Arc'teryx Voltair 30 Airbag Backpack Review
By Cliff Umpleby
I product tested this pack for a total of five weeks of heli-skiing with days of up to 50,000 vertical feet.
The 30L volume was big enough to hold all the gear required for a day of heli-ski guiding and then some. I could have easily fit additional items into the main compartment such as skins, and a pot. Getting into the avy compartment was simple and fast for accessing shovel and probe.
The pack carried extremely well and I had no issues with it shifting around on me while skiing. The fit for my 5'11" frame was fine, but I did notice that larger people had a hard time getting the straps around their upper body as the strap is tucked in behind the back. The strap system is simple and comfortable, using a traditional plastic buckle and a separate crotch strap. The waist belt is also comfortable and incorporates a clip which accepts a metal tab on the crotch strap. This system negates having to thread the crotch strap through the waist buckle. Definitely the easiest airbag pack to put on. I personally found the tab difficult to handle with gloves on, so I replaced it with a micro-biner, which worked well.
The trigger mechanism is easy to use and simple to turn back to the unarmed position. Even if you forget to arm it, it only takes 20 degrees of rotation to simultaneously arm and pull it in an emergency. I kept mine armed the whole time just to see how often it would go off by accident (which was only once, when I was being lazy while unloading the basket). Repacking the airbag is simple and fast; during my accidental inflation, I had the bag repacked before my guests had their skis on. After the initial inflation, the fan pulses every five seconds to keep the bag topped up in the event of a puncture.
Charging the battery pack is easy with a nice little side pocket to access the battery. Apparently, a single charge will provide up to eight deployments (less in very cold weather) but due to paranoia I was charging it twice a week. Indicator lights on the battery give charge status, and an external LED indicator light on the back panel shows when the system is ready. Even when this light turns from green to red the bag will still inflate one last time. The battery is removable for passing airport security, or for days when you may not need it, and would like a lighter pack.
It would be great to see a lighter version of the battery that didn’t need to conform to the current high standards which increase the weight so much. A battery that provided two inflations in cold weather would be sufficient if you could recharge it at the end of the day.
The pack seemed durable. It survived the abuse of a ski basket fairly well and I think the material will stand up to the test of time. The entire shell is waterproof and keeps gear dry no matter what the weather is throwing at you.
I am aware that Arc'teryx had an issue with the activation mechanism starting to come apart on a pack or two but I think that this may have been addressed.
Thanks to the ACMG and of course Arc’teryx for allowing me to try it out. It will be my next pack for heli-skiing work.
Cliff Umpleby, an ACMG Ski Guide and the Director of Operations for Last Frontier Heli-Skiing, lives in Cumberland, BC