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Backcountry Access Float E2 25L Review

This burly, well-built backpack will see you through any mechanized skiing adventure you can dream up
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Backcountry Access Float E2 25L Review (Small but mighty, the BCA Float E2 is the perfect option for folks who like to use machines to access their...)
Small but mighty, the BCA Float E2 is the perfect option for folks who like to use machines to access their backcountry skiing.
Credit: Kaylee Walden
Price:  $1,300 List
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Manufacturer:   Backcountry Access
By Kaylee Walden ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 3, 2024
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 11
  • Utility - 30% 7.0
  • Airbag System - 25% 8.0
  • Weight - 20% 7.0
  • Comfort - 15% 8.0
  • Features - 10% 7.5

Our Verdict

The BCA Float E2 25L is a high-performing avalanche airbag pack that is particularly well-suited for all different types of mechanized skiing and riding. It features an abrasion-resistant, highly waterproof exterior material that reduces wear and tear. Its thoughtful components allow you to access a lot of your essentials without ever taking the pack off, which is ideal when you're traveling in avalanche terrain. From snowmobiling to heliskiing to lift-accessed sidecountry, this tough, well-built pack has the features you need for high-value days in the mountains with a downhill focus. Check out our full review to see how it compares to the best avalanche airbag packs.
REASONS TO BUY
Durable exterior
Easily accessible pocket for water or skins
Stays put when skiing and riding
REASONS TO AVOID
Too heavy-duty for every day touring
Relatively small capacity for the size

Compare to Similar Products

 
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$1,300 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line This comfortable, well-designed pack has an abrasion-resistant exterior which makes it perfect for mechanized skiingFor everything you need and nothing you don't, this airbag has a comfortable fit, a smart feature set, and exceptional ride-feel. The more we use this pack, the more we love itWith modular capability, this comfortable, capable and relatively affordable package gives you the versatility of two backpacks for the price of oneThis touring-inclined avalanche airbag pack wants to go fast and far, and has the right feature set to do soA reasonably-priced canister pack that is functional and reliable
Rating Categories Backcountry Access... Ortovox LiTRIC Free... Arva Switch Ride 18... Scott Patrol E2 30L Backcountry Access...
Utility (30%)
7.0
7.5
7.5
6.5
6.5
Airbag System (25%)
8.0
8.5
6.0
8.0
5.0
Weight (20%)
7.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
6.0
Comfort (15%)
8.0
8.5
7.0
6.0
7.0
Features (10%)
7.5
7.5
8.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Backcountry Access... Ortovox LiTRIC Free... Arva Switch Ride 18... Scott Patrol E2 30L Backcountry Access...
Volume 25 L 28 L 18 L and 32 L 30 L 32 L
Measured Total Weight (Including Airbag System) 5.8 lbs 5.6 lbs 5.8 lbs 5.7 lbs 6.4 lbs
Can Airbag Unit or Packs be Purchased Separately? No No No No No
Airbag System Alpride E2 Ortovox Litric Carbon Canister Alpride E2 Canister
Frame Sizes Available S/M, M/L One size One size S/M, M/L One size
Helmet Holder? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Snowboard-Specific Carry? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
A-Frame or Diagonal Ski Carry? Diagonal Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BCA Float E2 25L is a well-designed, durable avalanche airbag pack that utilizes the Alpride E2 supercapacitor fan system. At only 25 liters, it's the smaller sibling to the Float E2 35L, but for this reason, it's ideal for lift-accessed laps, ripping snowmobiles, and cat- or heli-skiing. If you are touring with this pack, features like BCA's innovative Back Stash zippered pocket make it easy to stash your skins.

Performance Comparison


The Alpride E2 deployment is fast, and we're happy to wear the Float E2 for lift-accessed or snowmobile-assisted skiing and snowboarding.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Utility


This pack has solid utility for the size and intended use – which, at 25L, is really mechanized backcountry skiing. Like most packs from BCA, this one has an easily accessible external rescue gear pocket that can accommodate a large shovel blade and a long probe. This pack has many different zippered stash pockets throughout for storing additional gear. The Float E2 is a reliable, useful backcountry pack, even without considering the addition of the airbag.


For even moderately long human-powered touring, however, the Float E2 just didn't have quite enough space to comfortably pack our backcountry kit, especially on cold days when we needed to bring extra layers. But that's not exactly what this pack is made for, and it works just fine for shorter, simpler days where we don't need to pack as much. It's also worth noting that this pack does come in two larger sizes, a 35L and 45L, with the same technology but better features for longer self-supported days in the mountains.

backcountry access float e2 25l - while it was a bit challenging to stash all of our gear in the float...
While it was a bit challenging to stash all of our gear in the Float E2 25L, especially on longer and colder days, it was perfect for riding sleds to access the goods.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Airbag System


This pack uses the latest and greatest Alpride E2 system, which is 25 percent lighter and 40 percent smaller than its predecessor. Despite its burly construction, this helps keep the Float E2 on the lighter end of the spectrum. Using both an internal charge and backup AA alkaline batteries, the E2 performs well in cold temperatures and charges very quickly and off an external battery pack if needed. The backup AA batteries help “top off” the internal charge and can provide additional deployments. The E2 system inflates in 3-4 seconds and measures 162 liters, which is 12 liters larger than the previous E1 system.


If needed, the Float E2 enables you to adjust the handle position and height. The handle is large and easy to grab, and the soft, malleable trigger pocket allows it to be quickly stowed when not in use. Utilizing a carabiner attachment, the leg loop is comfortable to wear and easy to use. The carabiner is quite large and easy to manipulate, even with gloves on.

backcountry access float e2 25l - the bca float e2 features an alpride e2 supercapacitor system with a...
The BCA Float E2 features an Alpride E2 supercapacitor system with a 162 L balloon.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Weight


The Float E2 isn't an ultralight option by any means, but it does achieve a fairly low weight, largely thanks to the Alpride E2 airbag system. This pack and airbag system combined weighs 5.8 pounds, just shy of the lightest packs in the review. With wide, comfortable backpack straps, the load is distributed well when you're carrying heavy loads, too.


We don't really have any qualms about the weight of this pack since the durable exterior is why we love it for mechanized applications. However, this is not the best option if you're looking for a pack with the lowest weight-to-carrying capacity ratio. The Float E2 doesn't really have any superfluous features, and BCA would likely have to reduce the weight of the exterior material to lighten up the pack overall.

The Float E2 25L feels and carries gear more like a vest than a pack.
The Float E2 25L feels and carries gear more like a vest than a pack.
The pack centers well on your back, and we were surprised how...
The pack centers well on your back, and we were surprised how adaptable a single size was for a variety of heights.

Comfort


The Float E2 strikes a great balance between vest-like comfort and carrying capacity. Its wider-than-average shoulder and waist straps create a stable, snug feel on both the uphill and the down. The back and the shoulders feature additional padding, which helps improve comfort even when carrying a heavier load. The molded back panel sits just right anatomically for most testers, and we were surprised that the small-medium size was fairly adaptable and fit friends between 5'0" and 5'10" quite well.


Not that this pack is necessarily meant for ski mountaineering or missions that involve a lot of bootpacking, but the diagonal ski carry felt a bit less secure than other packs. While diagonal carry has more utility for airbag packs since it allows the airbag to deploy if necessary without being blocked, for sled-access skiing, we prefer the comfort of an a-frame carry — especially when riding Canadian (side-by-side on one snowmobile). This pack also features a snowboard-specific carry, so splitboarders can keep their board in one piece if that's preferred. Unlike the larger pack sizes, there are no compression straps anywhere on the 25L, so it is impossible to cinch the pack down for more stable riding or skiing. Fortunately, the small capacity and rigid structure of this pack largely eliminated this issue.

backcountry access float e2 25l - while the diagonal ski carry on the float e2 works reasonably well...
While the diagonal ski carry on the Float E2 works reasonably well, it wasn't our favorite of the bunch.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Features


The Float E2 comes with a handful of thoughtful extras that make it pleasant to use. We enjoyed the external access to a water bottle holder and stash pocket at the base of the pack, which was easy to reach, even on the go. On extremely cold days, however, it can make it a bit easier for your water bottle to freeze (but we're talking colder than -15 °F). Between this stash pocket and the hip pocket, we hardly have to take the pack off to get to our essentials. As BCA notes, with an airbag pack, we want to have it on as often as possible in avalanche terrain, so these features are excellent.


The top-zippered stash pocket is also fleece-lined to prevent scratches when stowing your goggles and sunglasses. While the pack has space for carrying a single ice axe, it is slightly less secure than the same feature on other packs we tested. Remember, with any of these packs, carrying an ice axe on the exterior puts the spike close to where the airbag will deploy, making it more vulnerable to tearing. But the Float E2 isn't the pack we'd choose for ski mountaineering, anyway, so we don't see this slight shortcoming as much of an issue.

backcountry access float e2 25l - we loved the easily accessible stash pocket on the float e2.
We loved the easily accessible stash pocket on the Float E2.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Should You Buy the BCA Float E2 25L?


If you're a snowmobiler or frequent lift-accessed backcountry skier who wants the comfort of an airbag vest with more capacity, then this is the pack for you. Additionally, if you're someone who takes frequent helicopter or cat-skiing trips, this pack is burly enough to withstand being tossed in baskets repeatedly. If you're looking for an avalanche airbag pack for primarily human-powered ski touring, you may want something a bit lighter with a bit more carrying capacity.

What Other Avalanche Airbag Pack Should You Consider?


Another decent option for mechanized use is the Black Diamond Jetforce Pro 25L, which is a similar size and features the Jetforce Pro airbag system. The airbag itself on the Jetforce Pro is reinforced with Cordura to prevent rips. If you're focused on a smaller volume pack but want something for human-powered ski touring, our favorite is the Scott Patrol E2 30L.

Kaylee Walden