Friday, September 16, 2016

Care and Feeding of your Mammut Air Cylinder

Avalanche airbag packs are expensive and they are life-saving equipment, so it's important to maintain them and treat them properly.  The air cylinders are pretty simple things, but a few guidelines and things to be aware of are helpful.


First, This article is relevant only for the North American refillable cartridges.  There are different cartridges available for the US & Canada versus for Europe--the packs are all compatible with either cartridge, so a US or Canadian pack is exactly the same as a European pack, meaning that any Mammut airbag pack will work with either a North American refillable cartridge or the smaller carbon or steel European cartridges.  Even though these cartridges are very different sizes they contain the same amount of air and as far as your airbag is concerned they are the same thing.  North American refillable cartridges can be refilled with dry breathable air at most dive and paintball shops or with a Hill high pressure hand pump, using a standard paintball or "quick-disconnect" adapter, to 3000psi (207 bar).  We've previously published refill instructions HERE.

If you fill your cartridge at a dive shop you may hear people talk about getting a cartridge “hydro tested”.  Your Mammut airbag cartridge DOES NOT require hydro testing.  A hydro test, or a hydrostatic pressure test, is usually required once every 5 years for pressure tanks such as scuba tanks or some paintball tanks.  This test ensures that the cartridge is safe to fill and use, and that filling it won’t cause it to burst—if it did it would be extremely dangerous, so it’s something dive shops look for to ensure the safety of their employees as well as your safety.  Because your cylinder is less than 2 inches in diameter and less than 2 feet in length (aka the "2-by-2 rule"), it is exempt from this requirement and it is not required to be hydro tested or receive a visual re-test and re-stamp.  For Canadians, the requirement is similar—the Mammut cartridge is low-enough volume that it is not required to be re-qualified.  In both countries this is true as long as the cylinder meets these requirements:

  • The cylinder shows no evidence of dents, corrosion, cracked or abraded areas, leakage, thermal damage, or any other condition that might render it unsafe for use or transportation;
  • The cylinder has not been in an accident and has not been damaged to an extent that may adversely affect its lading retention capability;
  • The cylinder shows no evidence of nor is known to have been over-heated; 
  •  The cylinder is not determined to possibly be in an unsafe condition.
Although there are standards for these observations, this is obviously somewhat subjective and leaves considerable discretion to the person refilling the cartridge.  It's possible for a cartridge that has some abrasions or dings from storage or coming into contact with a shovel blade or the like gets called out, and you may be asked to submit your cartridge for a visual inspection or even a hydro test before the shop will refill it.  For this reason it is important to treat your cartridge carefully:


  • Don’t let it get scratched, dinged or dented, don’t expose it to any chemicals or to high heat. 
  • Make sure to always zip the cartridge into the sleeve inside your pack as this will help to protect it, and 
  • When it’s not in use don’t store it loose with other hard items that could roll around in a box, bin or bag and damage it.  
  • Do not put unnecessary stickers on your cartridge, as a sticker could be used to hide damage and the shop may refuse to fill the cartridge as a result.  
  • When refilling it be careful not to dent or damage it or bend the gauge in a vise or with any tools, and, 
  • Never clamp the round part of the cylinder in a vise.  

A few things to always do:

  • Keep the box it came in--store/transport it it in the box, this is the easiest way to protect it from damage.  
  • Always use the plastic gauge cover--this helps protect the gauge from damage.  Be extra careful of the gauge when preparing for a refill.  
  • Make sure to keep the metal cap--this is a safety device for refilling so it's important to have it handy.  
We hope this helps answer some common questions.  Give us a call if you have other questions, and make sure to do your snow-dance to ensure a good, stable snowpack this winter!




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