This Winter Black Diamond have released a new range of avalanche airbags. There’s a range of sizes available all with the name JetForce, but confusingly not all of them use the new Black Diamond/Pieps developed JetForce electric fan system. Black Diamond have also utilized AlpRide, a Swiss company who have been developing Airbag systems for the past decade. One thing you should note is that the 3 new systems are in no way interchangeable they are three very distinct systems so you cannot swap packs or use the Pro boosters on the other pack systems. In this article I’ll explain the difference between the systems and explain the advantages of each.
Starting off with the Flagship JetForce Pro system. This is an update of the already well know JetForce system from previous years. Its now a smaller, lighter system. Still powered by a powerful Lithium Ion battery which is rechargeable from a mains power socket and will give you four airbag inflations per charge. A nice feature but you’re having a really bad day if you use all four in one outing and maybe the backcountry isn’t the place for you. The activation handle has a charge indicator consisting of four lights so you know how many activations you have left if its looking sketchy up ahead. The JetForce Pro system now has Bluetooth built in to enable it to be connected to the Pieps app to provide system analysis and firmware updates as Black Diamond and Pieps constantly listen to user feedback.
The JetForce Pro System now comes in a ‘base unit’ pack to which 10L, 25L and 30L booster packs can be added to, giving you flexibility without the outlay of multiple packs. We stock the JetForce Pro system with 10L, 25L or 35L packs, and each booster pack available separately.
- Lithium Ion battery powered fan system
- 4 Deployments per charge
- Bluetooth integration with Pieps app
- Large airbag
- Pack size flexibility
2.87kg | 25L Pack total in use weight (Pack + system)
The JetForce Tour is another electronic fan inflated airbag system, this time using AlpRide’s E1 system rather than the system developed by BD/Pieps. It uses a super capacitor to power a turbine fan. This system is interesting as it can be charged from a mains supply or, amazingly two regular AA batteries! Charging from AA batteries takes an hour and you only get one inflation per charge, but it is an excellent solution for in field recharging that only requires you carry some spare batteries. It also means you can test the system at minimal expense. The Airbag itself is a little smaller than the JetForce Pro one but comparable to the Ortovox and Mammut Removable airbags.
- Super capacitor electric fan inflation system
- Recharged at mains or by 2 AA batteries
- 1 inflation per charge
- Lightweight airbag
2.63kg | 26L Pack total in use weight (Pack + system)
The JetForce UL uses more AlpRide technology rather than a BD/Pieps system. This time the AlpRide 2.0 system. This uses compressed gas to inflate the airbag so is very different to the other options. AlpRide 2.0 uses two cylinders which are both connected to the system, one filled with Argon and one filled with CO2. A mechanical pin mechanism pierces the canisters when you pull the handle and the bag inflates. It’s a very simple system with few moving parts so there is little to go wrong and no firmware updates. The major advantage of this system is it is very lightweight. The pack, airbag system and two canisters weighs just 1.99kg making it one of the lightest airbag systems out there.
- Compressed gas inflated airbag
- uses two disposable cylinders
- Very robust, simple mechanical system
1.99kg | 26L Pack total in use weight (Pack + system)
While the airbag systems are very different from each other, the packs themselves all broadly follow the same design. They all feature:
- Deicated Avi gear pocket
- Diagonal ski carry
- Ice axe carry
- retractable leg strap
So I wouldn’t let pack features dictate your choice, rather which airbag system is most suitable for you (The JetForce Pro system does admittedly have an advantage here due to the booster system). If you are keen on your trips to North America then I would definitely go with one of the battery operated systems as it will simplify your flying (for more info on flying with avalanche packs see here). If you are a light is right Ski Tourer looking for a a bit of extra safety venturing in to the dodgier terrain then the JetForce UL is the one for you as its our lightest airbag pack while still having an actually useful pack volume.
Buying an Airbag is a massive purchase so if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01943 870 550