Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $450 - $1,608 | Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros: Modular airbag, best snowboard carrying system, frame, back panel and shoulder straps are awesome.
Cons: Snow safety pocket is a bit small, diagonal ski carry system is just okay.
Best Uses: Side-country skiing and snowboarding, day touring, light hut-to-hut trips, snowmobiling.
The Mammut Ride RAS (Removable Airbag System) 30L airbag pack scored very well in our tests and is several hundred dollars less than many airbag packs on the market, but still $150 more than our Best Buy, the Backcountry Access Float 32. The RAS comes in some of the shortest torso lengths and features narrower shoulder straps, making it great for smaller users. For many folks this could more than make up for the $150 in difference between it and the Backcountry Access Float 32. This pack has tons of great features, such as a goggle pocket, internal zipped key pocket and stowable helmet attachment, and it is made with super durable materials and reinforcements. The Ride RAS is also the best airbag pack for carrying a snowboard. We do wish the safety gear pocket was a little bigger; folks with big shovels or long probes might struggle with this pocket.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mammut Ride RAS uses a single 150L bag that inflates above your head through a breakaway zippered pocket. This size and shape is more or less the standard among avalanche airbag packs. It doesn't offer anything special like two bags for redundancy or a head/neck wrap shape for trauma protection. But it is still incredibly effective at its most important task: keeping the wearer on top of the snow, and there are exceptionally few cases of a single bag failing.
The RAS system (Removable Airbag System) available from Mammut is similar to the ABS Vario series in that you can buy one airbag system ($450) and a canister ($200) and move it among multiple packs that are all around $280. That compares with Mammut's PAS (Protection Airbag System) that costs $600 and offers an airbag that wraps around your head to both prevent trauma and increase the odds of having your head sticking out of the snow. With the ABS Vario the base unit is $980, the canister/triggers are $180 and the packs are around $100-$125. So for two packs and one base unit there isn't a huge amount of difference in total cost.
Unlike the ABS packs, the trigger is not interchangeable between shoulder straps and is fixed on the left side. The trigger mechanism is not as important a factor to consider when buying an airbag pack as are other features. That said, the trigger mechanism on the Mammut Ride RAS isn't the best but is still highly reliable.
Mammut uses compressed air canisters in the airbag system. Compressed air, while slightly lower in performance compared with compressed nitrogen, is much easier and cheaper to refill. Mammut's cartridges use a pretty standard fitting and can be refilled at most scuba shops, paint ball shops and some outdoor gear stores for around $5-$20. If you own a scuba tank, have a glass blowing setup or anything else that uses compressed air you can buy an adapter from BCA and refill your own canisters.
This is a big advantage of Mammut using compressed air over compressed nitrogen. TSA and the FAA allow you to fly with an empty compressed air canister as long as it's in your checked baggage. A good tip is to keep the box that your canister came in; then, when you fly, put it back in this box to clearly define what your canister is and help make sure TSA doesn't take your canister away from you. I go one extra step and put a note on mine, saying it's empty and that it's for an avalanche airbag pack
Comfort and Fit
The Ride comes in two sizes, helping to fit a greater range of people. Both sizes run on the short side relative to the other airbag packs we tested. The shoulder straps are narrower and super articulated; the Ride RAS 30 is the most likely airbag pack to fit smaller women or narrower-shouldered men. Mammut uses high quality foam and an awesome articulation in the shoulder straps and waist belt, giving one of the better fits in our review. We also like the frame in this pack; it transferred the load to the waist belt fantastically well.
Backcountry Pack Functionality
The Ride looks like most like normal ski packs. It has a nice zippered internal pocket for keys or other easily lost items and a nice fleece-lined goggle pocket. The snow safety pocket is well laid out but it is a little on the small side. It will fit everything you need as long as your shovel handle or probe isn't too long. The RAS part of the pack or Removable Airbag System is great because it means you can drop around a pound and a half from your pack if you go out on a lower danger day, spring skiing or to use it as a more traditional pack in the summer.
Some small downsides to the Mammut Ride Ras 30 are that it has no waist belt pockets and the airbag system eats into the pack volume. This pack felt a little more spacious than the Patrol 24 but not nearly as big as the Snowpulse Lite 35 or the Backcountry Access Float 32.
The Ride RAS 30L is probably the best pack to carry a snowboard, being just a little bit better than the North Face Patrol ABS 24. For skiers who like A-framing their skis, the Mammut Ride Ras 30L excels. While there is debate as to carrying them in this style possibly affecting airbag deployment, the Ride RAS 30L gives you the option. The Ride RAS 30L was a little below average at carrying skis diagonally, offering slightly awkward straps that had the skis slipping down after long booters.
The rideability of each pack measures how we felt they carried and moved with us while skiing and snowboarding. We thought the back panel and Y-shaped support stay offered a nice combination of freedom of movement and support, but the Mammut Ride RAS 30L did have one drawback. We didn't like how far out the pack stuck from our back. It made the pack feel more cumbersome than several other packs we tested. The shoulder straps fit most of our users okay, but they weren't great. The rideability and the small safety gear pocket were items that kept it from winning an award.
Overall Cost Breakdown
The cost of airbag packs can be confusing because some manufacturers include the cartridge in the price and some don't. Some companies sell options without the airbag system or base unit, so make sure you know what you are buying. With the Mammut Ride RAS 30L the pack is $700 and the canister is $200. Together you will often see them priced around $875, offering a small discount. The advantage of the RAS system is once you have the canister and the airbag system, each additional pack is only around $300.
At just under 7 lbs the Mammut Ride RAS 30 is in the middle of the road. It is around half a pound lighter than the ABS Vario 40 but around a half a pound heavier than The North Face Patrol 24 or the Backcountry Access Float 32. The Snowpulse Lite 35 is a pound and a half lighter but is far less durable.
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: December 1, 2012
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