Yesterday Arc'teryx announced the release of their Voltair Avalanche Airbag. Available to the public Fall 16 in both a 20L and 30L version, the system is powered by 22.2v lithium polymer rechargeable battery. This makes it the only other battery alternative to Black Diamond's JetForce pack. Both packs are a significant step past compressed air systems, but who will dominate in this new electronic race.
First Impressions of the Voltair
The first look at the Voltair yesterday indicates a highly-engineered and thoughtful piece of equipment. What impressed me was the details, like a one-handed wire gate loop/harness that secures your body's connection to the bag and always available trigger.
To inflate the Voltair is a custom engineered impeller centrifugal blower. This means there is no moving parts in the motor besides the circulating blower. This gives the Voltair the ability to rapidly inflate the bag in adverse weather, including cold icy weather conditions. The blower is step forward in the category as the JetForce pack uses a fan similar to the nose of a propellor plane.
But Is it Better than Black Diamond?
The Voltair, which has been in development for six years, can be deployed about eight times on a single charge. This enables the user to practice releasing the bag before entering an avalanche zone. Over the next week TGR will be testing the Voltair in the British Columbia backcountry. I am excited to see how it performs especially in the wet conditions forecasted.
Check back on TetonGravity.com later this week to see our final verdict in the avalanche pack race.