Stohlquist Fit Review
Cons: No pockets, top strap hard to tighten, torso length too big for smaller paddlers
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|Pros||Accommodating sizing, large armholes, great price, lightweight||Very breathable, comfortable, large pocket||Great mobility, stays put, durable||Long leg strap, accommodates wider kids, breathable||Great range of size accommodation, decent arm mobility|
|Cons||No pockets, top strap hard to tighten, torso length too big for smaller paddlers||Less secure, takes time to adjust, less flotation than some||No pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathable||Less comfortable fabric, mediocre construction||Better for larger sizes, not the most durable, no pockets|
|Bottom Line||A super adjustable, surprisingly comfortable option that's simple and easy to wear||A very comfortable and breathable jacket for laidback dogs and confident swimmers in calmer waters||A simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great value||A reasonably affordable and more breathable option for children who are growing quickly||A solidly functional universally-sized vest that gets the job done at a low cost, making it a high value item|
|Rating Categories||Stohlquist Fit||NRS CFD||NRS Vapor||MTI Adventurewear C...||Stearns Adult Classic|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Quality of Construction (15%)|
|Features and Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Stohlquist Fit||NRS CFD||NRS Vapor||MTI Adventurewear C...||Stearns Adult Classic|
|Intended User||Unisex||Dog||Unisex||Child (30-50 lbs)||Unisex|
|Intended Use||Paddling, general boating||Dog safety||Paddling||General recreational watersports||Recreational|
|Entry Style||Front clip||1 neck and 2 bottom clips||Side entry, side clip||Front clip, between leg strap||Front clip|
|Wear Type||Vest||Top flotation only||Vest||Vest||Vest|
|Sizes Available||Youth (50-90 lbs)
Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs, 27-33" chest)
Adult XL (48-60")
|XS (18-24" chest, < 20 lbs)
S (22-28", 20-40 lbs)
M (26-30", 40-60 lbs)
L (30-37", 60-80 lbs)
XL (36-41", > 80 lbs)
|Child (30-50 lbs)
Youth (50-90 lbs)
Adult (90+ lbs)
|Size We Tested||Universal (30-52")||Large (32-36")||XS/M (30-42")||Child (30-50 lbs)||Universal (30-52")|
|Measured Weight||14 oz||15 oz||28 oz||10 oz||16 oz|
|Foam Type||PE foam||Not specified||Soft foam||EPE/PE foam||PE foam|
|Main Material||200D nylon shell, 200D oxford liner||1000D cordura shell||400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner||300D polyester shell, 200D polyester liner||200D nylon|
|Claimed Designed Buoyancy||16 to 18 lbs||6.4 lbs||16.3 lbs||11.6 lbs||No rating provided|
|USCG Classification||Type III||N/A||Type III||Type III||Type III|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Stohlquist Fit is a unisex, USCG-approved Type III flotation jacket. We tested the adult universal size, designed to provide between 16-18 pounds of flotation to users at least 90 pounds with chest sizes 30-52 inches. Three torso straps provide adjustability designed to suit various body shapes and sizes. The Fit life vest does not have any special frills but is intended to be an affordable jacket for a wide range of water-based activities, including personal watercraft use, paddle sports, and for use on towables.
The Fit is reported to provide between 16-18 pounds of flotation. During our in-house flotation testing, this PFD was one of the top scorers out of all the jackets reviewed. The flotation is evenly distributed between the front and back panels, with some wrapping around the sides. Keep in mind, though: this jacket is not designed to turn an unconscious person upright in the water.
Some people find that the nonadjustable shoulder straps feel a bit awkward when floating in the water as the shoulders of the jacket are prone to float up above the users ears.
The three torso straps on the Stohlquist Fit offer a very wide range of adjustability, enabling users of significantly different body sizes to alter the jacket to provide a secure fit around their body. In addition to the universal size we tested, which is designed for 30-52 inch chests, Stohlquist makes this model in Youth (50-90 pounds), Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 pounds, 27-33 inch chest), and Adult XL (48-60 inches).
The Fit lacks adjustability in the shoulder straps, which resulted in it sticking up by some people's ears, especially when swimming.
Also, unlike many other jackets that can be adjusted from the sides, the Fit has its adjustment points positioned on the front of the jacket. This creates an awkward angle and only a little range of motion from which you can tighten the jacket. The top strap is particularly difficult to tighten for smaller paddlers. When wearing the Fit, it is much easier to just ask a friend to tighten the jacket for you.
Comfort and Mobility
The Fit was more comfortable than we had anticipated. With help from a friend, you can get a good fit on the torso adjustment straps, securing the panels comfortably to your body. The thinner panels comfortably wrap around the lower truck with no sharp edges. There are also plenty of loops for you to tuck any excess strap behind, helping to avoid the discomfort of flapping straps. The wide arm openings provide a fantastic range of movement. For larger paddlers, this PFD was particularly comfortable compared to some other models we tested due to the lack of a zipper and stellar adjustability.
The length of the torso and lack of adjustability on the shoulder straps means some paddlers ended up with the top of the life jacket sticking up into their ears. This is particularly bothersome when sitting down in a kayak, floating, or swimming in the water. The Stolquist Fit is not the most comfortable jacket to swim long distances in either.
Quality of Construction
This PFD does not have the highest level of construction we've seen from Stohlquist. When wearing this jacket directly against the skin, you can feel all the seams that line it. We have read quite a few reports of this jacket fraying at these seam lines. In addition, the nylon shell outlining is not as durable as some of the ripstop materials on other jackets. If you were to scrape past a sharp tree, you might rip this material.
That being said, during multiple rounds of testing, we have had no issues with this life jacket fraying, tearing, or breaking in any way. The buckles all function as you would expect, though they do seem slightly cheaper than buckles on many of the other jackets we tested.
Features and Versatility
The Fit is designed to be suitable for a wide range of activities, including personal watercraft use, paddle sports, towables, and general boating. However, the long torso does not make it great for sitting inside a kayak for long distances, especially if you are wearing a spray skirt.
This is a minimalistic jacket with none of the bells or whistles offered by some of the more expensive options. There are no zippers, pockets, reflective trim, or attachment points, and there is just a simple hanging loop on the back. The Fit's key is its simplicity and value. If you are looking for more features, you will likely have to spend a bit more money.
This product stands out for its value. Coming in at less than half the price of some of our higher-scoring jackets, this jacket is enough to get you out on the water safely for an afternoon of fun. Its wide range of adjustability also adds to its value, as it can be adjusted to suit different users.
Standing out for its incredible value, the Stohlquist Fit is an adequate life jacket at a very affordable price. It would be a great spare jacket to have for guest boaters. If you are expecting to be on the water frequently or for multiple seasons, it may be worth considering investing in a model with more durability, a better fit, and more features. But if your needs are simple and occasional, this is a great choice.
— Sara James
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