(As always, this safety equipment modification is a proof of concept test and entirely not recommended for actual use.)
Modding gear is in the WildSnow DNA, but lately I’ve been spending time rebuilding things like fences. Thought I’d get back into the workshop with some fun.
One of the flaws in my Arcteryx Voltair battery mod is the unknown of when the LiPo cell drains down to the point of being damaged (note: Arcteryx OEM battery ostensibly has low voltage protection). This can happen in several scenarios:
1.) If the aftermarket battery remains connected in the backpack, the Voltair electronics slowly draws it down with no cutoff. The only way to test this for certain was to leave a battery in the pack for quite a few days, which I did. As a result, I bricked one of my batteries. In the name of science!
2.) When on-the-shelf, the battery will eventually need a maintenance charge to prevent damage. This could take several months but is inevitable.
3.) When testing inflations or actually using the battery in the event of an avalanche, you need to know if the battery is dangerously low.
The LiPo industry is amazing. You can find just about anything, from numerous battery sizes and voltages all the way to slick connectors and fire safety bags (be polite and use during air travel). Low voltage monitor (LVM) is today’s accessorization.
At only about $7.00, cheap insurance. Bias brand LVM is connected to the balancing connector that pigtails off most LiPo bricks. During use in a backpack, one does need to prevent chafing of battery wires. I protect mine with careful packing as well as judicious applications of silicone “rescue” tape (remains flexible in cold temps) and duct tape. Adding an LVM complicates matters a bit, but a bit of thought gets it right.
One other thought: Clearly, it would be easy to wire the LVM so the readout is visible while the backpack is in use. In the name of science, and do not try this at home!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.