Astral hit the nail on the head when it created the Astral GreenJacket Personal Flotation Device. This is a PFD for whitewater professionals and professional river rescuers, and it oozes with toughness and utilitarian purpose down to the tiniest detail. The front panel features a large, clamshell-style opening that can hold a rescue rope, there's a quick-release harness built into the side, a tow system on the back, a Spectra safety loop for emergency extractions, and the list goes on. Astral's designers even worked in their unique Tectonic foam panel system that uses a static panel at the chest and a dynamic, floating panel at the torso where you need mobility to paddle. Sure, you could find a lighter weight PFD option for the river, and maybe even one that's designed for rescuers, but you won't find another with the laundry list of forward-thinking safety features touted by the GreenJacket.
I've got an older model of the Green jacket, and it has been nothing but bombproof. I've used it primarily as a sea kayaking guide, where the safety features are usually not needed, but comforting to the guests. The jacket is super comfortable, and well designed. Other than some fading, it has shown little sign of wear after almost 4 years of solid 4-season use. The big pocket at the front is great for a vhf radio and granola bar, a hat or gloves fit nicely behind the front panel, and the sides can hold everything from a bug net to small oranges to a compass and fire starters. The knife tab is bomber and gets its job done. The quick release belt with the ring, i've only used in practice, but works like a charm. Great adjustability and all around awesome piece.
I've always been a fan of Astral jackets, and was really excited when this one came out! I bought it but the fit just isn't great. The top edge of the bottom wrap around foam hits mid bust and whether I shift the jacket up or down it still is just really uncomfortable. I'm pretty small chested and it still was just not working for me. So I got rid of it. I'm giving it a 4 star because if you're a guy (or maybe a girl who's shaped differently than I am) it's a great jacket, just didn't work out for me.
I love the GreenJacket. I have the older model and it has worked great for me over the last few years. As far as the improvements go, the new chest pocket is a nice upgrade. It is roomy and the zipper allows for a little bit more functional space instead of the Velcro and snap on the older model. The cut is great for paddling and fits surprisingly well on a female frame. If you don't need the rescue features of a Type IV definitely check out the Astral Sea Wolf for a very comparable model below the $200 price point.
This thing is way nice! It's got all the things you need and stops there. Done. The chest pocket is rather convenient as well.
This new design is great. The new front pocket is where its at. A++