The North Face Modulator ABS.

A new generation of avalanche airbags that lets one turn any ordinary backpack into an ABS pack.


Did The North Face just herald in a new era of avalanche air bags?

“A tsunami of snow hurtles down at 180 kms per hour – faster than a pair of legs can hope to outrun.  Data gathered over the years tell 90% of avalanche victims last near about 15 minutes once buried under (unless very, very lucky) and the nearest human habitat is days away. Now is not the time to ponder over how avalanches are caused or blame the guide for putting you right in its path (even seasoned mountaineers make mistakes) so instead lets talk about if your backpack has that very necessary equipment that can increase your chances of survival.

Invented in the 1970s after Bavarian forest ranger, Josef Hohenester, accidentally discovered the law of inverse segregation (which applied to the subject of avalanches and landslides literally means in a rolling cascade of insanely tumbling particles larger objects tend to stay on top).

The avalanche airbag continues to gain acceptance as a much valued life saver among the worldwide community of intrepid adventurers putting their lives at risk out exploring the unpredictable snow laden outdoors – with the list presently and not surprisingly including the Swiss Avalanche Institute that after conducting its own studies seem to have taken a liking for it (see the Telegraph article, Avalanche Airbags: Your guide to these life savers).

Life jacket for the mountains. Keeping you on top, not buried under.

Somewhat similar to its aqua cousin that gives the wearer buoyancy to stay afloat on water, the avalanche airbag’s method of life preservation is to increase the volume of the human body, making it bigger and more buoyant, so it can stay near the surface and not get buried under tons of suffocating snow once the chaotic no holds barred nightmare stops – just like bigger boulders tend to land up on top of the smaller ones at the end of a landslide.

While the avalanche airbag hasn’t evolved to be a 100% live saver, noted names (such as the National Geographic, see 5 tips for staying safe in Avalanche country) advise carrying other equipment alongside with it such as a snow shovel, an emergency beacon and a probe as well as undergo a crash course in avalanche survival, research by experts in the field has unearthed it can and does increase one’s chances of coming out alive (see who, what, why: How do airbags protect against Avalanches on

The NorthFace modulator ABS: Turn any backpack into an ABS backpack.

The North Face Modulator ABS is a next generation version and a positive sign much like any modern equipment the avalanche airbag itself continues to evolve and improve as research drives technology to be more advanced, compact and user friendly.

Among the commendable features the product inherits, is the advantage of integrating it with just about any kind of two shoulder backpack of any size or make – be that a utterly outdated but favourite backpack, a series of upgrades or one of The North Face’s own well thought out and designed for extreme use outdoor packs (like the Snowmad) for better seamless integration.

What makes this possible is the fact the Modulator ABS unlike previous models does not come packed in its own backpack. It is an independent external device – comprising of two airbag pockets, a flexible harness system and a separate trigger strap – that can be easily and within seconds latched to the shoulder straps of a regular backpack as well as the user for additional safety.

Adjustable placement of trigger mechanism: Convenient for both left and right handed users.

The second considerate feature of the Modulator ABS is its adjustable trigger strap. The North Face designed the placement of the trigger to be ambidextrous –  in simple words, one that can be used by both left handed and right handed people.

Requiring the user to simply attach the trigger strap on the preferred shoulder so in an emergency it can be yanked smoothly and easily with the more dominant hand. The trigger also comes with a safety that prevents the air bags from accidentally opening.

A pair of wings for better body balance: Two is better than one.

NorthFace ModulatorThe third top feature of The North Face Modulator ABS is its use of dual airbags that pops open together as a pair of wings to cover the user’s back including parts of the head and neck. Protection aside, the dual airbags helps maintain body positioning in a mad tumble, and in the event one does get punctured, there is a chance the other will remain inflated.

What you get with The NorthFace: Forty years of manufacturing high quality equipment.

Though Telegraph in its February, 2015 article does not count ‘The North Face’ as one of the top manufacturers of avalanche airbags and the Modulator ABS is relatively new in the market yet to prove its mettle, there is no denying the role the company has played in gearing up athletes and extreme adventurers with high quality equipment and clothing over the last forty years.

The company’s drive to make outdoor exploration as safe as possible reflects in design of the Modulator ABS that comes with a lifetime warranty as well as in its other top range products. In addition to it The North Face is at the moment engaged in researching possibilities in manufacturing that may allow it to substitute chemicals with environmentally friendly options as a part of its mission to inspire outdoor exploration and conservation.

How to acquire the product: shop at any outlet or directly from The

The North Face has outlets in several parts of the world including Europe, Canada, Latin America and Asia Pacific where interested buyers can enquire for the Modulator ABS. Direct shipping is currently restricted to within the U.S. and Canada.

If your present location does not have a The North Face outlet or falls outside the company’s shipping zone, the best way is to ask a friend or relative to buy the product from one of the U.S. stores (or country where an outlet does have the product) and ship it back to you. If you are visiting the U.S or residing there you can acquire the product directly from The North Face website.

Also see: Friends remember the passionate life of Dough Tompkins on National Geographic.



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