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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  • Daniel Garcia

    This sounds really good to me, I like the “Leg Loops built into waistband & Avalanche Tool Pocket.” Its a good addition to your avalanche safety tools.

  • Tom Swift

    I need this, need to acquire Avalanche gear over next year. Fun times in Whistler!

  • Bergman

    The main problem with using CO2 to fill an air bladder is the expansion of the gas is tied to temperature. In cold weather (like on a mountain in winter) the CO2 expands poorly, requiring a larger cartridge for the same degree of inflation as a smaller cartridge in warmer areas. A better option would be a small nitrogen cartridge.

    • Good point Bergman! I didn’t think about needing a larger CO2 in colder temperatures. I guess anything other than CO2 would probably need to be sent in to be filled locally.

    • Bergman

      Well, not necessarily. Most welding shops can handle nitrogen refills, providing the cartridge fits their valving. You can also use regular old compressed air, like from a dive shop (shop air might be too low pressure) in most nitrogen cartridges, but there’s a small risk of frozen valves (nitrogen is dry, compressed air has moisture, which might freeze on top of a mountain).

  • Didn’t know you guys were skiiers too!

    Though, that’s a pretty steep price! Yowza!

  • Chris

    I was under the impression that, if caught in an avalanche it was best to ditch your pack? I was always told ‘ditch your pack and swim’. Anyone care to explain or link me in the direction of the correct information (assuming I am wrong). I do not live in an avalanche prone area,but my brother wants to get me into backpacking so this is something that would be more than good to know.

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  • None

    Seriously? You must be kidding me.

    An air bag? Full side zip access? Compress air canister? Seriously?

    All of this unnecessary luxury with an unimpressive 2600 Cubic inch pack that weights a whopping 8 pounds. Really? 8 pounds empty?

    AND FOR $900!

    My advice is (and this is from personal first hand experience) don’t bother with overpriced “yuppie” gear. Go to the Army/Navy surplus store and buy genuine U.S. Army Surplus Ruck Sack. It’s at least half again tough and rugged, and at a fraction of the cost.

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