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Astral Otter 2.0
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|Bottom Line||A top notch life jacket to keep youth comfortable and safe on the water||This life jacket rose to the top for its ergonomic design that combines comfort with utility||Easily adjustable with a durable design for a secure fit and supreme flotation||A comfortable, easy to wear paddle jacket with a high value||Surprisingly comfortable, this super adjustable high mobility jacket is straightforward and functional|
|Rating Categories||Astral Otter 2.0||Astral E-Ronny||Ruffwear Float Coat||NRS Vapor||Stohlquist Fit|
|Comfort and Mobility (25%)|
|Quality of Construction (20%)|
|Features and Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Astral Otter 2.0||Astral E-Ronny||Ruffwear Float Coat||NRS Vapor||Stohlquist Fit|
|Intended User||Youth (50-90 lbs)||Mens/Unisex||Dog||Unisex||Unisex|
|Manufacturers Stated Intended Use||Paddling and sailing||Recreation, touring, fishing||Dog safety||Paddling||Paddling, general boating|
|Entry Style||2 chest, 1 waist buckle||Front zip||Over-the-head, bottom clip||Side entry, side clip||Front clip|
|Wear Type||Vest||Vest||Top and bottom flotation||Vest||Vest|
|Sizes Available||Youth (50-90 lbs)||S/M (31-37”)
|Youth (50-90 lbs)
Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs, 27-33" chest)
Adult XL (48-60")
|Size We Tested||Youth (50-90 lbs)||M/L (38-44”)||Large (30-37")||XS/M (30-42")||Universal (30-52")|
|Measured Weight||21 oz||24oz||18 oz||27 oz||13 oz|
|Foam Type||Organic kapok & PE foam||Gaia + flotation foam||Foam buoyancy cells||Soft foam||PE foam|
|Main Material||200D and 400D ripstop nylon||300D diamond RPET||Nylon||400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner||200D nylon shell, 200D oxford liner|
|Claimed Designed Buoyancy||11.5 lbs||16 lbs||No rating provided||16.3 lbs||16 to 18 lbs|
|USCG Classification||Type III||Type III / performance level 70||N/A||Type III||Type III|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Astral Otter 2.0 is a youth type III PFD. It has a vest style secured via three buckles on the center front, two of which are connected to adjustable straps. An additional webbing harness provides a strap between the legs, a feature that can be removed as your child grows. On the back panel of the PFD is a large integrated handle, and on the front there are two small zippered pockets and an attachment loop. This jacket fits youth from 50- 90 pounds.
The Otter 2.0 is designed to suit 50 to 90-pound youth. With a vest entry style and three buckle clips, this PFD is easy to put on independently. The three points of adjustment, two on the torso and one on the shoulders, provide a secure fit around growing bodies. Unlike many other youth jackets, the Otter's straps are designed to be easy to reach and self-adjust even without parental assistance.
The wrap-around design of this PFD provides spine, rib, and organ protection, just in case kiddos do get bumped around while out on the water. The removable leg webbing straps can be added to help provide a more secure fit for smaller paddlers. The wide range of adjustability of this PFD makes it very suitable for growing young water lovers. We have seen 4 and 12 years old wear this same jacket comfortably.
Comfort and Mobility
The body panels on the Otter 2.0 are cut with lots of space for arm mobility, so there's no interference when swimming, paddling, or playing on the shore. The back panel carries less flotation, making it less bulky at the back and more comfortable when sitting in a seat. In addition, the interior material adds a soft feel to this PFD and boosts its overall comfort.
The Otter 2.0 avoids bulk around the neck, arms, and back, making moving in this jacket easier than most. However, testers felt this resulted in it feeling a bit bulkier around the front lower torso than some of the other youth life vests we tested. That said, this bulk wasn't enough to interfere when engaging in activities such as kayaking. The superior adjustability of the Otter also enables it to be more comfortable — the padded shoulder straps can be cinched down, removing potential chafing spots that are problematic on other youth jackets.
Quality of Construction
The Otter 2.0 blew all the competition out of the water in this metric. It is constructed with the same high-quality details as Astral's adult PFDs — there is A LOT of attention to detail in the design of this life jacket. It sports heavy-duty acetal hardware, a 200 x 400-denier ripstop nylon shell exterior, and a 200-denier lightweight nylon interior lining. You don't have to worry about this jacket accidentally tearing or starting to fray on you. In addition, the buoyant Kapook material comes from a sustainable natural source.
This is not a piece of gear that your kid is likely to break. We have seen many Otter jackets with over four years of heavy use, without a broken buckle, a tear, or signs of fraying. Prolonged UV damage will fade the colors over time, just like with any other sun-exposed gear; however, this can be tempered by a seasonal treatment with a 303 protectant. You will stop using this PFD when your child outgrows it rather than wearing their way through this robust piece of gear.
Features and Versatility
The Otter 2.0 stands out for its unique large handle integrated into the jacket's back panel. This handle is very helpful when plucking young ones out of the river or helping them maneuver across uneven terrain on the river banks. Although many kid-focused jackets have attached handles, none we've seen or tested are well integrated into the back panel like this one, providing a more comfortable hold for the person being hauled and the person doing the hauling.
The zippered pockets on the Otter 2.0 are an additional feature lacking on all the other youth options we tested. We would have preferred these pockets to be a little deeper, but they are large enough to hold a whistle, chapstick, or small snack bar. This PFD is suitable for sailing, white water kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding or rafting. It is not designed to be used on a towed craft
The Otter 2.0 is designed with 11.5 pounds of flotation and has USCG Type III approval. The flotation is spread around the body of the PFD panels with slightly less flotation on the back compared to the front. This PFD is not designed to turn an unconscious swimmer.
The leg straps help to prevent the Otter from floating too high off the young person's body, making it comfortable to float in for prolonged periods of time.
Should You Buy the Astral Otter 2.0?
The Otter 2.0 secured a top spot in our review, standing out for its superior construction quality, secure fit, and unique features. The removable leg webbing straps provide additional security for concerned parents of small users. There are cheaper PFDs available for youth, but if you are looking for the highest quality option, one that delivers superior comfort along with the best-designed features, the Otter 2.0 is the one to choose. Designed to withstand the use and abuse of river adventures, this is a high-quality product worthy of its price tag.
What Other Life Jackets Should You Consider?
If your little one is not yet 50 pounds, consider the Stohlquist Child or Infant PFD, available in sizes to fit Children 30-50 pounds or Infants under 30 pounds.