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The biggest struggle I had was getting past the fact that it was a woman's jacket. So I tried the two jackets on and off over and over again. I think this was just to get myself emotionally comfortable that I was going to walk out of that store with a woman's life jacket. In the end the facts won out. This jacket just fit me exceptionally well. I did Look at Astral Sea Wolf but I didn't even put it on because I had a criteria of 2 lash tabs. I carry a strobe on the back shoulder and a knife on the front.
I have used the jacket a number of times and absolutely love it. Plenty of pockets. Lots of small d-rings in the pockets. One of my other criteria was the ability to store my VHF where it was easy to get to. I previously kept it in day hatch but really wanted it on my person. This vest fit the bill. The VHF easily fits in the front pocket and the antenna sticks out through the top. The pocket is stretchy so the it holds the VHF snug and it is not flopping around. I was a little worried about the side pocket placements interfering with my arms while paddling. The Outfit pockets are more to the front than the side. It turned out not to be an issue for me. I bought an XL and with a dry suit on it still has room.
All kidding aside about it being a womans PFD, this thing is fantastic, and I would highly recommend it to any male paddler.
In the newest version, Kokatat moved the placement for the knife attachment and protected it with a flap - excellent change so the end of a knife doesn't get in the way during scramble re-entries. Kokatat also makes a hydration pocket that easily attaches on the back of the PFD. I can hardly wait for my current model to wear out so I can justify getting the newest version!
Basically its the best pfd you will find for sea kayaking. The hydration system is a little expensive, but it could not be better. I think it has the best bite valve you will find. And you can turn the valve off completely if you like. The back pack can be used to hold some ditch gear if you need it.
All around its worth the money if you do a lot of open water paddling. Its no wonder it is the #1 by far life jacket among instructors at the symposiums.
The MsFit Tour solved all of these problems and then some. It has two side pockets with good capacity, but that are out of the way when paddling. It has an additional pocket in the center pocket that is perfectly sized for a VHF radio or GPS. It has a forth mesh pocket under the zippered front flap, which is ideal for keys, knife, etc. There are also the requisite key rings, attachment patches and reflective tape.
One additional feature bears mentioning. The front closure is a combination of buckles and a zippered flap. According to the Kokatat rep I spoke with, the vest is Coast Guard compliant with just the buckles fastened. This means the zipper can be left open for ventilation, which has proven to be very nice on warm days.
The arm openings are large and there is zero rubbing or chafing. The front padding is low enough to provide ample chin clearance. Perhaps the best indication the comfort of this PFD is that I forgot that I was wearing it after the first few minutes.
At $121 suggested retail, it's priced between the better recreational vests and the "rescue" vests. I find it has everything I need with nothing I don't. My gear fits in the pockets and it's exceedingly comfortable. If you're looking for a full-featured touring vest, this is one to check out.
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