Group Review : High Back Buoyancy Aids 2022

High Back PFD’s and Buoyancy Aids are a perfect option for paddlers using a high backrest enabling the wearer to sit more comfortably or simply allowing better airflow when its warmer. We run down the 5 front entry high back designs we have in stock for Spring Summer 2022.

Yak High Back PFD
RRP £70

The Yak high back offers 60N of buoyancy and as always Yak have packed a lot of features into the lowest priced high back option in this review. The off-center zip placement allows for two generously sized zip pockets, and there is also a mesh pocket with a Velcro fastener and front and rear lash tabs for lights etc. Despite looking a bit lumpy and wide on the shelf the Highback is well shaped with its ‘4D cast’ pre-curved foam to help it wrap around the wearer and when properly fitted we didn’t feel like it was brushing against our arms while paddling. The other nice feature is the air mesh liner – which Yak has included to help with airflow next to the skin. At £70 the Highback is never going to have the best fabrics or foam and there are a few areas where the finish isn’t as good as others in the review, but you can’t fault the features or fit which are key whatever price point you are looking at.

Palm Meander High Back

RRP £85

The Palm Meander PFD is probably the most popular recreational PFD of the last few years thanks to its slim profile and great fit so it makes sense that Palm choose to add a Meander High Back to their range. Everything that makes the Meander such a well loved product is carried over with the slim foam front, easy adjustment and Palm’s normal excellent high quality finish coupled with non PVC foams and ripstop fabrics. The traditional taller narrower shape lends itself to a wide range of shapes and sizes with each size offering a decent but not extreme amount of adjustment. The Meander has one zip pocket on the front but its easily the smallest in this group and probably will put some people off.

NRS Clearwater

RRP £109.95

The Clearwater is the first of two NRS high back designs and offers a clean uncluttered look. With reassuring amounts of super soft foam, the wide low cut front foam panel sits well below your shoulders when properly fitted leaving them unrestricted and is also contoured with thicker foam at the bottom and thinner foam at the top to give more room for your chest. With this type of design its really important to get the side straps nice and snug to pull the foam in around you and prevent it getting in the way of your paddle stroke. Two zipped pockets offer enough room for a phone but aren’t deep enough for more bulky gear. Its not the thinnest or most low profile option and for smaller paddlers there might be better options given the XS/M is as big as some other brands M/L’s but for larger paddlers wanting a high quality option with two pockets the Clearwater is worth checking out.

NRS cVest

RRP £129.95

Using the Clearwater as a starting point, NRS have given the cVest the same expedition-style features found on their top end Odyssey PFD with 4 pockets capable of carrying kit like radios, etc with ease as well as more reflective details and gear attachment points. Again when with such a huge range of adjustment on each size, smaller paddlers can be a little swamped by the cVest so may want to look for another option.

Astral V-Eight

RRP £135

The lightest airiest PFD in the review with lightweight mesh fabrics and Airescape technology the V-Eight is another high-quality option featuring non-PVC foam that has holes cut in to allow better airflow around your body while you’re wearing it and excellent contouring of the front foam provides extra room for your chest. The low wide foam at the front needs pulling tight to get the best fit and stop it from getting in the way while paddling. Two zipped mesh pockets provide room for a small phone or maybe a little cash or bank card but not bulkier kit. The only real complaint with the V-eight is how tight the front panels fit together while new – you really have to squash them together to get the zip done up which is annoying!


Below we have taken a few photos to give you a better idea of how these PFD’s fit and integrate with a high backrest.

From left to right : Yak High Back, Palm Meander High Back, NRS Clearwater, NRS cVest and Astral V-Eight

The Astral V-Eight and Meander High Back have the most clearance so if you like to paddle with your back rest raised to its highest position then these would be your better option.

From left to right : Yak High Back, Palm Meander High Back, NRS Clearwater, NRS cVest and Astral V-Eight

All the high back PFD’s have 2 side straps to help pull the foam close to your body making the PDF’s super comfy and safe.

From left to right : Yak High Back, Palm Meander High Back, NRS Clearwater, NRS cVest and Astral V-Eight

All the PFD’s sit well out of the way of your arms meaning there is no restriction when you are paddling. The Meander High Back has the lowest profile front of the 5 options.

All 5 options comfortable and very well designed. Everyone is a different shape and size so if possible we would advise you pop down to the shop and try them on to find the perfect fitting PFD. If you are unable to visit the shop we hope this blog contains enough information to help you make an informed descion.


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