The PFD market for SUP is expanding, with more products available for the safety conscious paddler to consider. This month SUPboarder looks at SUP PFDs from either end of the price range, the Nookie Traveller II at £29.99 and the Mystic Endurance Floatation Vest at £89.99.
As with all devices of this type both are buoyancy aids, not life jackets. They are intended for paddlers in sheltered waters where a bulky device would impede movement possibly creating a more dangerous situation. Both PFDs are certified to ISO 12402-5 which is for 50N general usage devices.
In the water both kept the 100 kg tester afloat quite happily in calm conditions.
Nookie Traveller PFD – £29.99
Described by Nookie as an ‘All round recreational choice’ the Traveller is the cheapest PFD that we’ve seen at SUPboarder but that doesn’t mean that it is in any way inferior to other floatation devices. As any good PFD should be the Nookie is ISO certified to ISO 12402-5, see our earlier PFD test on the importance of the ISO.
The Traveller has a chunky zip at the front and has adjustment at the shoulders, waist and sides making it easy to get put on and then to get a good fit. The cut around the shoulders isn’t as good as others tested in this size but that in no way restricts movement or function. This is a PFD that definitely puts function over form and does well at that. The Traveller is only available in three sizes, the L/XL that we have on test was in-line with the size guide on the Nookie website and fitted our tester well.
In use, the dark red Nookie feels tough, the Cordura outer having a very workman like feel to it in contrast to the lightweight nylon typically used by other manufacturers. The colour chosen should continue to look good regardless of what any user does to it maybe at the expense of visibility, a brighter colour would make the wearer more visible but Nookie have added some reflective details to counter that, very useful if out after dark under torchlight but not so useful in low light. The straps used are wide and have chunky rubber tabs at the end making them easy to pull tight even with wetsuit gloves on. The buckles are also chunky, do you see a theme here?!, and again are easy to adjust on the water.
The Nookie lacks in features, and this is reflected in the low price. There is a single front pocket that has a single attachment ring inside it, there is no way to carry any hydration with this pack. One feature that is unique in our experience of floatation devices is the ability to remove the foam panels to wash the vest.
What’s it like in the water?
It works, when adjusted properly it doesn’t ride up at all. The material doesn’t hold any water and the single pocket has a drain hole, any water that gets past the zip quickly drains away.
Pros – Cheap, chunky and purposeful. ISO certified
Cons – Lack of pockets and only three sizes.
It would be hard to go wrong with this PFD. It is inexpensive, well made and chunkier than the reviewer. It should last forever. If it fits you and you can live with the single pocket and don’t need to carry a liquid then it’s pretty much unbeatable.
Mystic Endurance Floatation Vest – £79.99
The Endurance is a good looking bit of kit and although described as a flotation vest it is ISO certified to 12402-5, this is the same level of certification as PFDs that SUPboarder have tested and we have therefore reviewed it in the same way.
Made from a combination of dark grey, black and bright yellow panels this is a stylish and visible garment. There are no reflective details but at night the yellow panels should stand out under torch light. The Endurance is available in 6 sizes making it easy to get the right size for any paddler and the XL was a good fit on our tester.
Unusually this PFD has no zip fastening, to put it on you pull it over your head and arms. There are straps to adjust the fit at the shoulders and the sides which are covered to give this PFD a tidy look but in use these do interfere with fine tuning fit on the water.
The Endurance has a pocket on the back panel for a hydration bladder and, unusually one is supplied. The bladder pocket has no visible drainage, water collects in it after a swim and drains slowly through the material. The bladder pocket has a long, narrow zipped pocket which has a large drain and there is a bungee cord to stash bulky items like a windproof top. Of course neither the zipped pocket or bungee are accessible when wearing the vest and taking it off on the water to use them defeats the point of wearing it. There is a small pocket on the chest panel that, like the bladder pocket has no visible drainage and it lacks an anchor point within it. The final feature is an elasticated loop on the left side of the PFD, not really sure what it’s for as it isn’t strong enough to be a paddle holder but if you need an elastic loop it’s there for you.
In use the Mystic disappointed, not only is it awkward to put on when loaded with a full bladder but there is a significant issue with fit when paddling. The omission of any waist strap means that the side straps have to be done up tightly to ensure that the PFD stays in place when you fall in the water. Having the strap so tight can make it uncomfortable to paddle in, particularly when getting a move on. Loosening the side straps makes the PFD less effective when you fall in the water. Having said that if the design works for you then the pull over style does make for a comfortable paddle because there is less bulk at the front.
The pocket at the rear is small and will take nothing larger than the 1l bladder supplied, there is a velcro closure to keep things neat and tidy and a plastic clip inside to hold the bladder upright, sadly the clip does not fit the bladder supplied. The bite valve has a guard fitted, a nice idea borrowed from sports where bite valves can get mucky but we had to remove it as it is too big to go through any of the guide holes designed to feed the hose over the left shoulder, there is no option to route the house to the right. A tiny niggle but there’s no reason not to have guides on both sides. There is an elasticated loop positioned centrally on the chest that can be used to stop the hose from moving around when paddling.
What’s it like in the water?
It works but did ride up further than any other PFD that SUPboarder have tested. Having said that it did keep the tester afloat as expected. Once back on our feet it was noticeable that water took longer to drain from this PFD than it did from others.
Pros – Good looking low profile flotation vest complete with hydration bladder. ISO certified.
Cons – Lack of a waist strap and the little things that could have been done better.
At £80 this PFD is near the top of the price scale of the floatation devices that we have reviewed and it sadly does not live up to the asking price. The lower profile of this design is noticeable when paddling but the lack of a waist strap means that fit is compromised, to make it comfortable to paddle in makes it slightly less effective in the water and there is no reason to have pockets without drain holes in any garment that is designed to be used on, and in, the water.