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Backcountry Access Float 32 2.0 Review

A great pack design with a basic but functional and reliable airbag, all at a respectable weight and a good price
backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review
Credit: BCA
Price:  $600 List
Manufacturer:   Backcountry Access
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2022
82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 8
  • Backcountry Utility - 22% 9.0
  • Airbag System - 20% 7.0
  • Weight - 18% 8.0
  • Features - 15% 9.0
  • Downhill Performance - 13% 8.0
  • Comfort - 12% 8.0

Our Verdict

With the Float 32 2.0, BCA offers a great pack design and one of the best all-around systems for the price. The 2.0 system is lighter and more compact than the previous system, and the latest bag has a few added pockets and some design tweaks. Overall, this is one of our favorite packs for backcountry travel thanks to features like its huge snow safety gear pocket, fleece-lined goggle pocket, and easy-access U-shaped clamshell design. The side compression straps and the ability to carry a snowboard vertically are nice perks, along with the quick-deploy helmet carrier, which can be pivoted when carrying skis. Best of all is its approachable price, though you'll have to pay extra for the canister, which is interchangeable with any of BCA's Float 2.0 series packs. Of note, the 2.0 is not compatible with the 1.0 system.
REASONS TO BUY
Great overall pack design
Affordable
Good snow safety gear pocket
Plethora of organizational pockets
Canister doesn't take up extra space in the main compartment
REASONS TO AVOID
One size
Average weight
Editor's Note: This article was updated on October 14, 2022, with information on the latest version of this pack.

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Pros Great overall pack design, affordable, good snow safety gear pocket, plethora of organizational pockets, canister doesn't take up extra space in the main compartmentBest airbag system on the market, utilitarian design, huge avy tools pocket, spacious main compartment, ability to carry skis diagonally and A-Frame, comfortable, durable, airbag zipper pops open way less than other modelsBest-fitting pack for smaller users, awesome pack design, super comfortable, big snow safety tools pocket, great goggle pocket, well-executed back panel accessTons of useful features, huge snow safety gear pocket, affordable, rides well for a large pack, half back-panel access, lots of pocketsSuper lightweight, affordable, nice ski carry system
Cons One size, average weightOnly one frame size, compression straps must be unbuckled to unzip the pack all the way, one-way zipper, no goggle pocket, "stash pocket" isn't user-friendly, mediocre diagonal ski carryMediocre helmet sling, no internal zippered pocket for keys, must access back panel to get to most of the pack, hard to maximize volume, waist buckle difficult to threadHeavy, not great for smaller usersUncomfortable if not packed correctly, U-shaped access zipper isn't ideal, no avy tool pocket, small capacity
Bottom Line A great pack design with a basic but functional and reliable airbag, all at a respectable weight and a good priceThis comfortable pack features a functional design and our favorite airbag systemThis pack is designed for those with a short torso, narrow shoulders, or those under 5'4", and you'll be pleased with its well-thought-out designA well-designed larger volume airbag pack that excels for patrollers, backcountry pros, or extended missionsFor the right user/type of trip, this is one of the most lightweight models available, but you'll have to make some sacrifices in comfort
Rating Categories Backcountry Access... Osprey Soelden Pro 32 Mammut Pro X Remova... Backcountry Access... Mammut Ultralight R...
Backcountry Utility (22%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.5
5.0
Airbag System (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (18%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
10.0
Features (15%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
4.0
Downhill Performance (13%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Comfort (12%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Backcountry Access... Osprey Soelden Pro 32 Mammut Pro X Remova... Backcountry Access... Mammut Ultralight R...
Volume (liters) 32L 32L 35L, 33L with system 42L 20L
Weight with Cartridge (pounds) 6.4 lbs 6.5 lbs 6.5 lbs 7.1 lbs 4.4 lbs
Airbag unit or packs can be purchased separately/independently Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Cartridge type Compressed Air Electric fan Compressed Air Compressed Air Compressed Air
Approximate cost to Refill $5-20 Not Applicable $5-20 $5-20 $5-20
Volume of Bag(s) 150L 150L 150L 150L 150L
Frame sizes One size One size One size One size One size
Can you fly with it? Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full Yes, no cartridge Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full
Helmet carrier Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Carry Snowboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Carry skis A-frame or Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal Diagonal

Our Analysis and Test Results

Product Update Note — October 2022
BCA has updated the Float 32 2.0 pack since our test cycle ended. Above, compare the model we tested (left) to the updated pack (right). Changes appear to be minor, but note that some of the features we speak to in this review may be different in the latest version, which we are now linking to above.

The Float 32 is an incredibly versatile touring pack that delivers function to the fullest without breaking the bank. Though average in weight, this pack is big enough to work for essentially any day trip, and we've even squeezed several well-supported hut-to-hut trips out of it. We love the extremely functional and utilitarian pack design.

Performance Comparison


backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - the float 32 offers a top-tier pack design and respectable weight...
The Float 32 offers a top-tier pack design and respectable weight for a great price.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Backcountry Utility


The Float 32 2.0 is one of our favorite packs for its overall user-friendliness and backcountry utility. We loved this model's huge dedicated snow safety gear pocket. We treated this like a "wet pocket", and it easily swallowed a shovel, probe, saw, and skins. We liked not having to put our snow-covered shovel or damp skins into the main compartment where they might make our puffy jacket or extra gloves damp.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - tino villaneuva taking advantage of this packs cramming capabilities.
Tino Villaneuva taking advantage of this packs cramming capabilities.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

This model's main compartment also feels voluminous, and it seems far bigger than some other packs of similar volumes. We love the interior mesh pocket and found it a great place for keys, an AIARE Blue book, most crystal cards, or other odds and ends to help stay organized. The other pocket is external, which is where the helmet carrier gets stowed away, but it's still big enough to fit a few small items. There is also a third fleece-lined goggle pocket accessible from the outside of the pack.


Carrying Skis or a Snowboard

The Float 32 features a fairly easy-to-use diagonal carry system that is fast and secure. It has straps that can be offset or completely undone, with two additional straps towards to top to carry a snowboard vertically. This design seems more prone to opening up the breakaway zipper that keeps the airbag in place. While hardly a deal-breaker, this annoying occurrence happened more frequently with a snowboard than skis and tended to happen more when the pack was maxed out, volume-wise.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - illustrating the diagonal ski carry system on the float 32 2.0.
Illustrating the diagonal ski carry system on the Float 32 2.0.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Airbag System


BCA's Float 2.0 System is 30% more compact and 15% lighter than the previous 1.0 System. The Float 2.0 system is designed and built around a smaller canister that fits inside the same compartment as the airbag itself, saving pack space. This makes the pack feel roomier and makes it far easier to pack. BCA was able to use a smaller canister by increasing the pressure/capacity from 2500-2700 PSI to 2800-3000 PSI, and a redesigned venturi system further reduced weight and improved efficiency.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - the bca float 32's basic but extremely functional airbag design does...
The BCA Float 32's basic but extremely functional airbag design does what it's designed to do: make it more likely that in the event of an avalanche, its wearer will end up on top.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

This model uses a 150L airbag which deploys from the top of the pack and inflates above your head through a breakaway zippered pocket. The breakaway portion of the zipper has been moved from the top to the side, which makes zipping the airbag compartment easier.


Trigger Mechanism

The trigger is modular on this model and can be worn on either the right or left shoulder strap. This means you can customize it so that you can reach across your body to grab and pull the trigger with your dominant hand. BCA uses a very simple mechanical and reliable system trigger system that is one of our favorites. However, you should regularly check that the inner connection attaches to the canister. After several days out, we have seen the inner threads vibrate loose, so we recommend checking before every tour.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - comparing the older 1.0 canister on the left to the smaller and...
Comparing the older 1.0 canister on the left to the smaller and lighter 2.0 canister on the right.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Travel Considerations

On domestic flights, TSA allows compressed air canisters to be taken on commercial aircraft as long as it's empty and in your checked luggage. A good extra measure to help ensure that your canister makes it to your destination is to pack your canisters in its original packaging, which helps to clearly define what it is, lessening the chance that TSA will confiscate it. Better yet, completely unscrew the head from the canister to make it easy to identify that the canister is empty. BCA also has documents supporting the legality of taking the canister on commercial flights in an easily printable format on their website.

For international flights, amazingly enough, it is actually okay to fly with a full cylinder as long as it is packed away in checked luggage. Our testers have flown internationally with full canisters on several occasions. With that said, we always take the extra steps of boxing and labeling it to make it less likely to get confiscated.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - the 2.0 system used in bca's packs is lighter and smaller than the...
The 2.0 system used in BCA's packs is lighter and smaller than the previous 1.0 system. However, its greatest advantage is that the canister now fits in the same compartment as the airbag itself, saving valuable pack space.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Refilling Options

The Float 32 features compressed air canisters, which are quite easy to refill. The fitting on the BCA canisters is common, and the same fitting used on scuba tanks, paintball, and some glass blowing operations. This means that you can refill these canisters nearly anywhere that deals with compressed air. If you or a friend happen to own a scuba tank or anything else that uses compressed air, you can purchase an adapter directly from BCA and refill canisters yourself.

While finding locations to fill a compressed air canister isn't a super common problem, it is worth noting that you can actually use certain floor pumps to refill your canister by hand if you'll be traveling to remote regions where compressed air is not available. Our favorite pump for this purpose is the Benjamin High-Pressure Hand Pump.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - while this model is no doubt a panel loader (an upside down "u"...
While this model is no doubt a panel loader (an upside down "U" shaped zipper also known as a clamshell) it was the easiest such design to cram full to maximize volume.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weight


Despite the lighter airbag system, a few additional features keep this model's overall weight on the higher end of the spectrum (7 lbs 1 oz). The Float 32 pack is pretty average weight-wise among packs of 30L or more of useable space.


Features


The removable helmet holder is quick and easy to engage. It's stowed inside an external zipper pocket and can also be offset when carrying your skis diagonally on the back by utilizing a different loop on the top of the pack.


There are two decent-sized zippered hip belt pockets, and a gear loop on each side. We loved the pockets for ski straps, a scraper, snacks, an Inclinometer, and they're even big enough to fit most medium-sized smartphones. There were also a lot of other small but useful features, like a hole in the bottom of the snow safety gear pocket to facilitate carrying longer ice axes without risking puncturing your airbag, a fleece lined goggle pocket, and loops for the BCA Link radios which can be routed into the shoulder straps.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - we loved the huge dual-zippered waist belt pockets, which were...
We loved the huge dual-zippered waist belt pockets, which were perfect for snacks, chapstick, or other small items you want to keep close at hand.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Downhill Performance


Performance on the down is how well each pack handled and moved with us while skiing and snowboarding on the descent. The Float 32 2.0 provides a good blend of support and freedom of movement. It hugged our back and moved with us quite well.


backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - the float 32's back panel struck a nice balance of comfort and...
The Float 32's back panel struck a nice balance of comfort and support without being too stiff or restrictive to negatively affect downhill performance.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort


This is one of the more comfortable packs we tested. It features a thermomolded back panel with a fair amount of support built in. That said, it only comes in one size, and while marginally adjustable in height, it fits taller users better.


Fit

The Float 32 features an adjustable waist belt that can slide up and down around 2.5" to accommodate a wider range of user heights. It still tends to fit taller folks better, but now has a slightly larger range than previous versions. Most folks between 5'6"- 6'6" will be able to comfortablt wear this pack, with the sweet spot being between 5'8"- 6'4" tall.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - we felt the bca float 32 struck a good balance of comfort and...
We felt the BCA Float 32 struck a good balance of comfort and support. If you are between 5'8" - 6'4" you'll likely find this pack pretty comfortable. Here, Ryan O'Connell (6'4") enjoys the comfort of his Float 32 while ascending toward the Bryant Peak Couloir near Snoqualmie Pass, WA.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Should You Buy the BCA Float 32 2.0?


The Float 32 is best used by skiers and snowboarders looking for a solid all-day backcountry touring pack. It features one of our overall favorite pack designs, with all of our favorite features for backcountry skiing, but it's little big and bulky for side-country or heli/Cat skiing. For all-around backcountry touring, though, it's hard to beat this pack for the price. We love all of the pockets on this pack for staying organized.

What Other Avalanche Airbag Packs Should You Consider?


If you're shorter, we think you should take a look at the Mammut Pro X Removable Airbag 3.0 - Women's or the Black Diamond JetForce UL. The JetForce UL is one of the most lightweight packs we've tested, but it can't hold nearly as much volume as the Float 32. Our favorite overall airbag pack and system was the Osprey Soelden Pro 32, which utilizes Alpride's supercapacitor system, which is rechargeable and one of the best systems currently on the market.

backcountry access float 32 2.0 avalanche airbag review - this pack was average for downhill performance among models overall...
This pack was average for downhill performance among models overall in our review but slightly above average for larger volume models. Here Tino Villaneuva rips it in his Float 32 in the Snoqualmie Pass backcountry.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ian Nicholson
 
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