The BCA Float 32 is an awesome pack if you’re a backcountry enthusiast. With the ever-growing popularity of backcountry riding and the increased awareness of avalanche danger, it is no wonder that skiers and snowboarders alike are adding airbags to their gear quivers.
While an airbag does not guarantee your safety from bodily injury, or death in the event of an avalanche, it is designed to create mass and keep you on top of, or closer to the surface of, the snow. The theory is that the larger you are, the closer you stay to the top of a slide.
While the airbag may be a cool tool it’s critical to remember that it is a tool of last resort, and should never inspire bad decision making. The first and best safety measure for being in the backcountry is getting educated by taking classes, reading avalanche reports, and touring with like-minded individuals.
That being said, the Float 32 is a great pack for touring the backcountry with the bonus of some potentially lifesaving features.
Just as the name says, the Float 32 is a 32-liter pack, but the Float also comes in a 22-liter size. The size of the 32 pack can feel really bulky on my 5’8 frame even when cinched down, however, I still prefer the bigger of the two sizes (usually recommended for guides), but going smaller is an option and may be the best bet if your goals are to use it in-bounds or for shorter tours.
I chose to go with the 32 over the 22 because I pack like a girl. I have a tendency to need a lot of layers when touring. I also like to bring lunch, snacks, a lot of liquid, and extras like a first aid kit, GPS, etc. This pack is big enough to really pile it in and have room to spare.
At 6.4 pounds to start with (with the airbag system, including cylinder) the pack is a little heavy, but for me the added peace of mind is worth the weight.
- The small pockets both on the outside and inside of the pack. The outer pocket is fleece lined, so perfect for storing goggles and the inner pocket is great for stashing other gadgets or small things.
- Separate storage for avalanche shovel, probe, keeping your avi gear separate, protected and easy to get to if necessary.
- The fanny pack pocket on the side is great for stashing my inclinometer, lip gloss or any other little things you want accessible while touring.
- I love the cylinder system used by BCA! Instead of having to mail in your cylinder to the manufacture for them to refill it, the BCA system can be filled locally at scuba shops or fire stations. It’s important to inflate the bag once a year and prior to use, so even if it only happens every now and then I like the convenience factor.
- The helmet carry is a nice because it keeps your helmet from swinging around freely on your back while touring around which can be pretty annoying after awhile.
- The pack also comes in two color options blue/red & red/black.
While this pack is pretty awesome overall, there are a couple of things I would change; for example, the water bladder sits in the main compartment with your layers. While I have had no issues with that so far, it does make me a little nervous. I do however love the hydration sleeve that is built in to the pack! (By the way the hydration sleeve and the trigger for the airbag can be set for either the right or the left side of the pack).
The pack is also much stiffer than many other packs I have used, which I assume is important to the airbag design, but riding with something so rigid on your back can take a little getting used to.
Lastly, as a snowboarder I wish there was a built-in carry for snowboards. You can purchase the snowboard carry separately, but I am not thrilled about how it hooks up to the pack.
All airbag systems are going to add a little weight so its important to realize before buying that these are not tiny, or super lightweight packs. While that may be a turn off for some I feel that it is one more way to increase my own safety in the backcountry, and with that being said, it is worth it!
While there are a couple of little tweaks I would make to help improve the overall fit for a girl, I would certainly give this pack two bunny ears up!
You can purchase the Float 22 or Float 32 at BCA or click below for sales at backcountry.com