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Kokatat Ronin Pro PFD Review

Posted by on December 23, 2011


“The Ronin Pro is a low profile rescue PFD with full spinal and side protection due to a unique internal harness that also provides a comfortable, secure fit. The front-entry design offers maximum mobility and safety convenience with a quick release chest harness, cowtail sleeve, and large duplex front pockets.” – Kokatat

The Deets:

  • PFD Type: USCG approved Type 5 (Rescue)
  • Style: Front-entry, Unisex
  • Designed flotation: 16lbs, 5oz
  • Pockets: x1 front pocket
  • Rescue Features: Built in tow harness, quick-release tow belt included
  • Sizes (Chest): S/M (36”-42”), L/XL (42”-50”), XXL (50”-56”)
  • Colors: Coal (Black), Mango (Yellow), Red
  • MSRP $199.95

The Review:

There are a lot of great PFDs on the market for kayakers. However, I’ve never been more excited about a PFD then when Kokatat first started advertising their Ronin Pro a few years back. The Ronin Pro looked like a fantastic PFD for the serious sea kayaker and it has proven itself to be just that. It’s highly rated, comfortable, and has most of the technical features that one would expect in a high-end PFD.

The Ronin Pro is a high-end, type-V PFD. Type-V PFDs (rescue vests) have an integrated chest harness for use in swift water rescue situations. These harnesses and the integrated, quick-release belt are held to a very high standard to ensure that they will hold extreme forces when horizontally belaying or playing bait in the “live bait” rescue. There has been a lot of buzz in the kayaking world about how overly scrutinized the Ronin Pro had been by the USCG when it was released in the US. At first, the integrated harness failed USCG load testing and they refused to certify the PFD for use in the US. It was, however, available and certified in Canada and after some re-working and a year of waiting it arrived in the US and exceeded the USCG requirements. As a guide, I really appreciate what the USCG did because I know that the harness in my Ronin Pro is going to hold up when I need it to most.

The cut of the Ronin Pro could not be better. The overall shape is very athletic and offers unimpeded movement and comfort. The front clasps and side zip provide for a secure feel without any pressure points. The high profile prevents the back of the PFD from interfering with the kayak’s back-band thus enabling proper torso rotation. This high profile requires that the vest be a bit bulkier in the front in order to achieve the required buoyancy but I do not find this to be an issue with respect to comfort and movement. I also find the harness, padded shoulders, and integrated, quick-release waist belt on the Ronin Pro to be extremely comfortable. Towing is so much less of a chore thanks to this vest!

Finally, the vast array of features on the Ronin Pro makes it highly desirable for the serious sea kayaker. For starters it’s highly visible in the mango or radish colors alone. Reflective material on the chest, shoulders and back greatly increase visibility. A placard is conveniently located on the chest for placement of a sheathed knife. I have used the second placard located on the back left shoulder for my night light. The front pocket is large enough to accommodate an assortment of gear. I’ve fit my keys, camera, GPS, whistle and radio in the pocket. I would, however, like to see a separate radio pocket on future editions of the Ronin Pro in order to free up that front pocket and keep the antenna out of my face. This is the one small area where improvements can be made in my opinion.

If you’re a serious sea kayaker then I highly recommend the Ronin Pro as your next PFD. Its reliability, comfort, and features make it a great choice. There have been times that it has held me together on long paddles so much so that I didn’t want to take it off at the end of the day. You won’t be disappointed by the Ronin Pro!

Final Verdict:

Pros: Comfortable, well-tested reliability, many desirable features

Cons: No VHF radio pocket

Size Rating: Highly adjustable. Offered in three size ranges.

Kayak Dave Rating:

-Kayak Dave

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