Arcteryx and Ortovox Team Up to Break New Ground in Avalanche Safety.
Two heavyweights of the snow sports world have joined forces to create a trailblazing new airbag system that looks to take avalanche safety to new heights.
Avalanche safety airbags have come a long way over the past decade. From the earliest iterations with their bulky one-and-done canister systems to more recent electric, rechargeable offerings …
Building on all that has come before it, the new LiTRIC system signifies a new chapter in the avalanche safety playbook.
The result of an intriguing collaboration between German mountain safety specialists Ortovox and Canadian apparel and equipment experts Arc’teryx, the LiTRIC is a new, incredibly lightweight electronic airbag, offering multiple deployments, intuitive operation, and modern reliability in a stylish pack that is sure to become a familiar sight on the slopes.
The collaboration between these two brands means that the LiTRIC benefits from the Alpine expertise of not one, but two universally trusted outdoor brands. It’s not every day that you see two competitors actually teaming up on a product, but the LiTRIC is more than just a product to these companies. It’s a shared passion, a co-operation made possible by a shared goal of protecting the snow sports community and championing the highest possible standards of safety.
As a result, this is technology that seriously works….
We recently had the opportunity to try out the LiTRIC for ourselves with a ski tour in Austria’s Arlberg region and have to say, it certainly lives up to its hyperbole.
An electric system that can be deployed twice over a 60-hour operating period on full charge with up to 60 operating hours when turned on, two deployments on full charge and a super simple trigger and repacking system, the LiTRIC is an incredibly approachable option for backcountry adventure.
Indeed, it was designed by the experts to reach new standards of safety, weight, usability and accessibility, so how did we find it fared?
Unsurprisingly, Arc’teryx and Ortovox have made safety their top priority with the LiTRIC – and it shows.
The airbag itself features a double layer material with increased tear strength to ensure the highest possible performance in avalanche situations. Once deployed, the airbag also features two ‘top-ups’ at one-minute intervals, pumping additional air into the bag to ensure it’s keeping you atop the snow.
In general, electric airbags offer a number of benefits over traditional canister systems, which are limited to one shot per cartridge.
After you activate a canister system, you then have to wait until you can refill the cartridge in order to be able to use it again. With an electric system however, you can activate the airbag as many times as you like, so long as the system is charged. This means that you can actually test out the system in real life at no extra charge, something that comes in very handy if you’ve never used an airbag pack before and means you will be more confident when using the pack.
Indeed, I personally found that triggering the system required a little more force than I would have expected, something that I am very glad I was able to find out in a safe environment, as opposed to when needing to actually use the pack in an avalanche situation!
Secondly, electric systems don’t have the same travel issues that canister systems often face, such as having to be declared or removed to hand luggage during air travel. Anything that makes travel less of a hassle is a big tick in our book!
In addition, electric systems have additional protections against accidental inflation, meaning that your airbag is less likely to go off in confined spaces where it could cause significant issues.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, with a rechargeable airbag such as the LiTRIC, you are able to protect yourself against multiple avalanches, rather than being limited to one activation. For those that like to venture far off the beaten track, this can be a truly lifesaving feature and makes it the perfect companion for a multi-day ski tour.
In addition, the LiTRIC features a safety leg strap that’s had a bit of a rethink, with a design that’s set up to ensure users actually wear it (and thus preventing the bag being pulled up and off their back in an avalanche situation).
One of the key selling points of the LiTRIC system is that it weighs just 1080 grams. Yup, just over a kilo for life-saving technology – pretty impressive huh!
Now this isn’t the lightest airbag system on the market, but it’s the lightest electric system and the third lightest overall system, so it’s certainly got the credentials to back up its claims of being one of the lightest systems around.
So how do they do it?
Well, the LiTRIC utilises a very simple design that features a lithium battery and nine supercapacitors. This allows the pack to retain a very light weight, while also ensuring that the system is temperature resistant, so can perform in even the most extreme winter conditions. In fact, the system can operate in temperatures between -30° to +45° C, a very impressive range!
Price-wise, it’s definitely at the higher end of the scale, but that’s not unsurprising for such high performance, top-of-the-range technology.
However, when it comes to ease of use, I don’t think there’s a single airbag system out there easier to use than the LiTRIC.
Turning the pack on and off, checking the charge, monitoring recharging… it’s all incredibly simple thanks to the bright, straightforward LED display and single on/off switch. You can see if the system is ready to use, how much charge remains, and when to charge.
Triggering the pack is super simple, thanks to the unique twist design that allows you to set the system to ‘ready’ with just a flick of the wrist.
It’s when it comes to packing the airbag back up that the LiTRIC displays its simplicity credentials though. No intricate folding systems or formulaic repacking required here. You simply stuff the airbag back into its compartment and the mechanical latch and double zip system will do the rest. It’s a breath of fresh air when compared to the complex (and often lengthy!) repacking processes many other airbag systems require!
In terms of charging, the LiTRIC uses a USB-C charger, making recharging incredibly easy. With a full recharge taking just 25 minutes, we’re incredibly impressed with how easy this pack is to keep topped up.
What we love about the LiTRIC is that it doesn’t look like a ‘standard’ avi pack. Indeed, the technology features in a wide range of Ortovox packs, as well as in a dedicated Arc’teryx pack, the Rush backpack, of which quite simply has to be our favourite pack of the moment.
The Arc’teryx Rush LiTRIC pack will be available in three sizes -16L, 32L and 42L and will boast all the features a good touring pack could need, as well as a sleek, minimalist design that encapsulates the Arc’teryx brand.
It’s also incredibly comfortable. We trialled these packs for a ski tour and descent that totalled around four hours and not once did I feel constricted or confined by the pack. Thanks to its light weight, you barely notice you’re wearing it and you certainly don’t feel like you’re carrying such serious tech on your back! As the system is quite small, you’ve got more than enough storage space left over for your shovel and probe, as well as water, spare layers and skins on the way down.
Overall, we found the LiTRIC to be an incredibly versatile, easy-to-use system, which prioritises the highest standards of safety and comfort.
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