Safeback System Aims to Revolutionize Avalanche and Tree Well Survival Rates by Providing Air When Buried

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Credit: Safeback

Designed to increase the window of survival under an avalanche from 15 minutes to 90 minutes

After five years of prototyping, development, extensive testing, patent and certification processes, Safeback can finally announce more details about its product.

When activated, the Safeback SBX system pulls clean air from the snow through a filter in your pack and actively pumps it up through the hose systems in your pack straps. Clean air diffuses through the dense avalanche snow, adding normal oxygen content air to the breathing zone. As an additional effect, the carbon dioxide is diluted.

Field research and testing shows that this device can provide enough clean air to extend the expected survival time under an avalanche from 15 minutes to 90 minutes.

Field testing and certification was a very important part of the development process and Safeback was fortunate to be supported by the Norwegian Armed Forces with a development contract managed by the Armed Forces Research Establishment. One of these tests involved live breathing tests under snow, and another using a mannequin and a mechanized breathing system to simulate real O2 and CO2 levels. In addition, the Mountain Medicine Research Group at the University of Bergen has conducted independent studies into the problem that Safeback’s product is intended to solve.

“Our tests show that this system works. Snow is porous, so even in a large avalanche with dense snow conditions, the Safeback system can deliver fresh air to your nose and mouth, as long as your mouth and nose are within 25 centimeters or 10 inches of the nearest outlet at one’s shoulders.”

– Tor Berge, CEO of Safeback

Integrating directly into backcountry airbags and freeride packs, they can ensure the unit is protected from the forces during an avalanche and the tubes stay securely in place close to the user’s mouth and nose. Their system is the first to use electronics to actively deliver clean air to the victim. Similar to electric airbags, the SBX is fan based and battery operated for reliable and repeated use. The system uses replaceable, non-rechargeable batteries due to their greater reliability in cold conditions. With batteries, the whole system weighs around 450 grams.

The Safeback SBX is activated by a firm pull on the T-shaped handle of your backpack – much like airbag systems. This means the user does not need to have gear in their mouth when navigating steep terrain and can activate their device when they are about to be caught in an avalanche. In cases where backpacks have both airbags and an SBX, the activation wires for both can be integrated into a single activation handle.

They plan to launch in the 2023-24 winter season, pre-integrated into packs from 3-4 backcountry pack manufacturers. Their goal is to maximize the number of lives saved with the SBX system, so they do not offer any single manufacturer the exclusivity for their product

Safeback was founded in western Norway in 2016 by three engineers and backcountry enthusiasts – Tor Berge, André Mjølhus and Sigmund Andreassen. After analyzing the avalanche safety equipment available today, they realized that there was a lack of innovation and investment in solutions for the avalanche victim beneath the snow. They then set about creating user-focused products that reliably get backcountry travelers home safely.

Safeback’s research and development aimed at the problem of suffocation under the snow. Their first product, Safeback SBX, is a breathing support system that actively delivers clean air to the victim’s air pocket in the snow, extending the survival window by up to 90 minutes.

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Credit: Safeback

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