Onyx M-16 Review
Cons: Slow to inflate, scratchy velcro on the belt, difficult to put on when inflated, no pocket or indicator window
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|Pros||Very low profile, lightweight, molds to your body shape||Tapered front, comfortable, breathable, good strap management, large pockets||Comfortable fabric, moves with you, durable, secure fit||Comfortable fit, good mobility, easy to use, stays put, durable||Comfortable, good movement, easy to lean back in|
|Cons||Slow to inflate, scratchy velcro on the belt, difficult to put on when inflated, no pocket or indicator window||Back panel high for swimming, runs large, pockets may be in the way while paddling||No ventilation, sizing a bit generic for a really good fit, pushes breasts into armpits||No pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathable||Runs slightly large, vertical vents don't work, no pockets|
|Bottom Line||A minimal impact belt that's lightweight but not the greatest inflatable performance||A versatile paddling jacket with good ventilation and big pockets||A comfortable, full-coverage option for female paddlers||A simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great value||Surprisingly good performance and a comfortable fit while staying on a budget|
|Rating Categories||Onyx M-16||Astral V-Eight||NRS Siren||NRS Vapor||Onyx MoveVent Curve|
|Specs||Onyx M-16||Astral V-Eight||NRS Siren||NRS Vapor||Onyx MoveVent Curve|
|Intended Use||Paddling (low profile), for expert swimmers only||Recreational, fishing, touring||Paddling, flat water||Paddling||Paddling|
|Entry Style||Waist belt, clip||Front, center zip and bottom clip||Pull over; side entry,1 side clip||Side entry, side clip||Front, center zip|
|Wear Type||Belt (inflatable)||Vest||Vest||Vest||Vest|
|Sizes Available||Universal (30-52")||S/M (31-37")
|Size We Tested||Universal (30-52")||S/M (31-37")||XS/M||XS/M (30-42")||M/L (36-44")|
|Measured Weight||11 oz||20 oz||32 oz||28 oz||17 oz|
|Foam Type||16g CO2 cylinder, high-efficiency welded bladder||PE foam & EVA foam||PVC-free, ultrasoft foam||Soft foam||Soft, lightweight foam|
|Main Material||200D Oxford nylon shell||200 x 400D ripstop nylon||400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner||400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner||200D nylon shell|
|Rated Buoyancy||16 lb with CO2 cylinder
up to 26.5 lb with oral inflation
|16 lb||16.5 lb||16.5 lb||Not specified|
|USCG classification||Type V with Type III performance||Type III||Type III||Type III||Type III|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Onyx M-16 is a manually deployed, universal-sized, inflatable belt that rearms with a 16g CO2 cartridge. It's a type V PFD with a Type III performance, containing a high-efficiency welded bladder inside a 200D nylon cover.
The M-16 has a very slim design that integrates the bladder into the belt much more than most. This gives it an edge over the competition when it comes to comfort. The "fanny" part of this fanny pack is thinner and less bulky than many others, which more easily contours to the shape of your torso when you clip it on. This same low-profile shape makes it more comfortable to sit in as well.
An easily adjustable clip allows this PFD to be worn by a wide variety of body sizes, though the loop holding the excess tail has little velcro snags that poke out and are a bit uncomfortable against the skin. The webbing of this little belt is also pretty thin and a wee bit on the rough side, though since you don't have to wear it as tight as you would a standard life vest, it's less of a bother.
With this belt, you have your full range of motion to paddle as much or as little as you want. Its small size also makes it easier to swim with. The manual pull cord is right of center and has an integrated clip on the plastic portion that allows you to attach it to the body of the cover for a dangle-free experience. This means it's harder to grab when you're panicking in an emergency but is far more comfortable to wear. However, we're less impressed with the inflatable performance of the M-16. It consistently took longer than any other inflatable to actually inflate using the CO2 cartridge. Once we pulled the string, the knot attaching it to the plastic pull tab came undone, leaving us with just the plastic tab in hand and an inflated belt around our waists. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of reliability from a piece of equipment designed to function in an emergency. Once it inflates into a large fluorescent yellow rectangle, a single adjustable strap goes over your head to keep this air pillow against your stomach as you back float until help arrives.
As with all inflatable belts like this one, there are limitations to when and where you should use it. First, you must be an expert swimmer, as this thing needs some serious thought and action to get it to inflate and make you float. Second, for this pack to be legal, you have to be wearing it on your front. Fortunately, because the M-16 is so little and lightweight (just 11 ounces when loaded), it's a lot less cumbersome to wear on the front as it's intended.
The M-16 does lack some of the handy features that come on competing models, like an indicator window to see if it's ready for use or an extra pocket to hold your keys or lip balm. The rectangular shape of the bladder makes it fairly simple to deflate and refold into its case, though you have to thread the sleeves over the ends of the bladder, which is slightly more involved than just closing velcro around it. It's easily rearmed with a standard and easy-to-find 16g CO2 canister, which we appreciate.
Made of average materials, the M-16 isn't the most impressive specimen we tested. Its construction leaves thread tails hanging everywhere, and very limited-sized velcro patches allow the ends to pop open while you paddle or swim. Most troubling, though, is the gradual slowing down of the inflation speed. Throughout the months we tested it, it continued to get slower and slower for no reason we could figure out.
The M-16 is on the less expensive side of inflatables we tested. While we love it for its low profile mobility, the slow rate of inflation isn't the most confidence-inspiring. We'd rather spend a few extra bucks and deal with a slightly larger product to have peace of mind.
The Onyx M-16 is a very lightweight, low-profile inflatable belt that we love paddling around in. Its size makes it pretty comfortable; however, with a troubling inflation mechanism, our confidence in this thing having our backs isn't particularly high. But if low profile legality is what you're after, this might be a good choice for you.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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