For sea and touring kayakers the search for the best sea / touring Buoyancy Aid (aka Personal Floatation Device/PFD/Life Jacket but we will be saying Buoyancy Aid to stay consistent) can be a real challenge. We’ve narrowed it down to our three favorites for our own ‘Best of 2018’
The Astral Blue Jacket is the Sea/Touring sibling of the Astral Green Jacket (Astral’s incredibly popular whitewater Buoyancy Aid). The Blue Jacket is a little lighter, but shares many of the Green Jacket’s award winning features.
Designed to be a lightweight touring Buoyancy Aid, Astral have achieved this with the use of soft foam and lightweight fabrics. Weighing in at just 907 grams it is 26% lighter than the Palm Kaikoura. It looks lightweight and breezy, making it comfortable to wear for hours on end. Although lightweight, it is still extremely tough with ripstop fabric ideal for when your practicing rescues and dealing with the rigours of sand and dirt. The entry system is a series of three buckles on the right hand side so you can easily slide in, which is great for drysuit wearers. This makes it fairly easy to get on but the only downside is the two top buckles can easily be crossed over and buckled into the wrong place making it uncomfortable. The bottom buckle is a different colour so you don’t mix it up with the other two. The fit of this lifejacket is unique compared to the other two, it has a a separated tectonic plate technology. The lower part of the Buoyancy Aid hugs low on your body whilst the upper part moves more freely allowing for a greater and more comfortable range of motion. The Blue Jacket also has a lot of storage capability without being bulky like many other Buoyancy Aids on the market. The main storage is the clam shell pocket on the front, big enough for a radio, safety tape, etc. The top of the pocket also has an opening for the radio antenna to poke out through so your not damaging it inside the pocket. At the sides of the jacket of you can find two small zipped pocket which are great for a Cow tail or Web tow. Lastly this Buoyancy Aid has a rear, internal hydration pocket, great for adding a water bladder for long days.
In summary, the Astral Blue Jacket has plenty of storage, is lightweight and comfortable. The only criticism we have for this Buoyancy Aid is the buckles not being colour co-ordinated so you have to work out which one goes where. This however isn’t even a smudge on a brilliant buoyancy aid we’d happily wear all year round.
Next up is the Kokatat Poseidon, a sea/touring buoyancy aid which is customisable to suit all your different kayaking trip needs.
The Poseidon feels very close and snug to you when you put it on, making it ideal for those colder days when you want something that is going to cuddle you. That being said it is certainly not a bulky jacket once you put it on. The distinctive thing about this Buoyancy Aid from all the others is that it is customisable. As standard it comes with a small pocket on the front and hydration sleeve for your bladder but the options are endless. Kokatat have created a selection of attachable pockets to customise your Buoyancy Aid for whenever, and wherever your going. Rather than stuffing your radio in, attach an electrical sling. Safety equipment? Belly pouch. Chocolate can all go in the chest pocket and whatever else you have just throw in the tactic pack on the back, which can be accessed without taking off your Buoyancy Aid. Finally, you can attach a chest harness and a tow tether as well.
The Kokatat Poseidon is another fantastic buoyancy aid. The ability to switch up how much storage you have means it stands out from the rest and makes it easy to choose how much you want to carry with you at all times.
Finally was the Palm Kaikoura, one of the most comfortable Buoyancy Aids out there. A Buoyancy Aid that many will be familiar with, which set the benchmark for Sea/Touring Buoyancy Aids at its initial release. The current version has a cleaner chest area and for better or for worse the optional leg loops have been removed. Although much more bulky than the others, the foam inside wraps nicely around you to ensure a comfortable fit. Inside is also a mesh fabric to keep you cool on sunny days. Hydration pocket on the rear of the jacket makes it easy to stay hydrated whilst out on the water. Large front pockets, either side of the centre zip closure are perfectly sized to store everything you could possibly need to take with you. Although it was heavier than the other buoyancy aids, once you get going it is easy to forget you are wearing a Buoyancy Aid at all.
So there you have it, our official 2018 favourite three Sea/Touring Buoyancy Aids of 2018. All three are in the shop now if you want to come and try them on and decide which will be best for you, or can can check them out online.
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