The only thing as awesome as using new gear for the first time, is taking it out of the wrapper on the living room floor and playing with it. Like a child at Christmas, the whole unboxing, unwrapping, tag removal and instruction manual disposal has been a ritual of mine for years now.

I was recently approached by Colorado-based Verde PR about joining their fledgling #Direct2Dirtbag influencer program, which is currently testing products from Backcountry Access. On my doorstep last week I received a box containing a Float 42 Avalanche Airbag and a Tracker 3 Transceiver, both which I will be reviewing in the coming weeks.

So let’s start with a First Look at the Float 42.

BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Easy access to the main compartment. Canister and hoses are under the internal zipper

 

I See Red

When asked what size of backpack I preferred, I immediately went for the largest available which was the 42 liter version. Even on day trips I seem to accumulate enough gear food and water – in addition to my camera equipment – to fill up an “overnight pack.” I’m still not sure how people manage to lug sleeping bags, mats, tents and food in a pack as small as 42 litres, but capacity testing will come out in the full review soon.

The first thing I noticed about the Float 42 is that it looks like an honest 42 litres, even with the Float airbag and canister installed. So many backpacks tout capacities that are incredibly restricted by the pack’s design (e.g. ergonomic curving of back panel) and end up feeling smaller. Being able to zip the main compartment all the way open and means you won’t be digging from the top all the time to access your gear at the bottom of the pack.

BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
The breakable zip is held together by overlapping velcro flaps

The outer compartment is for wet storage; shovel, probe, skins etc. leaving the inner compartment room for all your extra gear needs. The Float compartment, where the airbag is stored is at the back of the pack (directly behind the shoulders) and features a breakable zip design that bursts open when the airbag is deployed.

BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
An alpine climate helmet fits snugly under the deplyable helmet carrier, which is tethered and won’t go missing on your second day outBCA Float 42 avalanche airbagIce axe carrier buckles on the lower strap, different from many other packs but seems to work
BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Roomy goggle pocket
BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Bridging straps have about 10 cm range of height adjustability

Bells & Whistles

But the fun part of a pack is always the features. I like simplicity in design, but don’t like to see gear scaled back to the point of devolution in the name of weight savings. The Float 42 doesn’t overdo the features, sticking mostly to tried and tested designs. Daisy chain loops on the backpanel, a deployable mesh helmet carrier, waist belt compartments, dual ice axe carriers. All good stuff.

What I didn’t like was the stitched down lower side straps. This is where skiers have the option to attach skis in an A-frame style, which I prefer for ski mountaineering. It’s more balanced and the tips always stay away from your heels when kicking into the bootpack. For some reason (likely increased strength) these straps were stitched down on the lowers, so the only way you can carry skis is with the diagonal carry.

BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Stitching on lower side straps means no A-frame ski carry
BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Skis mounted for diagonal carry

The airbag itself is easily inspected and refolded, but with three connections on the air canister, it’s probably worth holding on to the included instruction booklet when the inevitable refilling time comes.

BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Airbag laid flat
BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
air intake, cover removed
BCA Float 42 avalanche airbag
Clear cover over pressure gauge for quick pre-trip inspection

Overall in my first look at the Float 42 I was impressed with how light the system was, having been wary of the heft of some avalanche airbags for a while. Field testing will show how much I can cram into this thing and how it perform under load. Stay tuned for a full review.