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Onyx MoveVent Curve Review

Surprisingly good performance on a budget
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $55 List | $43.29 at Amazon
Pros:  Comfortable, good movement, easy to lean back in
Cons:  Runs slightly large, vertical vents don't work, no pockets
Manufacturer:   Onyx Outdoor
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 7, 2020
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Comfort - 35% 7
  • Mobility - 30% 6
  • Versatility - 25% 5
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

With a vertical slab design that allows for more freedom of movement than we expected and at a cost that's less than half of some of the competition, the Onyx MoveVent Curve is our choice for Best Buy on a Tight Budget. It may not be the most attractive jacket we tested, but nearly everyone who tried it found it to be more comfortable than they were expecting it to be. It offers decent mobility and a degree of breathability — depending on your size. While it lacks any pockets or other features, the Curve proves itself to be a solid choice for paddling and other more general on-water activities.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The MoveVent Curve is a unisex jacket with an impressive fit range over three sizes. It's a partial back, Type III vest, covered with a 200D nylon shell with neoprene shoulders. It has no pockets or other features but does include some loops for managing the shoulder strap tails.

Performance Comparison


A pretty decent PFD for a lot less than the competition.
A pretty decent PFD for a lot less than the competition.

Comfort


Though it's made out of what seems to be the standard material for many life jackets, the MoveVent Curve has a pretty soft feel that's more comfortable against the skin than we expected it to be. The top of the front is slightly tapered to better fit an actual human's shape, which we appreciate. It also has plenty of space for your arms to paddle or cast a fishing line. The straps are easy to adjust, and the shoulder straps have helpful loops on the front to keep those tails at least a bit more under wraps. All the straps are soft as well, which helps them stay comfortable against bare skin. The back is a bit larger than a half-back version, but the bottom section is mesh. This aids in breathability but keeps the back above only a very low seat. Because the back comes down fairly low, even though it's not a full back, it functions much like a full one in practice and is reasonably comfortable to lean back on. Neoprene shoulders provide added comfort to the fit of this jacket.


The Curve runs a bit large, so if you're on the smaller side of the measurement range, you may want to size down. This is compounded by the odd triangular shape that flares out at the bottom, where it should be thinner to accommodate the waist. Our women testers noticed this much more acutely than our male testers. The added bulk at the bottom can make it a bit cumbersome for smaller folks, whereas sizing down may help alleviate this issue. And while the mesh lower back portion helps with breathability, the vertical mesh vents in the front tend to close when you secure the jacket around you, so don't count on those keeping you cool. The Curve can be pretty warm on a hot day, necessitating a dunk in the water.

Vertical panels joined by mesh help the Curve move as you move.
Vertical panels joined by mesh help the Curve move as you move.

Mobility


Despite its slightly odd appearance, the MoveVent Curve is a pretty decent vest to paddle in. Large openings for the arms and soft padded sides help here. With fairly low-riding torso straps, getting a secure fit is easier than expected, and the Curve stays put when jumping into the water. And if we enjoyed the mobility of the panels while this PFD was dry, we noticed it even more when wet. While other jackets may be made of several panels, among the models we tested, only the Curve has those pieces attached separately rather than all jammed into a single fabric casing. This helps the vest to move more easily as you move and even makes it more comfortable to wear securely without it being too tight. That aside, while these mesh panels are partially designed to add breathability on a hot day, as soon as most users wrap the jacket around the torso, the inside edges of those panels touch each other, closing off air channels.


Again, the issues we found with the mobility are tied to it running a bit large on our testers. When fully tightened, the thick bottom corners of this jacket protrude more than we'd like from the sides, which can get in the way slightly of some arm movement. Also, the adjustable side straps are closer together on the front than the back, causing the mesh portion of the back to be slightly bunched when worn.

Large open sides let you paddle  though a wide  flared bottom might be a little in the way of a close-to-body stroke.
Large open sides let you paddle, though a wide, flared bottom might be a little in the way of a close-to-body stroke.

Versatility


The Curve is a pretty good paddling jacket, with plenty of room for movement and a design that works with you as you propel yourself through the water. The half-back design is meant for a low seat back, though we found that this jacket mostly rests on the seatbacks of our boats. As a fairly comfortable jacket that's soft and pretty out of the way, we also think this PFD is a decent general use option, even if you're not a super paddler. Additionally, it weighs just 17 ounces, making it one of the lighter full jackets we tested.


The MoveVent Curve is completely pocketless, clipless, and loopless, so if on-person storage is a priority for you, this is unlikely to be your new favorite PFD. The previously mentioned lack of front ventilation is also less than ideal, though not unheard of for PFDs. And while we don't mind the feel of this vest, it's far from flattering, if that matters to you. But for a fairly simple vest on a budget, this jacket works pretty well for paddling or just about every other aquatic adventure you may need it for.

Though it runs a bit large  the value in this budget pick was noticed by several testers for just about any paddle activity.
Though it runs a bit large, the value in this budget pick was noticed by several testers for just about any paddle activity.

Durability


Made of "soft lightweight" unspecified foam covered by a 200D nylon shell, the Curve is of average construction. We had no major issues with the durability of this vest during our testing though the yellow fabric does seem to get dirty fairly easily.


This is one of the few options we tested that isn't made of ripstop material. The soft straps are also prone to fraying after a snag, just like some of its competitors. While we had no issues with the hardware during our testing, other online users complained of difficult zippers and broken buckles. The Onyx products we tested, including this one, are also the only ones that don't come with a warranty guarding against manufacturing defects. Overall, we're not appalled by or impressed by the durability of the Curve. We are Switzerland.

Perhaps not the highest quality materials or construction  the Curve still lasted through all our months of testing.
Perhaps not the highest quality materials or construction, the Curve still lasted through all our months of testing.

Value


This PFD is one of the least expensive products in this review. And yet, the Curve is a pretty valuable product. It's a solid performance piece for less than half the cost of many of its competitors. Though it may not be as specific as some jackets we tested, it has plenty to offer when it comes to comfort and mobility, making it a great choice for budget-conscious buyers.

Conclusion


The Onyx MoveVent Curve is a surprisingly comfortable life jacket with a unique pattern of vertical slabs that keep you moving no matter what you decide to paddle. Though it may not be the most flattering jacket we tested, it is still some of our testers' favorite to wear for a day on the water. And with a low price point, it's no wonder this easy-to-love PFD is our choice for Best Buy on a Tight Budget.

Save some dough and still love your life jacket.
Save some dough and still love your life jacket.

Maggie Brandenburg