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Astral Bouyancy 300R WARNING: Belay loop not safe!

by Joe Box

WARNING: Belay loop failure!
WARNING: Belay loop failure, click to
    enlarge! Here is a letter Joe wrote to Astral: Hi Philip. Feel free to check out the review I wrote a couple of months ago of the Aquavest 300 at http://www.open-canoe.de/open-sucks/index.html . Click on "Equipment" on the menu on the left and then follow common sense to the review.

The account of the trip on which the stitching on my belay loop began ripping out is at the same website from above. Click on "BC WW" on the left side menu and then "Braden Creek". Skip the first three paragraphs and start reading at "So we considered..." .

I have attached three photos of the damage to my jacket and want you to know that I do not take the event lightly. I know now that the belay loop is an intrinsic part of the webbing so I was not likely in mortal danger but this fact was surely not evident while I hung 40' above rocks. It was scary and completely unnacceptable in such an otherwise, well-designed piece of gear.

I suspect this email is a welcome one, given that not many people use the belay loop and you don't likely get much feedback on it. I can tell you now that I am not satisfied with your product. I would like to know your feelings on this matter and what you intend to do about it, both for me and for the rest of the people who bought this jacket.

Thanks for responding quickly to this email.

Sincerely, Joe Box

This is my middle-of-the-road review: I am neither delighted nor disappointed with this lifejacket. The Aquavest 300 is the pullover Rescue PFD made by Astral. Since it costs $185 US before tax I would recommend only buying it if you can get a good deal.


Astral 300R, click to
    enlarge! I have paddled the jacket about 10 times now and find it very comfortable. For a rescue vest it is wonderfully low profile, allowing unhindered arm movement. The overall construction is rugged with obviously high-quality stitching and fabric. My favourite innovation is the zipper pouch that holds the pig-tail, cow-tail, monkey-tail, whatever you want to call it. It's never smart to have a length of dangly rope hanging off of your life jacket and I am not sure why so many people think it is a safe practice. The pouch on the Aquavest is easy to access quickly and keeps all the slack rope out of the way.
The vest incorporates a belay loop made of spectra webbing. I am sure this will come in handy a few times in the future. The vest also claims to sport extra impact protection on the sides. I suppose this is true because there is some extra plastic there but the description is a bit misleading. The plastic only covers a few inches of the ribs and seems to serve mostly as part of the adjustment mechanism of the straps. I think Astral just attached the term "impact protection" to appeal to the creeker market. The plastic is necessary to the smooth adjustment of the jacket's size but you would have to be pretty lucky to have it protect your ribs. I have received far more impacts on my shoulders than under my arms. That being said, it doesn't get in the way, doesn't really add any weight, and doesn't hurt to have it there.


Astral 300R, click to
    enlarge! The aspect of the vest that I like least is the hassle of readjusting all the straps every time you put the vest on. A zip-up vest is simpler. Every time you put on the Aquavest you have to tighten four separate straps and every time you take it off you have to loosen these four straps. Since my drysuit does not have a pee zipper this is a pain in the ass because I wind up taking off the vest a few times every trip depending on the size of the drops we're going to run.
The jacket is pretty expensive at $185 US. The only way I allowed myself the purchase was by getting a pretty good deal from an American friend. Overall, the jacket is well constructed and comfortable if cumbersome to get in and out of. It is very low profile and incorporates many well-constructed safety features. The only aspect I have not tested out is the buoyancy, and I don't intend to anytime soon.
Astral 300R, click to

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