FERRRINO Powdersafe 18 avalanche airbag backpack Review

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As we see the first sings of winter arriving it is time to start preparing for the comming powder season. That means gearing up. Yes its time to spend your hard earned euros, dollars and Canadian dollars to replace the gear that is already falling apart.When I was invited to the Mezzalama trophy by Ferrino I also had the opportunity to test some gear. So lets get to it.
The main pocket layout is nice and clean

Since we are all venturing more and more into the backcountry security is paramount. Safety equipment has been all the rage in the past season and it will continue to be so. The top of the list you should definitely cross off, at least once, is an avalanche airbag bagpack. The market in this field once dominated by ABS has become rather crowded with a bunch of different solutions.  As most of you know there are two technical systems that are used mostly though licencing. The aforementioned ABS and the main competitor Snowpulse. I did a review on the ABS with the Evoc adaptor last season so well start this one off with the Snowpulse based Ferrino Powdersafe18.

I had the opportunity to do a through evaluation of this backpack in a practical environment at the Monte Rosa plateau pack in May. The idea was simple. Use it as I would my standard ABS Evoc combo, to do a photography and some skiing with a bit of heli at the contest in minus 15 degrees at around 3.500 m. To our luck, it was a Bluebird day. As I tend to be on the heavy end when it comes to carrying stuff with me that usually includes the standard fare of safetygear (beacon, shovel, probe) a first aid kit… some liquid a strap for any broken bones and a ton of photo equipment (a camerabody and two lenses a 70-200 and a 18-135) as well as a Go Pro. Now to be quite honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect. After talking to the product manager I was a little baffled. Ferrino prided themselves, with a simple statement: if the bag says it can carry 18 L. That’s what you get. I found that very hard to believe in a practical scenario. My current setup includes a 20 L package and that’s not exactly what I can carry with me. It is also considerably bulkier, then the compact powdersafe backpack.

Your standard inner pocket
Your standard inner pocket

Let’s start off with some features. Now I’m not going to dwell into the miniscule details, that you can read on the product page, but I am going to take a look at the practicality of some of them. When you open the backpack into the main compartment, the layout is extremely clean. Unlike my ABS, where the two airbags somewhat fill the sides, creating a bit of a hole in the middle, this one is nice and flat. This also means that when packing your staff, if you’re good at Tetris you can fill practically all empty spaces and use the entire main compartment more effectively. There is also a nice way to put in all your safety gear with out messing up the rest.

Since Ferrino supplies the Italian mountain rescue with it`s equipment a lot of the know-how from that field triples down into this freeride backpack. Another thing I really liked was the way the backpack opens. It is constructed so that you can easily avoid any staff from falling out. With my current one, while not being a big problem, sometimes when you are in very steep terrain, you have to be extra careful not to loose stuff that is tucked away at the top.
The Snowpulse system deploys to the top, not to the side like it`s competitor
The Snowpulse system deploys to the top, not to the side
like it`s competitor

The airbag system itself, is the standard Snowpulse system, consisting of the removable airbag and a canister. If you want you can remove the airbag and use the backpack without it. I do not see why one would do that, since someone who actually goes and buys one of these devices probably has a few other mountain backpacks in the house. It is however practical, if you’re airbag were to get somehow damaged and needed to be replaced. modularity is the key to redundancy.

The canister cartridge. These have been
The canister cartridge. These have been

The production quality of the materials is of course top-notch. After completely filling up the backpack and carrying it around it felt very durable. As standard, it comes with the capability to carry skis, a snowboard and the rest of the standard fare. As mentioned, it has all the features you will need on a day out in the back country and some more.

I did like it and, if I had known about it a season earlier when I was out shopping for an avalanche airbag would probably have gotten this one, specially because of the better layout of the inner pocket for my photo and film gear.  the problem here, is that one has to actually use these things to see the differences and find a solution that best befits him. Unfortunately, we tend to go on the safe side, by mostly sticking to well marketed, branding when the more expansive and less expandable parts of equipment come into play.
Snowpulse inside
Snowpulse inside

So the “little” backpackis good, but there is one thing that I had to get a little used to. I like old school long shoulder straps that are straight and still a bit loose at the bottom. The shoulder strap on this backpack however is designed to give you a perfect tight fit. It reminded me a little of my Heli Pro, but better. It is a bit of a different design, then the one employed by the ABS backpack I use. That one has more of a old school mountaineering layout. What I do like about the straps though, is the upper part just a little under your shoulders. When you strap up to fit it feels almost as if you’re wearing nothing at all.  The design seems to quite nicely spread the weight across the entire strap area. If I could take this part and the lover part from my ABS-strap we would have the perfect shoulder straps for me. It also has support for a H2O hydration system.

The straps with trigger in the pocket
The straps with trigger in the pocket

So after a though evaluation in high alpine conditions a I can definitely recommend this backpack to anyone who is looking for a good price performance with better than average build quality and has no problem with avoiding the standard ABS and Snowpulse products. There are a few minuscule things like the strap, for which I needed a bit of getting used to, but that aside, I was quite surprised at how well thought out the layout of the backpack had been. When I got it my first thought had been, that there is no way I will be able to fit all my equipment into this small backpack, and to my surprise that assumption turned out to be completely false.

If you’re looking for this and other Ferrino products there distributor in Slovenia is Iglusport and the MSRP for the backpack is around 650 EUR so it is considerably cheaper then the ABS (680 Base unit plus 100 for the comparable pack-module). If you need more info or have a few detail questions I did not answer post them in the comments section and I will gladly dive into them 🙂 

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