I’ve been using a forerunner of the Black Diamond Agent Avalung backpack for the last six winters, and leaving aside the Avalung feature (which I’ll come to in a moment) it’s been an excellent ski pack.
The Agent improves on my faithful old workhorse with a more sturdy build and additional useful features such as a new diagonal ski-carry cable for fast and secure ski attachment, an integrated helmet holder, a side stash pocket and a fleece lined goggle pocket.
Your avy gear fits into a dedicated, quick access zipped outer pocket, whilst the main pocket will hold all you need for a day or even overnight stay in the mountains as well as a hydration bladder which runs into an insulated hydration sleeve to help prevent the water freezing in the tube (tip – blow your water back up the tube after drinking to also help prevent freezing).
The Avalung system itself is a tube and mouthpiece affair which you place in your mouth when crossing avalanche terrain – should you have the massive misfortune to be caught in a slide and buried you can breathe through the tube and the CO2 you expel is transferred to an exhaust port on the lower right side of the pack.
Back Diamond claim this will provide almost an hour of ‘breathing time’ compared to the 15 minutes you’d have without the system, giving rescuers almost four times as long to dig you out.
The only very minor downside is that it adds a little weight to the pack, but considering the fact that the Agent is a good winter pack in itself the extra weight and cost of the integrated Avalung system isn’t much to pay when you consider that it could save your life.