasses or goggles which the float 22 was lacking.
Dedicated Probe & Shovel Pocket
The dedicated shovel and probe pocket are spot on, our Black Diamond probe and BCA shovel fit in the pack perfectly. The dedicated pocket only opens 90 degrees, but we found this is actually quicker to access essential gear in the event of a snow evacuation. We really love how easy it was to open this pocket and retrieve gear from it.
The waist buckle is made from high grade machined aluminum. It’s ultra tough and designed to withstand the strength of an avalanche trying to dislodge the pack from your back. It’s fairly easy to install and remove even with gloves on.
With as much detail given to the waist buckle, the chest buckle seems very flimsy and wouldn’t provide much security in the event of an avalanche tugging at the pack.
The waist strap is a bit hard to adjust vs. conventional plastic connectors. However we kind of felt like a fighter pilot everytime we strapped into the metal buckle. It’s guaranteed that this buckles isn’t going to be easily broken from being slammed in a car door, or stepped on by your skier buddy with his hard boots.
In addition to the waist buckle, an additional nylon loop is provided that is designed to be looped around a leg to keep the bag from being pulled up over your head. This is a great idea, but quickly becomes annoying when repetitively removing and installing your pack. I guess that is just part of the price you pay for the added safety and piece of mind.
The design of the single air bag is simple and effective. While this is a single chamber air bag it’s success rate is very high. The airbag inflates after 3 seconds of pulling the trigger. It provides float during an avalanche, but in addition can also help provide an air pocket in the event of a burial.
How to Reset the Zipper
Once the air bag has been deployed it can be reset by folding the bag back up and resetting the zipper. To reset the zipper, unzip the zipper all the way to the open position. Next, zip it to the half way point where it meets the velcro closure. Close the velcro flap with both velcro tabs and continue zipping until it is closed.
You may wonder if the airbag is zipped, how does the bag deploy? Well, the zipper is missing teeth just under the velcro flat which allows the airbag to split the zipper when filling with air.
The air canister is a simple to connector valve to the air bag and trigger. The canister simple attaches to the airbag with a simple pull/push connector. The trigger connections with two treaded cables, one inside the other.
The air canister is filled with C02 which means it’s much easier to find refill stations and is a lot cheaper to refill.
The weight of the canister is minimal, and we never noticed the additional weight in the pack of the air canister or the air bag in the backpack vs. our other non air bag packs we have used.
The air chamber trigger system is activated by a ripcord. It takes about 6lb of pull strength to activate the valve and fill the air bag. It’s a good idea to deploy your air bag annually to ensure that it’s functioning properly. Also, it’s good to get a feel of what it takes to pull on the cable so you know what’s required if your in a quick decision moment and need to deploy the airbag.
The trigger can also be neatly tucked away in a zipper pouch to avoid accidental deployment when moving, or removing the pack. Just remember to unzip the accessibility pocket once you are in avalanche areas again.
The trigger handle feels good in hand, and is easy to pull with gloves or mittens on. We do wonder if some additional rubber grip on the handle might be a good idea. Splitboarding Utah’s dry powder with mittens on could potentially cause a couple missed pulls.
Diagonal Ski Carry
Obviously to a Splitboarder, this may not be the first feature your attracted to. However, if you have ever had to boot pack up a steep trail, it’s nice to know that the Ski carry was wide enough to fit a splitboard in. However without some additional straps to maintain the heels of the bindings, the diagonal ski carry system is not very efficient.
We have used the pack about 10 days on snow.
The Bottom Line
We have used the pack about 10 days on snow in various conditions from wet and rain, to blower pow and the pack hasn’t backed down. The pack did a pretty good job of repelling water, and the 330 Ripstop nylon stood up to trees, trucks, and everything else we dished out to it.
The pack fits very comfortable, we tried the Float 32 and found that it was a bit tall and hit the back of our helmet when looking up slightly. The Float 22 was great for just carrying the essentials. We wished the bag was just a tad bigger, and it looks like we are getting what we wanted. Next year BCA will be releasing a 27 pack. We think this will be a great all around size for everything from resort riding to a light overnighter.
At the end of the day for the price of the pack, the float 22 is a great value and we would recommend it to anyone looking to add a little piece of mind to there backcountry riding.
*an avalanche pack is not a substitute for education, partners, classes, probes, beacons, shovels and other safety knowledge and equipment.