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Black Diamond JetForce Pro 35L Review

An awesome airbag system with a decent pack design, plus the benefit of zip-on booster/pack options available
black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review
Credit: Black Diamond
Price:  $1,500 List
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2022
75
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The new Black Diamond JetForce Pro 35L is a sizable update with some significant improvements over previous models. The revamp starts with the airbag system, which is now a base airbag unit with four different zip-on booster packs available. This new setup is among the most expensive, but additional zip-on/boosters are much more affordable than purchasing multiple packs with different volumes. Another update of note is in the weight savings department, with packs running 1-2 pounds less than previous versions. The older Jet Force models were by far the heaviest. We think the packs themselves are solid, but we love the airbag system. We'd strongly consider this model if your priorities include easy travel or having a quiver of pack volumes to easily swap between.
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent airbag system
Modular pack design
Large top pocket
Carries heavy loads well
Great snow safety gear pocket
REASONS TO AVOID
Stiff
Main compartment is hard to pack full
Airbag compartment occasionally falls open
Pack can't be cinched down when less full
Mediocre ski carry system

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,500 at Backcountry
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$770 List
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Pros Excellent airbag system, modular pack design, large top pocket, carries heavy loads well, great snow safety gear pocketBest 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 modelsEasy 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 shoulderGreat 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 access
Cons Stiff, main compartment is hard to pack full, airbag compartment occasionally falls open, pack can't be cinched down when less full, mediocre ski carry systemOnly 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 carryWide shoulder straps, frame lengths geared toward taller folks, few organizational optionsOne 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 thread
Bottom Line An awesome airbag system with a decent pack design, plus the benefit of zip-on booster/pack options availableThis comfortable pack features a functional design and our favorite airbag systemThis tour-friendly pack features supercapacitors to power an electric fan, making it lighter than most battery-powered optionsA 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 design
Rating Categories Black Diamond JetFo... Osprey Soelden Pro 32 Black Diamond JetFo... Backcountry Access... Mammut Pro X Remova...
Backcountry Utility (22%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Airbag System (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (18%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Features (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Downhill Performance (13%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort (12%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Black Diamond JetFo... Osprey Soelden Pro 32 Black Diamond JetFo... Backcountry Access... Mammut Pro X Remova...
Volume (liters) 35L 32L 26L 32L 35L, 33L with system
Weight with Cartridge (pounds) 6.75 lbs 6.5 lbs 5.7 lbs 6.4 lbs 6.5 lbs
Airbag unit or packs can be purchased separately/independently No No No Yes Yes
Cartridge type Electric fan Electric fan Electric fan Compressed Air Compressed Air
Approximate cost to Refill Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable $5-20 $5-20
Volume of Bag(s) 200L 150L 150L 150L 150L
Frame sizes SM/ML One size SM/ML One size One size
Can you fly with it? Yes, no cartridge Yes, no cartridge 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
Helmet carrier Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Carry Snowboard No Yes No Yes Yes
Carry skis A-frame or Diagonal Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal A-Frame and Diagonal

Our Analysis and Test Results

The new JetForce Pro is still battery-powered for easy travel and avoids refilling compressed air canisters, but it's now 1-2 pounds lighter and built around a modular design. Black Diamond essentially makes a base unit with four different booster packs that are surprisingly inexpensive, adding to this model's overall value. We feel that the JetForce Pro offers tremendous value despite the high upfront costs.

Performance Comparison


black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - the jetforce pro is significantly lighter than previous jetforce...
The JetForce Pro is significantly lighter than previous JetForce models. BD also switched to the more common burst-style zipper so the airbag doesn't fall open as frequently when the pack is full.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Backcountry Utility


We tested the 35L version of this pack and found it to have solid overall utility, although it wasn't quite our favorite. Our testing team liked its oversized snow safety tools pocket, which easily fits larger shovels and probes and can still squeeze skins in, too. You have to open two different zippers (one on each axis) to open the snow safety tools pocket but in reality, this only takes an extra second or two and certainly isn't a deal-breaker.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - we loved the built-in zippered lid/brain pocket. it's the perfect...
We loved the built-in zippered lid/brain pocket. It's the perfect size for smaller items we want to keep easily accessible, and it's deep enough that items rarely fall out.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

We liked the top zippered compartment, which basically doubles as the brain/lid of the pack. Most airbag packs that feature a clamshell-style opening have no brain/lid compartment and every tester who used this pack took full advantage of it. The small trade-off is that there is no dedicated goggle pocket — most users will want to put their goggles in a case in the brain/lid compartment.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - the snow safety tools pocket is quite large and can accommodate most...
The snow safety tools pocket is quite large and can accommodate most shovels and probes. You need to open two separate zippers to access it (one across the top axis and one along the vertical axis).
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Another change from the previous JetForce to the new JetForce Pro relates to airbag storage. The old model used a series of plastic clips that would unexpectedly open regularly if your pack was on the fuller side. This wasn't a danger, but it was annoying (and silly) skiing down the slope with a deflated airbag flopping around. The newer model uses the more common break-away "burst" zipper (which can still open unexpectedly when the pack is full, but this happened less often than on the previous generation).

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - the main compartment is created by the zip-on booster pack attaching...
The main compartment is created by the zip-on booster pack attaching to the base unit. It was pretty easy to pack tightly and to search for specific items deep in the pack, but we quickly learned that if we opened it too far, things will fall out of the pack.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The main compartment on this pack is spacious, but narrower than most. The stowed airbag parallels the zippered opening, making it harder to dig for items if you don't want to lay the pack on the ground and fully unzip it. However, the zippered access point wraps all the way around the pack, so if you know where your stuff is and don't pack it too full, you can access nearly any point of the pack reasonably well. We offset this inconvenience some because the lid pocket/compartment was so big, and this is where we kept most smaller commonly wanted items.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - the helmet holder on this pack was functional and accommodated a...
The helmet holder on this pack was functional and accommodated a wide range of climbing and ski helmets, but wasn't quite as easy to set up as other models.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Carrying Skis or a Snowboard

This model can only carry skis diagonally. It features a fixed lower loop on the back of the pack, which sounds like a bummer, but we used it with skis ranging from 88mm-118mm underfoot, and all of them fit. The ski carry tends to lean the skis further forward (tips hanging over your shoulders/head) than other models, though — a design we noticed worsened if the back was only partly full. We think ski carry systems are pretty low down on a pack's priority list, but if you often find yourself carrying your skis for some reason — especially if you don't always expect your pack to be full — then this is one of our least favorites.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - this pack is slightly stiffer than average, which helps it handle...
This pack is slightly stiffer than average, which helps it handle heavier loads nicely. However, it doesn't cinch down much if the pack is fairly empty. When under-packed, it isn't uncomfortable, but it will shift a bit more on the downhill.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Airbag System


Black Diamond was the first company on the market to use a battery-powered fan for bag inflation, and now they've moved on to the second generation of their proprietary JetForce airbag system (or third, if you count their licenses of the Alpride supercapacitor technology, which was our favorite system). The JetForce Pro 35 uses BD's proprietary JetForce technology. After the Alpride E1 system, the JetForce system is a close runner-up for our review team's favorite airbag technology.

The latest version of the JetForce, the JetForce Pro, is smaller, lighter, and has been repositioned to make packing your bag easier. It utilizes a rechargeable battery to power a fan to inflate a single 200L airbag, the largest such volume bag currently available.

As for the 200L bag, is bigger better? Studies haven't proven either way, but inverse segregation (the process in which airbag packs function) works by letting smaller particles shift downwards, moving the largest particles to the surface (think of a bag of chips). Therefore, a larger airbag has few disadvantages other than being heavier and bulkier in your pack when not deployed.

Unlike compressed air canisters, which have a finite amount of air to fill a given airbag, a battery just needs to have enough power. Black Diamond opted for a larger airbag because their battery-powered fan no longer had a cap on how much air they had to work with; according to BD, they did it "because they could".

Once the trigger is pulled, the fan inflates the bag in roughly three seconds, on par with compressed air or gas. Once inflated, it keeps pulsing air for three minutes so that if the bag gets torn, it can still be effective. Black Diamond says that the bag is still 100% effective even with a 6-inch tear in the bag. After three minutes, the fan reverses, deflating the airbag in hopes that the now-deflated bag will create a bigger air pocket for a trapped wearer and hopefully increase their survival time. Black Diamond claims their rechargeable lithium-ion battery will support four deployments per charge, enabling the user to repack the airbag in the event of a close call, a misfire, or what we feel is most important, which is to inspire people to use it in a moments notice, without hesitation.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - besides the convenience of plugging your airbag into a wall outlet...
Besides the convenience of plugging your airbag into a wall outlet to charge it, one of the more compelling reasons to buy a battery-powered model is the option for multiple deployments. This encourages people to practice and also helps reduce any hesitation people might have to pull the trigger.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

In reality, it's unlikely that you'll need multiple pulls; we think the biggest advantage of having multiple inflations per charge is that users will be less likely to hesitate before pulling the trigger. A study by the University of British Columbia found that slightly over 20% of people who die in avalanches while wearing airbags don't pull the trigger (this was split between people who hesitated until it was too late and people who were caught but still had their trigger stowed).

Because a computerized system is more complex than a compressed air system, the JetForce Pro has self-checking diagnostics. This system briefly fires the fan in reverse to ensure your airbag pack is ready to go. Once all of this is complete, a green light is displayed for visual confirmation. This green light continues to flash throughout the day, letting the wearer know that everything is operating as it should be. Lastly, the new JetForce Pro is Bluetooth compatible, and you can update software and check firmware by linking your pack to the BD app on your phone.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - black diamond's new system is modular; it is basically a "base unit"...
Black Diamond's new system is modular; it is basically a "base unit" with some shoulder straps and the airbag system, with a zipper running all the way around the entire back panel, facilitating different "booster" packs to be zipped on.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Modular Component and "Booster" options of the JetForce Pro

Black Diamond's JetForce Pro can be purchased in one of four sizes, then you can purchase three other Booster size options to change your pack's volume. These Boosters are swapped out by zipping them onto your base pack. There is a 10L volume, which is generally too small for touring and is most useful for side-country, heli, or cat skiing, and two 25L options, one geared toward skiers and one toward snowboarders. We found these 25L volumes nice for most simple day tours, but they aren't spacious. Finally, the 35L option is great for guides and other avalanche professionals and also nice for big day tours and overnight hut trips.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - showing the back of this model's booster, which helps make up the...
Showing the back of this model's Booster, which helps make up the main compartment of the pack.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Refilling Options and Ease of Travel

The JetForce Pro uses a battery and not compressed air; this means there is no refilling involved. Recharging can be done at home, at a hut, or in a hotel. This is obviously far easier than performing a cartridge swap or finding somewhere to refill a compressed air canister. In addition, there are no flight restrictions on checking the battery of the JetForce packs. Easy travel is a big benefit of this pack.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - without compressed air canisters to refill or cartridges to swap...
Without compressed air canisters to refill or cartridges to swap, the JetForce Pro is exceptionally easy to travel with. However, if you typically drive to your local trailhead, ease of airline travel shouldn't be a major consideration.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weight


We think one of the biggest improvements Black Diamond has made is in weight savings. Similar-sized packs are around one to two full pounds lighter than previous models. Weight can range from 6.25 lbs (for the 10L size) up to around 6.75 lbs (for the 35L size we tested). This puts Black Diamond's line of packs around average among the competition. In previous years, they were by far the heaviest.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - despite being one of the most expensive airbags on the market we do...
Despite being one of the most expensive airbags on the market we do think for certain users these packs present a pretty respectable value. While averaging around $1400 for a new pack, once you own a pack each additional Booster is under $100. So one airbag for $1400 is pretty expensive, two for $1500 is a lot more reasonable. Also specifically for folks that travel to ski not having to refill a cartridge can certainly reduce some hassle depending on how exotic your touring destination is.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Features


One of the main notable features of this pack is the fact that it's modular. The additional (and quite affordable) "Booster" packs you can purchase change the carrying capacity of the JetForce Pro to meet your individual needs, preventing you from having to purchase a separate and expensive pack for different applications. We also appreciate the oversized snow safety tools pocket and clip-on leg strap.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - a small but really nice feature of this pack is the built-in...
A small but really nice feature of this pack is the built-in carabiner on the leg strap. Most airbag packs require you to thread a loop on the end of a leg loop into the waist belt. While this is easy, it is surprising how many people, even experienced users, forget and have to redo. This clip-in setup is pretty dang nice.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Downhill Performance


We found this model pleasant when carrying heavier loads, but it's a little bulkier and stiffer than average. Compared to packs of similar volume, this pack was a touch below average for downhill performance. This is mostly because this pack only has two small compression straps, and if its main compartment isn't full, the user will end up with a floppier-feeling ride. This is worsened because this is one of the wider packs from waist-belt to tail, so the load is further away from the back panel than most models.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - we loved that black diamond managed to trim so much weight out of...
We loved that Black Diamond managed to trim so much weight out of their JetForce packs.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort


We found this pack to provide plenty of support for heavier loads, and its wide, articulated shoulder straps wrapped around us nicely. The waist-belt looks pretty minimal but actually proved quite adequate in real-world use. Two things worth noting are that some smaller framed users didn't like this model's wider shoulder straps, but most medium and taller users found they spread the weight out nicely. Secondly, everyone noted that this pack is on the stiffer side, which can be nice for a bigger pack, but those looking at this model for its smaller volumes might be happier with something a little lower profile.

black diamond jetforce pro 35l avalanche airbag review - significant upgrades to the new jetforce pro include a zip-on...
Significant upgrades to the new JetForce Pro include a zip-on modular design, dramatically reduced weight, and an airbag that doesn't fall open every other run. For folks looking for the benefits of a battery-powered pack, the JetForce Pro is a great option.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Should You Buy the Black Diamond JetForce Pro 35?


This is a great choice for those who plan to fly with their airbag pack frequently since its airbag system is airline-approved. We also recommend this pack for those who will appreciate having a quiver of the different booster packs/volumes with one base unit. This unit is also great for its ability to be deployed four times on one charge, significantly decreasing the chances you'll hesitate before pulling the trigger in an emergency.

What Other Avalanche Airbag Packs Should You Consider?


For anyone looking for the lightest pack possible, we recommend the Black Diamond JetForce UL, which has a scant 26L volume but is nearly two pounds lighter than the JetForce Pro and great for smaller-framed users. Our favorite overall airbag system is Alpride E1 supercapacitor system, which is used in the Osprey Soelden Pro 32.

Ian Nicholson
 
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