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Black Diamond JetForce UL Review

This is a high-performing and lightweight model ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their load
black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review
Credit: Black Diamond
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $900 List
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2022
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 8
  • Backcountry Utility - 22% 6.0
  • Airbag System - 20% 8.0
  • Weight - 18% 10.0
  • Features - 15% 6.0
  • Downhill Performance - 13% 8.0
  • Comfort - 12% 7.0

Our Verdict

The UL in the Black Diamond JetForce UL stands for Ultra Light, and at 1991 grams (4 lbs 6 oz), no other all-around airbag pack of a similar volume can touch this one in terms of weight. Many airbags in our test fleet are around two pounds heavier. The JetForce UL is certainly functional enough for general touring, but it makes some sacrifices to achieve its impressively low weight, skimping on some of the features we like and offering a more minimalist strategy when it comes to comfort.
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Comfortable on the descent
Good helmet carry system
Available in two sizes
REASONS TO AVOID
Internal avy tool pocket harder to access
Feels small for a 26L
Waist belt is micro
Minimal back panel

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $900 List
$899.95 at REI
$1,200 List
Check Price at REI
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$770 List$750 List
$699.95 at Amazon
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Pros Lightweight, comfortable on the descent, good helmet carry system, available in two sizesBest 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 modelsGreat 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 accessTons 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 panelOnly 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 carryOne 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 threadHeavy, not great for smaller users
Bottom Line This is a high-performing and lightweight model ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their loadThis comfortable pack features a functional design and our favorite airbag systemA 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 designA 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%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.5
Airbag System (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (18%)
10.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Features (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
10.0
Downhill Performance (13%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (12%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
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
Helmet carrier Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Carry Snowboard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
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.

Performance Comparison


black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - the jetforce ul tips the scales at an impressive 4.4 lbs.
The JetForce UL tips the scales at an impressive 4.4 lbs.
Credit: Dallas Glass

Backcountry Utility


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.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - this pack's primary advantage is its low weight.
This pack's primary advantage is its low weight.
Credit: Dallas Glass

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.

This photo shows the small, mesh zippered pocket in the main...
This photo shows the small, mesh zippered pocket in the main compartment, which is a great place to keep track of smaller items like keys.
This photo shows the other small compartment which also facilitates...
This photo shows the other small compartment which also facilitates keeping track of smaller items that we wanted to keep 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.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - outdoorgearlab friend and ifmga mountain guide jonathan spitzer puts...
OutdoorGearLab friend and IFMGA Mountain Guide Jonathan Spitzer puts helps put the Black Diamond JetForce UL through its paces. You can see in this photo how this pack isn't that big from a volume perspective.
Credit: Dallas Glass

Airbag System


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 JetForce UL uses Alpride's 2.0 System, which uses two compressed...
The JetForce UL uses Alpride's 2.0 System, which uses two compressed gas canisters to inflate a 150L bag. The primary advantage of this system is that it's extremely light weight.
The Alpride 2.0 System utilizes two cartridges: one filled with...
The Alpride 2.0 System utilizes two cartridges: one filled with argon and the other with carbon dioxide. These canisters are factory sealed 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.


Trigger Mechanism

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.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - this model's mechanical trigger can be worn on either shoulder.
This model's mechanical trigger can be worn on either shoulder.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Travel Considerations

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.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - the avy tools are kept in the primary compartment, separated by a...
The avy tools are kept in the primary compartment, separated by a sleeve. There is also a small, zippered mesh pocket.
Credit: Dallas Glass

Weight


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.


Features


To keep the pack lightweight, BD forgoes lots of bells and whistles. One feature we appreciated it's secure and functional helmet carry system.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - we were skeptical of the helmet carry system on the jetforce, but it...
We were skeptical of the helmet carry system on the Jetforce, but it actually works quite well.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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.


Downhill Performance


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.


black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - this pack's small volume and flexible back panel help it to perform...
This pack's small volume and flexible back panel help it to perform well on the downhill. Here, Susie Glass shows off the JetForce UL on East Peak in the Crystal Backcountry, WA.
Credit: Dallas Glass

Comfort


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.

In this photo, you can see how minimal the Jetforce UL's waist belt...
In this photo, you can see how minimal the Jetforce UL's waist belt is. Photo: Jonathan Spitzer in the Crystal backcountry.
A lot of the weight savings come from features relating to comfort...
A lot of the weight savings come from features relating to comfort. Pictured here is the skinny waist belt, which is nothing more than 1" flat webbing. It also has essentially no suspension and not much in the way of back padding. While this isn't ideal, it works for his pack as it is so small that it's hard to overload.

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.


Fit

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.

black diamond jetforce ul avalanche airbag review - anyone who is into backcountry touring or any other human-powered...
Anyone who is into backcountry touring or any other human-powered activity knows the importance of weight savings, and there is no other functional airbag pack for less weight. This pack is 1-3 pounds lighter than the competition.
Credit: Dallas Glass

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.

Ian Nicholson
 
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