Haglöfs VOJD 18 ABS

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Late in 2012 I visited the Haglöfs HQ in Stockholm to review some new products being developed in the future. Two items stood out in particular, the Haglöfs VOJD ABS 18 and 30. Fully integrated ABS avalanche airbag systems. A ripple of excitement went through the assembled "Friends" and very soon Jørgen Aamot, Andreas Fransson, Ulrika Asp, Nils Nielson and myself were chambering over each other to fiddle with the straps and buckles...

Like kids in a sweet shop we were pretty excited as these two new ABS sacs were a vast improvement on many of the designs I had seen before. Early in 2013 a sample sac arrived to test during the winter season...

Haglöfs describe the VOJD ABS 18 (simply pronounced void to for us in the UK) as a fully integrated ABS avalanche airbag system. At this size the sac is intended for freeride skiing off the lifts. It features 18 litres of pack space, exceptional carrying comfort as well as a clean design.

Previously ABS (and other brands such as Snowpulse) built their own bags. Although good, these were largely built to house the airbag system rather than carrying your kit. Over time these sacs have improved massively but we are now seeing a vast improvement as the airbag manufacturers are working with the major brands to fit them into much more versatile sacs.

I had considered using an ABS bag for a while and it was great to use one this winter. For me the jury is still out on their use, but there is no doubt that they remain a pretty useful bit of kit in the arsenal of equipment to combat the churning white death. Combine them with good judgement and check out the statistics - http://utahavalanchecenter.org/blog-avalanche-airbag-effectiveness-something-closer-truth

Back to the review: picking this sac up the first thing I noticed was that it felt lighter than many other bags of this type. Haglöfs describe it as 2.42kg (which includes the ABS system but not the gas cartridge/canister). Now these bags aren't light, but that appears to be a significant improvement on some of the other designs. Interestingly the VOJD 30 is 2.63kg with the additional advantage of having the extra capacity.

The release handle on the shoulder strap is well positioned and can be adjusted in height for optimum use. The bag also features a crotch strap to prevent the sac being lifted off you in an avalanche, this being neatly recessed in one of the side hip pockets. This combined with the burly metal buckle gives it a reassuring feel.

Inside the sac itself there are two sleeves to hold a shovel handle and an avalanche probe, combined with a central pocket for the shovel blade. These hold these bulky items well but do make the main compartment difficult to pack. With a little care items can be pushed down under the gas canister to be stored very effectively in the base of the bag. This narrow design will always take a little longer to pack but comes into its own on chair lifts and bubbles within resort as well as giving a very stable ski.

Unfortunately, a longer probe or shovel handle does stick up quite high in the bag, however the positon of the robust zip closure means that I have never had a problem closing this bag despite first appearences.

For those keen to leave the ski area the ski carry system is very effective with a recessed top strap and large burly strap at the base. The skis don't sit as diagonally as some bags but the system was very effective none the less. For those of us who carry skis a lot, the back of the sac is always prone to damage from ski edges, particularly with a shovel underneath. Haglöfs have countered this with some rugged fabric and a well padded panel in this position. Finally, two straps are also supplied for those who want to carry a snowboard.

As a Mountain Guide one of the key features of any bag like this should be the ability to carry an ice axe. The VOJD achieves this with a small buckle on the side of the pack with a bungy cord closure. The position means it's actually easy to remove the axe with the sac still on you back, really handy when you need it at short notice. The ice axe pick also slides into a small sleeve protecting everybody else from damage, and more importantly your airbags should you deploy them..!

Plus Points:

  • Small and compact design, great for freeride use off the lifts.
  • Nice simple snow shedding back system with easily positioned activation handle.
  • Good ski carry system and excellent protected ice axe position.
  • Love the Gale Blue colour - one of Haglöfs signature colours on the slopes this year.

Negative Points:

  • For me as a Mountain Guide this sac is a little on the small side and I will certainly use a VOJD ABS 30 more. However, for most freeriders the VOJD ABS 18 should be sufficient.
  • The zip pocket on the lid could be a little larger to match the size of the pocket.