Mystery Ranch Innovates Avalanche Safety with the Blackjack - ITS Tactical
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Mystery Ranch Innovates Avalanche Safety with the Blackjack

By Bryan Black

I wanted to draw your attention today to a new pack that Mystery Ranch is unveiling at next year’s Winter OR (Outdoor Retailer) called the Blackjack.

The Blackjack features a removable airbag system to protect you in the event of an avalanche. While this is a specialized product and not the first avalanche airbag system to hit the market, Mystery Ranch has approached their design with the end-user in mind.

The theory behind an avalanche airbag is to keep the victim at the top by increasing their overall volume, thus equalizing volume and density (Law of Inverse Particles). Meaning that larger objects will “float” to the surface in an avalanche due to the larger signature, decreasing your chance of becoming buried.


Mystery Ranch has integrated AVI Vest airbag system technology into the Blackjack and thrown their hand into the airbag backpack market with the first removable airbag pack that we know of. Currently several European companies manufacture these packs along with BCA (Back Country Access) and their Float 30 pack they unveiled at the 2009 OR.

Here’s what the Blackjack is bringing into the mix:

  • Top-loading 2600 cubic inch pack
  • Full side zip access
  • 150 liter removable airbag
  • Refillable compressed air canister
  • Custom fit through MR Futura yoke
  • Release set for righty or lefty
  • (ATP) Avalanche Tool Pocket
  • Ski Carry: A frame or Diagonal
  • Snowboard Carry: Vertical
  • Ice Axe Loops
  • Leg Loops built into waistband

The Blackjack’s weight is approximately 8 lbs. overall, with the airbag system taking up about 3.5 lbs. of that. Retail will be around $900 when it’s released next year.

I’m not sure of the exact cylinder refilling method that the Blackjack will incorporate, but according to AVI their cylinders require being sent in to refill. I’d hope that the Blackjack will integrate a user-refillable cartridge system. Either that or an inexpensive CO2 cartridge system like life vests use, although honestly I’m not sure if those would provide the volume needed to fill the Blackjack’s airbag.

The Blackjack is meant to augment other avalanche tools at your disposal, not replace them. This isn’t a substitute for a shovel, avalanche probe, beacon or a good helmet. It’s been proven that these airbag systems save lives and should definitely be considered if you’re back country hiking, climbing, skiing or around any avalanche conditions period.

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