I have been avoiding writing about Palm products on the Palm website, since I was afraid it would seem like I was only saying good things about the products because Palm sponsor me. The fact is though that I asked Palm to support me because it really is that good and I couldn’t have been happier to have gotten a positive reply. And using so many Palm products enables me to really get a feel of what is best for what use. Hopefully by writing about it I might be able to help anyone who might be undecided and unsure make a right choice.
I decided to start by writing about Palm's PFDs, the Extrem and FXr. I have gone through a lot of different PFDs over the years, good and bad, so I am confident about writing a review.
The Extrem is a flagship extreme whitewater/rescue PFD, next to the Amp vest. I have been using it most of 2013. It has many pockets, karbiner clip, 70N of floatation and lots of interesting and useful small details. One thing that doesn’t fit my preferences is that it doesn’t have an outside knife dock. I like to wear a one-pull-knife on the outside of the PFD and it takes a bit of ingenuity to make it work on the Extrem. But when it comes to storage and safety it is hard to beat. One of the most important things is that it offers an outstanding rib protection (because of area it covers and its thickness). I have only the Extrem PFD to thank that I didn’t have a catastrophic injury last year when I hit a rock with my torso, while creek boating on the Callaghan. I did break a rib but I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I wore a thinner vest that day.
There is a tradition in Palm of play PFDs having an ability of being upgraded to a rescue PFD. The FXr is an already upgraded version of FX freestyle PFD. Before I started using it I thought I was only going to use it for easier runs, races and playboating. But I just went back to the good old Extrem after I first used the FXr. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Extreme PFD and the protection that it offers but one of the only negative things that I have heard from others regarding the FXr is what won me over. That is its lack of side torso protection, which at the same time gives it a feel of freedom unmatched by PFDs of similar capabilities.
The Extrem is the vest that I would recommend to kayakers looking to drop hard and steep creeks. For most others, above all those who prefer a vest that offers maximum freedom of movement, I would recommend the FXr – even to rafting guides (though here it comes to personal preference). The FXr also doesn’t have an outside knife dock (which I would like) but it does instead have a very convenient and quickly accessible pocket for a fold knife (of the kind most people use anyway). Its main pocket is huge and I normally fit four karabiners, two pulleys, a couple of prussiks and a flip line in it and it still leaves some space for an energy bar. It has a clip and a mesh pocket inside a pocket.
For a broad range of use and I would recommend the FXr to most kayakers, from complete beginners to playboaters and even big water chargers, since my M/L sized FXr still has 70N of buoyancy. Even though I use it for this reason, it is less appropriate for steep creeking and maybe even expedition kayaking. But that is where the Extrem vest steps in with its side torso protection, many small pockets, and even a capability of holding a camel back water container.
So those are my two cents in regarding my favourite Palm PFDs. If you have a question or a review you would like to read please just write a comment and I’ll do my best to reply. I have tested most of Palm whitewater line. Also keep in mind all above is my personal opinion. Make sure you go out with the gear yourself and see if it suits you before you buy it, whatever it may be.