“The Greenjacket represents the most innovative and comfortable rescue vest to date. Featuring a freestyle tectonic front panel, large clamshell pocket with multiple compartments, added back protection, fleece hand-warmer and a variety of safety features, this jacket is the top choice for river guides and expedition paddlers alike.” – Astral Buoyancy
- PFD Type: USCG approved Type 5 (Rescue)
- Style: Pull-over, Unisex
- Designed flotation: 16.4lbs
- Weight: 2lbs, 1oz
- Tow compatible: Yes (included)
- Pockets: x3 (large front, x2 small side)
- Sizes (Chest): S/M (31”-37”), M/L (38”-44”), L/XL (45”-51”)
- Colors: Green/Black, Blue/Black, and Limited Edition (LE7)
- MSRP $239.95
The Astral Greenjacket has been considered by many paddlers to be the best Type V PFD on the market ever since its inception in the whitewater world. It’s the life jacket that all other lifejackets are compared to. Why is the Greenjacket so great? The answer is simple; the Greenjacket has the best fit, function, and features that a lifejacket can offer!
First things first: The Fit… I’ve worn the 2013 Greenjacket almost exclusively throughout the summer when instructing my sea kayaking and SUP classes and I have absolutely fallen in love with the fit and feel of this PFD! It all starts with the foam “tectonic” construction and the way that this design allows the jacket to interface so seamlessly with the paddling motion. I especially like how the inner panel sits just below the pecs and stays locked in to the lower part of your torso. This cut allows the jacket is move with you rather than you rotating inside of it. The separate outer front panel helps to prevent that constricted feeling that many of us have become accustomed to with our other PFDs. This is especially good news for women who appreciate a little more room up top!
The time and thought that the designers put into the selection of materials in the Greenjacket is evidenced in this rugged and comfortable PFD. The outer shell is made of rugged 500 Denier Cordura fabric which has held up without any signs of wear after a full season of abuse. The liner is made of a lighter 200 Denier Nylon fabric that doesn’t chafe the skin or create wear on your paddling attire. Astral also made the decision to go with Gaia foam for the buoyancy panels. Many of the benefits of Gaia foam can be attributed to its low apparent density which reduces weight while retaining softness and providing excellent insulation. Couple this with the “enhanced flotaction” and the Greenjacket become more than a PFD; it’s also serves as a sort of body armor against the cold water and any punches you may take along the way. I had the misfortune of being inadvertently dropped in on by a paddling partner and I’m very thankful that I had the Greenjacket on at the time. It was a hard T-bone and I’m pretty confident that the protection provided by this life jacket prevented bruised ribs or worse!
More than a few sea kayakers in my circle have balked at the Greenjacket due to the pull-over entry. I agree that many things about PFDs are a matter of preference and Astral has the Seawolf in their lineup for folks who prefer a side-entry vest. However, the Seawolf (a Type III PFD) is NOT the Greenjacket (a Type V PFD). In this case, I really appreciate the pull-over design based on the Greenjacket’s intended use as a rescue vest. There are no buckles or zippers on this PFD that could fail you in that inopportune moment when you’re relying on the integrity of your chest harness. The 8-point “true-torso adjustment system opens up wide enough for easy entry/exit while providing plenty of adjustment for a secure fit. Also, I’ve never had it loosen up on me when the harness is under load. In general, the Green jacket fits true to size but make sure to consider what you’re likely to be wearing for paddling attire and try one on before committing to a size.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to rely on the Greenjacket for any sort of swift-water rescue but I have relied on it quite a bit for towing clients in various situations. The integrated chest harness feels super solid when you have someone under tow. Furthermore, the position of the tow harness over the thick lower front panel helps to make this unenviable task more bearable. The Greenjacket comes with a quick-release harness that feeds through dedicated loops in the PFD. (The Seawolf also has these loops but the harness is as additional $32.00 option.) The quick release buckle sits out of the way on the right side of the outer front pocket. I’ve tested the quick release system on a few occasions and it has always released seamlessly on demand when the two-line is under tension. Another great safety feature (unique to the Greenjacket) is the spectra safety loop which could come in very handy should you need to set up a horizontal belay or to set up an anchor.
Finally, the Greenjacket has every feature that a serious sea kayaker would look for in a PFD except for a dedicated radio pocket. One of the best features on this jacket is the large clam shell front pocket. This pocket opens wide to accommodate larger items and contains a few sleeves and an internal pocket for further organization. Behind the clam shell you’ll find a place to store Astral’s Spectra throw rope and a nice fleece lining to warm your hands on those chilly days. On the front of the clam shell you’ll find a handy knife lash point and a buttoned loop to secure the carabineer on your towline for quick access. Astral’s webtoe Dynema towline stows nicely in either of the two small, zippered side pockets. I’m also fond of the color selection for the 2013 Greenjacket. The green-on-black version is particularly striking and highly visible to others on the water. If you really want to treat yourself then see if you can get your hands on the new Limited Edition Greenjacket (LE7)!
The Bottom Line: The Greenjacket is the best Type 5 PFD available for kayakers of all interests and I’m very lucky to have one. The fit of this PFD is truly exceptional thanks to Astral’s unique tectonic construction that interfaces so seamlessly with the paddling motion. The Greenjacket has earned it’s stripes on the river but I’ve also found it to be a truly functional Type V PFD for the serious sea kayaker. Don’t balk at the pull-over entry as the integrated chest harness makes the Greenjacket a super-solid tool for towing and the enhanced flotaction will protect you against the bumps that you’ll take in the rock garden. Finally, the Greenjacket is packed full of great accessory features including the large clam shell pocket, cleaver rope storage options, and high-visibility colors! Be comfortable, be safe, be epic, and look cool while doing it with the Greenjacket!
Happy Paddling and Always Wear Your PFD!
Pros: Excellent fit, integrated harness, large “clam shell” pocket, high-vis color options.
Cons: Still looking for that radio pocket…