REVIEW: The 2018 NRS cVest Lifejacket

NRS cVest Review Payne OutdoorsAs a kayak angler, I have frequently discovered products made for a slightly different purpose that works pretty well for what I am needing. The NRS cVest is the most recent of those. The cVest is designed as a high back pfd for sea kayakers and touring kayaks but it turns out it’s a good fit for the specs that lots of us fishing out of kayaks want and need.

On the review block today is the NRS cVest, a $120 pfd. The cVest comes in two colors, Lime and Red, has six adjustment points for fit, has two clamshell pockets, and two full-length pockets. It also posts lots of adjustment points, a full front zipper, and as we mentioned earlier, a mesh back for ventilation. For a little more on the cVest, check out this video:

 

From NRS Regarding the cVest

Featuring multiple pockets and numerous attachment points, the NRS cVest PFD is a life jacket purpose-built for sea kayakers.

  • The NRS cVest is a Type III, medium profile life jacket with 16.5 pounds of flotation.
  • Designed specifically for touring, the high-back flotation accommodates most sea kayaking seats and the mesh lower back adds welcome ventilation during long days on the water.
  • Two lash tabs and numerous d-rings offer endless opportunities for attaching a rescue knife, strobe, whistle and other accessories.
  • Reflective patches on the upper back are also attachment loops.
  • Two large zippered pockets and two small, dual-entry clamshell pockets provide multiple storage options.
  • Six adjustment points for a customizable fit and front-entry zipper for easily slipping the jacket on and off.
  • 400 denier ripstop nylon fabric resists tears and abrasion.
  • 3M reflective accents throughout the jacket for added visibility in low-light conditions.
  • The cVest carries the US Coast Guard Certification through testing by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Features:
  • 3M Reflective Accents
  • Numerous d-rings to attach accessories
  • 2 Lash tabs for a knife and strobe
  • Two strobe attachment loops on the upper back
  • 3 1/2″W x 7″L x 1 1/2″D VHF radio pockets
  • US Coast Guard Certification
NRS cVest Review Payne Outdoors
The NRS cVest has four pockets, six adjustment points, tons of attachment points, and even 3M reflective material for hi-vis applications.

The Good in the NRS cVest

The biggest surprise with the cVest was the size of the clamshell pockets. I can fit my Samsung S7 Active in one of them and zip it closed without issue. That’s a great feature for me, especially when fishing tournaments. If you have a big phone or maybe a bulky case, the full-length pocket will suffice to store your phone on you but secure. I also really appreciated the double pull zippers on the pockets.

The back of the cVest has high flotation and then a ventilated mesh back. That low back sweat that leads to swamp butt for us bigger guys is lessened quite a bit. With all the frame style seats now, this becomes even more important. You don’t want a full back of foam pushing you forward all day.

A technical feature that is pretty cool is the foam for flotation. In almost every pfd I’ve tried, including some previous NRS models, the foam flotation is a big piece of foam for each side and the back. The new NRS cVest uses a new technology they developed using multiple sheets of thin foam which can slide around and adjust better to your body. This cuts down on the bulk and makes a more custom fit lifejacket adding even more comfort to your hours on the water.

NRS cVest Review Payne Outdoors
Check out that back sweat limitation feature on the NRS cVest

 

Points of Improvement

As a guy who often has people try out my gear and even loans it out, I’d love to see this vest in a Universal fit instead of the XS/M, L/XL, and XL/XXL. This would mean longer adjustment straps but the cVest already has a strap management system built in for the shoulders. Add the same thing to the sides and it would be golden for almost all the sizes.

I’d love to see the four-way attachment point for a knife on the clamshell pocket. With the current configuration, the knife would always have to be vertical or be attached somewhere else. I know a few guys who really prefer a horizontal knife to keep the handle from being to close to their face. Not everyone is rocking a short-handled knife like the Co-Pilot.

While visibility is the apparent reasoning behind the red and lime colorways, I’d really like to see a blue, orange, olive, or even a black be added to the lineup. Right now it’s Ironman or Hulk. Give us a little Captain America or New Lightning Thor colorway.

NRS cVest Review Payne Outdoors
The backview of the NRS cVest showing off that mesh back.

Final Thoughts

The comfort of this vest is the best of any foam vest I’ve worn. It’s great for those of us in the South, doesn’t overheat the paddler, and has storage that is ample. Will the kayak fishing market adopt it as well as the CHinook, we’ll have to see, but for those wanting a great fit and all the other features listed above, this is a great bet.

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