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Stohlquist Flo Review

A decent PFD, but not a great women's specific option
Stohlquist Flo
Photo: Stohlquist
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Price:  $100 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Soft straps, good paddle mobility, decent breathability
Cons:  Same chest fit as the average unisex PFD, bulky high back panel, not the most durable
Manufacturer:   Stohlquist
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 28, 2019
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51
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Comfort - 35% 6
  • Mobility - 30% 5
  • Versatility - 25% 4
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Stohlquist Flo is an alright PFD for paddling, but we're unimpressed with its claim to be a women's specific fit. We found it to be no more conducive to our curves than most of the tapered-front unisex models we tested. With that said, our lady testers with smaller busts think it's a perfectly acceptable option. The half-back works well with lower seatbacks, and it retains a good amount of mobility for easy paddling. Though not a favorite among our large-chested female testers, the Flo is a decent option for smaller, casual paddlers.

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Stohlquist Flo
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Stohlquist Flo
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
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$119.90 at Amazon
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Check Price at REI
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$120 List$60 List
$47.48 at Amazon
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Pros Soft straps, good paddle mobility, decent breathabilityTapered front, comfortable, breathable, good strap management, large pocketsComfortable fit, good mobility, easy to use, stays put, durableQuick inflation, easy to use in the water, comfortable, useful pocketComfortable, good movement, easy to lean back in
Cons Same chest fit as the average unisex PFD, bulky high back panel, not the most durableBack panel high for swimming, runs large, pockets may be in the way while paddlingNo pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathableBulky when sitting or swimming, more complicated repacking and rearmingRuns slightly large, vertical vents don't work, no pockets
Bottom Line A decent PFD, but not a great women's specific optionA versatile paddling jacket with good ventilation and big pocketsA simple, comfortable paddle vest that's a great valueOut of the way when you don't need it, easy to use and reliable when you doSurprisingly good performance and a comfortable fit while staying on a budget
Rating Categories Stohlquist Flo Astral V-Eight NRS Vapor NRS Zephyr Onyx MoveVent Curve
Comfort (35%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Mobility (30%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
Versatility (25%)
4.0
9.0
6.0
3.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
4.0
5.0
Specs Stohlquist Flo Astral V-Eight NRS Vapor NRS Zephyr Onyx MoveVent Curve
Gender Women's Unisex Unisex Unisex Unisex
Intended Use Paddling, touring/recreational kayaking Recreational, fishing, touring Paddling Paddling (low profile), for expert swimmers only Paddling
Entry Style Front, center zip Front, center zip and bottom clip Side entry, side clip Waist belt, clip Front, center zip
Wear Type Vest Vest Vest Belt (inflatable) Vest
Sizes Available XS/S (28-34")
M/L (34-40")
PLUS (40-46")
S/M (31-37")
M/L (38-44")
L/XL (45-51")
XS/M (30-42")
L/XL (42-52")
XL/XXL (50-56")
Universal (27-50") XS/S (28-36")
M/L 36-44")
XL/XXL (44-56")
Size We Tested M/L (34-40") S/M (31-37") XS/M (30-42") Universal (27-50") M/L (36-44")
Measured Weight 21 oz 20 oz 28 oz 19 oz 17 oz
Foam Type PVC-free, PE foam PE foam & EVA foam Soft foam 24g CO2 cylinder, high-efficiency welded bladder Soft, lightweight foam
Main Material 240D ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 200 x 400D ripstop nylon 400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 400D ripstop nylon exterior 200D nylon shell
Rated Buoyancy 16.25 lb 16 lb 16.5 lb 27.8 lb Not specified
USCG classification Type III Type III Type III Type V with Type III performance Type III

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Flo is a women's specific life jacket that comes in three sizes that top out at a limiting 46" chest circumference. This type III jacket with a half-back is made from a 240D ripstop nylon with a 200D nylon liner. It features two pockets and specific chest adjustment straps.

Performance Comparison


A decent life jacket, but we're not impressed by its...
A decent life jacket, but we're not impressed by its "women-specific" features.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Comfort


For a female-specific life jacket, we're looking for noticeable tapering on the top, or even cups or a shelf, to accommodate breasts. To our dismay, the tapering of the Flo is the same as many of the unisex models we tested. We expected better from a jacket specifically advertised for women. Our friends with larger busts found it to be unsatisfying. Additionally, Stohlquist outfitted this jacket with their typical chest cinch straps. While this feature does help fit the vest on male bodies, our female friends found it unhelpful in function, serving only to push body parts out the sides of the vest.

The half-back feature does a fine job with lower seatbacks, but for women who are shorter or a seat that's on the taller side, the height of the back panel isn't in an ideal location for comfort. The vest does have soft, comfortable straps and a covered bottom band that helps it stay comfortable rather than tight while sitting. Overall, we think it's a reasonably comfortable option for some folks. We're just not impressed with the "women's specific fit" that we feel is rather lacking in this model.

Still bulky and stiff on the front, and with chest cinch straps that...
Still bulky and stiff on the front, and with chest cinch straps that didn't strike some testers as very necessary or useful.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Mobility


A relatively narrow back panel helps give the mobility women with narrower shoulders crave while they paddle. Though this jacket has no loops or tabs to help keep straps from flapping around, we found them to stay out of the way for a comfortable paddle stroke or swim. The zig-zag side straps help hold the Flo securely in place even as you enter the water. A large mesh back panel aids in breathability on a hot day as well. However, the high, thick back panel sometimes interfered with our ability to hold our necks comfortably while doing the breaststroke, though not as much as some of the competition. In general, we think this is a moderately mobile life vest for casual paddling and the occasional swim.

Women's PFDs tend to be more narrow across the shoulders. In front...
Women's PFDs tend to be more narrow across the shoulders. In front is the Stohlquist Flo and in back is the NRS Siren.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Versatility


Advertised for women paddling, touring, and recreationally kayaking, we find that to be a pretty accurate description of the usage of the Flo. With two large, buttoned pockets on the front, it has some decent storage options. Unfortunately, these pockets are a bit on the small side for today's smartphones, and we aren't the biggest fans of the snap closures that we feel open a bit too easily when caught on something — like the side of your boat as you haul yourself back in from a refreshing dip in the water. Weighing 21 ounces, it's barely above average among the jackets we tested, though they all feel about the same weight when you're wearing them.

The Flo functions adequately for multiple on-water uses. It just...
The Flo functions adequately for multiple on-water uses. It just doesn't do it as gracefully as other models we tested.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Durability


The Flo consists of the expected materials, with PVC-free PE foam covered by a 240D ripstop nylon shell and 200D nylon liner. It also comes with a lifetime manufacturer's warranty and directions on how to properly care for and store the vest to extend its lifespan. However, we're not particularly enthusiastic about the durability of this vest compared to some much more impressive models we tested. We frequently caught the material in the zipper, leaving little snags in the fabric. We also observed some sloppy seams with ends that began to poke out the longer we used it. Nothing actually broke or fell apart during our several month-long testing period, but we have a few reservations.

Seemingly of average durability, there's plenty of mesh to get...
Seemingly of average durability, there's plenty of mesh to get snagged on whatever you lean up against.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


The Flo is fairly expensive for the performance it brings to the table. Though it's a decent paddling jacket, we just don't find that it lives up to its claims of being a great option for women. But if you've tried it on and love the fit, or maybe found a great deal, it might be worth it for you.

Conclusion


The Stohlquist Flo is an average performer for a casual paddling jacket. While we think it makes a decent choice and has a fairly comfortable fit, color us unimpressed with its "women's specific" features.

It's a decent paddling vest, but we don't feel it's much better for...
It's a decent paddling vest, but we don't feel it's much better for women than many of the unisex models we tested.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Maggie Brandenburg

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