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 Best Buy Award winner. 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. Though it lacks any pockets, the Onyx proved itself to be a solid choice for paddling and general on-water activities.
Onyx MoveVent Curve Review
Cons: Runs slightly large, vertical vents don't work, no pockets
Manufacturer: Onyx Outdoor
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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.
Though it's made out of what seems to be the standard material for most life jackets, the MoveVent Curve has a pretty soft feel that's more comfortable against your 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, but the bottom section is mesh, aiding in breathability but keeping the back above a very low seat only. Because the back comes down fairly low, even though it's not a full back, it functions much like full one in practice and is reasonably comfortable to lean back on. Neoprene shoulders provide add 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 of this vest that flares out at the bottom where it should be thinner to accommodate your waist. 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 the breathability of this jacket, 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.
Despite its slightly odd appearance, the MoveVent Curve is a pretty decent vest to paddle in. Large openings for your arms and soft padded sides help here. With fairly low-riding torso straps, getting a secure fit was easier than expected, and the Onyx stays put when jumping into the water. And if we enjoyed the mobility of the panels while this PFD is dry, we notice it even more when it's wet. While other jackets may be made of several panels, among 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 more easily move as you move and even makes it more comfortable to wear securely without it being too tight.
Again, the issues we found with the Curve's 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 you wear it.
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 rested 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. It also weighs just 17 ounces, making it one of the lighter full jackets we tested.
The MoveVent Curve is completely pocketless and loopless, so if on-person storage is a priority for you, this is unlikely to be your new favorite jacket. 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.
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 the MoveVent, 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.
By far the least expensive product in this review, 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 others, it doesn't skimp on the comfort or mobility, making this jacket a great choice for budget-conscious buyers.
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 Best Buy Award winner.
— Maggie Brandenburg