Should Airbag Backpacks Be Standard Avalanche Safety Equipment?

Wilderness Environ Med. 2021 Dec;32(4):495-498. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2021.05.007. Epub 2021 Aug 6.


Avalanche airbag backpacks have been shown to be effective at reducing avalanche mortality. However, they are yet to be considered standard avalanche safety equipment, which has long consisted of a transceiver, a shovel, and a probe. This is despite data showing that airbags reduce mortality by decreasing the likelihood of burial. In addition, airbags probably lessen trauma and possibly delay asphyxia. Moreover, the literature suggests airbags reduce mortality at a rate similar to transceivers. For those who work, volunteer, and recreate in avalanche terrain, airbags should be considered standard safety equipment. However, multiple barriers exist for universal adoption, including cost, size, weight, training burden, availability, risk tolerance, and lack of community support and recommendations from professional societies and associations.

Keywords: beacon; emergencies; self-rescue; snow burial; transceiver.

MeSH terms

  • Asphyxia / etiology
  • Asphyxia / prevention & control
  • Avalanches*
  • Community Support
  • Humans
  • Protective Devices