The North Face not only joined the airbag game this year, it’s mixing things up with the introduction of an airbag vest in addition to a backpack. Like the backpack, the Recco-enabled vest uses ABS technology with twin airbags on either side of a nitrogen cartridge that sits vertically against the upper-back. The design, minus the airbags, is reminiscent of the Ogio Flak Jacket which could work well for The North Face, as the aforementioned became hard to come by, with somewhat of a cult following.
The front of the vest has eight symmetrical pockets, with the upper left one housing the trigger cable and handle. Inside, you’ll find a media pocket and at the bottom of the main zipper a durable metal toggle holds everything in place should you encounter the extreme forces associated with an avalanche.
Two straps around both of the mesh side panels are used to adjust the chest and waist fit while polyurethane foam-padded straps sit comfortably over the shoulders. On the backside you’ll find organizational pockets for your probe as well as shovel blade and handle and behind those are two lateral straps that make up the vertical ski or snowboard carry system.
There are pros and cons to this design versus a backpack. Aside from the mesh panels, having the vest wrap completely around you will adversely affect the breathability of your outerwear but could also act to keep you warmer when the mercury drops. If you don’t have much to carry, the low profile design is a great way to see the sidecountry without feeling bogged down and fans of the Flak Jacket are sure to dig it. If you haven’t worn a vest like this, you should try one on and see what it’s all about. You’ll want to try out the different sizes (S, M, L, XL) before you order one but you won’t have trouble choosing a color, as black is the only option.
Pros: Low profile.
Cons: Not hydration-compatible and it’s likely the most expensive vest you’ve ever bought.
Price: $1,379 w/ canister and trigger.