Unfortunately, after 15 years of continuous kayaking wear, mildew is its only major issue. I am about to replace it for next spring with a similar product, the Kokatat Outfit Tour PFD which has updated pockets but I am sure it won't be as comfortable and secure as my Lotus Strait Jacket. I never purchased the tow attachment system for it, but carry climbing rope in my Boreal kayak just in case. Too bad they are not producing it anymore at Patagonia.
As an added bonus to Star Wars fans, it makes me feel a little like a rebellion x-wing pilot when I suit up and get ready to 'yak!
To those who complain about the radio pocket not being secure, mine has never fallen out even after doing 20 rolls in sucession. Put something else in there and it ought to be in a waterproof case, bag, or box.
To those who complain about the belt fastener system not being the size of their rescue system - Make an adapter or buy something else and be sorry. Less than 0.5% of sea kayakers carry a tow belt. Spend less time gripeing and learn how to roll or self rescue so you won't be the towee. I carry a "turkey catcher" which has worked without fail to rescue others from the Chattoga and Colorado to Nantucket harbor and I have yet to hear complaints about its not being a standardized type from those I rescue.
To those of you who use carbon carbon paddles and appreciate them to the point of never wanting to use anything else - this is the carbon carbon vest of PFD's. Bombproof and comfortable enough to forget you have it on.
This is a purist vest with all the necessary features for the ocean and no added features that you won't need. The front zip may not be as "cool" as the Locean's side pull and the lack of 3-way split padding not as flattering, but those are also features that may annoy the purist.
No ride up. Huge range of motion. Major ability to adjust the fit. Bomber is all respects.
In the end, one full price Lotus is worth 3 crap designs on closeout.
FYI- Just ask Patagonia for free shipping if you order direct. Since you can't buy them or try first, they will usually say yes for the Lotus line.
The 8 adjustment straps have lots of play to deal with odd body shapes. The waist strap is housed in a nice neoprene sleeve, offering grippiness to help keep the vest down. However, I would suggest that instead of the 1" strap, a 1.5" or 2" waist strap to help grip the waist and spread the pressure out. One minor gripe would be the addition of a small break in the neoprene in the centre-back of the waist-strap. This would allow the use of a crotch strap running from centre-back to centre-front for those that felt they don’t want to fall out of the PFD under any circumstances.
There is plenty of reflective tape, including reflective piping around the perimeter of the front of the vest. One minor gripe would be lack of reflective tape on the front of the shoulder straps. It all seems to be angled up or backwards. There is a strobe lash-tab on the back of the left shoulder, a very nice touch.
The chest lash-tab is in a slightly odd place. Granted, there are only so many places to put it, but for those that want to dangle a knife off of it, it may interfere with the zipper, and/or tow-belt.
The pockets are good, but not without flaws. They drain very well, and are of adequate size to handle some flares, compass, energy bars, even a small VHF if you really pack it all in there. Each pocket has internal D-rings for lashing items in. However, the sealing of the pockets caused an issue with me. The left-hand pocket, the larger of the two, closed well with a single strap and buckle. However, the buckle is offset towards centre substantially, leaving the left side of the pocket vulnerable to possibly having items slide out if inverted. More obvious is the right pocket, smaller, and more appropriate size for energy bars, compass, perhaps a GPS. The pocket will stretch out considerably allowing you to stuff lots of stuff inside. It also seals with a zipper, which provides secure protection. However, a substantial sewn-down flap covers the zipper. This interferes with the zipper, choking off the opening, making it difficult to retrieve or stow larger items, or get more than two fingers inside the pocket. I am not sure why the flap needs to be there, to stop the rain? Seems an odd design idea for a mesh pocket where only waterproof items should be anyhow. This silly pocket design cost Lotus a couple points with my review.
Another major gripe is the belt-loops that accommodate the tow-belt system. For whatever reason, Lotus has opted to use a 1.5” tow-belt. This is fine, except most tow-belts you will find are 2”. This is an obvious concern since you are basically required to buy a Lotus tow-belt, or find a manufacturer that also uses a 1.5” belt. The fact that most tow-belts and rescue hardware gravitate towards the 2” standard should be reason enough for Lotus to pick 2” belt-loops instead of 1.5”, if only to keep the user’s options open. What are you going to do when someone tosses you a tow-belt in a rescue situation and it turns out to be the standard 2” belt? Say “sorry, my PFD insists on 1.5” hardware. Could you get someone else to rescue you, or invest in 1.5” hardware first?” Points lost here too.
All and all a very nice PFD. It would have gotten great marks overall if it had not been for the two silly gaffs, the silly covered-zipper pocket, and the 1.5” belt-loops. If you can see past these two annoyances, this will be a good PFD for you.
I've got a Lotus Designs EFT pack on order, which will greatly enhance the storage capacity. The EFT is a pack that clips onto the back of the PFD, with pockets for extra clothing (or survival gear), a hydration pocket, and a horizontal pocket for a throwbag or tow rope.
The Strait Jacket is very comfortable for wearing all day. The adjustment range is such that I can wear it over just a light shirt in hot weather or over a wet suit and dry top and fleece in the winter and it comfortable either way. It has 16.2 lbs. (if I remember correctly) of floatation.