- ISO Approved
- Olympic Gold Medal cut with clean lined styling
- Tough ripstop Cordura / nylon shell
- Neoprene sides with snag-free concealed side adjustment
- Figure hugging shoulder adjusters with integrated padded covers
- 60-80N of environmentally friendly Gaia soft foam
- Cavernous front pocket, knife pocket and twin karabiner pockets with gear clips and sewn drainage holes
- Integrated shoulder, waist and harness system
- RH and LH quick release D ring for cowstail
- S/M. L/XL. XXL
Your PFD (personal flotation device) is without question one of your most important bits of kits you will buy, and here in Ireland it's a legal requirement. The crazy thing is that for such an important part of a paddlers whitewater arsenal it the often never given a huge amount of consideration until when things go to shit.
I've talked to load of people over the years and the two biggest priorities many seem to have when it comes to a whitewater PFD is the price and does to have a big pocket? Personally I like to look a just a wee bit beyond just those two basic requirements. In the last 12 months I've had three different PFDs and after lots of deliberation I've now settled on the Peak UK River Guide Vest.
After using my trust Astral 300R for longer than was possibly safe the obvious choice for me was was the Astral Green Jacket. Astral make some of the best kit in the world, the designs are awesome, bombproof construction and the company is environmentally ethical. Loads of boxes ticked and the awesomeness of the front flip pocket deserves a special mention it's that good. I'm not too proud to admit that the fact my dry suit and PFD matched was no coincidence. I just loved the features and the design, however try as I may myself and the Green Jacket were just not to last.
It seemed that regardless of what ever combination I adjusted the straps I just could not get it to sit how I wanted to. The Green Jacket just used to creep up my chest and make it awkward and uncomfortable, I asked a few friends with different body types and see what it just my more 'husky' frame causing the issue. I would seem that I wasn't alone in my questioning the fit of the Astral offering, where I was on my own was being willing to consider switching to something else. After all how could a powerhouse like Astral not be the best?
Next up was the Kokatat Maximus Centurion. I was never a huge fan of Kokatat's whitewater vest PFD offerings, but thanks to the patients of Colm and his staff in i-canoe I tried it out in the shop in ever possible position including drinking lots of coffee and I was sold. The Maximus Centurion sounds like the name of a transformer and you certainly feel ready for battle when you wear the thing. The foam is super soft but being Kokatat you know it's going to be tougher than a pair of old boots.
After a few months of usage I the Kokatat's days were numbered though, I felt the larger sizing model I used was almost too big and it always felt up in my neck. This wasn't a total deal breaker because it was so nice to wear, but the 'unique' front pocket and the lack of accessibility to stuff fast sealed it's faith.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to try out next, I was considering something from Palm as they have always made a solid PFD. I just never liked that bulky front wedge of foam their designs seem to have used for the last decade or so. I was Colm who suggested the 2017 Peak Uk River Guide Vest. I had used Peak UK kit for years and always liked it, I just discount it as it didn't have the cool factor of some of the other brands.
Peak UK PFD's from the archives!
Not sure of the year but the boats are Riot Techno / Air 55.
Peak UK was formed back in 1990 when it’s founder Pete Astles was an up and coming slalom racer, funding his sport by working in a local kayak store. He fell ill and could not train for a few months, so became bored. As the products in the store were badly designed and sized poorly he decided to try making some garments of his own. With help from a sewing machinist friend they soon made a prototype jacket and PFD. His fellow slalom racers all wanted these jackets and PFDs, that’s how it all began... Pete borrowed some cash from his father, purchased a sewing machine, some fabric and foam, then learned how to make garments, for the first few years making almost all of them himself, buying new machines and learning how to operate them as he went along. Now 25 years later Peak UK is one of the world’s leading brands of kayaking wear.
That's the history of Peak UK from their own website, to Peak's credit they have been one of the few manufactures who have being pushing the design front in recent years between their leg entry drysuits to their full custom team gear. That said I wasn't sure if their design advancement had crossed over to their new PFD range.
On first looks the Peal UK River Guide Vest looks like a simple solid design, somewhat safe but uninspiring.
Oh how wrong I was!
The devil is in the details and Peak UK have excelled in doing just that.
When you put on the Peak UK Piver Guide Vest it feels totally no fuss, it hasn't got lots of bits hanging off you. But when you start to look around it and investigate it's features it's not got everything you need, it has everything you need in exactly the right place.
It's sung without being cramped, it has a slalom influenced cut which is great and you in no way feel restricted when on the water.
Either side of the front of the vest there are pockets that designed to hold karabiners, they are super easy to access without looking or having to search for them. In the normal course of events you only need karabiners when something hasn't gone to plan, the ability to get what you want without searching through one massive pocket or worrying about spilling the contents of your pocket all over the bank is invaluable. They even include a graphic of a karabiner in the pockets if your the type that needs some guidance on their intended use, they continue this feature in all the other pockets.
As you would expect with this being a full featured white water rescue vest the Peak UK River Guide Vest has in integrated harness with D ring at the rear. If you are the type that uses one of those god-awful cows tails they make it so you can clip your karabiner on your left or right.
The knife pocket is located in center so it's easy to access if you are right or left handed, there is a more than enough room for pretty much any folding river knife and has a clip in point got a lanyard.
The front pocket is awesome, it's truly cavernous! It's divided up nicely so that inside the main pocket there are dived pouches for slings, phone, rescue tape and room for pretty much anything else you might want to carry with you. If I had to criticize it, it might encourage to carry stuff you don't actually need.
Peak do a nice job of beeping things snag free and seamless, the shoulder adjustment slides nicely inside the paddled shoulder straps. I haven't got a great photo of it but the side adjustment is cleverly concealed by neoprene side panels thus reducing potential snag hazards. it works on one pull for a three point side adjustment.
I have to say I'm really impressed with the Peak UK River Guide vest and I can't see me wanting to change it any time soon. It does everything you want and then some. I am really looking forward to using it more now that water has finally arrived in Ireland after the longest dry spell ever.
As an aside to the Peak UK River Guide Vest review, writing this has got me to thinking about how we as paddlers often don't give too much though to the gear we use. It seams to often be the case because that people with stick with a brand just because it's what they are used to, or worse still because they think it looks cool. I'm probably guilty of doing the very same I'll buy a certain thing just because I like the look of it regardless of how well it functions. We wouldn't accept this in other areas of our lives so why be the same when it comes to your kayaking kit?