Getting trapped in an avalanche may not be top of your list of things to do before you die, but if you’re a regular on the slopes making preparations for being hit by tidal wave is certainly one thing to tick off.
One option is transceivers like the Ortovox S1 (add link), but if there’s no-one on hand to dig you out you’ll need something to help you breathe beneath the snow – like the Avalung Outlaw.
More than a survival tool
We reviewed Black Diamond’s Avalung II last year and the Outlaw is its successor.
Rather than just being a survival tool like its pared down counterpart, the Outlaw incorporates its breathing equipment into a well-designed pack that’s purpose built for backcountry exertions.
Being able to get at your emergency kit quick is essential if you have any chance of rescuing someone else from an avalanche, so the secondary compartment has well-positioned sleeves for stowing probes and a snow shovel.
The main compartment has a large horse-shoe zip that makes it very easy to access all the contents quickly. It also has a ‘back door’ via another big zip between the shoulder straps.
Other features on the Outlaw are also well designed. There’s an insulated sleeve for a hydration tube so your drinking water doesn’t freeze, a fleece–lined goggle pocket and external ski or snowboard carry straps.
Breathe with me
The Avalung allows you to breathe air trapped in the snowpack and not suffocate from CO2. It draws air from the snow and feeds it into your lungs via a scuba-like mouth-tube built into the shoulder strap of the backpack.
The exhaled CO2 is pushed through an exhaust port at the bottom right side of the pack so your fresh O2 supply isn’t contaminated. And it really works: there are survivors walking around today because they were wearing an Avalung when the snow struck.
Our only slight moan is that, although not weak and flimsy, the breathing tube can be damaged and the last thing you’ll want when buried in snow is to suck hard and discover you’ve knackered it through careless use as a day pack.