Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Refilling airbag cylinders with the Hill MK4 high pressure hand pump

It’s official!  Many of our customers asked about whether it was OK to use a high-pressure air pump to refill our airbag cylinders. Of course you can still have your cylinder refilled at most dive shops and many paintball shops, but if your travels take you to locations where refill is difficult or if your schedule is tight this could be a hassle. After testing, Mammut is recommending the Hill MK4 air pump to refill our airbag cylinders in such circumstances. 

The Hill MK4 high pressure hand pump can be used to refill Mammut airbag cartridges


All similar pumps use atmospheric air, run it through a drying chamber filled with some sort of desiccant, and then pump it into the cylinder.  Atmospheric air has water vapor in it and it’s very important to keep the air inside the cylinder DRY, for 2 reasons:  First, moisture can freeze at the very low temperatures created when suddenly discharging pressurized air and if it freezes it can create problems; and second, moist air trapped in a cylinder for any length of time can create long-term corrosion problems that could lead to leaks.  The reason we recommend this specific pump is because Hill is the only pump manufacturer we have found that is able to quantify the dryness of the pumped air to a level that is acceptable to use in Mammut airbag cylinders.
So, if you travel frequently, especially to remote locations or small towns where refill isn’t as easy as it is in a more urban area or to a remote lodge or basecamp with no electricity, one of these pumps might make an airbag a heck of a lot more mobile.  This pump functions like a bicycle pump, except at a much higher pressure.  If the gauge on the pump reads a different pressure than the gauge on the cartridge, then inflate until the CARTRIDGE gauge is in the green zone at room temperature (68F).  Expect the job to take 20-30 minutes.  Just remember to follow the refill instructions (link) and remember to change the dry-pack as recommended by the pump manufacturer. 

You can purchase the Hill pump HERE 
You’ll also need a quick-disconnect adaptor HERE 






48 comments:

  1. Dave--can I fill my cartridge from a CO2/Argon welding cylinder? Sounds weird, but I have one.

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  2. Not sure I understand the question, are you wondering about filling WITH CO2/Argon, or would you be filling your welding cylinder with Air (from a compressor, at a dive shop, etc) and then filling the cylinder from that? You should not fill with CO2/Argon. However, it is almost certainly possible to fill FROM that tank if you can get it filled with DRY Air like you would find at a scuba shop.
    Hope that helps, if not send me an email to davef "at" mammutusa.com and I can try to answer any questions you have.

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  3. Replies
    1. The gloves of the last category are actually a variant of mittens and are mainly used for cold water diving. The closure is also a feature that may vary depending on the model Scuba Gear

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Is there a gasoline or electric high pressure compressor that you can recommend for refilling canisters? Thanks

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    1. Hi Sam,
      any compressor that can fill scuba tanks with dry breathable air to 3k psi will work--the DRY part is key, as a normal shop compressor does not sufficiently dry the air. These compressors are expensive and I dont know specific brands--most outdoor and ski shops dont fill a sufficient quantity of cartridges to warrant investing in a compressor, instead they will use a series of scuba tanks or large 4500psi tanks with a regulator system to fill from, and then fill those periodically. Most of the big motorsports shops in Canada who do a lot of refills use this system, and we've steered people to an outfit called scubacompressor.com for a system, and I'm betting he can also answr any questions about a compressor as well.
      Hope this helps, but if I didn't really address your question or the above doesn't apply just let us know.

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  6. I wouldn't recommend this hand pump setup. I purchased the pump and adapter in the article and the pump broke before I could even finish the first fill. Pumping up to 3000 psi with a hand pump at that volumn takes an incredible amount of force on the pump (and your hands). I'm a big guy and I'm honestly not sure if I would have made it all the way to 3000 psi (the pump broke in half at 2500psi after the foot support had already broken at about half that pressure. This system isn't rebust enough to fill the volume that is required for avalanche airbag tanks. Designed for airguns and according to reviews does a good job at that. Just thought I'd chime in and save anyone considering this setup a bit of $$$

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    1. Brendan, did you get a Hill brand pump? I'm surprised to hear this, I have one myself that I use at trade shows and demos. The Hill pump I have seems very well made. This pump gets shipped back and forth several times a winter, gets banged around in airline luggage and the back of a truck on long drives, and gets stepped on in ski boots at on-snow events, etc and it's still going strong with no issues after a couple years. I've personally filled several dozen cartridges with it to a full 3000psi. Remember that airbag cartridges at 3000psi are exactly the same thing as airgun cartridges at 3000psi. It takes a while and by no means is it a quick fix and I would not recommend it for anyone needing to fill a lot--I tell people it takes about 2 beers worth of time to fill a tank, or figure 20-30 minutes of pumping if you take a short break or two. I don't agree that it's not worth the effort and it's been a real convenience for me personally. If yours broke I would recommend you work with the company you purchased it from to get it replaced because it seems you've had a very different experience than others.

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    2. Hi dave, i really apreciate this information and been asking myself about some issue. Let's say i'm a usual plane ski traveler and to do so, i need to charge and discharge my cartridge between flights, this pump setup will work for me but i'm not really sure how to discharge the cartridge without deploying the airbag, and if this repeated discharge will damage the system.

      I'll appreciate your comments

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    3. emptying the cartridge requires deploying the airbag. Should not be a huge deal unless you do this a LOT--our recommendation is that the trigger mechanism is good for 40 deployments. If you did 2 trips a winter where you had to do this, plus 2 additional practice pulls a season, that's still 10 years of deployments, and most users who are using their airbag with any frequency will have other wear and tear before then anyway.

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  7. hey Dave,

    I have a carbon cartridge that I managed to get back to Canada. I've never had to use it, but if I ever do (or even accidentally pull) will this handpump method also work for the carbon? thanks

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  8. Lucky you! No, you will not be able to refill that cartridge. Those require a crazy-involved apparatus to refill which, as far as I know, is only available in Europe. Consider that extra incentive to stay on the correct side of the snow!

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  11. Can I fill an avalanche cylinder with Nitrogen? I have a tank of dry Nitrogen that I use for HVAC service. The reason we use it as a purge gas and pressure test gas is because it is dry, as you have indicated is necessary. I live in the mountains at 7000ft and spend all winter in avalanche terrain above 10,000ft but no local shops fill canisters.

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    1. I’ve also thought about N2 as well, but quickly deemed that a bad idea. I do shock rebuilding here and a full cylinder is only 2200 psi so not quite sufficient, also if you get buried you have a bag full of N2 wrapped around your head, if for some reason it leaked you have a high probability of being dead from oxygen deficiency before anyone had a chance to dig you out.

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