Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very supportive, tons of features.
Cons: Heavy, maybe too many features, Velcro flap holding the airbag can come open and gets worse with time
Best Uses: All day, hut-to-hut or mutli-day backcountry skiing and snowboarding
The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS was nearly our top pick for multi-day and hut-to-hut adventures. In the end the Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce one that award because it was easier to pack, and didn't have the annoying feature of the Tour were the Velcro holding the airbag would fail and it would open up and the bag would start to fall out. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS remains an excellent option for longer tours, because its super comfortable, still nearly half a pound lighter than the Saga 40 and offers more feature some of which that will strongly appeal to certain people. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 has more substantial suspension and a lot more features than the Mammut Light Protection but weighs slightly more. Compared to the rest of the field, we think the Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS is a well designed and highly featured pack that excels at all-day, hut-to-hut and multi-day ski and splitboard touring. It has 32 base liters, which can be increased by 7 liters by unzipping it, similar to many suitcases. Hence the name "32 + 7". The Tour 32 + 7 has a ton of features and has one of the most supportive frames of the airbag packs we tested. In addition, it has a sturdy waist belt that is more likely to be found on light backpacking packs rather than airbag packs. The MASS (Modular Airbag Safety System) unit is easily transferred between Ortovox's different airbag packs and allows you to buy just one MASS unit that can be used in several different packs. While a few may find the Tour 32 + 7 to be too compartmentalized, most will find it to be a well designed and an easy to use pack. With all its features and stout frame the Tour 32 + 7 is a little on the heavy side but not by much.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Ortovox Tour ABS 32+7 features the ABS airbag system which is one of our top picks among available systems, though for traveling and ease of use we thought the Black Diamond JetForce system has our favorite overall. The ABS system is cool because it uses two independent airbags to give the user redundancy in the event that one airbag becomes punctured or doesn't inflate. The twin bag system uses two 85 liter airbags for a total of 170 liters of volume which is the second most of any airbag system on the market, behind only the JetForce's 200L. Ortovox's MASS system is similar to the ABS Vari line, which also allows you to switch the same airbag between multiple packs.
The MASS unit which is used in the Tour 32 + 7 is Ortovox's version of ABS's Vario modular zip-on packs and Mammut's RAS (Removable Airbag System) and PAS (Protection Airbag System) interchangeable systems. The MASS unit itself weights 2 lbs 13 oz and is easier to switch between packs than the Mammut PAS. The MASS unit is a little more expensive at $700 while the PAS costs around $600. These prices do not include the compressed gas canisters needed to charge either system. The MASS costs $280 less than the ABS Base Unit, which retails for around $980. After buying the MASS unit you will also need the cartridge/trigger, which costs $180. Each additional pack will run you between $300 and $320. These packs are very similar in price to the Mammut PAS packs. The Mammut's RAS base unit is $100 less expensive but doesn't have the horseshoe shaped airbag to protect the head and neck like the PAS system. The ABS Vario Zip-on packs are much less expensive, running between $80 and $140 per pack.
The trigger handle of the Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS is modular so it can be worn on either the right or left shoulder strap. The Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS also allows you to run a hydration system on either side as long as it's the opposite side of your trigger. Something that is really cool and unique to the Ortovox is the metal clasp on the trigger that keeps it from accidenly triggering in your car or in a heli. When you pull the trigger of an ABS pack it creates a small explosion which then travels down the line and forces a piece of metal to puncture a hole in the gas canister, which inflates the bag.
ABS uses compressed nitrogen, which is significantly more costly and more difficult to refill compared with compressed air. Compressed air cartridges all use a pretty standard fitting and can be refilled at most scuba shops, paint ball shops and some outdoor gear stores. In many major cities and outdoor and back-country hubs you can perform a canister swap, where you pay $40-70 and turn in your used cartridge and trigger in exchange for new ones. Youy can't get them refilled because the trigger mechanism first a piece of metal to puncture the cartridge. Once deployed the trigger no longer has its explosive mechanism and must be replaced.
This is where airbags which use nitrogen like the ABS suffer the biggest downfall. The TSA does not allow nitrogen canisters either empty or full on a commercial aircraft, even in checked luggage. The only option, if there isn't a retailer to do cartridge and trigger swap at your destination, is to pay a hazards material fee and have the cartridge shipped ahead. This fee can range from $25-70, depending on the destination. Paying this fee allows the canister to be shipped full.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort is one of the highlights of the Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack. It scored highest in our review for support because it has one of the most supportive frames. The Tour 32+7 also has the best waist belt for distributing heavier loads. We really like the feel of the neoprene-like material Ortovox uses on the shoulder straps, waist belt and back panel. This material is not only very comfortable but also helps keep the pack from slipping around. The Tour 32+7 only comes in one size but Ortovox also makes a women's version with a back panel length that is 3-4" shorter.
Rideability measures how well each pack moves with the body while skiing or snowboarding. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack is big, slightly heavy and features a stiff frame for carrying larger loads which makes it not ride quite as well as several of the smaller and more flexible framed packs. It wasn't quite as good as The North Face Patrol 24 ABS or the ABS Powder 15. The Tour 32+7 rides as well as the Mammut Ride Removable Protection 30L and the Mammut Light Removable Airabg.
Backcountry Pack Utility
The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack is one of the better all-day, hut-to-hut and multi-day backcountry packs we tested. It might be a little too compartmentalized for some, but most people will find it well laid out with lots of nice useable features. We quickly learned to love the skin/wet pocket near the bottom of the pack. We typically pack our skins in the saftey gear pocket, which depending on the pack and the size of your shovel can be easy or a big pain. This pocket was plenty big enough to fit skins and they where easy to pack and unpack quickly. Despite having another pocket dedicated to skins, the snow safety pocket was huge and swallowed all of our avy tools with ease. We liked the easily removable helmet carrying mesh attachment as well as the zippered fleece-lined goggle pocket. The zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the giant snow safety gear is great for keys, wallet, cell phone and other items that you don't want to get lost but don't need quick access to.
We never found a use for the outermost long skinny pocket, though it is small enough and doesn't add much weight. The waist belt zippered pocket was nice but we wish it was a little bigger. It is big enough for GU or a cliff bar but won't fit a normal sized candy bar or a small camera. The +7 expandable section is nice and makes the pack feel big enough for longer trips. The Tour 32+7 is the only airbag pack we tested to feature some air ventilation in the back panel.
Carrying Skis or Snowboard
The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack can carry skis in two ways, either the traditional diagonal orientation or in a unique X-frame orientation. This pack cannot be used to carry skis A-frame style because this could interfere with airbag deployment. Despite looking a little crazy, the X-frame carry does a good job of carrying skis comfortably for longer distances. In X-frame mode skis tend to catch on more stuff and it takes a little longer to set up. Once the skis were all strapped in they did great. For those skeptical of the X-frame, the Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 does an above average job of carrying skis in the diagonal orientation.
Overall Cost Breakdown
The total cost of airbag packs can be confusing because some manufacturers include the cartridge in the price while others do not. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack complete with MASS unit, trigger/canister and pack retails for $1200. Each of the three necessary components can be purchased separately. The MASS unit alone retails for $700, the trigger/nitrogen canister for $180 and the pack for $180.
The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 weighs 7 lbs. 3 oz. It is heavier than most of the airbag packs we tested but not by much. The Tour is nearly half a pound lighter than the Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce 7lbs 11 oz) and weighs the same as the smaller volume Editors' Choice winner, Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce (Also 7lbs 3oz) The biggest reason it's a little heavier is because it's a larger volume pack with a very supportive frame and a ton of features and pockets. The other reason is the modular MASS system, which helps make the pack more versatile. So while it is a heavier compared with the other larger but not quite as big volume packs, the Tour 32 + 7 is 6 oz heavier than the Mammut Ride Removable Protection 30L and 7 oz heavier than the Backcountry Access Float 32.
Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS Pack is best for skiers and split-boarders who are looking for a bigger pack for all day, hut-to-hut or multi-day tours. It has a very supportive frame and the best waist belt for carrying loads of any avalanche airbag pack we tested. It has 32 liters of useable space, making it big enough for any day tours, a perfect hut-to-hut pack and a viable option for lightweight unsupported tours for 3-4 days. It's a little big and stiff for our liking for a pure heli or cat skiing pack, but does still do the trick if you are primarily looking for a touring back and only heli or cat ski a few times a year. If you like the layout of the Tour but are looking for a smaller pack, make sure to check out the Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS pack. This is another reason the MASS unit is nice, because it makes buying a separate smaller pack less expensive.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Tour is also available in the Tour 30+7 ABS Pack - Women's version. The smaller Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS has a spine protector and is similarly priced.
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: November 11, 2013
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