I’ve yet to review a badly designed one but have yet to find my ideal buoyancy aid, instead finding various features on each that I would like to combine to create the my perfect Sea Kayaking BA.
That is, however, until I got my hands on the Peak UK Adventure Zip as part of a set for an Ocean Paddler round up review. Could this be the buoyancy aid I have been looking for?
The Peak Adventure Zip is a front zip PFD with a waist strap with buckle closure and 2 side tension straps. There is also a top buckle that helps close the PFD over the zip with a neat whistle built into the actual clip itself. The shoulders are neoprene with heavy duty webbing and are also adjustable to get a snug fit. On the left shoulder strap (as you face the BA) is a D ring and a special clip for the drinking tube from a water bladder. All the straps are easy to adjust even with cold wet hands with the ends of the webbing straps featuring rubber anti-fray fittings.
The Adventure Zip has 3 main pockets – a left and right front pocket and a rear pouch pocket designed. The two front pockets are large bellows style pockets (approx 18cm tall x 16cm wide) and have horizontal plastic/plastic coated zips at the top of each pocket. These zips are covered by a flap with stretch fabric in each corner to allow the flap to be lifted up and out of the way when accessing the pocket. At the middle of the flap is a reflective webbing loop to help moving the flap with gloved hands. The side walls of the pockets are mesh to allow water to drain out. Inside each pocket is a small webbing loop with a large clip for attaching items. The webbing loop can also be used to tie in equipment.The rear pocket is a tall vertical bellows pocket which runs down the entire length of the back of the buoyancy aid (approx 32cm tall x 18cm wide) and again features mesh side walls. The opening uses a similar zip and flap arrangement to the front pockets with the added use a velcro to seal the flap down. Inside the pocket are two small clips which could be used to secure equipment but are actually designed to ‘hang’ a water bladder from (a water bladder is supplied with the buoyancy aid – a very nice touch). The opening to this pocket feels relatively narrow however the storm flap is large enough to invert over the top of the buoyancy aid back to allow full access to the pocket. A reflective strip runs the entire length of the pocket and on the right hand side of the pocket is a pocket designed to accept a light stick for night paddling. The Adventure Zip buoyancy is supplied by three panels of soft self-moulding foam offering between 60N-70N of buoyancy depending on the size of BA. This is split into a rear panel, and a front left and front right panel. The sides that connect these panels are made from neoprene. On one side an internal mesh pocket with zipped entry is hidden behind the neoprene side wall.
The fabric is very heavy duty ripstop cordura/nylon in a striking red colour-way and the grey webbing is similarly tough and heavy duty. Stitching and finish is superb and I could find not obvious ‘loose’ ends or imperfections.
I’ve been using the Peak Adventure Zip as my primary buoyancy aid for a couple of months now on full day and short paddles during day and night and in a range of conditions from flat calm seas to blustery F5 with large wind blown swell. Equipment carried has been a VHF, set of mini flares in a small dry bag, mobile phone in waterproof bag, rescue knife, pencil torch, granola bar or mars bar, watch, compass and water bladder.
The webbing loops and clips provide ample tie in points and the top opening design means it is easy to select and access items as required without fear of them falling out as found on some vertical zipped pockets (Reed Aquatic Pro for example).
The Adventure Zip is very comfortable. I can adjust it easily to create a snug fit and with the front zip, removing/donning it on the water to adjust layers is simple enough. Whilst paddling it sits low enough down with enough clearance under the arms to prevent any rubbing or chaffing. It also allows for excellent mobility/flexibilty for more dynamic strokes and paddling.
For my low light/night paddling the reflective webbing strips on the front and rear are very welcome as its the light stick pocket although my use of a Kayalite means I have yet to utilise this pocket fully.
To date the Adventure Zip has proved to be extremely tough. The fabric and fittings are all suitably chunky substantial in design to withstanding heavy duty use. There are no signs of any wear or weak spots after 2 months of regular use (the BA has received a rinse in fresh water after each paddle but no other TLC).
At the end of yesterdays paddle (and after reading some discussion on the UKRSGB forums) I took the opportunity to swim a short distance and then perform a couple of self rescues (straddle and re-entry/roll) and was pleased with the results. Swimming was fine – the BA did stayed in place with virtually no riding up although this was over a short distance. I did not ‘dead hang’ in the water so could not comment on whether the Peak Adventure has a tendency to float you face up or face down.The straddle self rescue was performed with no problems, the clean design of the front ensuring the BA did not snag. The re-entry and roll was also performed without a hitch but as expected took some effort to submerge enough to enter the upturned kayak.
I have found one ‘superfluous’ feature in the form of a whistle built into the top front clip on the buoyancy aid. Whilst is seems like a clever idea I remain unable to actually blow the whistle without cutting it of the buoyancy aid! Maybe some yoga sessions are needed. I would prefer to see a standard whistle on a cord attached at a sensible point on the BA.
The Peak UK Adventure Zip has hit the mark for me. It is the closest to my ideal design I have found with large enough storage capacity, sensibly sized opening to pockets, durable and tough fabrics and fittings and a comfortable fit.
It has plenty of well thought out features and extras, without being gimmicky (with the one exception of the whistle), that make the Adventure Zip a pleasure to use. The attention to details like rubber stops on the end of the webbing straps to prevent fraying, tags on zips to ensure they are easy to operate in the cold, using loops for pocket clips that provide extra tie in points all enhance the basic sensible and comfortable design.
At approx £120 the Peak Adventure Zip is not the cheapest buoyancy aid on the market but the features and excellent build quality fully justify the price tag. The fact that now the test period is over I am planning to contact Peak UK and purchase rather than return the review model Adventure Zip I think speaks volumes.
From Peak UK
- ISO Approved.
- High performance cut.
- Tough ripstop Cordura / nylon shell with neoprene shoulders and sides.
- 50-70N of self moulding soft foam.
- Shoulder, waist and side straps.
- Two front zip pockets with gear clips.
- Large back pocket for Drinks System (included) or flares.
- Internal mesh zip pocket.
- Reflective stripes.
Sizes: S/M. L/XL. XXL
Colours: Red / Grey
Uses: Touring. Ocean. Instruction. Adventure Racing.
Peak UK Website: www.peakuk.com
The Peak UK Adventure Zip is available from Bournemouth Canoes for £119