For the 2012/2013 winter season, Snowpulse is keeping their same tried and true packs from last season, with two new additions. The new Lite 35 and Heli 22 (both numbers reflect pack carry volume) continue the “lifebag” style airbag concept for backcountry skiers and other snow country recreators, which is an airbag that inflates wraped around one’s head and chest for added protection. What’s cool about the lifebag system is that it provides a higher level of head and neck trauma protection, and, unlike other airbags, will begin to deflate a few minutes after being deployed in order to create an air pocket if you’re buried. This air pocket could be useful in a terrain trap or in secondary slide situations as airbags only work when you’re moving with the flow; if you are stuck in a terrain trap and snow continues to pile on top, an airbag will not bring you to the surface, thus, an air pocket could be appreciated as are friends with strong arms and large shovels.
The Snowpulse Lite 35 is impressively light (6.62 lbs with cylinder, size large). This especially when you realize that the pack is actually a bit bigger in volume than the Snowpulse Pro 35 (a favorite of mine), has a small expansion collar, and is still about a pound less mass! This in itself is enough to put this pack in the top tier alongside a select few other lightweight packs this season. Lighter fabric and simplified design cause much of the weight savings. About time. We’re getting tired of carrying stuff around that’s designed to look cool on a shop rack.
Avy tool pocket
35 Light has ‘sort of’ a separate pocket but it’s within the main compartment, which kind of makes it pointless other than keeping your tools from rattling around in the main sack. Having to unzip more than one zipper to get to your shovel all for the sake of keeping it separate from your layers seems dubious to me, and Lou concurs. Also, the pocket is not big enough for a shovel handle, so they cut a slit for it to slide into, with the handle sticking out. This is annoying with a T handle but would be worse with a D handle. Wish they would just put the zipper on the outside so you could access the tool pocket from the outside — or just forget any file cabinet stuff — or perhaps even put the tool partition in as a mesh panel with a super light zipper so it’s optional instead of requiring a razor blade for removal.
The pack is a top loader, but uses the same wonderful side zip as the Pro 35. I’d like to see them change the drawstrings so that they come out the opposite side of the opening from the zipper, then there could just be one drawstring instead of two. Lou and Louie have a different opinion. They’d like to see no side zip as they just look at this as another failure point and more weight. To be fair, Lite 35 probably needs the zipper for easy cylinder installation, so you might as well love on it like me.
Snowpulse Heli 22
While this pack is a bit beefier than the Lite 35, here at WildSnow we feel it’s too heavy and too small to be worth considering for human powered backcountry skiing. It has similar features to the 2012 Guide 30 and Pro 35:
– Retractable cable loops for diagonal ski carry and ice axe (something like this would perhaps be nice on the Lite 35, but weight is an issue.
– Stowable webbing straps for vertical snowboard carry.
– White zippered front pocket like Guide 30.
– Full zip clamshell.
– Full zip clamshell shovel pocket.
– 1 hipbelt pocket and gear loop.
– Heli 22 = 7.17 lbs with cylinder, whew, watch those excess baggage charges.
Both the Lite 35 and Heli 22 use the Snowpulse 2.0 system, which utilizes a mechanical trigger handle and user refillable air cylinder. All our testers have deployed this system. It requires a fairly firm pull and is good to practice; to do so you can dry fire but doing a full deployment is recommended at least once a year (the system is re-cocked with a special tool). Refill instructions here. See the airbag overview page to compare these packs against others.
Overall, our testers agree the Lite 35 is a nicely designed pack that’s super functional. Minimal weight penalty over non-airbag packs is a huge plus. Indeed, if you’ve been carrying a big Avalung pack or something like that, using the Lite 35 will mean you’re only carrying a few more pounds. Size is large enough to stow a helmet inside, but not excessive for average ski mountaineering. Sack easily compresses, Lifebag system rocks. Branding graphics and extra junk are minimal. Highly recommended.
Lite 35 = 6.62 lbs with cylinder for the size large. Size medium drops about 1/4 lb. (Note, Lou Dawson also contributed to this article.)
Nick Thompson brings an incredible amount of skiing and mountaineering experience to WildSnow.com. Nick grew up climbing and skiing in the mecca of Telluride. He has a super attitude and incredible drive, making Nick one of those people who is terrific to be in the mountains with.