MTI Fluid 2.0 Review
Cons: Inflatable edges are sharp, bulky, difficult to get on when inflated, more complicated to repack
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Fluid 2.0 is a universally-sized, unisex inflatable belt PFD that becomes an over-the-head vest when deployed. This Type V PFD with Type III usage is made of 300D polyester with a high-efficiency welded bladder.
A fairly wide strap made of softer webbing helps the Fluid 2.0 be a bit more comfortable than some. The back of the inflatable pack itself is mesh, which aids in breathability as well. MTI also includes a flap behind the buckle to keep the plastic off of your skin, which we appreciate. Additionally, there's a single, open-top plastic clip to help hold down the tail of the strap, though it's not the most secure system.
This inflatable is big and bulky, making the "fanny" portion of this fanny pack long, large, and much more in the way than others we tested. We find it difficult to bend around the contours of a normal human torso and think it's even more in the way while sitting than smaller options. The pull cord is also more central on this pack, making it easier to get caught between your legs, depending on exactly where you wear it. When inflated, we're not the biggest fans of how it fits. On the one hand, it's very secure once on, while on the other, it's a bit tight around the neck with sharper bladder edges than we'd like.
Obviously, when you're out of the water, the fact that your only restriction is around your waist really ups the mobility factor for paddling. But as a fairly beefy bag that juts out a bit from your body, this uninflated belt isn't the most streamlined option to swim around in — though we don't think any PFD like this is ever going to be ideal for swimming. Much like the other inflatables we tested, the Fluid 2.0 isn't great to swim in when inflated either, as pretty much all the flotation is on your front, forcing you to do an awkward backstroke. We like how secure this big yellow balloon is once it's on, but it's really tight to pull over your head if you're in mid-panic.
In terms of inflatability, the Fluid blows up pretty quickly when you pull the tab, practically exploding out of its case for you to use. It has repacking instructions printed directly on the bladder, but we found this to be one of the most challenging ones to deflate and repack. You also have to thread the pull tab through a small hole in the bottom of the pack.
Just like all inflatable belt PFDs, there are some overall restrictions for using them properly. First, you need to be an expert swimmer, as this piece of gear takes some thought and practice that a standard life jacket doesn't require. And second, to make it legal, you have to be wearing it on your front. With the overall size of this belt, it's not the most comfortable for sit-down paddling and is best used for SUP adventures.
The Fluid 2.0 also is rearmed with a specific type of 24g CO2 canister. This size is more challenging to find and more expensive than the standard 16g CO2 canister most other inflatables we tested take. A full canister loaded into this belt also tip the scales at 20 ounces. That's heavier than some of the full vest PFDs we tested, and it is much more noticeable worn around the waist than we prefer. It does have a handy indicator window to see if it's ready for use or not as well as a small zippered pocket, several webbing loops to clip your keys, etc., and a plastic emergency whistle.
Our favorite feature of this belt is the reusable green indicator that shows if the PFD is armed or not. When armed, it's green, and when not, it's red. Hard to get that wrong, which is great. Some other inflatable belts we tested only turn green when you insert a little plastic green tab into them — which both costs more to replace and "disappears" into the water when you pull the tab to inflate them.
Constructed of non-ripstop 300D polyester, 3D polyester mesh, and a high-efficiency welded bladder, the Fluid is about on par with the durability of other models we tested. We noticed some of the seams got a bit sloppy with ends starting to poke out during our several months of testing. We didn't have any real issues with its durability but wonder if those loose ends may become a bigger problem down the road. What we think is the most imminent threat, though, is that the whistle clips to the belt and isn't tethered at all, making it pretty easy to lose.
The MTI Fluid is one of the most expensive PFDs of any type that we tested. Though it's reliable and reasonably comfortable, we think there are better options out there that also cost less.
This inflatable belt is among the bulkiest, most expensive options we tested, and we think it's a bit of overkill for what it is. Though it certainly does what it's advertised to do, it's far from our favorite option for a day out on the water.
— Maggie Brandenburg