Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $900
Pros: Wrap-around head airbag design, lightest pack in our review.
Cons: Not as durable, poor gear pocket, small lid pocket.
Best Uses: Backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
The Lifebag Lite 35 is a light pack with one of the best designed airbag systems on the market. At first glace, the Snowpulse seems similar to the BCA Float 32 or the Mammut Ride RAS 35, featuring a 150L bag that inflates behind your head. But what Lifebag does is quite different. It uses an airbag that wraps around your head and neck and down the front of your torso. This not only helps keep you on the surface of an avalanche, but to also protects your head from trauma — which kills a little more the 25 percent of avalanche victims worldwide. The Lite 35 is also by far the lightest airbag pack we tested, being over a pound lighter than the next closest pack.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Snowpulse airbag system is one of the more interestingly designed airbag systems on the market, not only because it keeps you on the surface like other airbags pacs but Snowpulse takes it a few steps further. Snowpulse does this with their U-shaped, wrap-around head-shaped air bag that potentially reduces the risk of trauma and will create a bigger air pocket if you are buried. There are some critics and arguments that there isn't a lot of research supporting this actually working, but one can see how it could possibly help you in certain situations. How much could it help you, well that is yet to be seen. We do think the Snowpulse airbag is slightly superior to the similarly 150L airbag packs of the BCA Float 32 and the Mammut Ride RAS 30 because their airbag is designed to wrap around your head, neck and the front of your torso to protect your head to potentially reduce the chance of trauma. While the level of how much trauma it could actually protect you from is debated, it has the same volume and can't hurt.
Comfort and Fit
The Lite 35 was slightly above average as far as comfort goes. It is available in two sizes that fit a similar range of people as The North Face Patrol 24. It is a lighter pack, and doesn't use as nice of foam in the shoulders nor were the shoulder straps as well articulated. The Lite 35 is one of the bigger volume airbag packs we tested and the frame sheet was adequate for a pack of its size and it transferred the load efficiency. That said, we wish the waist belt was a little stiffer when carrying heavy loads. As a whole, the Lite 35 wasn't as comfortable when fully weighted compared to the Vario 40 or the Float 32. There is a little pocket for the leg strap; this is great for keeping it out of the way when not in use but it's hard to quickly put it back in while wearing the pack. We thought this feature was cool at first, but in real world testing it's more of a pain.
To achieve weight savings, the Snowpulse appears designed as a more minimalist pack using lighter weight materials. The Lite 35 is certainly less durable than any of the other airbag packs we tested and is best used by people looking for a no-frills pack who aren't super hard on their gear. The top lid pocket is very small and we couldn't fit a lot in there; there is also a small pocket on the under side of the lid which is even smaller. When both these pockets are loaded up (which isn't hard to do) they are even more of a challenge to search. The Lite 35 had by far our least favorite snow safety gear pocket. It was small and for whatever reason only had a single slot/tube for either your Shovel handle or your probe but not both. We really didn't like that you had to unzip the side access zipper to get to your snow safety gear. This doesn't seem like a super big deal, but it's hard to keep everything from inside your back from falling out. Also this snow safety gear pocket didn't work well as a "wet" pocket to keep your damp skins or snowy shovel away from your warm puffy coat.
All the zipper pulls and draw strings are black and in lower light or even with dark sunglasses they can be a pain to find. As far as useable pack volume goes, the Guide Lite 35 is certainly bigger than the North face Patrol 24 or the Mammut Ride RAS 35 and nearly as big as the BCA Float 32 and the Vario 40. Due to the light weight theme there are no waist belt pockets on this pack. There are two side pockets that offer some storage options but don't seem very secure. The Lite 35 does have ski carry and a snowboard carry straps but they are complicated and take time to set up compared with other packs we tested.
At 5 lbs 3 oz The Snowpulse Lite 35 is by far the lightest pack we tested, being over a pound lighter than the next lightest airbag pack, the BCA Float 32, and two pounds lighter than the similar volume ABS Vario 40. The Lite 35 is best for folks whom want the lightest airbag pack the can get and are not that hard on their gear. The Lite 35 achieves some of its weight savings from reduced features but also from using lighter weight materials that we thought substantially decreased durability.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 1, 2012
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