Palm refers to the Kaikoura Tour Buoyancy Aid as “A front zipped expedition level touring PFD – packed with features and storage space – which uses Palm’s Flex Formed Foam system.” Whilst it certainly looks the part on the brochures and adverts – does it live up to the hype?

If the answer to this was judged by demand and lack of availability you would certainly think so. During the summer I contacted a number of retailers to try and source a Kaikoura Tour to no avail. Forum posts abound on well known sea kayaking blogs bemoaning the lack of availability. However, the good news is that they are coming back into stock and are well worth a look.


Kaikoura Tour - Unzipped

The Kaikoura Tour is a shorter cut buoyancy aid, with quite a bulbous look at the front due to reasonably large foam buoyancy and an excess of pockets. However, do not be fooled by appearances – once on the buoyancy aid does not feel large and bulbous. The cut of the Kaikoura gives excellent freedom around the shoulders/arms allowing you to move freely.

Adjustment comes in the form of a waist and midrift straps as well as shoulder adjustment. This is easy to access and adjust wearing the buoyancy aid. A front zip design allows the Kaikoura to me removed on the water, to remove a layer of clothing for example.


Kaikoura Tour - Right Pocket

There have been many discussions on Sea Kayaking forums regarding the Kaikoura’s zip and corrosion, however it is important to note that the design has been updated with a plastic zip and this problem addressed.

Storage on the Kaikoura is superb and one of features that has led to the praise within the sea kayaking community. The front of the Kaikoura has four pockets along with fleece lined hand warmers and a whistle pocket.

The two main pockets contain pouches and key clips. The smaller front bellows pockets also contain key clips and allow storage of smaller items.


Kaikoura Tour - Left Pocket

The right main pocket has an aerial slot to allow a vhf to be stored. To my mind it provides a secure place to store the radio and listen in to radio traffic but I would be concerned about accidental button presses switching channels (I tend to monitor channels 16 & 67 on dual watch).

I currently have my iCom radio under the deck lines in a waterproof bag but would like to keep the deck clearer and keep the radio on my person. time will tell if this is front pocket is the perfect solution.

The left pocket is a more straight forward double pocket – one larger top/side entry and one smaller front entry. The larger is a great size for snacks, penknife on a lanyard and other items you wish to keep on your person.

Both left and right pockets had a reflective patch on them – an increasingly common addition to paddling kit and useful for dawn/dusk and night paddlers.


Kaikoura Tour - Back

The back of the Kaikoura has a larger pocket – obviously designed for a water bladder. The shoulder straps contain loops to keep the drinking tube organised. However, the pocket is also a perfect size for flares or other larger items. This pocket has an over the shoulder opening strip.

To round off the pockets, the right shoulder has a ‘strobe’ pocket with d-ring and whistle already attached. This is ideal for those who carry the smaller torch/strobe devices for night time or emergency situations.

Final, the Kaikoura has an flat, inside back pocket which I currently do not have a plan for – however there are suggestions floating about on the UKSRG forums.

The Kaikoura fits very comfotably and when packed is seems as if it will be functional and provide easy access to key items. I look forward to more detailed testing and will report back after a period of sustained use. if you are a Kaikoura user, let me know how you have found it!

Palm Kaikoura Tour from Palm – available from Bournemouth canoes, Woodmill and other stockists.
Features include:

• Palm Flex formed foam cut-wraps around torso
• Vent mesh lining and neoprene under arm patches
• Palm 3D ‘anti ride-up’ waist system
• YKK front zip entry with closure cover
• Easy Glide™ strap adjustment throughout
• 3M® reflective panels on shoulders, front and rear panels
• Large rear cargo pocket with over shoulder opening tab
• Double front cargo pockets with internal compartments, attachment points and VHF aerial slot
• Shoulder ‘strobe’ pocket with whistle and D ring
• Hydration bladder storage guides and park
• Front and rear lash tabs

Fabrics: Cordura® 550D Ripstop
Colour: Blue / Grey, Red / Grey
Code: BA325
Size options: XS-S (60N) / M-L (70N) / XL-XXL (70N)