Astral Greenjacket Rescue PFD
Size Tested: Large
Reviewer info: 5’10, 170 lbs.
Buoyancy: 16.4 lbs.
Days Tested: 28
Test Conditions & Locations: Big Water (Highwater Robe Canyon); Creeking (Gore Canyon, Tye River); Playboating (Colorado River, Skykomish River); Rivers and Creeks in Norway
This past year, Astral decided to give a facelift to their popular Greenjacket rescue PFD. I have been getting out in the new Greenjacket in a variety of conditions this spring, and I’ve been impressed. As an avid expedition creek boater, I was a big fan of the original Greenjacket, and everything I liked about that version is found on this new version, and then some.
At $240, the Greenjacket is a little more expensive than other top-end rescue vests on the market like the Kokatat Ronin Pro ($235), Kokatat Maximus Prime ($220), and the Stohlquist Descent ($225). However, the Greenjacket has an awesome set of features and a more customizable fit than these other PFDs, so I think it can be well worth the extra cash.
Fit and Comfort
I’m a fairly slim 5’10”, and the Greenjacket in a M/L size fits me very comfortably.
The Greenjacket is a pullover-style PFD, which can make things difficult for those with shoulder injuries and / or wide shoulders and chests because you have to raise your arms up over your head and wiggle into the vest to put it on. For what it’s worth, I personally prefer using a pullover vest instead of a side entry vest since I can put it on without having to refasten my rescue belt and tether for every session. I just slip it on, cynch a couple of straps, and I’m ready to paddle.
The fit of the Greenjacket is so comfortable in part because it is highly customizable. The outer front panel of the vest is allowed to move independently of the inner panel, which stays anchored below the chest. Astral calls this their “freestyle tectonic front panel” and it gives the two straps on the front (not the shoulders) of the vest a wide range of adjustability. My hunch is that women will also appreciate this feature, as it will allow for a more easily customizable fit around the bust than other unisex vests. (As far as I know, the Maximus Prime from Kokatat is the only other high-end rescue vest to feature similar technology, although Kokatat calls it their “Dynamic Suspension System (DSS).”)
I spent my fall and winter season testing out the significantly less expensive, minimalist NRS Zen Rescue PFD ($190), and the Greenjacket’s moving front panel makes for a far more customizable fit than the Zen’s. The Kokatat Ronin Pro and Stohlquist Descent (which are much closer in price to the Greenjacket) also lack this useful feature. Paddlers using the Zen, Ronin, or Descent must rely on adjustable shoulder straps to tweak the fit, which is more easily achieved with Astral’s system. The Greenjacket also has three straps on each side of the torso that provide a good snug fit, and don’t seem to come loose throughout a day of paddling. These side straps, when loosened up, make it easy to take off the jacket at the end of the day.
I’ve also really enjoyed the freedom of movement the Greenjacket allows while paddling, due in part to it’s relatively low-profile design. The new Greenjacket feels like it has a slightly lower-profile fit than its predecessor and its competitors, particularly with less material at the front of the jacket, over your chest. This could be due to the fact that it has anywhere from a half pound to a full pound less buoyancy than the other rescue PFD’s listed in this review. Even so, I have hopped in the water to swim a few class III and class IV rapids in the Greenjacket, and never felt like it lacked buoyancy in aerated and turbulent waters.
The Greenjacket may also feel like it has a lower-profile fit because a generous amount of foam material is placed around the sides of the vest, wrapping around the torso. Another potential advantage to this design (vs. that of the Zen, for example) is that the material on the sides of the vest could cushion my ribs and abdomen during a big impact with a rock, tree, or another boater in a boater X race. Still, the material at my sides does not interfere with paddling, and feels less bulky than the sides of the Kokatat Maximus Prime do.