Highmark Guide Avalanche Airbag Review
In recent years, the trend has been to move gear from a rider’s pack to a carrying solution on their sled. Yet still, some groups such as guides, photographers, search and rescue members, and yes, even plenty of regular sledders have voiced the need or desire to carry some extra gear on their person.
For whatever their reasoning, the Highmark Guide has been designed to appease those riders. It features all the same top-of-the-line features as the best-selling Highmark Pro airbag, with the addition of more volume in the main compartment.
Highmark Guide Review
It’s impossible to talk about the new Highmark Guide airbag without comparing it to the Highmark Pro airbag, since the feature set is virtually identical. For the full details, check out our review of the Highmark Pro 3.0. Otherwise, here’s a quick rundown of the common features in both airbags:
- Protection Airbag System
- Lightweight 3.0 inflation system
- Deployment handle on right shoulder for sledding
- Main compartment and secondary zippered compartment
- Fleece-lined goggle pocket
- External shovel carry
- Internal probe sleeve and zippered compartments
- Radio pouch and shoulder mount options
- Adjustable deployment handle location
- Hip pocket
Pretty much the only difference between the Highmark Guide and the Pro (besides colour) is that the Guide offers 45% more volume, thanks to a larger main compartment and the addition of straps on the side that allow the volume of the pack to be adjusted to the size of the load. The total volume of the Highmark Guide is 32 L compared to the 22 L volume of the Pro.
Protection Airbag System and Fit
The Highmark Guide uses the Protection Airbag System (PAS), which is the style of airbag that wraps around the head and shoulders for additional spinal and impact protection. This is the best airbag protection available on the market today.
When the 3.0 inflation system was introduced, the airbag material thickness was drastically reduced (while maintaining strength and durability), which results in less airbag material in the shoulder straps than in the prior generation of PAS. This allows the straps to conform easily to the shape of the user’s shoulders, making for a comfortable and secure fit. And since the dimensions of the back area (width and length) are the same as the Pro, the Guide universally fits just as well.
The 3.0 inflation system knocked more than 1 kg of weight out of the airbag and venturi system, which has resulted in a lightweight, fully-featured avalanche airbag.
As with all Highmark airbags—the only brand that caters exclusively to sledders—the airbag deployment handle is on the right shoulder, where it can be deployed with the left hand while continuing to operate the throttle in an avalanche involvement.
Compartments and Pockets
There are three exterior pockets or compartments. Foremost is the main compartment which comprises most of the volume of the pack. Inside the main compartment is the compressed air cylinder, a radio pouch and another elasticized pouch. On the backside of the flap is a probe sleeve and two mesh, zippered compartments for organizing and stashing your stuff.
The difference in volume between the Highmark Guide and the Pro is an additional 6 cm of material on each side of the airbag. As a plus, there are two compression straps on each side of the pack. These can be used to cinch the pack down when you don’t need to pack it full, to keep the profile to a minimum and prevent your stuff from sloshing around inside.
The second, fleece-lined pocket is located just behind the shovel carry. It’s been designed so that the zipper can be still be easily accessed with the shovel in place. The final pocket is also fleece-line and sized for a spare pair of goggles.
Highmark Guide Review Summary
The Highmark Guide is a great offering that delivers on the demands of small, but vocal user group. It takes all the best features of the best-selling Pro and gives it a little more capacity. If you don’t need it, simply cinch down the pack. If you do, it’s there for you. So while most sledders are moving that weight off their back, there are still those who want or need to be able to carry more, and for those riders, the Highmark Guide is a great option.
The adjustability makes the pack versatile for many different users. And the fit is also very universal—it’s not overly long or wide, so it’s suitable for smaller folks as well as the rest of us.
Added to the reliability and easy serviceability of the mechanical compressed air system, along with Highmark airbags reputation for durability, and you have a dependable, versatile airbag that will last you a long time.
The Highmark Guide avalanche airbag is priced at $1199 CAD, and it requires a compressed air cylinder priced separately at $240 CAD.