Featuring multiple pockets and numerous attachment points, the NRS cVest PFD is a life jacket purpose-built for sea kayakers.
Read and submit reviews for the NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD.
400-denier ripstop nylon
I've worn this PFD vest for several years now on day trips and mutli-day tours. It's comfortable, functional and durable. The C-Vest may not be as "sleek" as some others (the foam is a bit square-cut rather than tapered) but it works well, has ample pockets and lash points, and is generally comfortable. The radio pocket work for both my marine VHF and my GPS unit.
I love this PFD... the back is high enough to clear the high back in my kayak, and my short torso. It has good pockets, allows free movement, and is comfortable. The pockets combined with the high back and availability of a very small size (see later) were what convinced me to choose this one. I would have liked a female-cut PFD, but absolutely nothing that met my needs was out there - high back, adequate pockets, decent colors, small enough.
I do wish it came in more colors (particularly 2 tone) and that there were more sizes: XS - medium is crazy and I have TONS of extra webbing everywhere because I have it cinched down about as much as is possible.
This PFD is exactly what I was looking for. The right amount of pockets, the design is comfortable and functional. The color is visible from across the water (according to my fishing buddies), which was a big deal for me being I'm in a kayak. I highly recommend this PFD for its comfort and design.
Like others here, I got this vest because it offers clearance for a high seat back. I find it uncomfortable to have PFD padding between my back and the seat back and this vest solves that problem nicely. But it also has other positive attributes. For one, it's quite light. For another, even here in the heat of Central Texas it manages to breathe pretty well and doesn't feel as hot as some vests (that might not be a plus if you live in a colder climate). I found the attachment points on the back of the vest to work well - I have a knife (Gerber River Shorty) on one, and an LED strobe on the other - both easily accessible by reaching over my shoulder. They are out of the way and I don't notice them at all under way. There are two fairly large semi-circular pockets under the two radio pockets on the front. I keep whistle, mirror and paddling gloves in one, camera (old Kodak play sport) in the other. They hold more than you'd think; my cell phone would fit too if needed but I keep it in a Pelican case. I have a small pair of binoculars in one of the radio pockets, and a radio (Standard Horizon HX 870) in the other. The HX 870 is a pretty huge radio yet it still fits well. All in all, this vest is working perfectly for me - my usage is in a Tarpon 140 on lakes and rivers, rarely on salt water. My only complaint is the color schemes. I got the red with orange zippers, and while I've gotten used to it, I'd have much preferred a solid safety orange. The alternative is a high visibility green, but I just couldn't get into that.
The NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD is "purpose built for sea kayakers."
There is a lot of freedom of movement for the shoulders due to narrow straps and wide arm openings. Also, the foam is fairly high up the back, meaning the kayak seat supports your back directly, not through the FPD. If your kayak fits you well and the seat suits the contours of your back, that is a good thing. But I have a friend that prefers to have the foam lower as a seat-back cushion.
I'd prefer if high viz orange was one of the color choices. If you ever have to bail, the highest visibility possible is best.
Mesh back keeps the vest from riding up if you have a high back rest type kayak seat. Pockets, pockets, pockets...room for all I need. Comfortable shoulder straps and a bright color to warn the motor heads I'm on or in the water. Great stitching and over all construction. Highly recommended.
Whether paddling our sit-on-top or our sit-inside kayak, it was quickly apparent that a mesh-back vest was going to be an improvement over the life vests we currently owned. Our previous life vest purchases had been made before we got into kayaking. They were the type most often used for boating and water skiing, and the back flotation reached all the way to one's waist and under the arms on both sides. That made for uncomfortable paddling, with the back causing a problem wiht seat-backs, and the underarm flotation portions causing chafing.
I chose the NRS cVest for a number of paddling-related features, including the mesh back, no underarm flotation pads, and pockets for all the incidentals one might want to hand when paddling. As there is also a fair amount of powerboat traffic from fishing pangas, seadoos, and "banana boat" rides here in San Felipe, the available high-visibility orange color was a plus.
I'm on the water in an Eddyline Equinox as many days each week as sea-conditions allow, paddling anywhere from 3-6 miles each trip. The NRS cVest has been comfortable in all conditions in which I have used it, making it no hardship at all to wear. The various pockets on the version which I own (which is somewhat different from the new 2018 version) provide space for items like a whistle, a signalling mirror, sunglasses and snacks. The radio pocket works well for a handheld FRS or Marine radio. My particular vest is a L/XL size, and there's a ton of adjustment available even for guys significantly larger than my 6 feet (183 cm) and 195 pounds (88.5 kg).
The rear flotation pad sits high on the back, and the absence of side flotation means there's nothing to chafe while paddling. It's easy to adjust the vest, unassisted, once it's on. The mesh area of the back provides for plenty of clearance for a variety of seat types. The only thing that was 'missing' in this version was padding under the shoulder straps, but that's a minor quibble, as I'm not finding that the straps chafe or dig in. When correctly adjusted I haven't found the cVest to ride up in front while out of the water, even for an old guy like me who has developed a bit of a gut.
In my informal "pool test" of the vest, there's a slight tendency for it to ride up a bit in the front. Other than that, it felt very secure, aided a good floating position and it held me up nicely. Buoyancy should be even better out in the salt water of the bay.
I haven't yet tested using the 4-way lash-tab attachment point on the front, nor the beacon attachment point on the rear.
I would (and have!) recommended this vest to friends.
The new (2018) version of the vest has significant differences in the pockets, added a number D-rings and now includes some padding under the shoulder straps. It's also lost the bottom front buckle, and gone to a different style of lash-tab. I'm sorry to see there's no designated radio pocket. The basic design of the vest is, overall the same. I expect it will perform equally well.