The Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf PFD – Review by Colorado Kayak Supply

Gear, Life Jackets/PFD's
bobby@coloradokayak.com
Photo:Cliff Pratt, paddler: Zac Crouse

The Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf  PFD

The Green Jacket is considered by many to be an industry standard as far as whitewater rescue vests go. Offering comfort, great protection, loads of style and superior build quality, the GJ has become a legend. When we got wind of a new Astral PFD we were all ears. The Sea Wolf sounded really cool, and then when our first shipment of product hit the shelves, we confirmed our hunch; the Sea Wolf was bad ass. Imagine a super high mobility PFD (Astral Willis frame), with copious amounts of storage, boat tow capability, and enough bells and whistles to make the most hardened of open water touring boaters grin. Here is the scoop:

Specs:

Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf PFD Specs
Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf Colors

Pro’s:

  • Astral created the Sea Wolf with the intentions of it being the Green Jacket of the sea kayaking world. Their goal was to build a life jacket that had all of the functionality of a high end touring PDF (flare and GPS storage, towing capability, hydration compatible, etc), but without the bulk. The Sea Wolf is built on the Willis frame. The Willis utilizes a foam tectonics core, which is essentially a multiple moving panel design (as opposed to the PFD being one big piece of foam, which can restrict movement).
  • The front storage pocket is huge.It also provides protection against impact. The idea behind this pocket, was that besides being able to hold a lot of gadgets like a GPS, VHF radio,etc…it also is sleek. This feature comes in handy when one is climbing back into a raft or sea kayak. There are no edges to catch, making a quick entrance more pleasant (and quicker).
    The essentials...

    Another shot of the front pocket
  • Reflective piping placed in key spots. Again, with the focus on sea kayaking, it is nice to be seen in open water.
  • One of the best features of this jacket, is that it is compatible with a tow belt. There are zippered pockets for a web toe, as well as 2″ loops for the astral tow belt system. Whitewater kayakers, stand up paddlers and sea kayakers will take advantage of option.
    Loop for the 2" tow system

    Insert web toe (paddle biner) here.
  • The Sea Wolf is a side entry, or pull over, just like the Willis is.
  • Even though this PFD was designed with sea kayaking in mind, it makes a SUPERB vest for stand up paddling, rafting and kayaking. Rafters will love the storage capability of the front pocket, as well as how sleek the pocket is. When you flip the raft, you will not feel this PFD get in the way when you get back on. As for SUP, the Sea Wolf allows a very wide range of movement, and most importantly has a quick release system for attaching a surf leash. When stand up paddling in the river it is imperative to be able to break away from the leash if it gets wrapped on dangerous objects.
  • STYLE POINTS. As with all Astral products, the Sea Wolf has mad style…This is a sexy PFD. That’s gotta count for something right?
Photo:Cliff Pratt, paddler: Zac Crouse


Check out Spencer Cooke carving his way down the line…and wearing the Sea Wolf of course.

Con’s:

  • The Sea Wolf is a type III PFD and not a type V rescue vest. It is great for whitewater use, but it is not a full on rescue vest. If you are a serious creeker, get the Green Jacket (or a type V rescue vest), not The Sea Wolf.
  • Astral costs more than other brands. At $185, this is not a price point item. You get what you pay for. If you want the best, you are going to have to shell out for it.

The Verdict:

This is the most versatile PFD in Astral’s lineup. If you are going to do a bit of whitewater kayaking, stand up paddling, rafting, or sea kayaking…this PFD is worth looking at.  It has all of the features that you need for a day on the river (barring a serious expeditionary creek run), ocean or lake. It’s primary focus is for sea kayaking, but seeing that Astral based the framework on The Willis, we would think that this PFD will excel at most river sports. It is not the least expensive PFD on the market, but along with the price tag comes performance, features, style and safety.
For more info:
http://www.astralbuoyancy.com/news/testimony/sea-wolf-field-testing-paddle-to-the-ocean/
http://www.astralbuoyancy.com/news/team-news/sea-wolf-in-the-carolinas/
http://www.astralbuoyancy.com/news/product-announcements/operation-sea-wolf-unveiled/

11 thoughts on “The Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf PFD – Review by Colorado Kayak Supply

  1. Alaskakayakschool

    Finally, a sea jacket!

    1. ckspaddler

      Totally!!!

  2. Marshall

    Have had the Seawolf since January of this year and have been very pleased by the thought, craftsmanship and innovation in this Green Jacket for the sea kayaker.  

    More pics and some observations at;
    http://wp.me/pFgdM-9T

    See you on the water,
    Marshall
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY
    http://www.the-river-connection.com
    hudsonriverpaddler.org

  3. Butler Cox

    Thanks, Bobby, for flagging this jacket. Great rig. Very comfortable and free feeling. Floats high and stable. Nicely holds an Antidote 50 Camelbak. One of the easiest PFDs to donn and adjust (plenty of adjustments, too). A Carlsburg Cavern’s worth of stowage. (Drop the lid on the front cargo pocket and you almost have a TV table.) You can stow goodies in the the handwarmers, too. Only con for me is it could use larger panels of reflecting tape for night paddling. Great touring vest, especially if you’re one to carry bulky stuff like a PLB, VHF, flares and lots of munchies.

    1. ckspaddler

      thanks for the comments Butler!!!

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  7. Butler Cox

    Now that I’ve paddled this jacket for hundreds of hours in touring and WW boats, here’s an update:
    1) It is the most comfortable of the seven or so PFDs I’ve tried. This is not easy because I am very short-waisted. Only the Sea Wolf doesn’t stick up so high I look and feel like a turtle. Being a turtle is not only a distraction comfortwise, but also interferes with peripheral vision. The others are adjusted properly; they’re just too long-waisted for me
    2) When you want to get way out of the cockpit to lay on a brace (sea yak) it doesn’t get in the way or create drag in the water. That was very welcome when I started practicing Derek Hutchinson-style bracing. (RIP, Derek.). In a WW boat, it doesn’t get in the way of laying on the aft deck.
    3) I added the Astral belt with a tether and biner. I don’t do Class IV, much less V, so the jacket will be strong enough for the tail. Which, by the way, is a super way to keep track of your paddle when you need to park it in a bungeeless boat. That alone is worth the reasonable price of Astral’s accessories!
    4) The Sea Wolf moves seamlessly with my torso and is quiet on the skirt when you’re stalking wildlife.
    5) For aft deck or leap-into-the-cockpit self rescues you do notice the large front pocket, but because of its shape it slithers over coamings, hatches and bungees quite well,
    6) Love not having a zipper to mess with when putting on the Sea Wolf. It is super easy to don over the head, even with a helmet on, or you can side-buckle it.
    7) The gear loops up on the shoulder straps are a huge asset, especially if you use a camera a lot.
    8) Having an on board water bladder is way so cool (Camelback Antidote 50). Just route the tube out the back arm opening, under the strobe loop on the rear and down through one of the shoulder gear loops. Very handy. No pulling skirt for water on the river.
    9) My touring boat has an adjustable seat back that can be pulled up very high when I don’t use a skirt. The Astral Sea Wolf doesn’t get in the way of the seatback at all.
    10) Inside the front garage pocket is a mesh sub-pocket with dividers. Very handy for noseplugs, chapstick, and other small items you want to restrain.
    11) The two side pockets, while not easy to access unless yo’re real limber are very useful for things like your ID and cash. Spare gorp, sun goop, PLB, etc.
    12) For over-the-head donners having the word “Back” printed on the inside of the jacket is a nice touch.

    I’d like to see Astral add a lash tab for affixing an external river knife. Yes, the Sea Wolf is primarily for sea or tour paddling and you need to keep things sleek for deck rescues, but a tab somewhere would help vs. slinging a knife on one of the side or shoulder straps. While you can fit a VHF in the front pocket, you’ll need to leave the zipper partially open for the antenna, however the zipper is double toggled so that’s not too much of a hassle as long as you’re careful not to chafe the antenna. (Nice touch those double toggles. Makes it easy to serve crackers and cheese.)

    All in all my Sea Wolf is very comfortable, streamlined, gobs of storage, floats me right (even with a full water bladder) and is wearing very well after hundreds of hours of use. Best I’ve found for short-waisted folks.who want a full-featured vest. (And no, I am not sponsored or otherwise supported in any way by Astral Buoyancy.)

    Hope This Helps!

    1. Bobby Kuepper

      it does help. thanks for posting butler. want to do a full fledged review on the sea wolf? sounds like you have lots of mileage in it!

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