First of all, what is this AvaLung all about?
The AvaLung works to transfer your exhaled breath (CO2) away from directly in front of your face should you become buried in an avalanche. Provided you have the mouth piece securely in your mouth before going under, your chances of survival greatly increase. Normally, the carbon dioxide we exhale slowly forms an "ice mask" around the face that prevents fresh oxygen being draw out of the snow, since snow actually contains quite a lot of oxygen. The AvaLung draws your breath from a valve along the left shoulder and expells it low behind you so you can continue to breath for longer whilst buried.
The mouthpiece zips into the shoulder strap when not in use, and can be adjusted to sit close to the mouth when traveling in avalanche terrain.
Construction wise, the Anarchist is an expandable top loading pack with a front zip pocket to hold your shovel, probe, saw, and snow safety kit close at hand should you need it in a hurry. A side zipper gives access to the main compartment for stashing skins or water. The lid features 2 zippered pockets for your headlamp, multi-tool, snacks, etc, but also one other very ingenious feature- a mesh flap for securing a helmet that folds away when not in use. An insulated sleeve runs over the right shoulder for those who use a hydration system.
The back panel is made of snow shedding thermoform foam and the Y-rod suspension system carries well, whilst remaining comfortable and free while skiing. The hip belt is firm and beefy enough for the loads the pack is capable of carrying and works well when wearing a harness.
What do I like about the pack?
I find the pack extremely comfortable to wear and it has everything I would expect in a ski pack. It can carry skis, or a snowboard, ice tools has provisions for securing a rope under the lid. The front pocket houses my shovel and rescue equipment close at hand, yet keeps it out of the way when I’m hungry and just want to find my sandwich. I have used it for overnight jaunts and filled it with a sleeping bag, food, clothes and stove, but normally I use it for day touring and it packs down nice and tight and doesn’t slop around on my back when skiing or climbing.
Personally I am not a fan of hydration systems in the snow, and would rather see the hydration pocket in the main compartment swapped out for a back panel zipper for better access to the main compartment. The side panel I only find useful I when what I’m looking for is stored right there. That would be my only con.
As far as the Avalung is concerned, I am a firm believer in the principle. I will admit that I would be far less likely to wear the straight AvaLung and have to take it off every time I took off my fleece, than I am with it integrated into the pack. It did, however, take some getting used to- more so psychologically than functionally. The mouthpiece can be easily adjusted and stays in place not intrusive or uncomfortable. Psychologically though, I found myself second guessing the decisions I would make in the back country when using the AvaLung. I would think, “If I didn’t have an AvaLung, would I still ski this slope?”
The answer was “Yes”.
I perceive it as just another tool to go alongside my transceiver when traveling in the back country, and not a tool that meant I could push the boundaries further.
In saying that, the AvaLung is only useful if is in your mouth not zipped away. I position the mouthpiece as soon as I skip the boundary rope, irrespective of the terrain or hazard, in the same way that you don’t turn on your transceiver only when you have gotten to the top of your run. I try to ski with it in my mouth, since, if I don’t, I may as well not be carrying it, and it has become second nature.
You may choose not too and practice biting down on the mouthpiece in the event that you do get caught in a slide, but in my opinion, I think I would be more concerned with swimming and fighting to get off the slide than conceding going under and trying to find the mouthpiece while being tumbled in an avalanche.
I am super stoked with my Anarchist with AvaLung 32L. It is an awesome pack and the inclusion of the AvaLung in the pack itself, makes it a no-brainer for me.
The pack comes in 2 sizes, a 32L and 42L which correspond to back sizes, and is also available without the AvaLung.
Weights: 1.88 kg (4 lb 2 oz) 32 L
1.93 kg (4 lb 4 oz) 42 L
For more information got to the Black Diamond website