The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Astral V-Eight Review

A versatile paddling jacket with good ventilation and big pockets.
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $120 List | $119.90 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Tapered front, comfortable, breathable, good strap management, large pockets
Cons:  Back panel high for swimming, runs large, pockets may be in the way while paddling
Manufacturer:   Astral
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 28, 2019
  • Share this article:
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
83
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Astral V-Eight is a great paddling life vest that works well across a myriad of uses and is our Editors' Choice award winner. It has a tapered top that fits women and men, is surprisingly comfortable to wear, and features large pockets. Cut-outs and a mostly open back provide excellent ventilation. We appreciate that the bottom strap is located on top of the foam of the vest, which prevents it from digging uncomfortably into your stomach while sitting. The V-Eight also has our favorite strap management system, with velcro on the ends of the shoulder straps that stick quickly and easily to the tops of your shoulders, keeping everything neatly out of the way. Though it runs a bit larger than it claims, we love this solid PFD from Astral for just about any aquatic adventure.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Astral V-Eight
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $119.90 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$139.90 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$92.38 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$74.73 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$94.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
83
100
0
81
100
0
76
100
0
73
100
0
67
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Tapered front, comfortable, breathable, good strap management, large pocketsVery adjustable, great fit, secure and comfortable, good sizing options, moves well, flatteringExcellent 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 Back panel high for swimming, runs large, pockets may be in the way while paddlingFull coverage can be hot, runs a bit largeBulky, 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 versatile paddling jacket with good ventilation and big pockets.A highly adaptable, super comfortable women's PFD with great sizing options.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 V-Eight Astral Layla NRS Ninja NRS Siren NRS Zephyr
Comfort (35%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Mobility (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
9
Versatility (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
3
Durability (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
4
Specs Astral V-Eight Astral Layla NRS Ninja NRS Siren NRS Zephyr
Gender Unisex Women's Unisex Women's Unisex
Intended Use Recreational, fishing, touring Whitewater, sea paddling, touring, SUP Paddling (low profile) Paddling, whitewater Paddling (low profile), for expert swimmers only
Entry Style Front, center zip and bottom clip Pull over; side entry, off-center 3/4 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 S/M (31-37")
M/L (38-44")
L/XL (45-51")
XS/S (27-31")
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) 20 oz 26 oz 28 oz 29 oz 16 oz
Foam Type PE foam & EVA foam Kapok fiber front, PVC-free PE foam back PVC-free, PE foam PVC-free, ultrasoft foam 16g CO2 cylinder, high-efficiency welded bladder
Main Material 200 x 400D ripstop nylon 200 x 400D ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 200D urethane-coated ripstop nylon 200D ripstop nylon shell, smooth 210D nylon liner Polyester
Rated Buoyancy 16 lb 16.3 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 Astral V-Eight is a unisex life jacket that comes in three sizes. It features a mostly mesh back with a high pad and is a type III PFD made of 200x400D ripstop nylon and polyester mesh.

Performance Comparison


Paddle confidently in this versatile vest loved by men and women alike.
Paddle confidently in this versatile vest loved by men and women alike.

Comfort


Despite being a "unisex" fit, the V-Eight features a tapered top that our female testers also find to be surprisingly accommodating and comfortable. It is actually more tapered than some of the women's specific models we tested! The bottom strap and clip are also fixed on top of the front panel, preventing them from digging into your stomach while you sit, as many of the others we tested did. We also found this vest to be adequately adjustable to a large range of bodies in the size we tested. The back panel is very high, leaving most of your back exposed through soft, breathable mesh while staying out of the way of all but the highest boat seatbacks. The straps are also fairly soft against your skin, as is the interior fabric.


We did find that the V-Eight runs a bit large. We tested the size S/M, advertised to fit chest sizes 31-37". Our main tester is a female with a 35" chest and she had to cinch the jacket as tight as it would go to find a secure fit. Though it wasn't hugely annoying, paddlers with more narrow shoulders also found the back panel to be a bit wider than they'd like, slightly hitting the backs of their arms when really testing a full range of motion. However, it wasn't in the way of normal paddling. The shoulder padding also received mixed reviews from our panel of testers, with some saying it's very comfortable and others saying they weren't big fans of it. Either way, we all appreciate the handy velcro tabs that make keeping the shoulder straps out of your way an absolute breeze.

This PFD is one of our favorites that works well for both men and women  and the velcro on the tails of the shoulder straps is an excellent method of containment.
This PFD is one of our favorites that works well for both men and women, and the velcro on the tails of the shoulder straps is an excellent method of containment.

Mobility


With the ease of adjusting the V-Eight and finding a secure, snug fit, this jacket stays put nicely even when taking a tumble from your canoe. Extra ventilation holes and fully mesh pockets help drain the water away when you clamber back into your boat. The velcro shoulder tabs keep those tails out of your face, and even the side straps aren't too long or particularly in the way, which is more than we can say about some other PFDs.


The extra high back that comes in handy for paddling is a bit cumbersome for swimming. It's rather thick and so high - especially on shorter folks - that it partially restricts your ability to put your head back and do the breaststroke. We also found that if the zipper wasn't completely zipped up, the whole thing could come unzipped with an unexpected fall into the water. And while we like the large, easily expanding mesh pockets, they're quite far on the sides of the vest. We found that putting more than something small or fairly flat in them creates a protrusion that can obstruct paddling. It's also important to note that this only seemed to be an issue for folks on the smaller end of the sizing spectrum who have to tighten the jacket until the pockets are under their arms. For larger paddlers, the pockets are still in front enough to be relatively out of the way. Size accordingly!

While the pockets are handy  they're a bit far on the sides and contents may interfere with your paddle stroke.
While the pockets are handy, they're a bit far on the sides and contents may interfere with your paddle stroke.

Versatility


Advertised as a versatile PFD for recreational use, fishing, and touring paddlers, we couldn't agree more. The high back makes this jacket a clear choice for paddlers, but the added ventilation and comfort we found to be comfortable for a huge variety of situations. The V-Eight also has handy features like a knife tab and two mesh pockets with elastic bungees inside to clip things to. The back features Airscape technology, with ventilating channels across your upper back to increase breathability, making this jacket one of our top choices for a hot day.


Weighing 20 ounces, this jacket is about average for the vests we tested, and we think it feels reasonably light to wear. Thehe only restriction of the versatility of this jacket is in situations where you may lean back in a higher-backed seat, which would clash with the high back panel. But for paddling - even on a paddleboard - we think this is a solid choice across paddle sports.

A very high back with concentrated padding helps this vest stay out of the way of most seatbacks.
A very high back with concentrated padding helps this vest stay out of the way of most seatbacks.

Durability


The Astral is made with some of the thickest material of any model we tested, from 200x400D ripstop nylon. The mesh is polyester and is filled with PE and EVA foam. Upon inspection, the construction seems solid. It had no problems taking on all the tests we put it through, including being dragged through the sand and across gravel parking lots.


Astral backs the V-Eight with a lifetime manufacturer's warranty, though recommends about a five-year replacement cycle, depending on how you treat your jacket. You should inspect your jacket before you use it every time, but we think the V-Eight is well-equipped to last with the right cleaning and storage practices.

Astral build this jacket with some quality materials and construction.
Astral build this jacket with some quality materials and construction.

Value


Among the many PFDs we tested, the V-Eight isn't cheap. However, as an option that's actually comfortable for men and women, we think the quality and versatility it brings to the table is well worth the price. While you could save a few bucks on a cheaper vest, having one you'll wear even when it's hot is the whole point of having a life jacket in the first place.

Conclusion


This PFD is a great combination of adjustability, comfort, and all-around functionality that is sure to work for just about any casual paddler. Its ability to work as well for women as it does for men is nothing to scoff at. With a back panel that's high enough for a touring boat and plenty of ventilation for ultimate breathability, we think it's hard to go wrong with the Astral V-Eight.

No matter how you paddle  the V-Eight is a solid choice.
No matter how you paddle, the V-Eight is a solid choice.


Maggie Brandenburg