Okay Ladies, we are going to get down and dirty with our PFDs or Personal Flotation Devices.
In my previous article we did an overview of life preservers so you could get an idea of the types and basic uses that were out there. In this article we are going to dive into a few different makers and models specifically design for us ladies. Let’s face it, we are not built like the average guy or child. We have a few extra bumps. You know what I mean?
As I researched different life vests, I decided I wanted to be a little different from most sites you run into. I don’t want to be just another review site that sends you straight to another site to just purchase the product. So, I did some reading about the companies themselves. I am not going to focus on price point in this article. While there are some cost effective options out there, I am primarily looking at comfort, quality and functionality.
So again, this is my unbiased opinion based on my personal research on the world wide web of these products. Let’s have a look.
Astral Womens Life Vests
Astral started out as a small company in Asheville, NC. They still do small production runs of certain products there as well as repairs and quality control. The mission of their company was to provide a quality product that was nature friendly. Their PFDs are PVC free and breathable. They have worked hard to be as clean and toxin-free as possible. I felt that it was important to acknowledge this.
Astral has several models of PFDs that I really liked. Their design is lady friendly, rugged, well put together and has options. My first and second choices from this manufacturer are the Astral V-Eight and the Astral V-Eight Fisher. Both are very similar in design, and are both made of the same quality materials. The V-Eight comes in 3 colors, the Fisher in only 2.
I also liked the Astral Layla. Designed for the curves of a woman. It has a side entry versus a front zipper. Comes in 2 pretty colors and built just as tough as the other Astral products. I also like that the buoyant material is an organic plant material. How cool is that?
Sizing is based on chest dimension.
XS 27″ – 31″ M/L 38″ – 44″
S/M 31″ – 37″ L/XL 45″ – 51″
These are not the cheapest jackets/vests on the market, but I felt they were quality. Many of the reviews I read, the folks that had them, had them for many, many years.
NRS (Northwest River Supplies)
NRS has an interesting story. Started in 1972 by an idealistic business professor named Bill Parks in his garage. Sound familiar? Seems lots of crazy companies have started in garages. Bill was a river runner and was drawn to rivers and the beautiful places they carried him. The company is now an employee owned and run company. It is located in Moscow, Idaho and still design all their products in house. They are passionate about preserving the waterways in which them and their customers play.
The one vest that I found by this maker was the NRS Shenook Fishing Vest. Of course, I love to fish so this appealed to me immediately. Also, created to fit womens curves, it also has plenty of extra fun stuff. It has a front zippered entry with 6 adjustment points. It even comes with a built in pole holder, Hello! Plus lots of pockets for gear. I actually went and tried one of these vest on. I required a L/XL size, but it fit wonderfully. I was able to get into it easily and tighten it up for the perfect fit. As you will see I am not a small girl, so this one rates high on my list.
My next pick from NRS would be the NRS Zoya Mesh Back PFD. Again lightweight, created with kayakers and paddlers in mind. Supple foam inserts that mold to a womans chest, front zippered entry and 6 adjustment points for great fit.
Sizing on both these vests are pretty good too. Based on chest dimension.
XS/M 30″ – 42″
L/XL 42″ – 52″
Again not the least expensive, but I was impressed with the reviews, the company story and the look. They also have other models, but these were my favorites.
We can’t talk PFD manufacturers without mentioning Stohlquist. They are everywhere. When I was researching, their PFDs were on the top of many lists and mentioned many times within the lists. The company has been around for over 40 yrs. They have designing and producing quality water ware for a long time. Started in Buena Vista, Co. near the Arkansas River by a man named Jim Stohlquist.
My pick from here was the Stohlquist Betsea. I liked that it was designed with the princess seams on the inside and out for feminine fit. I also liked that it had lined hand warmer pockets as well as two large pockets on the front for stuff. It has built-in contoured cups to hug instead of crush our extra bumps. Several adjustment points and several attachment points for extra gear.
Sizing for the Betsea are as follows.
Womens Size Bust
Petite 24″ – 30″
XS/SM 28: – 34″
M/LG 34: – 40″
Plus 40″ – 46″
Stohlquist has many options for women, and some are certainly designed for fishing as well as paddling. The price points on these vary quite a bit.
MTI Adventure Wear
Last but not least on my list. MTI short for Marine Technoligies International was founded in 1991 by the Takashinas just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. MTI is still a family owned business near the waterfront of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Owners Gordon and Lilli Colby met over 20 yrs ago and are both water babies. They both have a passion for paddle sports and nearshore sailing. That passion is what still drives this company to produce quality products.
I looked at two models of womens PFDs produced by this company. The first was the MTI Destiny Womens Life Jacket and the second was the MTI Moxie. Both are made with quality materials and design. One of the best features for me is the Bust-Adjust Fit System. I am a busty lady and it is hard to fit into a straight line jacket.
Both also provide pockets and enlarged arm holes for movement. Both had good reviews everywhere I looked as well. The sizing did differ between the two.
XS/SM 30″ – 36″ M/LG 36″ – 46″ XL/2X 46″ – 56″
S/M 29″ – 40″ L/XL 40″ – 48″
There You Have It!
Through my reading and research, these are the 4 companies that topped my list. These are the ones that caught my eye. I can tell you that I bought an inexpensive PDF when I got my kayak without doing any research. I was just happy to get one to zip up with me in it. Not lying, I am not a small girl. I fought with that dang thing all summer and if I can help you ladies avoid that mess, I will be a happy girl. Hope this helps you all out and I would love to know what PFDs you all have chosen, so leave me a comment and a picture so I can see.
Until Next Time You All!