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Alf Alderson reviews the North Face Patrol 24 ABS avalanche pack, which could literally save your life if caught in an avalanche
tnf patrol 24 abs
Best for
Anyone heading off-piste
Overall Score
Ouch!  £750 for a backpack… well I think my life is worth that much (maybe even more!) which is why I’d recommend anyone who skis off-piste to seriously consider the investment in the North Face Patrol 24 ABS.

The integrated ABS system boasts a 97% success rate in the 262 documented cases of it having been used in an avalanche.

If you’re caught in a slide, you simply pull on the ceramic handle on the left-hand shoulder strap which deploys two high-volume airbags to keep you on top of slide debris by increasing flotation, as well as improving your visibility for rescuers.

When I tried it out (in my garden rather than in an avalanche) I found it easy to grip and pull the handle (I’ve had earlier model avy bags on whichthe handle wasn’t that easy to grip), the bags inflated in no time (well, three seconds actually) and it gave me the confidence to feel that should the worst happen I’ve considerably improve my chances of survival if I’m wearing the Patrol.

The gas canister which inflates the bags is easy to attach as is the handle (you can use the Patrol without them as a regular day pack) and the airbags could be re-packed easily  in just a couple of minutes – with my previous avy bag it took literally hours to re-pack the bags.

The Patrol 24 isn’t just a potential lifesaver though, it’s a great day pack. Build quality is pretty bombproof as you might expect given its intended use, and there’s a fine range of features which I’ll simply list due to space constraints.

So, you get:
Snow shedding back panel materials to prevent build-up of snow and ice
Metal hip-belt buckle for superior breaking resistance during an avalanche
Simple, stable, tuck-away ski/board carry system
Big avalanche tools pocket, with organization sleeves and backcountry essentials checklist
Internal pockets for gear organization
Dual hipbelt pockets
Reinforced high-abrasion zones on pack face
Safety whistle located on chest buckle

You’re also provided with a gas canister for practice deployment purposes – yes, you have to pay to get it refilled/replaced, but I’d strongly advise using it as intended – for practice – rather than saving it for the real thing.

My only minor criticism is that some of the webbing buckles could be more robust – and there is of course an unavoidable weight penalty as with any avy pack (weight is 6lbs 9oz) – but whilst the Patrol 24 is a major purchase if you’re venturing into the backcountry I’d make it top of your ‘must have’ list.

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