Black Diamond JetForce UL Review
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Black Diamond JetForce UL
$899.95 at REI
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|Check Price at Backcountry|
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|$770 List||$750 List|
$699.95 at Amazon
|Pros||Lightweight, comfortable on the descent, good helmet carry system, available in two sizes||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||Internal avy tool pocket harder to access, feels small for a 26L, waist belt is micro, minimal back panel||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 is a high-performing and lightweight model ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their load||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)||4.4 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||Compressed Air||Electric fan||Compressed Air||Compressed Air||Compressed Air|
|Approximate cost to Refill||$70||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?||Questionable, sealed compress gas can is not typically allowed but may be an exception||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 Black Diamond Jetforce UL is impressively lightweight. At 4 lbs 6 oz, this pack is significantly lighter than all other airbags on the market at a similar volume. We found this pack offered acceptable backcountry utility, but the 1-3 pound weight savings over other airbags doesn't come without a cost in functionality and comfort. After extensive testing, though, we found most of these sacrifices to be minor inconveniences and not deal-breakers.
The main utility of this pack is that it's lightweight, making it ideal for folks who might otherwise hesitate to bring an airbag pack due to weight. In achieving this low weight, BD certainly made some sacrifices in functionality compared to other less weight-focused models.
The JetForce UL features an internal avy tool sleeve to store your probe and shovel rather than an external one. We found the shovel and probe tend to collapse onto the airbag and main compartment, making getting to the rest of your gear a pain. The main access zipper and location of the airbag itself limits easy access into the main compartment; you basically have to drop it down and open the whole pack up.
This pack also "feels" small for a 26L. Most people will find this pack big enough for day touring, but only barely. We really liked the two smaller organizational pockets — one is a zippered mesh pocket in the main compartment on the backside of the avy tools pocket, and the second is almost like an unlined goggle pocket and is a great place for sunglasses, sunblock, or other items that you want to remain easily accessible.
Carrying Skis or Snowboard
This pack can carry skis or a splitboard when split in a diagonal carry. This is serviceable with an adjustable fixed loop on the bottom and a stowable buckle on the top. Overall we thought this design was fine and what you'd expect given the pack's low weight, but certainly a little floppier than other models we tested when the packs were not very full (although due to this pack's small size, ours was almost always full). There is no A-frame carry option.
The Black Diamond JetForce UL employs Alpride's Airbag System 2.0, which utilizes two pre-sealed, single-use canisters. This is notably different from their E1 electric supercapacitor-powered system or most other refillable, single-canister designs. One canister is filled with argon and the other with carbon dioxide. Once the trigger is pulled, the canisters are punctured and cannot be refilled.
The main reason BD opted for the Alpride 2.0 system is that at 690g, it is one of the lightest-weight airbag systems out there. Additionally, it only takes up 1.7L of useful volume inside the pack. As a result, you have the lightest useable pack for general day touring. Because the canisters are factory sealed, you do not need to empty them at the end of every season, and there are no batteries to recharge — just plug and play. Alpride claims a shelf life of 10 years for this system.
This model's trigger can be switched to either the left or right shoulder strap, depending on your preferences. The height of the trigger can also be adjusted, which is a nice feature. Depending on the user, some triggers would ride too high or hang too far out, and the ability to adjust the height of the trigger based on the user is a welcome addition to this model's design.
Alpride claims that you're technically allowed to fly with their 2.0 system, but we recommend that you verify this with your airline prior to your flight (which Alpride Also recommends). We know of at least two people who got shut down trying to fly with these, even with the proper paperwork and stowed in their original packaging. Another option is to have a new set of canisters shipped to your destination or buy them directly from any local outdoor store that sells Alpride system packs.Refilling Options
The two canisters are factory sealed and have no refilling options. Once the trigger is pulled, both cartridges are punctured and need to be replaced. (At the time of publishing, a new cartridge set costs $70.) Of note, you must arm the pack before installing the canisters, or you'll puncture them while loading the pins. Many people, including our review team, found this unclear in the installation directions.
Weight is the number one reason you buy this pack. Coming in under 4.5 lbs, no pack can touch this one for its weight-to-functionality-to-volume ratio. If you've hesitated to get an airbag pack due to weight concerns, this is the pack for you. As we mentioned, it does cut quite a few corners regarding functionality, but none of these were deal-breakers.
To keep the pack lightweight, BD forgoes lots of bells and whistles. One feature we appreciated it's secure and functional helmet carry system.
We also liked that BD included a small zippered mesh pocket inside the main compartment of the pack. They could've easily left this out to shave even more weight, but we really appreciate having a dedicated place to stash items like keys.
This pack moves great with us on the down. Its smaller profile doesn't feel cumbersome, and its softer frame moves freely with its wearer. The waist belt is just a thin piece of webbing, but it's plenty to hold tightly against its user. Overall, this is one of the better downhill performing models for its volume.
The JetForce UL is stripped down, lacking cush comfort features. The waist belt is tiny, just a strip of webbing. It helps lock the pack in place while skiing downhill, but doesn't increase the comfort of the pack or help shoulder much of the weight.
The back panel lacks stiffness and relies on the airbag for support. The shoulder straps were fine, but nothing to write home about. Still, this pack is so small that it's hard to overload it, so the lack of support in the back panel or the micro-thin waist didn't cause too many issues.
This pack comes in two frame sizes, somewhat rare among these products. They both run slightly on the smaller side. The smaller model (S/M) works well for most people in the 5'2" - 5'7" range, and the larger (M/L) size is good for folks 5'8-6'1" or so. One 6'2" tester who tried it out said it was fine, but not ideal. We appreciate having a small option because smaller folks are typically an underserved sector of users in the airbag market.
Should You Buy the Black Diamond Jetfoce UL?
This pack isn't for everyone. Other models offer more features, are easier to use, or are more comfortable. However, for those looking for the ultimate combination of low weight and reasonable functionality, this pack is it. We don't think there is a better pack for less weight. If you hesitate to buy an airbag due to weight, or you're just interested in one the best lighter weight models out there, then we think this model is it.
What Other Avalanche Airbag Packs Should You Consider?
If you don't mind an extra few pounds of weight, the Osprey Soelden Pro 32 is our favorite pack at the moment. This model utilizes a supercapacitor to fill the airbag, meaning you can deploy it again and again and recharge it, which is great for practice purposes or for anyone who may second guess whether or not to pull the trigger in an emergency situation. For our favorite budget model, check out the Backcountry Access Float 32 2.0.
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