No one's saying you need an avalanche airbag pack to have fun and be safe in the backcountry. You also don't need to cook pasta before you eat it, and you don't need a doctor to perform surgery, but c'mon. The ABS Vario 18 Ultralight Airbag Backpack packs a serious life-saving punch in a lightweight, rugged, and ergonomic package that carries all your gear for a day tour, and has two fast-inflating airbags to keep you on the surface of a slide, should you get caught.
Like all ABS packs, the Vario 18 is actually a combination of two systems: the Vario base unit and the Vario 18 Ultralight zip-on cover. The base unit has a padded, water-repellent back panel, ergonomic shoulder straps, and a padded hip belt that are designed to help you carry your load in comfort without slowing you down on the skin track or the descent. To that end, the whole system weighs just 6.5lbs, so you don't have to take on a giant weight penalty in the name of safety.
The Vario is geared up to keep you safe, with two 85L bags that inflate within three seconds—simply activate the trigger handle, which mounts on either shoulder for easy access, and the bags inflate and help keep you on the surface. Once you've deployed, you need to replace the trigger handle and the nitrogen-filled canister (replacement must be done through ABS or an authorized representative), but the airbags simply fold up and stow back in the side panel compartments.
The Vario base unit is compatible with all Vario zip-on covers, but this edition comes with an 18L ultralight option that's big enough to carry everything you need for a day without adding any unnecessary bells and whistles. That said, there are plenty of key features on the 18, like ski and snowboard carrying systems, internal shovel and probe mounts, and two easy-access side pockets for skins or snacks. It's hydration compatible as well, and comes with a stowable helmet net so you don't have to leave your dome exposed on the way down—there's no sense in surviving an avalanche just to knock your noggin against a tree and not wake up.
Please remember, an airbag system is NOT a guarantee that you will survive an avalanche; get educated, get the right tools, travel with partners, and be smart out there.