Having your own avalanche safety gear, especially when you are outside of ski resorts, is essential. There are different types of avalanche safety equipment. You may have standard safety equipment, advanced safety gear, and optional individual equipment.
Along with owning this equipment, make sure that you are well-versed in risk preparedness and avalanche safety training. Otherwise, these safety gears will be useless. Moreover, to help you find the perfect avalanche safety equipment for you, know more about avalanche gears below!
Standard Avalanche Safety Gear
As mentioned, avalanche safety gears have different types. And it is crucial that you at least have the standard avalanche safety gear. This type of gear comprises a tracker beacon or transceiver, an avalanche probe, and an avalanche shovel.
These tools are the standard for touring, and you are expected to have your own kit. You are not allowed to borrow or lend your equipment for safety reasons, so you should really invest in your own gear. The following tools will help you find and rescue people that were stuck and buried due to avalanche accidents:
- Avalanche Tracker Beacon
Most manufacturers offer a range of avalanche beacons, from the most basic and affordable to more high-end ones. The high-end models have a particular function wherein they can search for several burial sites, even in restricted areas.
This feature will be an advantage if you need to locate several victims. However, only the most experienced tourist users can utilize this function as much.
Beacons (also known as transceivers) with more than three antennae are generally more advantageous in terms of clarity, speed, and accuracy of sent or received signals than transceivers with only one or two antennae. While, the basic models are more user-friendly, especially for beginners in winter sports.
Most beacons update their software regularly. So, it is recommended that you have it checked by your trusted shop before winter starts to get the newest version of the software.
Make sure to review new data from the software. Manufacturers always tell how much your beacon can reach and search. And when you set them incorrectly, the signal of your beacon may be inconsistent.
It is essential to know that not every beacon is the same because the search-reach is not the only criterion used in an actual setting. All beacons should have a search width of 20 meters. So when you start your tour, make sure to turn on your beacon and join the group check.
This all sounds sophisticated, especially when you are only starting. But it will take time before you master using beacons, so invest some time learning it. Remember that the transceiver is only as good as the user!
- Avalanche Probe
An avalanche probe should have a 240-cm length and a quick release system. When you encounter avalanche accidents, longer probes usually work better.
When it comes to the probes’ weight and diameter, they do not differ much unless they are ultra-light models. Usually, aluminum probes are 240-cm in length and weigh around 250 grams. Probes made of other materials such as carbon are lighter. Knowing the depth of the victim’s position will help increase the chances of them surviving.
- Avalanche Shovel
The third to complete the set of your standard safety gear is the shovel. Avalanche shovels differ when it comes to features. But, one thing is required when choosing a shovel; it should have an aluminum blade.
The best shovels should have a blade of 28 by 25 cm. This width can remove enough snow per movement. Moreover, the weight of the shovel also depends on how big its blade is. You may also opt for a shovel with a telescopic handle or the ones where you can mount the blade for ease of transport.
Moreover, the features of shovels usually differ because of their wide range of models. Some have a handy saw, integrated pocket spike, and some are made to build a rescue sled.
Advanced Avalanche Safety Gear
A first-aid kit, a phone, and a bivy bag are considered part of your advanced safety gear. You may not choose to have it, but it will be helpful if some of your ski tourers in your group have them. This equipment is totally optional.
Moreover, you can have additional individual equipment to rescue your risk of being buried deep under an avalanche. These other items might also increase your chances of survival while you are under the snow.
Avalanche airbags have been proven to increase chances of survival during avalanches by reducing the risk of being completely buried under the snow. The airbag serves as a part of your body that helps you to float near the avalanche surface, keeping your body above avalanche debris.
When encountering an avalanche slide, you need to manually pull the handle out of your airbag backpack to release it. Manufacturers fill the airbags in two different ways:
- Pressure-induced systems using cartridges
These airbags are the more affordable model of airbags. Their cartridges are usually made of carbon or steel and allow air to be filled after each use.
These cartridges may be self-non refillable or self-refillable. Self-non refillable cartridges are usually light and maybe refilled by any shop if the cartridge is still on the bottle. On the other hand, self-refillable cartridges are heavier. They may be refilled by a diving, paintball, or a specialized shop.
- JetForce Backpacks
These systems, compared with pressure cartridges, are heavier. Unlike the first system, JetForce Backpacks allow multiple releases of your airbag without having to refill after each release. This type of airbag is ideal when testing your airbag every tour because it folds itself into a backpack.
These airbag systems usually differ per brand. So, if you are going to purchase an airbag, make sure you buy its cartridge from the same brand.
Knowing the perfect size of your airbag backpack
The size of your avalanche airbag backpack should depend on your tour’s purpose. Will you tour for a day? Or more than that?
Specialists say that if you go on a one-day tour, you should have an avalanche airbag backpack that can accommodate 15 to 20 liters. And if you go on glacial or more extended tours, you may need a backpack that can carry 21 to 30 liters. Lastly, you should consider a larger backpack (31 to 45 liters) if you will go on heavy touring that could last for days.
Remember that when it comes to avalanche safety gears, there is no perfect or number one choice that fits everyone. These gears depend on factors such as the length of your tour, its purpose, your expertise, and of course, your needs. Make sure to check if your skills in touring match your chosen avalanche safety gear to maximize its features. Should you want to start your gear search now, Rocky Mountain should be your first stop!