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Tam Braap
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The Highmark Charger X Vest S/M Is Perfect for Smaller Riders

Sledders and snow bike riders are not all the same size.

Thankfully, sleds and snow bikes come in a variety of lengths and different engine sizes for different sized people. Fit is important in our sport, both for the machines we ride and in the gear that we choose to wear. If we want to conquer the mountains, our gear must fit our bodies well.

I’m a small, female snow bike rider. Finding gear to fit my smaller (163 cm/5’4″ tall, 57 kg/125 lb.) frame hasn’t always been easy. For example, I wear a XXS TOBE suit, men’s size 5 boots and XS 509 gloves. For that reason, I am stoked this winter to be testing out the Highmark Charger X vest avalanche bag in the S/M size.

Highmark Charger X Vest

Photo: Tam Braap

As a Highmark ambassador, I’ve had the opportunity to try every avalanche airbag Highmark makes, including the Ridge, Pro, Spire and even the Charger X (L/XL size) models. I finally feel like I have found ‘my’ bag with the fit of the Charger X S/M size.

Highmark nailed the fit of this bag for smaller riders!

The Fit of the Highmark Charger X Vest S/M for Small Riders

My motivation for wearing the Charger X is that as my riding progresses, I am getting more aggressive on my bike. The idea of some chest protection, which is offered by the Charger X, was starting to sound like a good idea.

Photo: Jessica Marak

The small-medium Highmark Charger X vest S/M feels like it is hugging my torso and protecting my chest and ribs all in one. It tightens across my rib cage instead of up and down, which provides the snug fit that I like. I have room to add and remove layers in this size. The vest distributes the weight of the bag across more contact points on my body, which makes it feel lighter compared to other models. Adjustment points are thoroughly thought out.

The Charger X (L/XL) is too big for me, but now that I have found the Charger X in a smaller size, I would be hard pressed to go back to a non-vest style avy bag. I also love the added warmth of the vest as I am a smaller individual and I get cold easily.

I will happily give the fit of the Charger X S/M a 10 out of 10 for my small frame.

Other Highmark Charger X Vest Features

Reliability

The Highmark avalanche airbags all use a mechanically deployed compressed air inflation system, which I trust. It uses a burst disc inside the head of the cylinder which is punctured when the deployment handle is pulled, so there are no batteries or electronics to worry about.

Making sure the system is armed is easy—there is a gauge on the cylinder that confirms the correct air pressure required. It is good practice to check that the cylinder is in the green on the gauge before every ride.

My workplace is a certified refill center for Mammut and Highmark airbags, and I am happy to report that I have yet to see a Highmark bag fail. I trust this system with my life in the backcountry—and that’s important!

Highmark Charger X Vest_-3
Tam Braap
Highmark Charger X Vest_-4
Tam Braap

Repacking the Airbag

A rider can easily repack the airbag on the mountain after a deployment just by following the fold lines. They can then take their cylinder to their local refill station to be refilled. The refill center will replace the burst disc and washer and fill the cylinder back up to 3000 psi.

Reconnecting the cylinder to the bag is a one-step process: simply thread it in. There is no need to reset the trigger or connect multiple components to arm the airbag.

Highmark Charger X Vest Refill

To re-arm the airbag, simply thread the refilled cylinder back into the inflation system and you’re all done. Photo: Innerspace Watersports

One thing to consider about the Highmark airbag is that they are a single use deployment. Some avalanche airbags use a fan deployment system and battery power. These can be deployed as many as 4-5 times on a single charge. The cylinder in the Charger X can only be used one time during a ride. Once it is pulled, the airbag must be repacked and the cylinder refilled. That said, I’m sure most riders could agree once we are in a situation that requires an avy bag deployment, it might be time to call it day.

Features I Love on the Highmark Charger X Vest

The overall feeling of the vest. It adds a layer of warmth and I feel protected by the reinforced materials across my chest and rib cage. It hugs my body and is an excellent fit for smaller riders.

Beacon pocket. I have been trained to leave my avalanche airbag on at all times. For this reason, I love having a beacon pocket in the front of the bag. It is conveniently located and fast to get at in a real emergency.

Shovel pocket. This is located on the outside of the pack, which makes for quick and easy access.

Inside pockets. There are two generous pockets on the inside that make it easy to organize all my backcountry essentials.

Trigger handle. The handle location on the shoulder can be adjusted vertically to further customize the fit for different body sizes and preference.

Carrying capacity. There is plenty of room inside the bag for everything I need to carry with me for a day (or potentially a night) of snow bike adventures.

Photo: Tam Braap

Highmark Charger X Vest_-8
Highmark Charger X Vest_-9
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Features I Would Like to See Improved

Goggle pocket. The more expensive Highmark Pro, Spire and Guide all have an external goggle pocket. I didn’t realize how important that pocket was until I did not have it. A lined goggle pocket would be a nice bonus feature at this price point.

Probe pocket. This bag has a probe pocket, but it is too small for my 320 cm probe. This pocket should be expanded to accommodate larger probes.

Crotch clip. The system used to secure the crotch strap on the Charger X is a buckle. In an emergency this feature would do its job by keeping the bag on the rider’s body, but I sometimes have a hard time getting it unbuckled at the end of the day when there is ice buildup.


I am stoked to see companies focusing on gear for smaller riders! I will be running the Highmark Charger X S/M vest avalanche airbag for seasons to come. I love how it makes me feel protected in the backcountry!

 

– Brooke

Highmark Charger X Vest_-7
Tam Braap

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