Backcountry Access Float 42 2.0 Review
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Backcountry Access Float 42 2.0
$734.95 at Amazon
$1,400 at Amazon
$1,200 at Evo
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|$629.93 at REI|
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|Pros||Tons of useful features, huge snow safety gear pocket, affordable, rides well for a large pack, half back-panel access, lots of pockets||Best airbag system on the market, utilitarian design, huge avy tools pocket, spacious main compartment, diagonal and A-Frame ski carry, comfortable, durable, airbag zipper pops open way less than other models||Easy to manage, huge snow safety tools pocket, lightweight, easy to travel with, multiple deployments if you carry extra AA batteries, trigger can be worn at either shoulder||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||Lightweight, comfortable on the descent, good helmet carry system, available in two sizes|
|Cons||Heavy, not great for smaller users||Only 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 carry||Wide shoulder straps, frame lengths geared toward taller folks, few organizational options||One size, average weight||Internal avy tool pocket harder to access, feels small for a 26L, waist belt is micro, minimal back panel|
|Bottom Line||A well-designed larger volume airbag pack that excels for patrollers, backcountry pros, or extended missions||This comfortable pack features a functional design and our favorite airbag system||This tour-friendly pack features supercapacitors to power an electric fan, making it lighter than most battery-powered options||A great pack design with a basic but functional and reliable airbag, all at a respectable weight and a good price||This is a high-performing and lightweight model ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their load|
|Rating Categories||Backcountry Access...||Osprey Soelden Pro 32||Black Diamond JetFo...||Backcountry Access...||Black Diamond JetFo...|
|Backcountry Utility (22%)|
|Airbag System (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (13%)|
|Specs||Backcountry Access...||Osprey Soelden Pro 32||Black Diamond JetFo...||Backcountry Access...||Black Diamond JetFo...|
|Weight with Cartridge (pounds)||7.1 lbs||6.5 lbs||5.7 lbs||6.4 lbs||4.4 lbs|
|Airbag unit or packs can be purchased separately/independently||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
|Cartridge type||Compressed Air||Electric fan||Electric fan||Compressed Air||Compressed Air|
|Approximate cost to Refill||$5-20||Not Applicable||Not Applicable||$5-20||$70|
|Volume of Bag(s)||150L||150L||150L||150L||150L|
|Frame sizes||One size||One size||SM/ML||One size||SM/ML|
|Can you fly with it?||Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full||Yes, no cartridge||Yes, no cartridge||Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full||Questionable, sealed compress gas can is not typically allowed but may be an exception|
|Carry skis A-frame or Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||Diagonal|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Float 42 is our favorite larger volume pack for pros or multiday adventures. This model rides great on the descent and fits a wider range of people significantly better than the previous model. It's easy to maximize volume (read: cram full), and its plethora of features helps its user to stay organized. While this pack might be larger than most backcountry travelers might need, for those that do require a larger pack, this one stands out among the rest.
The BCA Float 42 is a feature-rich airbag pack with complex trips and professionals in mind. It's one of our favorite pack designs and our favorite pack with a 40L+ volume. All of our testers loved its large snow safety gear pocket. It could stow larger shovels, saws, and probes and still left room for skins, serving as a "wet pocket".
We love the fleece-lined goggle pocket, which stores your eyewear and can easily double as a small stash pocket, providing quick access to smaller or easily lost items. Two mesh zippered pockets in the main compartment are each large enough for a crystal card, AIARE Bluebook, or other items. The waist-belt pockets are decently sized and can easily hold most modern smartphones, snacks, and a few ski straps.
There is a zippered panel on the bottom half of the back panel, providing easy access to items at the bottom of the bag, like a rope or ski crampons.
Carrying Skis or a Snowboard
The BCA Float 42 is one of the few airbag packs that can carry skis both diagonally or in an A-frame. The A-frame is a more comfortable option for longer lower elevation approaches. Just remember: carrying your skis in an A-frame may interfere with your airbag's deployment. BCA only recommends doing so when traveling far away from avalanche terrain. The diagonal carry system is solid, but you'll need to make sure it is pretty tight when you start — otherwise, the upper straps can work their way loose. Another cool design element is you can carry a traditional snowboard (non-splitboard) vertically with this pack using the straps marginally reconfigured for the diagonal carry.
The Float 2.0 system has been in use for several years now on BCA's Float packs. The canister fits inside the same compartment as the airbag, saving valuable pack space and requiring less overall tubing than the previous Float 1.0 model. Note that the 2.0 system canisters are not compatible with bags built for the 1.0 system, and vice versa.
To inflate the 150L airbag in around three seconds, the Float 42 uses compressed air in conjunction with a venturi valve to help gather more air, which is pretty standard among airbags currently on the market.
The trigger can be worn in either the left or right shoulder strap, allowing users to wear it on the opposite shoulder as their dominant hand. This also allows snowmobilers to wear it on their right shoulder so they can pull it with their left hand while their right hand stays on the throttle.Refilling Options
The Float 42 features compressed air canisters that are among the easiest compressed gas models to refill. The fitting on the BCA canisters is one of the more common and is the same fitting used on scuba tanks. You can refill a BCA canister nearly anywhere people deal with compressed air.
If you have a scuba tank (or anything else that uses compressed air), BCA sells an adapter you can use to refill canisters yourself. Some floor pumps allow you to refill your canister by hand if you happen to travel to more remote regions.
On domestic flights, you are allowed fly with an empty compressed air canister as long as it's in your checked luggage. Keep the box your canister originally came in; when you travel, pack it in the box to clearly define what your canister is and help make sure TSA doesn't confiscate it. If you unscrew the head from the canister, it will be obvious that it's empty.
For international flights, you can fly with a full cylinder in your checked luggage. We have done this a number of times with no issue, but even when flying internationally with a full cylinder, we always take the extra step of packing in the original box just to cover our bases.
The weight breakdown of the Float 42 is 7.1 lbs (3215g) for everything with a full canister. The pack weighs 5.9 lbs (2658g) for the pack and airbag system without the canister, and 4.4 lbs (1998g) for the pack only, with the airbag system removed. Though not super lightweight, for the volume and functionality of the pack, we actually don't consider this heavy.
One of our favorite additional features is the easily stowable helmet carrier. It very securely held our helmet in place, and the carrier tucked away nicely when not in use. This model is also one of only a handful of airbag packs with the ability to carry two ice axes/ice tools. The flap that covers the helmet carrier can be pulled over the spike of an ice axe(s), helping to protect the airbag in the event of a deployment.
The Float 42 also has places to hang a hydration bladder, and the shoulder straps facilitate running a hydration tube through them, offering some level of insulation. The two internal mesh pockets are perfect in size and assist in staying organized. In terms of overall performance, there are few packs that sport as many usable and functional features as this one. We think BCA knocked it out of the park with this design for longer trips and pros.
The Float 42 moves quite well with your body, especially considering its sizable volume. While most sub 30L packs move better due to their smaller size, this 42L pack moves near as well as most 35L models and the best of any 40+ liter sizes.
The Float 42 handles heavier loads surprisingly well. Our testers agreed its suspension can basically handle whatever load you could possibly fit inside of it. This makes it a great option for overnight trips, hut-to-hut adventures, or any outing where you just need a lot of stuff. Our testers found that when fully loaded, the Float 42 performed among the best as far as comfort goes
This pack is only available in one frame length. However, it offers some adjustment in its torso length via the waist belt, which can be moved up or down (around two inches in either direction). Overall The Float 42 runs a little on the longer side and fits medium to tall users better. Folks in mid-five-foot range should still be able to comfortably use this pack, but if you're smaller-framed with a shorter torso, we recommend trying it on.
Should You buy the BCA Float 42 2.0?
This is our favorite larger-volume airbag pack. We feel the Float 42 is perfect for backcountry guides or ski patrollers, or simply folks looking for more room in their pack for overnight tours or hut-to-hut adventures. It is a better deal than many other packs in its volume range and sacrifices very little in the way of performance, actually outperforming several more expensive models. We love the layout and all its organizational features.
What Other Avalanche Airbag Packs Should You Consider?
We like the Black Diamond JetForce Pro packs. Once you purchase the pack, there are different sizes of aftermarket zip-on "Boosters" (which are quite affordable) that allow you to change the volume of your pack depending on the type of tour you're doing. The JetForce Pro 35L we tested is the largest option, weighing 6.75 lb. If you don't quite need so much space, check out the Backcountry Access Float 32 2.0 or the Osprey Soelden Pro 32, the latter of which uses Alpride's awesome rechargeable supercapacitor-powered fan for its airbag system.
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