The Battle For a Better PFD
The Battle For a Better PFD
New low-bulk PFD designs, while popular overseas, won’t pass U.S. Coast Guard muster. But that’s not stopping sailors from making the switch. "New Gear" from our May 2011 issue.
Rooster Black Diamond
The Rooster Black Diamond buoyancy aid is a no-nonsense, utilitarian vest that, perhaps as a result, came in well below the prices of the other buoyancy aids we looked at. Rooster offers a wide range of sizes and styles. The men’s sizes include adjustable shoulder and side straps and a large, oval-shaped pocket in the chest area. Women’s sizes are similar to the men’s except that they include a two-part front panel design, with top and bottom panels, to better accommodate a woman’s physique. A single junior size is designed with a waist-cinching webbing belt and front vertical zipper for easy entry and access. Retail: $63.86 and $47.95 (Junior).
Rooster Black Diamond Comments
Men’s model: “It was a good size, well made, and the pocket in front was big enough that I could easily carry the VHF radio there.”
Women’s model: “I like the neoprene they put over the buckles so they don’t catch on things at the shoulder and waist. I do the bow, and I actually felt comfortable having it on when I was up there. Very comfortable, not hot, and it didn’t restrict my motion. I felt it actually made me sit up a little straighter. In the past, the jackets I used caught on the boom and other things. With this one, nothing.”
The Spinlock Zero flotation aid is a departure from the more traditional-looking vests in that it was designed for keelboat sailors. That being said, it probably still has a place aboard some dinghies. The Spinlock has a much longer front to provide some padding when hiking out over lifelines. It’s a snug-fitting vest, and you can wear it under a dry top instead of over it. The lower part of the vest is separate from the top, which prevents it from restricting movement as you twist and turn your torso. A unique Velcro system for adjusting the fit at waist level coupled with the front zipper makes this vest easy to get in and out of. It has a ribbed section on the inside of the back to facilitate ventilation, a layer of rubber tape on the bottom inside of the vest to prevent it from riding up, hand-warmer pockets, and small stash pockets above those. Retail: $125.
Spinlock Zero Comments
“Definitely not a dinghy-style lifejacket. It’s long on the bottom of the front and high on the top, so when you crouch way over, such as in a hike, the top part is forced up into your throat area. But it’s very comfortable and compact for keelboat sailing, with lots of great features: pockets, a unique waist adjustment, and lightweight feel. It’s great for hiking on boats with lifelines.”
Zhik’s pull-on flotation aid is filled with closed-cell foam. A rubber strip on the inside of the lower section prevents the vest from riding up. To avoid catching on the boom when tacking or jibing, especially on dinghies, the top back edge of the vest is tapered. In keeping with the notion that fewer buckles means less to snag, the only buckle on the Zhik is on the side. There is a pocket in front, large enough to carry a small bottle of sunscreen or a multi-purpose tool. The pocket is located high enough that anything you might carry in it will not impede movement. Retail: $119.
Zhik PFD Comments
“Very easy to put on and take off, lightweight, and easy to move around in. It tended to ride up a little bit, so I felt like I had to keep pulling it down. The pocket was too small for a VHF radio, but would be great for a few nutritional bars. Overall, it was really good.”