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

MTI Solaris Review

Not our favorite, but filled with useful features.
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Price:  $80 List | $78.49 at Amazon
Pros:  Good pocket organization, reflective strips, comes with a whistle
Cons:  A bit bulky, half back a little low, not the most durable
Manufacturer:   MTI
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 28, 2019
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41
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Comfort - 35% 3
  • Mobility - 30% 3
  • Versatility - 25% 7
  • Durability - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The MTI Solaris offers below-average comfort and durability that failed to impress our testers. It does have tons of great storage pockets and extra features we enjoy, though. With a fairly low half-back and a bulky design, this jacket isn't the best option for paddlers. One of the few we tested without ripstop material and sporting some sloppy seams and fraying straps, we aren't impressed by this life jacket's durability. However, it does have some excellent organizational pockets and features and might be better suited to a laid back day of fishing than a hard afternoon of paddling.


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MTI Solaris
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $78.49 at Amazon$119.90 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Good pocket organization, reflective strips, comes with a whistleTapered 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 fit
Cons A bit bulky, half back a little low, not the most durableBack 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 armpits
Bottom Line Not our favorite, but filled with useful features.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.
Rating Categories MTI Solaris Astral V-Eight Astral Layla NRS Ninja NRS Siren
Comfort (35%)
10
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3
10
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9
10
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9
10
0
8
10
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8
Mobility (30%)
10
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3
10
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7
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7
10
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8
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6
Versatility (25%)
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7
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9
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6
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7
Durability (10%)
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4
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8
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9
Specs MTI Solaris Astral V-Eight Astral Layla NRS Ninja NRS Siren
Gender Unisex Unisex Women's Unisex Women's
Intended Use Kayaking Recreational, fishing, touring Whitewater, sea paddling, touring, SUP Paddling (low profile) Paddling, whitewater
Entry Style Front, 2 center clips 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
Wear Type Vest Vest Vest Vest Vest
Sizes Available XS/S (30-36")
M/L (36-46"
XL/XXL (45-56")
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")
Size We Tested M/L (36-46") S/M (31-37") S/M (31-37") S/M (33-40") XS/S (30-42")
Measured Weight (ounces) 20 oz 20 oz 26 oz 28 oz 29 oz
Foam Type EPE/PE foam PE foam & EVA foam Kapok fiber front, PVC-free PE foam back PVC-free, PE foam PVC-free, ultrasoft foam
Main Material 300D polyester shell, 200D polyester liner 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
Rated Buoyancy 16.6 - 19 lb 16 lb 16.3 lb 16.5 lb 16.5 lb
USCG classification Type III Type III Type III Type III Type III

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Solaris is a unisex life vest that comes in three sizes. It's a half-back Type III vest made of a 300D polyester shell with a 200D polyester liner.

Performance Comparison


The many pockets of the Solaris are handy  though we're not sure it's worth the subpar fit and feel.
The many pockets of the Solaris are handy, though we're not sure it's worth the subpar fit and feel.

Comfort


While we initially liked the lack of zipper on this front-clip vest, we soon realized that the placement of the clips and straps are a little too low to easily get a comfortable, secure fit. And though the top is slightly tapered, it's too high to be of much help for women. The entire front of the vest is also rather stiff and unbending, making it difficult to pull snug around your torso without it getting in the way of a near-body paddle stroke. The half-back works well with low touring seats and is thin enough that leaning back on a full seat isn't too terrible. However, if you're a shorter person or have a slightly taller seat back in your boat, the lower coverage may be in conflict with your comfort. The bottom strap is also located under the front panels, which makes it cut uncomfortably into your stomach when you sit.

We aren't in love with the feel of these straps or the location of the bottom strap right over our stomachs.
We aren't in love with the feel of these straps or the location of the bottom strap right over our stomachs.

Mobility


If you can stand having the bottom strap cinched down securely, the Solaris stays in place as you plunge into the water. Based on the discomfort we felt while wearing this tightly and sitting for long periods of time, we doubt many will be inclined to suffer through this feeling. With the bottom strap less than snug, the Solaris does ride up in the water, as you'd expect from a loose vest. Our 5'4" main tester found herself unable to get a proper fit in the Solaris because it's too tall for her torso, meaning it rides up every time she gets in the water. This added area of padding without ventilation can also make the Solaris a bit warm to paddle in on a hot day. While the arm areas are wide enough for a decent paddle stroke, the bulkiness of the bottom of the MTI combined with its proclivity for riding up in the water makes it hard to swim in it without hitting the sides.

The half-back option on the Solaris provides extra ventilation. Depending on the seat in your watercraft  it may or may not be the most comfortable.
The half-back option on the Solaris provides extra ventilation. Depending on the seat in your watercraft, it may or may not be the most comfortable.

Versatility


Assuming the back works with the seat height in your preferred craft, the Solaris is decent as a paddle jacket. It's also full of useful features that our organizational nerds were big fans of. This vest has multiple pockets on each side, that open out to the sides for sticking your hands and on the front into large cargo pockets. One is a velcroed flip-top while the other zips open. Numerous bungee loops provide attachment points for smaller items and the shoulder containment loops are also reflective. The Solaris even comes with a tethered emergency whistle right on the front of the jacket, giving you extra peace of mind if you do fall off the pontoon or powerboat. It also weighs just 20 ounces, about average among vests we tested.

Double pockets  bungee loops  and a tethered emergency whistle are some of the many features of this PFD.
Double pockets, bungee loops, and a tethered emergency whistle are some of the many features of this PFD.

Durability


Though the 300D polyester shell is thicker than many other PFDs we tested, its 200D polyester liner is about average and neither are ripstop, which can be a longevity issue, especially if you're rough on your gear. It's filled with EPE/PE foam, which is fairly standard among models in our review. We also noticed some sloppy seams and ends sticking out and starting to unravel after a few months of testing. The ends of some of the straps are also a little too easy to fray for our liking. MTI does offer a lifetime limited manufacturers warranty to the original owner and recommends that if the jacket is faded it should be replaced.

Reflective strips are a nice touch on the shoulder straps.
Reflective strips are a nice touch on the shoulder straps.

Value


Retailing for a below-average price among contenders we tested, the low-scoring Solaris isn't even the cheapest PFD in this review. Unless you're really gaga for the features and pockets it has, we're just not convinced this price is worth what you get.

Conclusion


The MTI Solaris, unfortunately, didn't score very well in our testing and is our team's least favorite life jacket of the bunch we tested. It's not a terrible choice and has a lot of pockets for organizing whatever you may need on the water, but we think there are many better options available.

If you love pockets and features  this might be the vest for you.
If you love pockets and features, this might be the vest for you.


Maggie Brandenburg