At the beginning of last year I received one of Palm's new FXr PFDs to try out. I was sceptical about it as I aready know and love Palm's Luna PFD (now the women's Extrem) but I put it in my bag and took it with me to Norway anyway.
Testing out the FXr in the Timberhole drop on the Raundalselva, Norway
Freedom of movement and flotation: really good, I've used the PFD for kayaking, rafting, sledging, and swimming and have been happy with its performance whether it be from jumping around a raft to swimming into an eddy or lining up for a boof. In the beginning of each season at Voss Rafting Senter we have a 'training day' where our boss Allan Ellard sets some challenging activities in the river and we do our best to survive them. This time it started with flip training; while floating down a fast flowing grade 2 section of rocky whitewater with four guides in each boat we had to flip and re-right the raft five times. This was a good test for my new PFD because some jackets are quite bulky at the front and this can make it hard to get back into the raft. I was happy to find that this wasn't the case with the FXr and in most cases I was able to get up easily onto both the upside down and upright raft and faster than the boys as well. Stoked.
Jordie my model and muse bringing back the burning man
After losing only a few of the crew members we made it out upright
Material: over the summer season in Norway I wore my FXr PFD nearly every day for five months for both kayaking and rafting. I found it is comfortable to wear and I always felt safe wearing it. Some of the photos shown are after I had been using the PFD for a solid eleven months and it is not showing any signs of wear or fade. I was swimming around on the Kaituna last week and despite being worn day in day out and being stuffed into suitcases and carted all around Europe my PFD is still satisfactorily buoyant.
Warm weather jungle paddling
Pockets and other features: the FXr has one big front pocket with some mesh dividers which is big enough to fit three karabiners, a four metre sling, two prussics, a waterproof Olympus camera and a chocolate bar, with a little room left over. The other feature is a knife pocket above the main pocket which happened to perfectly fit my river knife, which is great because it's important to have your knife readily accessible in case you need to pull it out in an emergency. There are also little pockets where the shoulder straps go into the front of the jacket where you can tuck the long ends of the shoulder straps if you're a bit anal-retentive which is a cool little feature but I don't usually bother. The FXr also features a removable chest harness and the shoulder straps come with a load rating of 3.2 kN which is good news if you manage to get yourself into a difficult situation and need to be hauled out.
Visibility: I prefer yellows, oranges and reds for kayaking gear as they are highly visible. I have the sky blue colour and it stands out surprisingly well in whitewater but the PFD also come in red and orange which is awesome.
Pricing: at 119.95 GBP the FXr is one of the cheapest rescue vests on the market (The Stohlquist Descent and Kokatat Guide PFD both cost around 150 GBP and the Yak Hallertau PFD is 140 GBP).
In conclusion: I really like this PFD, it would be great for raft guides and it would be great for any level of kayaker whether you're just learning and swim a lot down those gnarly grade 3 rock gardens or if you're a hard core grade 5 waterfall rider and you want a cheap but reliable PFD 'cause you spend all your money on kayak missions.