Leave it to Astral to come up with yet another “outside of the box” design. The new Astral YTV is a clean looking, ultra light, super low profile, minimalist life vest intended for the core freestyle market. With most of the technology being hidden under the Ripstop nylon exterior, the YTV could accidentally be mistaken for an entry level PFD. Put one on, and you’ll see that it’s clearly not. Yonton Mehler informed us about the technologies used, and all of the cool features that make it an item unique to Astral. Here’s what we learned.
- ULTRA LIGHT: When you pick up the Astral YTV, the first thing that you’ll notice is that it’s very light. I do not think that we have another PFD here at CKS that weighs as little. The YTV still has quite a bit of float (16 lbs) for being so light and low profile.
- TECHNICAL FIT: By far, the biggest feature of the YTV is that it’s a technical fitting jacket delivered in the absolute simplest envelope. This PFD is able to achieve the same fit as previous Astral’s (Willis and Green Jacket) that used the Tectonics core, but with MUCH less material and moving parts, as well as a lower price point. Most of the technology that this jacket has is completely hidden within the Ripstop Nylon exterior. A good example of this is how Astral included the bottom waist belt into the lower adjustment strap. The Astral YTV has 2 lateral adjustment straps on each side, yet offers the support and rigidity of 3. By removing the bottom waist belt, Astral was able to offer a lighter weight, simpler, cleaner PFD, that has the same fit as ones with the extra buckle.
- TORSO LOCK SYSTEM OFFERS PERFECT FIT: The Torso Lock System does just as the name applies; it locks the YTV down onto the rib area just below the pecs, which is the best spot to attach a PFD. The only real way to see how well this system works, is by wearing the jacket and going for a paddle. It just feels right.
- CLEAN, PURIST LOOK (MUCH OF THE TECHNOLOGY IN THIS VEST IS HIDDEN): The first thing that you’ll notice when you look at the YTV, is that it does not have an abundance of pockets, hand warmers, lash tabs, reflective stripes, hydration pockets, etc…It’s got a clean, minimalist look, which we find quite appealing. As previously mentioned above, the appearance of this jacket is a bit deceiving. As with all Astral PFD’s, there is a lot going on in terms of comfort, and using the least amount of moving parts to acquire the best possible fit. The YTV consists of 2 pieces of sculpted foam, that fit amazingly well.
- 100% PVC FREE: In regards to green construction, Astral does all that they can do. The YTV is 100% PVC free. The jacket is constructed with polyethylene foam, which is the cleanest option currently available. Companies like Nalgene use them to build water bottles.There is also some GAIA foam which is similar to PVC, but of course is PVC free as well.
- DEMSHITZ APPROVED: Dave Fusilli’s had the YTV for a while, and had this to say:
My first impression on the YTV was light weight! It’s a very clean looking vest with very easy to use adjustments. There are 2 adjustments on the shoulder straps which I have found once you get them in the right spot for you body your done. These also make it possible to have your vest up or further down on your body depending on preference. Then you have two large straps on both sides by your ribs. Two quick pulls on each side and your in. There is a really nice rib wrap style around your body. This is the thing that separates the YTV from other vests I have used for playboating. The Jacket wraps around your body feels really comfortable and secure. One last feature that I appreciate on the YTV is that it has not one, but two good sized pockets. I’m the type of paddler that needs a skull cap, ear plugs, and sometimes a power bar or something with me at all times. Two pockets is real nice. Demshitz gives the YTV two brown claws up!
- LOW PROFILE IN THE RIGHT SPOTS: Even though the YTV has 16 lbs of float, it has ultra low profile sections of the vest. The top panel of the jacket has been shaved down and will not interfere with the deck of a boat, bow thruster or a paddle blade.
- COOL INTEGRATED WAIST BELT SYSTEM: We already mentioned this point above, but the Astral YTV has a waist belt that is built into the bottom adjustment strap. This is pretty smart for a number of reasons. For starters, it accomplishes the same job as a bottom adjustment strap, but with far less moving parts and less weight. Also, the jacket is able to be shorter in length (there is one less strap). This is particularly good for smaller paddlers who do not have long torso’s.
- PULL OVER DESIGN IS FUNCTIONAL AND SIMPLE: Everyone knows how to put on a pull over PFD right? There are not options like a side entry with this one. Throw the YTV over your shoulders, pull a few straps, and your set. It’s as easy as that.
- AWESOME DESIGN FOR SMALLER PADDLERS: Smaller paddlers will like this jacket. It does not feel like too bulky, and is also relatively short in proportion to how much float it has.
- DURABLE (AND LIGHT): Astral found that using Rip Stop Nylon (instead of a heavier weight material like Cordura) is lighter when dry, and much lighter when wet. People in general spend a lot of money to be as light as possible with high performance sports like kayaking – and the Astral fits right in.
- STORAGE POCKETS: There are 2 good sized storage pockets on each side of the jacket. There was a natural contour in the foam curvature that left an indentation on each side of the front panel. Why not use them as pockets? Astral did just that. The zippered areas are perfect for storing nose or ear plugs, an energy bar, ear buds, sun screen, etc…
- GREAT OFF LABEL USES (River SUP,river surfing, surf kayaking, sailing, ETC): Besides freestyle kayaking, the YTV would make a great life vest for stand up paddling. It allows for a lot of upper mobility which is also essential for SUP. The ultra low profile design, with 16 lbs of float means that a stand up paddler will be able to take quick strokes, and have enough buoyancy when they swim.
- MINIMALIST BY DESIGN MEANS LESS FEATURES:If you are looking for a spot to put a GPS, flare gun, tow tether, hydration pack or throw bag, then this is not the PFD for you. Astral makes the Green Jacket and Sea Wolf for those looking for PFD’s with all kinds of bells and whistles. The YTV, is short(literally), sweet and to the point.
- NICE PFD, NOT A RESCUE VEST: The Astral YTV is not designed to be used as a rescue vest. It’s a core freestyle jacket that’s light and simple. It does happen to offer almost as much float as the Green Jacket(16lbs vs. 16.4lbs), but with less overall protection, and obviously no rescue system.
We agree with Demshitz on this one – 2 thumbs up. At first, the YTV could appear to be a $120 entry level PFD. Upon closer inspection, you will quickly figure out that the is a high performance / technical jacket built with minimalism in mind. The YTV is ultra light, low profile, fits like a glove, and still manages to have 16 lbs of float. If you’re a core freestyle paddler, are in the market for a new PFD and do not want to break the bank, put the YTV up on the top of the list.