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Astral Otter 2.0 Review

If you are looking to get your kid the best life jacket on the market, this is it
Astral Otter 2.0
Credit: Astral
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $140 List | $150.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Secure and comfortable fit, integrated handle, removable harness, high quality construction
Cons:  Not suitable for below 50 pounds, pricey
Manufacturer:   Astral
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 8, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 15
  • Flotation - 25% 9.0
  • Fit - 25% 8.0
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 8.0
  • Quality of Construction - 15% 9.0
  • Features and Versatility - 15% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Astral Otter 2.0 is an outstanding life jacket for youth. With high scores across the board, this jacket stood out for its great fit, comfort, and durability. Unique features include a large integrated handle on the back panel to help make plucking kids out of the river a breeze. In addition, the leg loops help to keep smaller children secured but can be removed as they grow. The jacket can look a bit bulky on the smallest users, but the short torso design helps to avoid any discomfort when sitting down. This is a well-designed jacket that your kids will be willing to wear.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Astral Otter 2.0
This Product
Astral Otter 2.0
Awards Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $150.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$89.95 at REI
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$135.00 at REI
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$94.95 at REI
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$45 List
$44.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Secure and comfortable fit, integrated handle, removable harness, high quality constructionTop-notch flotation, very secure, no flapping strap tails, available in 6 sizesComfortable articulated fit, multiple pockets, thin ventilating backGreat mobility, stays put, durableAccommodating sizing, large armholes, great price, lightweight
Cons Not suitable for below 50 pounds, priceyNot breathable, stiff, priceyNo bottom security buckle, can ride upNo pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathableNo pockets, top strap hard to tighten, torso length too big for smaller paddlers
Bottom Line If you are looking to get your kid the best life jacket on the market, this is itA well fitted canine flotation aid with the right amount of coverage to protect your pup without hindering their movementsWith a comfortable slimline profile and high functionality, this well-designed PFD was an all-around favoriteA simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great valueA super adjustable, surprisingly comfortable option that's simple and easy to wear
Rating Categories Astral Otter 2.0 Ruffwear Float Coat Astral E-Ronny NRS Vapor Stohlquist Fit
Flotation (25%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Fit (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort and Mobility (20%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Quality of Construction (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Features and Versatility (15%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Astral Otter 2.0 Ruffwear Float Coat Astral E-Ronny NRS Vapor Stohlquist Fit
Intended User Youth (50-90 lbs) Dog Mens/Unisex Unisex Unisex
Intended Use Paddling and sailing Dog safety Recreation, touring, fishing Paddling Paddling, general boating
Entry Style 2 chest, 1 waist buckle Over-the-head, bottom clip Front zip Side entry, side clip Front clip
Wear Type Vest Top and bottom flotation Vest Vest Vest
Sizes Available Youth (50-90 lbs) XXS (13-17")
XS (17-22")
S (22-27")
M (27-32")
L (32-36")
XL (36-42")
S/M (31-37”)
M/L (38-44”)
L/XL (45-51”)
XS/M (30-42")
L/XL (42-52")
XL/XXL (50-56")
Youth (50-90 lbs)
Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs, 27-33" chest)
Universal (30-52")
Adult XL (48-60")
Size We Tested Youth (50-90 lbs) Large (30-37") M/L (38-44”) XS/M (30-42") Universal (30-52")
Measured Weight 21 oz 18 oz 17 oz 28 oz 14 oz
Foam Type Organic kapok & PE foam Foam buoyancy cells Gaia + flotation foam Soft foam PE foam
Main Material 200D and 400D ripstop nylon Nylon 300D diamond RPET 400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 200D nylon shell, 200D oxford liner
Claimed Designed Buoyancy 11.5 lbs No rating provided 16 lbs 16.3 lbs 16 to 18 lbs
USCG Classification Type III N/A Type III / performance level 70 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.

Performance Comparison


Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the astral otter 2.0 delivers an exceptionally high end child pfd.
The Astral Otter 2.0 delivers an exceptionally high end Child PFD.
Credit: Sara James

Flotation


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.

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the otter has a shorter torso length than some other...
The Otter has a shorter torso length than some other children-specific PFDs. This makes it more comfortable when sitting, as it doesn't have such a tendency to ride up on the wearer.
Credit: Sara James

Fit


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.

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the padded shoulder straps are adjustable and can provide a secure...
The padded shoulder straps are adjustable and can provide a secure fit on smaller bodies.
Credit: Sara James

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 chaffing spots that are problematic on other youth jackets.

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the wrap around panelling provide significant adjustability so this...
The wrap around panelling provide significant adjustability so this life vest can still fit as your child grows.
Credit: Sara James

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.

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - apart from some sun fade, after 4 years of use in the californian...
Apart from some sun fade, after 4 years of use in the Californian sunshine, this jacket is showing no signs of decay.
Credit: Sara James

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

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the integrated handle on the back panel of this pfd is ingenuous. it...
The integrated handle on the back panel of this PFD is ingenuous. It is significantly more comfortable (for parent and child) than handles we saw on others.
Credit: Sara James

Value


There are much cheaper options for getting your kids safely out on the water, but none of them perform as well as the Otter 2.0. Designed to withstand the use and abuse of river adventures, this is a high-quality product worthy of its price tag.

Conclusion


The Astral Otter 2.0 secured a top spot in our review, standing out for its superior construction quality, secure fit, and unique features. The removable 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.

Astral Otter 2.0 life jacket - the otter 2.0 is designed with the same attention to detail and...
The Otter 2.0 is designed with the same attention to detail and craftsmanship as other Astral favorites. You can expect this to last for years and years.
Credit: Sara James

Sara James
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