The Yak Xipe is the one of Yak’s newer Sea Kayaking PFD’s to hit the shelves and pit itself against some of the established buoyancy aids available. Currently retailing at around the £90 it is an attractively priced PFD.
This is the review I wrote for Ocean Paddler Magazine back in May 2011. Thanks go to the OP editor Rich for allowing me to republish my review.
Design and Features.
The Xipe is a front zipped, three pocket design. The rear of the buoyancy aid features a full length, expanding pocket with a wide top zip. It will hold a 3 litre hydration pouch and includes a rubber protected hole for feeding the drinking tube through the top of the pocket. It could also be used for carrying flares, as some paddlers prefer, and the wide mouth with inverted U shaped zip providing access to the pocket.The front of the Xipe has a pocket on each side of the zip. On one side is a taller pocket designed for VHF radios. It has a vertical zip, opening downwards along with a rubber protected aerial hole at the top of the pocket.
On the other side is a another decent sized pocket which also utilises a downward opening vertical zip. Inside this pocket is an accessory clip and internal mesh pocket with velcro opening to keep equipment separated. Both pockets feature a drainage hole at the base and chunky plastic covered zips with rubberised zip pulls.The Xipe has 4 key adjustment points. Both padded shoulder straps utilise wide webbing straps which run through buckles positioned at the top, front of the buoyancy aid. When pulled down to tighten the shoulder straps, the excess webbing can be neatly hidden behind fabric sections to prevent the end of the straps flailing in the wind. The middle adjustment comes in the form of heavily elasticated side panels and a concealed waist belt which clips together behind the front zip. The front pockets of the Xipe and front zip are on flaps sitting in front of the front buoyancy as opposed to being sewn directly onto the buoyancy allowing you to tuck away any excess webbing once the buoyancy aid is zipped up. The final adjustment comes from a thinner webbing strap and buckle at the base of the Xipe. The front zip of the Xipe is oversized, chunky and plastic coated with another rubberised zip pull.
The review model was a two tone red and black colourway – black pockets and straps set against the red RMR400 fabric of the buoyancy aid. At strategic points on the Xipe, reflecttive pipping or decals provide additional visibility in low light conditions.
In use.I’ve used the Xipe extensively over the 6 weeks for short skills based training sessions, several shorter evening paddles and a handful of long trips. Over that period it has proved itself to be a very comfortable and well designed buoyancy aid. It sits nice and high up on the body with ample room beneath it for wearing a waist mounted towline when seated in the kayak and easy access to swing the towline from front to back when towing.
The 50N Xipe I have been using has a very fitted feel, without excess bulk at the front and an uninhibited feel when performing a range of strokes and working at the extremes of body rotation. Adjustment both on dry land and on the water is simple and effective. When first donning the Xipe you have a brief moment of wondering if you’ve suddenly expanded in girth as the two front sides of the Xipe are held back by the heavily elasticated sides. This however allows you to clip and then tighten the webbing belt before pulling the front together and zipping up the buoyancy aid.In the water, the buoyancy worked effectively and the slim design allowed relatively unhindered swimming without riding up. Performing straddle self rescues I found the lower volume front did not impede climbing back onto the stern of the kayak, even once I loaded the pockets with VHF, EPIRB and a sling/krab.
The pockets worked well and can hold a reasonable amount of equipment. The vertical zips provide easy access to the pockets, although there is obviously more chance of kit falling out of the pocket compared to top opening pockets so care clipping items into the provided accessory clip needs to be taken. The VHF pocket is nicely designed and even with the aerial through the provided hole at the top of the pocket I was still able to remove the VHF easily from the pocket due to the vertical zip.
Used as intended, to store a hydration pack, the rear pocket works well, for paddlers who like to store flares in a rear pocket, it is almost impossible to open the rear zip wearing the pdf so you would be reliant on another paddler opening it for you.
After 6 weeks of intensive use, it is difficult to comment on long term durability, however there are no signs of wear and tear after some reasonably heavy duty use and in particular no issues with zips corroding despite an intentional lack of care cleaning the Buoyancy Aid after use (not recommended).
I’m really impressed with the Xipe. It is obvious that Yak have thought hard about the design brief with this buoyancy aid. The nuts and bolts of decent sized pockets, slim design, easy adjustment are all sorted but it’s the attention to detail I like such as decent zips with chunky zip pulls for cold wet hands that are corrosion resistant. The ability to tuck away strap ends to avoid flailing ends and reduce snag points. The pockets openings are well thought out and provide ample storage without over-bulking the front of the buoyancy aid and the fit was comfortable during extended paddling. A solid sea kayaking buoyancy aid!