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Astral Layla Review

A highly adaptable, super comfortable women's PFD with great sizing options.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $140 List | $104.89 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very adjustable, great fit, secure and comfortable, good sizing options, moves well, flattering
Cons:  Full coverage can be hot, runs a bit large
Manufacturer:   Astral
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 28, 2019
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81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Comfort - 35% 9
  • Mobility - 30% 7
  • Versatility - 25% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Against some stiff competition, the Astral Layla is our Top Pick for Women. With an impressive four available sizes and three adjustable side straps, finding precisely the right fit over whatever bust you have is easier than ever. With stretchy panels, quality seam stitching, and space for varying chest sizes, we had a hard time finding much we didn't like about this women's option - and it's cute too! From the added durability of using Kapok fibers instead of foam in the front to comfortable fabric and useful pockets, our female testers unanimously love this super adaptable vest that moves along with whatever aquatic adventure you're after.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Astral Layla
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $104.89 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$89.89 at REI
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$92.38 at Amazon
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$74.73 at REI
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Pros Very adjustable, great fit, secure and comfortable, good sizing options, moves well, flatteringTapered front, comfortable, breathable, good strap management, large pocketsExcellent paddling mobility, breathable and open design, comfortable fabric, works for short torsosComfortable fabric, moves with you, durable, secure fitQuick inflation, easy to use in water, comfortable, simple repacking and rearming, useful pocket
Cons Full coverage can be hot, runs a bit largeBack panel high for swimming, runs large, pockets may be in the way while paddlingBulky, unbending and flat, rough straps, key loop catches in pocket zipperNo ventilation, sizing a bit generic for a really good fit, pushes breasts into armpitsBulky when sitting or swimming, pack is a bit stiff
Bottom Line A highly adaptable, super comfortable women's PFD with great sizing options.A versatile paddling jacket with good ventilation and big pockets.Providing out-of-the-way, low profile protection that doesn't cut down on your mobility.A comfortable, full-coverage option for female paddlers.Easy to use and reliable but out of the way when you don't need it.
Rating Categories Astral Layla Astral V-Eight NRS Ninja NRS Siren NRS Zephyr
Comfort (35%)
10
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9
10
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9
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
Mobility (30%)
10
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7
10
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8
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9
Versatility (25%)
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3
Durability (10%)
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4
Specs Astral Layla Astral V-Eight NRS Ninja NRS Siren NRS Zephyr
Gender Women's Unisex Unisex Women's Unisex
Intended Use Whitewater, sea paddling, touring, SUP Recreational, fishing, touring Paddling (low profile) Paddling, whitewater Paddling (low profile), for expert swimmers only
Entry Style Pull over; side entry, off-center 3/4 zip and bottom clip Front, center zip and bottom clip Pull over; side entry, 2 side clips Pull over; side entry, 2 side clips Waist belt, clip
Wear Type Vest Vest Vest Vest Belt (inflatable)
Sizes Available XS/S (27-31")
S/M (31-37")
M/L (38-44")
L/XL (45-51")
S/M (31-37")
M/L (38-44")
L/XL (45-51")
S/M (33-40")
L/XL (38-46")
XXL (42-50")
XS/S (30-42")
L/XL (42-52")
Universal (27-50")
Size We Tested S/M (31-37") S/M (31-37") S/M (33-40") XS/S (30-42") Universal (27-50")
Measured Weight (ounces) 26 oz 20 oz 28 oz 29 oz 16 oz
Foam Type Kapok fiber front, PVC-free PE foam back PE foam & EVA foam PVC-free, PE foam PVC-free, ultrasoft foam 16g CO2 cylinder, high-efficiency welded bladder
Main Material 200 x 400D ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 200 x 400D ripstop nylon 200D urethane-coated ripstop nylon 200D ripstop nylon shell, smooth 210D nylon liner Polyester
Rated Buoyancy 16.3 lb 16 lb 16.5 lb 16.5 lb 15.5 lb
USCG classification Type III Type III Type III Type III Type V with Type III performance

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Layla is a women's specific PFD with an impressive four available sizes. It's a full coverage type III jacket with Kapok fiber front panels covered in a 200 x 400D ripstop nylon shell with a 200D nylon liner.

Performance Comparison


No matter what our measurements  we found the Layla to be comfortable  secure  and cute!
No matter what our measurements, we found the Layla to be comfortable, secure, and cute!

Comfort


While many full-coverage life jackets tend to be stiff and difficult to find a comfortable fit on curvy women, this is not the case with the Layla. The "princess" cut puts seams in helpful spots that facilitate the vest being able to wrap around your torso. The front panels are made of kapok fibers, making them more flexible and softer than standard foam panels. The top section is also significantly thinner than the bottom, which leaves room for breasts, rather than forcing them to squeeze outward into armpits like so many others. The Layla also comes in four sizes - the most of any model we tested, while still covering roughly the same size range. This allows you to get a better fit from the get-go, rather than trying to squeeze such a large range of women's sizes into a single size of PFD.


To get the best fit, the Layla has not two but three adjustable straps across your sides, helping each woman to be able to fit it to their specific body shape. Underneath those straps and buckles is a panel of mesh that keeps the straps from rubbing against your bare skin. If all that isn't enough, the front panels are joined by a slightly stretchy mesh, helping you to get a secure fit without cutting off your ability to breathe. An overall more narrow top also leaves plenty of room for women with narrower shoulders to easily be able to paddle all day with no rubbing.

Not your normal two side straps  the Layla has three adjustable side straps to adapt to whatever shape you are.
Not your normal two side straps, the Layla has three adjustable side straps to adapt to whatever shape you are.

With a full-coverage back and mesh panels on the sides, the Layla does lose some breathability. However, we think the full-coverage back is well worth it, as our shorter female testers often found that seatbacks are too high for a half-back option to clear it anyway. The full-back spreads out the padding, so it's not too thick and gives comfortable support for leaning back against a backrest. We also found that the Layla runs slightly large, as our main tester with a 35" chest circumference was tightening the S/M (31-37") nearly all the way to get the perfect fit. It's not as large as many of the others we tested though, and over a shirt, we think is much less noticeable. All our female testers love wearing this jacket, no matter what size or shape they are, because of how adaptable it is to a huge range of body shapes.

Fitting your jacket is a process that you should become familiar with to get the best performance from your new PFD.
Fitting your jacket is a process that you should become familiar with to get the best performance from your new PFD.

Mobility


Because it's so adjustable, it's easy to find a secure fit, no matter what woman was wearing the Layla during our test period. That security helps keep the jacket in place whether we're wet or dry. And because it's easier to find the right one of four possible sizes, the straps aren't excessively long and trailing everywhere. The Layla also has large, easy to use containment loops for the tails of the shoulder straps that keep them easily pulled away from your face. We had no problems paddling, jumping into the water, swimming around, and wearing this PFD all day without having to readjust it or feel like it was restricting our movements.


We have a minor complaint about the mobility of the Layla. The space between the bottom two straps leaves the bottom corner of the back of the jacket to jut out a bit when it's fully tightened. The back panels are less conforming than the front ones. Though this slightly protruding corner made little difference to our wearers, it did occasionally get hit by arms while swimming and is worth mentioning.

Plenty of space to move freely as you paddle  swim  or just chill on the water.
Plenty of space to move freely as you paddle, swim, or just chill on the water.

Versatility


Astral advertises this jacket for all types of paddling, from whitewater to touring and the sea to a SUP. Not only do we think this is spot on, but we love the comfort of the Layla so much that we're happy wearing this jacket on a speedboat. We could even imagine wearing it while standing in the river fly fishing. It also has some handy features and pockets that make this jacket pretty useful. The front pocket top unclips and flips open to reveal two inner pockets and a bungee loop to help keep you organized. Behind this pocket, there's also a hand warmer pouch, and a knife tab is on the left panel. Though the looks of a life jacket don't play into our ratings, it doesn't hurt that this vest was considered more flattering on women than any other we tested.


While we like and appreciate the features of the Layla, this is one area where we feel the vest isn't totally living up to its potential. Due in part to the cut, the front pocket and handwarmer pouches are narrow. It's difficult to fit a large smartphone in the pocket and be able to clip it shut. And to use the handwarmer pouch, you have to stack your hands on top of one another. The whole vest also weighs 26 ounces, which is a bit on the heavy side for models we tested. However, we don't really feel like we could tell much of a difference in weight when wearing any given vest, so we don't count the weight against it too much.

Handy pockets  a soft chin rest area  and stretchy fabric joining the panels together make this a vest we're happy to wear for pretty much any water adventure.
Handy pockets, a soft chin rest area, and stretchy fabric joining the panels together make this a vest we're happy to wear for pretty much any water adventure.

Durability


With a 200 x 400D ripstop nylon shell and a 200D nylon liner, the Layla is beefier than the average life jacket we tested. We had no issues with the durability of this vest during our several months of testing. Beyond quality materials and solid construction, one of the most impressive aspects of its longevity is in the kapok front panels. Unlike the standard foam panels in the vast majority of PFDs that, if punctured, must be completely replaced, kapok can be patched. The Layla comes with directions for drying, sealing, and patching a puncture to the kapok fiber panels, as well as a guarantee that Astral themselves would fix it if preferred. While the likelihood of puncturing your PFD isn't great, it's nice to know that if it happened to the Layla, you wouldn't have to purchase a whole new vest. Astral also guarantees their work with a lifetime manufacturer's warranty.


Overall, we're quite impressed with the construction and durability of the Layla. We had no issues with ours, and couldn't find anyone else online complaining about theirs breaking down prematurely either.

Comparing the interiors of the women's Astral Layla (left) to the unisex Astral V-Eight (right).
Comparing the interiors of the women's Astral Layla (left) to the unisex Astral V-Eight (right).

Value


The bad news is that this life jacket is one of the more expensive options we tested. However, from our female testers, the comfort and performance of this excellent jacket are well worth the extra money. And knowing that you can patch it yourself instead of having to replace it means you're more likely to be able to use your Layla for longer.

Conclusion


We feel like we can't say enough good things about the Astral Layla. While there are many "women's specific" PFDs available, none of the ones we tested came close to the comfort and adaptability we found in the Layla. For women who've been dying to find a life jacket they're actually willing to wear all day, we believe that the Layla is the answer.

Live your best life in the super comfortable  highly adaptable Layla.
Live your best life in the super comfortable, highly adaptable Layla.


Maggie Brandenburg