I bought the jacket this Spring while the water was still cold. The first time, I wore it over a flannel shirt and it was comfortable. Now for the real stuff. When I bought it, I was skeptable about the ride up issue in several of the reviews. This past week the water temperature was 80, so I jumped in with the jacket. It immediately brought me to the surface, legs down and head out. I do not have the ride up issues or swimming issues that I have with other jackets I own. I wear it high on my body and keep the straps snug. It is very comfortable in the kayak (which is what it is for) because of the high back, but in a regular boat seat the back is thick and uncomfortable against the tall back seat of the runabout. I had read that people forgot they were wearing it but I figured that was just bragging. To my surprise I forgot I was wearing it until I jumped in the water and bobbed to the surface. I am 230lb 6'0" and bought a L/XL. It fits great. My wife tried it on (she is much smaller) but it still was a good fit for her and did not have a ride up issue either in the water. She now wants one.
I do keep the straps snug but it still has plenty of freedom and is very comfortable.
Cons: The Zipper keeps catching when you try to close it and the pocket is hard to open and I would not put something important in it. The Zipper is the only reason I did not rate it 5 stars.
Great for Sailing!
I've used this for a full season of dingy sailing after many friends recommended Astral. Being in the humid heat of DC, this PFD was a great lifesaver! While I wouldn't say I didn't know it was there, it did provide plenty of ventilation. Any other PFD and I'd be passed out. As a sailing instructor, I was able to test out the boyancy during capsize demonstrations. The vest helped me float but didn't immediately pop me up in the water, but I only experienced minimal ride up, and it did help me concentrate on righting the boat, and not on keeping my head above water. People that have ride up issues may not be wearing it properly. I might also venture that their body type is condusive to ride up.
I also appreciate the mobility of my arms in this PFD. Relative low profile and mobility are hard to find in a Coast Guard approved PFD. While sailing, I need to have my arms free to tend to the lines and tiller, which I had no problems doing.
The single pocket is good for my gloves, but not much else. I wish there was more storage space, like a second pocket on the left side.
Comfortable hot-weather PFD
This is my first non-inflatable PFD, and I really like it. At 4'11" and 110 pounds, I had trouble finding an adult PFD small enough for me, and the small/medium size fits nicely. The molded chest panels are a comfortable fit for women. Even as short as I am, the high back doesn't interfere with my seatback or cockpit coaming when kayaking.
Can't beat the ventilation and comfort for hot-weather activities (without going to an inflatable, that is). I paddle on the gulf coast, and I've never yet been tempted to stash it. And it doesn't chafe when worn with little or no clothing underneath.
Cons: I've tested it in rescue/recovery training and it does ride up a little, but not so much that I was worried about it not doing its job when needed. But I would definitely recommend cinching the waist strap as tight as you can get it.
It has just one cargo pocket on the right side, and I wish there was a matching one on the left so you could more easily store essential safety gear. There is also a tiny stuff pocket inside the left breast, but I wouldn't stick anything important there.
The reason I chose this PDF is 1...it was on sale at REI, making it more affordable than it is when its not on sale. 2...It is the most comfortable PDF I tried on. I am a woman, 5'4" 120#, I don't have a big chest, but this unisex PDF fit better than the ones made for women that I tried on. It is not constricting at all. I go kayaking in northern Virginia and it is very humid during the summer...I didn't feel hotter wearing this at all.
The only things I don't like about this vest is that the padding in the back is round and makes you look humpbacked...Not a really big deal I guess, it helps you float! I also don't like how the pocket on the side is hard to use. There isn't much room for things, the top flap is very tight so all I put in there are keys.
Nice, light PFD
This was the first PFD I bought, and, for simple day-paddles, it's great. I still wear it when I want a PFD that's lightweight and minimal, like when I'm just going out for a 1-2 hour paddle. But, if you want a PFD that's good for solo kayaking and/or multi-day touring, the lack of pockets / storage will prove to be a problem. For solo touring, I ended up investing in a deluxe Kokatat PFD that's ideal for touring (room for VHF radio, flares, logbook, flashlight, hydration pack, etc.).
One other downside: the snap on the pocket of this PFD could be hard to unfasten if you were out of your boat in cold water. It's hard enough to unsnap with warm hands in the summer. With numb fingers after 5 minutes in 45-55F water, I can see it being a big problem.
Best of the Best!
I've tried on several PFDs at REI and this is by-far the most comfortable they have! I've done several 4+ hour long paddling trips in this vest and it fits like a dream. So lightweight, 110% free range of motion. Can hardly tell you are wearing it. Convenient pocket on the front shoulder for lip balm. Folds up easily for storage or to toss in a tote bag.
Cons: the foam on the back is a little thick for my preference - Feels like I have a humpback! But I prefer to have thicker foam on the back than in the front.
Good racing vest
Just finished a 12 hour AR with a 2.5 hour paddle and a 500 yd lake swim using this jacket in the summer heat of the southeast. This jacket did the job and was worth the expense. It feels a bit bulky on dry land but I didn't even notice it was on while paddling. The vents in the front definitely worked and kept me cool. The front mesh pocket was good for stashing food and the lash tab worked as usual for stashing the required knife and whistle. I didn't notice any interference or riding up while swimming in the jacket either.
comments that this is a Type III PFD. It is not designed to turn an unconscious wearer face up. For that you would need a Type I or II PFD, and I doubt you would want to wear one of those very long while paddling. They tend to be much bulkier and less comfortable. This PFD is doing its job just fine-- your problem is that you are expecting something it's not designed to do, and no PFD built for paddling will do that.
Excellent Paddling PFD
I've used this PFD for two years and it's holding up great. I've paddled many different boats and this vest fits great with any style kayak seat. The back of the vest is high and clears the top of the seat.
I've practiced wet exits and re-entries on many occasions and it always keeps me afloat, and I have not had any of the riding up issues. The vents are great and helps a lot in the summer months.
This is the first PFD I've purchased and I feel this is a great value. It is super comfortable(the shaped chest panels are a nice touch), not a bit sweaty even on very hot days and the mesh back fits well with the high seat on my kayak. A vest can't work if you are not willing to wear it. I held off on giving it the five stars only because I haven't taken a dip with it yet.