Black Diamond JetForce Tour 26L Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: 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 in either shoulder
Cons: Wide shoulder straps, frame lengths slightly more gear toward taller/bigger folks, diagonal ski carry is a little more challenging to drop skis into than other models, not much in the way of organizational options
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The JetForce Tour 26L is a solid all-around touring pack that takes a step away from BD's previous lithium-ion powered fan packs. Moving towards the supercapacitor powered Alpride E1 technology, this model is nearly two pounds lighter than the prior JetForce Packs, and all of our testers felt its design was significantly more user-friendly.
The JetForce Tour 26L uses Alpride's groundbreaking E1 electronic airbag system. What makes the Alpride system groundbreaking is it's the first airbag pack to utilize a supercapacitor to power its fan (versus compressed gar or a large lithium-ion battery).
Packs that use a fan powered via a lithium-ion battery need their batteries to be ULTRA powerful, as the energy required to power a fan (to inflate a 150-liter bag) in 3-5 seconds in immense.
The Alpride's supercapacitor is far better than a traditional battery at providing loads of power in a short period and is only minimally affected by the cold, meaning the batteries that power the supercapacitor can be much smaller.
The JetForce Tour 26 comes with a micro USB cable that can be plugged into a wall outlet, charging it completely in around 20 minutes. Conversely, the system can be charged off of two AA batteries in just 40 minutes. It uses three colored LED indicator lights (red, yellow, and green) to let its user know of the model's charge level. When you turn it on, it gives an audible sound to let you know that it is running a self-check on the function and components of the E1 and that everything is working properly. Once fully charged, the Alpride claims the charge is good for three months (when stored in the OFF position).
The trigger is interchangeable and can be set on either the right or the left shoulder; this is great, as it takes into account right-handed users who will want to wear it on their left shoulder so they can grab it with their dominant right hand. Conversely, it can be worn on the right shoulder for folks who are left-handed or for snowmobilers who will appreciate being able to wear the trigger on the right side — so they can keep their left hand on the throttle. For those interested, the Alpride E1 system uses a mechanical trigger versus an electronic one, which we feel is more reliable over the long term.
No other model has as few travel restrictions as the Alpride E1 airbag system. With this model, there is no significantly sized powerful lithium-ion battery like the Arc'teryx Voltair 30, which, while easy to fly with domestically in the United States, can be a hassle internationally. Avalanche airbag packs do have a large battery exception, but it is technically too big to fly with internationally, and TSA agents may attempt to confiscate it (it has happened to us).Refilling Options
The Tour 26L uses a relatively rechargeable battery that can be recharged in less than 30 minutes via micro USB or a near unbelievable two AA batteries. It is worth noting that it doesn't run off these two batteries but instead charges the primary internal battery, which takes around 40 minutes of the two AAs. Each charge is only good for one airbag deployment, but on long trips (or pretty much anytime), you can carry extra sets of double AA batteries and get one deployment per set of AAs; this means practicing and becoming familiar with your bag is easy. We think another considerable advantage of this is that it's so easy to refill, that people won't hesitate to pull the trigger in the event of an avalanche.
Featuring a unique zupper shape on what is otherwise a pretty classic panel-loading backcountry touring pack, it offers decent backcountry utility. The zipper that accesses the main compartment wraps around in a "C" shape, which, as a result, means you can open it up more-or-less like a piece of luggage. The fact that it doesn't zip down very far on both sides mean packing it and accessing certain items can be challenging if you've packed it full.
The Jetforce is pretty roomy considering its 26 liter volume, and while it doesn't feel huge, it was large enough for most people for all-day touring.
The snow safety gear pocket is gigantic and fits most medium and large-sized shovels and probes, including most 300cm lengths. It is just big enough that we could fit our skins inside the pocket, using it as a wet pocket, helping to keep our insulating layers (or extra gloves in the main compartment) dry.
It features a slick stow-away helmet carrier that is stored in a very low profile zippered pouch on the bottom of the pack. It is worth noting that the built-in helmet carrier isn't removable, but this did not bother our testers, as it's one less thing to lose.
There is an internal zippered pocket inside the snow safety gear pocket, which can be a great place to store your keys, sunblock, or other small, easily lost items. This is the only option as far as organization goes.
Carrying Skis or a Snowboard
Like many airbag packs, the JetForce Tour has no A-frame style carry (as it might interfere with airbag deployment) but does have a stow-away diagonal carry system. The simple system works well, but it is a little on the tight side with wider skis, especially if they have rockered tails. It will take more effort to get them into the lower loop. While this was a slight annoyance, we were always able to put them in, and at most, it was only 10-15 seconds longer than other models.
The Jetforce features a single small zippered waist-belt pocket that is an excellent place for a clinometer or cliff bar but isn't large enough for most modern (AKA bigger) smartphones. While small, we do like the gear loop on one side for racking gear for glacier travel or ski mountaineering.
This pack is quite comfortable, and handles weight well — at least as much as you can cram into its 26L volume. Its thick foam back panel meant it was unlikely that you'd feel even oddly shaped items pushing into your back. Its shoulders straps are amongst the widest in our review, which was nice for spreading out weight, but some of our smaller framed testers didn't find they wrapped their shoulders as well.
The tour comes in two sizes — a S/M and an M/L. While it does come in a smaller size, our testers found that sizes were geared toward taller users rather than smaller. The same could be said with the wide shoulder straps, which, while comfortable, wouldn't be our first choice for many ladies or narrow shouldered men.
Our review team felt this model performed on the downhill pretty average, or slightly above average amongst packs of similar volume, skiing similarly to other top performers.
The Tour weighs five pounds, 13 ounces, or 2630g for the M/L size, which is a touch higher when compared to packs of comparable volume sizes.
Unlike compressed air canisters where you buy the canisters separate, or the Arc'teryx airbag packs where you buy the battery separate, this pack is only sold as one unit. At this time, Black Diamond doesn't sell an "airbag ready" type model.
The JetForce Tour 26 is expensive. However, it's similarly priced to many models that feature lithium-ion batteries and is significantly lighter. Part of what you are paying for is the technology that we think has a good chance of sweeping the industry once Alprides exclusive use licenses expire.
The JetForce Tour 26 is an excellent all-around touring pack that is an excellent choice for backcountry touring. It doesn't carry a snowboard that doesn't split, which could be a dealbreaker for a small percentage of non-splitboard backcountry riders; fortunately, it carries a splitboard well. For exceptionally cold or complex missions, it might be a little on the smaller side, but will perform well for most backcountry tourers. For folks that travel to ski or snowboard, there is no easier pack to travel with, making it ideal for cat ski or travel, or for fly-in lodge-based touring.
The Tour is easily one of the best all-around airbag packs on the market. It uses the Alpride E1 system which offers several advantages over existing battery-powered fan packs (most notably weight, being two pounds lighter on average) and compressed air. Plugging it into your wall or dropping a pair of AA batteries makes it convenient to travel with.
— Ian Nicholson