Black Diamond JetForce Tour 26L Review
Cons: Wide shoulder straps, frame lengths geared toward taller folks, few organizational options
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond JetForce Tour 26L
$1,200 at REI
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$769.95 at Amazon
$649.95 at Amazon
|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 at either shoulder||Best 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 models||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||Best-fitting pack for smaller users, awesome pack design, super comfortable, big snow safety tools pocket, great goggle pocket, well-executed back panel access||Tons of useful features, huge snow safety gear pocket, affordable, rides well for a large pack, half back-panel access, lots of pockets|
|Cons||Wide shoulder straps, frame lengths geared toward taller folks, few organizational options||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||One size, average weight||Mediocre 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||Heavy, not great for smaller users|
|Bottom Line||This tour-friendly pack features supercapacitors to power an electric fan, making it lighter than most battery-powered options||This comfortable pack features a functional design and our favorite airbag system||A great pack design with a basic but functional and reliable airbag, all at a respectable weight and a good price||This 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||A well-designed larger volume airbag pack that excels for patrollers, backcountry pros, or extended missions|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond JetFo...||Osprey Soelden Pro 32||Backcountry Access...||Mammut Pro X Remova...||Backcountry Access...|
|Backcountry Utility (22%)|
|Airbag System (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (13%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond JetFo...||Osprey Soelden Pro 32||Backcountry Access...||Mammut Pro X Remova...||Backcountry Access...|
|Volume (liters)||26L||32L||32L||35L, 33L with system||42L|
|Weight with Cartridge (pounds)||5.7 lbs||6.5 lbs||6.4 lbs||6.5 lbs||7.1 lbs|
|Airbag unit or packs can be purchased separately/independently||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cartridge type||Electric fan||Electric fan||Compressed Air||Compressed Air||Compressed Air|
|Approximate cost to Refill||Not Applicable||Not Applicable||$5-20||$5-20||$5-20|
|Volume of Bag(s)||150L||150L||150L||150L||150L|
|Frame sizes||SM/ML||One size||One size||One size||One size|
|Can you fly with it?||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||Yes, domestically in the US when cartridge is empty; internationally when full|
|Carry skis A-frame or Diagonal||Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal||A-Frame and Diagonal|
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. With the switch to 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.
Featuring a unique zipper 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 means you can open it up like a piece of luggage. The fact that it doesn't zip down very far on both sides means packing it and accessing certain items can be challenging when full. Still, the JetForce is pretty roomy considering its 26L 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 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.
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.
It features a slick stow-away helmet carrier that is stored in a 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.
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 Tour 26L uses Alpride's groundbreaking E1 electronic airbag system. This is the first system to utilize a supercapacitor to power its fan (versus compressed air 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 is 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. You can also charge the system with two AA batteries in just 40 minutes. It uses three colored LED indicator lights (red, yellow, and green) to indicate charge level. When you power it up, it emits 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, Alpride states the charge lasts three months (when stored in the OFF position).
The trigger is interchangeable; it can be moved between the right and the left shoulders. This way, right-handed users can wear it on their left shoulder so they can grab it with their dominant right hand, and left-handed folks or snowmobilers (who will need to keep their hand on the throttle) will appreciate being able to wear the trigger on the right side. 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. Large, powerful lithium-ion batteries that can be a hassle for international flights. 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 (this has happened to us).Refilling Options
The BD JetForce Tour uses a battery that can be recharged in less than 30 minutes via micro USB or 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 with 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 is that it's so easy to recharge that people won't hesitate to pull the trigger in the event of an avalanche.
The Tour weighs 5 pounds, 13 oz, or 2630g for the M/L size, which is a touch higher when compared to packs of comparable volume sizes.
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 smartphones. While small, we appreciate the gear loop on one side for racking gear for glacier travel or ski mountaineering.
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.
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 you'd feel oddly shaped items pushing into your back. Its shoulder 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 — S/M and M/L. While it is offered in a smaller size, our testers found that both sizes seemed 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.
Should You Buy the BD JetForce Tour 26L?
The Black Diamond JetForce Tour 26 is an awesome all-around touring pack that is an excellent choice for backcountry touring. We love the ability to recharge the airbag system with a USB wall plug or AA batteries. Note that the pack will carry a splitboard but not a snowboard, which could be a dealbreaker for a small percentage of non-splitboard backcountry riders. Its capacity is a bit small for exceptionally cold or complex missions, but it will perform well for most backcountry tours. For folks that travel to ski or snowboard, there is no easier pack to travel with.
What Other Avalanche Airbags Should You Consider?
The JetForce Tour is easily one of the best all-around airbag packs on the market. Our current favorite pack is the Osprey Soelden Pro 32, which also uses Alpride's supercapacitor system. We also really like the Black Diamond JetForce UL for its incredible light weight.
— Ian Nicholson
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