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Astral Seawolf PFD Review

Posted by on November 25, 2012

Overview:

“This sea kayaking inspired lifevest combines incredible fit, lightweight construction, and ample organized storage space.” –Astral Buoyancy

Image courtesy of Astral Buoyancy Company

The Deets:

  • PFD Type: USCG approved Type 3 (Flotation aid)
  • Style: Side-entry, Unisex
  • Designed flotation > 15.5lbs
  • Weight: 1lb, 11oz
  • Tow compatible: Yes (belt not included)
  • Pockets: x3 (large front, x2 small side)
  • Sizes (Chest): S/M (31”-37”), M/L (38”-44”), L/XL (45”-51”)
  • Colors: Black/Black and Red/Black
  • MSRP $185.95

The Review:

New for 2012, the Astral Buoyancy Seawolf PFD represents the cutting edge of lifejacket function and style. This full-featured, Type 3 PFD boasts the best of Astral’s whitewater vests but was designed with the sea kayaker in mind! The Seawolf’s “tectonic” panels, four-point torso adjustments, and side-entry buckles allow for unrestricted paddling motion and a comfortable fit for men and women alike. Its quick-drying, 200d x 400d Ripstop Nylon shell protects feather-light 100% PE foam to provide over 15lbs of buoyancy while weighing in at a mere 1lb 11oz! Key accessory features including a large clamshell pocket, two side pockets, hand-warming fleece, reflective accents, and tow compatibility help to round out this amazing specimen of a life jacket!

The Seawolf may be the most comfortable PFD that I’ve ever donned! The thing that blows me away most is its feather-light weight; after wearing it for a few minutes you’ll forget that you have it on! To be completely honest, I didn’t anticipate that the “tectonic” construction would make much of a difference. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The inner panels lock in comfortably once you have the four-point torso adjustments properly tweaked. The “tectonics” allow for the outer front panel to float over the inner panel. This provides for a completely unrestricted paddling motion. I tried on my old PFD after testing out the Seawolf and it just didn’t feel the same!

One of the biggest issues with higher-cut life jackets is that they’re inherently bulky in the front in order to maintain the required buoyancy. I’m happy to report that this is not the case for the Seawolf! Most of the foam is located in the inner front panel which sits low enough as to not be obtrusive while paddling or during re-entry. This cut makes me appreciate how the Seawolf could be comfortable for female paddlers too given how much room there is in the upper part of the chest. The one thing that could be better about the fit is the location of the side-entry buckles. I found that they’re located a little too far back and can be awkward to buckle.

This lifejacket is packed full of useful accessory features but this is also where it can use some improvement. The most impressive accessory feature is the large and accessible “clam-shell” front pocket. This pocket can easily store all of your essentials including cell phone, keys, spare compass, snacks, and much more without feeling bulky. However, this pocket is not large enough for a VHF radio nor is there any other location on the jacket that’s suitable for one. The designers also failed to include a dedicated lash point for a knife which is a standard feature on most sea kayaking PFDs. I really loved the idea of the fleece “hand-warmer” between the two front panels but found that the area with the fleece isn’t large enough to fully accommodate my hands. The tow-ready belt loops and side storage pockets add to the versatility of the Seawolf but Astral’s quick release tow belt is not included.

Black is always a risky color for a sea kayaking life jacket and typically I would have chosen a red Seawolf for being more visible on the water. However, I found the overall look of the black Seawolf with its red/green decorative stitching and reflective accents to be very attractive and hard to resist! The reflective accents around the front pocket and on the shoulder straps definitely increase the visibility of this vest especially in low light. Furthermore, a black PFD can provide great contrast against a bright-colored paddling jacket to further increase visibility on the water. Major style points should go to the Seawolf for its fashion appeal!

Overall, I’m wicked stoked about the Astral Seawolf PFD and consider it to be one of the best sea kayaking PFDs on the market. It may be the most comfortable life jacket that I’ve ever worn thanks to the lightweight, “tectonic” construction. I’m confident that male and female sea kayakers will appreciate the unobtrusive feel and function of this great vest. The many useful accessory features and fashion appeal earn the Seawolf added style points!

-Kayak Dave

Pros: Super comfortable and light weight, Large and usable front pocket, Tow-compatible, Style points.

Cons: Side buckle location a little awkward, Fleece hand warmer too small, No VHF pocket, No dedicated lash point for knife.

Updates: Astral Seawolf PFD Review Update (April 4th, 2013)

Kayak Dave Rating:

For more on the Astral Seawolf check out a great review on the Colorado Kayak Supply Blog

 

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