The BCA Float 8: A minimalist airbag pack ideal for lift-accessed backcountry laps

The BCA Float 8: A minimalist airbag pack ideal for lift-accessed backcountry laps

The folks at Backcountry Access (BCA) have been at the forefront of developing North American backcountry skiing awareness and products for years now. From the Tracker series of avalanche beacons to the line of Float avalanche airbags to the recent development of the BC Link radios, BCA is constantly striving to provide tools to suit the evolving needs of today’s backcountry skiers, while also promoting education as the most important tool.

New for 2015-16, BCA is introducing an all-new member to the Float squadron (in addition to the redesign of the Float 22 and 32 packs), the Float 8. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take the pack out for a spin while getting into the backcountry off of Berthoud Pass, Colorado.

Backcountry Access Float 8 airbag

The Float 8 with deployed airbag. Image courtesy of BCA

The plan was to skin and bootpack about a mile to the false summit of Russell Peak and then drop into the North Chutes. In the Berthoud Pass parking lot, my first observation regarding the Float 8 pack: “Man, these guys weren’t kidding when they said ‘minimalist pack.'” The front compartment has dedicated pockets for your shovel and probe, and is also where the compressed air cylinder is housed. By the time your avy-gear is stashed and cylinder connected, the pack is pretty filled to the brim. A zip pouch provided me with space to stash my wallet, keys and sunscreen, while a bit of strategic maneuvering made room for my PB&J and Nalgene water bottle.

Luckily for me, I usually travel fairly light, and this particular trip didn’t call for too many extra supplies. Following the steep slog to the North Chutes, and subsequent downhill adventures, the biggest highlight from the Float 8 is its weight. With the entire airbag system equipped, the pack weighs in at 5.5 pounds. This allowed me to conserve a bit of energy on the uphill, leaving me ready to rip when it came time to descend.

My biggest takeaway from skiing with this pack is that if you’re looking to make a day of it and embark on some easy accessed touring (like I did), look to the Float 22 pack for a bit of extra capacity without much added weight. That being said, for those who enjoy quick lift-accessed backcountry laps, you can’t go wrong with this pack. With cylinder attached, it’s got room for the essentials—shovel and probe—along with a bit of added room to stash snacks or other small items. If you feel comfortable skiing without the airbag and cylinder, they can be removed to provide extra storage and shed weight (without airbag, engine or cylinder it weighs a mere 2.7 pounds). The airbag compatibility also allows you to swap airbags between your BCA Float packs, easing the burden on your wallet.

The bottom line: If you’re heading out the gates or getting after some hike-to with plans for a quick return to the lift, look to the Float 8 take carry your essentials.

Related: BC Provisions: Four backcountry ski kits to boost your trip beyond the ropes

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