Right before the holidays i found myself on a two week warm water winter waterfall hucking trip. i also found myself with an early Christmas present, the Astral Green Jacket. It was about time i retired my very faded and very used four year old Astral 300R. I have to admit i was a bit skeptical about switching life jackets. I mean i had created a great bond with my 300R and was not sure if i wanted to switch to the much anticipated and very trendily named "Green Jacket" that had just come out. For years I had bonded with the simplicity of the three adjustment straps, a quick release safety belt, and the amazing rib and spinal protection that the 300R provided me. Well i took the plunge and went for the Green Jacket. i have also been very surprised at how pleased i am with my selection.
With the 300R we were given two sizes, extra small/medium and large/xl. I wore the sm/med. and it fit me well but i always felt like i was in between sizes. The Green Jacket takes care of that. There are now three sizes; small/medium, medium/large, and large/XL. I fit well in the medium/large which Astral suggests a 38"-44" chest size. I find that when fitted the Green Jacket sits a little higher on my torso then the 300R with more flotation riding in my chest area rather then around the stomach and kidney area. This however does not take away from the protection of the vest. i find that there is even more protection on the back panel as well as the padding that surrounds your ribs and kidneys feels much more protective. I found that having more of the flotation higher in the chest area there was less bulk in the stomach area allowing for an easier tuck when hucking your meat off that sick waterfall you've been dreaming about. I also found out more then once on our Mexico excursion that the Green Jacket is a swimmers jacket. I felt very confident in not only how the jacket floated me but also how much easier it was to swim in.
The 300R is definitely a much more simple vest with only three points of adjustments and the quick release belt compared to the eight adjustment points on the Green Jacket (three on each side and then two in the front) and the quick release belt. On the other hand it does feel like a much more snug and firmly on you jacket. i guess i can deal with it taking me an extra 30 seconds to get it on and off.
The Green Jacket comes with some nice features as well. There is the standard knife patch, daisy chains sewn onto the shoulder straps, spots for a whistle, padded shoulder straps, a back support built in, a generous front pocket, as well as a front pocket for an Astral throw bag, an anchored belay loop, and two side pockets. The padding on the shoulder straps could be a little more and come up on top of the shoulders more to really be effective for alleviating some of that portaging pain and i'm not sure how much the built in back support does but i certainly am not going to complain about it. Every bit of support helps when it comes to our backs and kayaking. i use one of the side pockets for my Astral tether and haven't found a use for the other one. It is nice to have an option which side you stow your tether or leash on. the large front pocket is plenty big for me to carry my small pin kit consisting of; a pulley, two biners, two slings, and two prussik loops as well as my skull cap. i don't carry an Astral throw rope and i feel that with my pin kit in the front pocket to add a throw rope would make it too bulky for me. On the other hand with my 300R i didn't carry a throw rope either but instead i carried a three foot piece of plastic tubing with a rapid air valve on one end to act as a snorkel in case of a pin, this would fit nicely in the rope pocket of the 300R. The Green Jacket has more of an open pocket for the throw rope which doesn't work for me. I think that if another snap was added to allow access to both sides of the throw rope pocket i would be able to carry my snorkel without a problem. This rescue vest has a lot of usable features rather then just a bunch of overdone gimmicks.
Overall i am very pleased i decided to take a chance on the Green Jacket. It is a very practical easy to use rescue vest whether you're using the the built in belay loop to rappel around a portage , towing a boat back across the river after a rescue, or you're swimming your ass to shore because you screwed your line up.