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Backcountry Access Float 42 2.0 Review

A well-designed larger volume airbag pack that excels for patrollers, backcountry pros, or extended missions
backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review
Credit: Backcountry Access
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $750 List
Manufacturer:   BCA
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 27, 2022
79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 8
  • Backcountry Utility - 22% 9.5
  • Airbag System - 20% 7.0
  • Weight - 18% 6.0
  • Features - 15% 10.0
  • Downhill Performance - 13% 7.0
  • Comfort - 12% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Backcountry Access Float 42 uses BCA's 2.0 system, which skis and carries better than previous incarnations, and feels noticeably less bulky. All of the organizational pockets and usable space in this pack make it one of the best for longer tours. It's designed with guides, ski patrollers, or multi-day tours in mind. The Float 42 is great for hut-to-hut trips and is the perfect sized pack for backcountry professionals, and it has the snow safety gear pocket to prove it. Our testers loved the overall design, and it's our go-to for when we need more space, from technical ski descents with ropes involved to multi-day trips.
REASONS TO BUY
Tons of useful features
Huge snow safety gear pocket
Affordable
Rides well for a large pack
Half back-panel access
Lots of pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Not great for smaller users

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $750 List
$699.95 at Amazon
Check Price at Backcountry
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$770 List$900 List
$899.95 at REI
$500 List
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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 pocketsGreat overall pack design, affordable, good snow safety gear pocket, plethora of organizational pockets, canister doesn't take up extra space in the main compartmentBest-fitting pack for smaller users, awesome pack design, super comfortable, big snow safety tools pocket, great goggle pocket, well-executed back panel accessLightweight, comfortable on the descent, good helmet carry system, available in two sizesSuper lightweight, affordable, nice ski carry system
Cons Heavy, not great for smaller usersOne size, average weightMediocre 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 threadInternal avy tool pocket harder to access, feels small for a 26L, waist belt is micro, minimal back panelUncomfortable if not packed correctly, U-shaped access zipper isn't ideal, no avy tool pocket, small capacity
Bottom Line A well-designed larger volume airbag pack that excels for patrollers, backcountry pros, or extended missionsA great pack design with a basic but functional and reliable airbag, all at a respectable weight and a good priceThis 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 designThis is a high-performing and lightweight model ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their loadFor 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... Backcountry Access... Mammut Pro X Remova... Black Diamond JetFo... Mammut Ultralight R...
Backcountry Utility (22%)
9.5
9.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Airbag System (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (18%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
10.0
Features (15%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Downhill Performance (13%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Comfort (12%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access... Mammut Pro X Remova... Black Diamond JetFo... Mammut Ultralight R...
Volume (liters) 42L 32L 35L, 33L with system 26L 20L
Weight with Cartridge (pounds) 7.1 lbs 6.4 lbs 6.5 lbs 4.4 lbs 4.4 lbs
Airbag unit or packs can be purchased separately/independently Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Cartridge type Compressed Air Compressed Air Compressed Air Compressed Air Compressed Air
Approximate cost to Refill $5-20 $5-20 $5-20 $70 $5-20
Volume of Bag(s) 150L 150L 150L 150L 150L
Frame sizes One size One size One size SM/ML One size
Can you fly with it? 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 Questionable, sealed compress gas can is not typically allowed but may be an exception 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 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.

Preformance Comparison


backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - the float 42 is great for hut-to-hut adventures or any trip that...
The Float 42 is great for hut-to-hut adventures or any trip that requires a lot of gear.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Backcountry Utility


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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - we love the plethora of pockets offered on the float 42, especially...
We love the plethora of pockets offered on the Float 42, especially the two large internal zippered mesh pockets.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - on such a large pack, it's nice to have the half-zip back panel...
On such a large pack, it's nice to have the half-zip back panel access. This made it even easier to access deeply buried items without having to explode the whole pack.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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.

Airbag System


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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - bca's 2.0 system is lighter and smaller than the previous 1.0...
BCA's 2.0 system is lighter and smaller than the previous 1.0 system. We love that canister now fits in the same compartment as the airbag, saving valuable pack space.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Trigger Mechanism

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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - you can see the size difference in the older 1.0 canister (left) and...
You can see the size difference in the older 1.0 canister (left) and the 2.0 canister (right). The 2.0 is around 30% smaller and 15% lighter.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Travel Considerations

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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - ski patrollers and avalanche professionals will love this model's...
Ski patrollers and avalanche professionals will love this model's gigantic snow safety pocket.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weight


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.


Features


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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - we loved the external fleece-lined goggle pocket that was great for...
We loved the external fleece-lined goggle pocket that was great for eyewear or any smaller items you want to keep close at hand.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Downhill Performance


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.


backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - this is the lightest 40+ liter pack we tested. it has a lot of sweet...
This is the lightest 40+ liter pack we tested. It has a lot of sweet features and offered one of the better overall pack designs.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort


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


Fit

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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - this model features an adjustable waist belt that can slide up or...
This model features an adjustable waist belt that can slide up or down about four inches. While we appreciated the adjustment capability, we still think the Float 42 caters to users over 5'6".
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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.

backcountry access float 42 2.0 avalanche airbag review - are you a ski patroller, mountain guide, or planning a hut-to-hut...
Are you a ski patroller, mountain guide, or planning a hut-to-hut trip? The Float 42 should be on your radar. It was our favorite larger-volume airbag pack. It's lightweight for its size and packed full of awesome organizational features, and it performs great on the downhill.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ian Nicholson
 
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