Stohlquist Flo Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Soft straps, secure fit, good mobility for paddling, decent breathability
Cons: Bulky high back panel, pockets only have snap button closure, doesn't go large enough for all users
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|Pros||Soft straps, secure fit, good mobility for paddling, decent breathability||Comfortable articulated fit, multiple pockets, thin ventilating back||Secure fit, pockets, highly adjustable||Universal size, easy to use, comfortable back, versatile||Great mobility, stays put, durable|
|Cons||Bulky high back panel, pockets only have snap button closure, doesn't go large enough for all users||No bottom security buckle, can ride up||Pockets only have button tab closure, bulky in places||A bit bulky for smaller people, mediocre durability, stiff, full coverage is hot||No pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathable|
|Bottom Line||A comfortable PFD that does not feel as bulky as it looks but has some size limitations||With a comfortable slimline profile and high functionality, this well-designed PFD was an all-around favorite||A comfortable and secure high back PFD that is easy to adjust in order to get just the right fight||A versatile, general-use vest that is good enough to get you out on the water safely and without discomfort||A simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great value|
|Rating Categories||Stohlquist Flo||Astral E-Ronny||Stohlquist Ebb||Stohlquist Spectrum||NRS Vapor|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Quality of Construction (15%)|
|Features and Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Stohlquist Flo||Astral E-Ronny||Stohlquist Ebb||Stohlquist Spectrum||NRS Vapor|
|Intended Use||Canoeing, kayaking, sailing||Recreational, touring, fishing||Canoeing, kayaking, sailing||Canoeing, kayaking, sailing||Paddling|
|Entry Style||Front, center zip||Front zip||Front, center zip||Front, center zip||Pull over; side entry,1 side clip|
|Sizes Available||XS/S (28-34")
|Universal (30-52")||XS/M (30-42")
|Size We Tested||M/L (34-40")||M/L (38-44”)||L/XL (40-46")||Universal (30-52")||XS/M (30-42")|
|Measured Weight||21 oz||16 oz||22 oz||18 oz||28 oz|
|Foam Type||PVC-free, PE foam||Gaia PVC-free foam||PE foam||PE foam||Soft foam|
|Main Material||240D ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner||300D diamond RPET||240D ripstop nylon||240D ripstop nylon shell, 200D oxford liner||400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner|
|Claimed Designed Buoyancy||16.1lbs||16 lbs||16.25 lbs||16.5 lbs||16.3 lbs|
|USCG Classification||Type III / performance level 70||Type III / performance level 70||Type III / performance level 70||Type III||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 46-inch chest circumference. This type III jacket with a half-back is made from a 240D ripstop nylon with a 200D nylon liner, and it features two pockets and specific chest adjustment straps.
The Flo is certified as a US Coast Guard Type III vest with the XS/SM rated at 16 pounds, MD/LG at 16.5 pounds, and the Plus size at 17 pounds of buoyancy. Most manufacturers offer each sized PFD with the same inherent buoyancy design, but Stohlquist stands out with its graded sizing approach. When worn in the water, this jacket is comfortable to float in, particularly when lying on your back.
Interestingly, during in-house testing, the Stohlquist Flo surpassed the performance of several other PFDs with higher flotation ratings. The official ratings only actually report the buoyancy of the internal foam that each jacket is designed around. Our deduction is that the shell of this PFD provides more flotation than most.
The Flo is available in three sizes suitable for those with chest measurements between 28 and 46 inches. Very few paddle vests in our review went as small as the Flo, which caters to petite paddlers and youth. On the flip side, topping out at 46 inches is limiting, and there were other female-specific vests we tested that were suitable for larger paddlers than this one.
Most manufacturers offer the same PFD flotation in multiple different-sized shells. Stohlquist, on the other hand, offers a graded sizing system that tailors the foam panels for a more personalized fit that is more comfortable. There are four points of adjustability on each side of the PFD, making it highly adaptable for a range of shapes and sizes. The arrangement of the adjustment straps enables a particularly well-adapted fit to those with curves. The top of the jacket is gently tapered to accommodate breasts; however, those with larger chests didn't find this to be accommodating enough.
Comfort and Mobility
Most of our female tests found the Flo very comfortable to wear. The multiple adjustment points help keep this jacket snug and prevent it from moving around during activities. Additionally, Stohlquist outfitted this jacket with their typical chest cinch straps. Most users found this helpful, while some complained it served only to push body parts out the sides of the vest.
The half-back feature is higher than on some of the earlier iterations of this vest and offers good enough clearance on almost all kayak seatbacks. The vest has soft, cozy straps and a covered bottom band that helps it stay comfortable rather than tight while sitting. The mesh lining and lower back keep this jacket cool on a hot day and add to the overall comfort.
A relatively narrow back panel helps give the mobility those with narrower shoulders crave while they paddle. Though this jacket has no loops or tabs to help keep straps from flapping around, the zig-zag side straps help hold it 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 swimming, though not as much as others. In general, we think this is a mobile life vest for casual paddling and the occasional swim.
Quality of Construction
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 properly caring for and storing the vest to extend its lifespan.
While this PFD is just fine, there are definitely more impressive models out there regarding durability. Still, we wouldn't expect this to fall apart on you if you take care of it properly.
Features and Versatility
Advertised for paddling, touring, and recreational 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. The pockets are quite deep and large enough to fit some useful essentials, however, we aren't the biggest fans of the snap closures. They 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, this PFD is barely above average among the jackets we tested, though they all feel about the same weight when worn.
The Flo offers comfort, security, and basic utility at an affordable price. Although there are cheaper women's-specific life vests, this one is one of the cheapest models we've tested that is truly comfortable and practical.
The Stohlquist Flo is a solid performer for a casual paddling jacket. It feels much less bulky than it looks, as the flotation is positioned to be out of your way. While we know there are higher-end options out there, the Flo makes a great entry-level jacket that is comfortable, secure, and won't restrict your movement on the water. And the icing on the cake is that it also won't break the bank.
— Sara James and Maggie Nichols
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