Author Specs:
Kyle Smith
Weight: 165LBS
Height: 5’9
Eye color: Morning sky after an ocean storm.
Favorite food: Cured Meats and Cheese
Sponsors: Haha, now that’s funny.

For those of us that love to carry far to much equipment in our PFDs, at some point, those carabineers, pulleys and candy bars will eventually bring us down. For you gear heads out there that like keeping your head above water, the Centurion Prime has arrived. Kokatat has re-engineered the ‘Maximus Prime’ and thrown some serious storage at us.

Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Complete_View

The Kokatat Maximus Prime, complete with as much storage as you could ever possibly need.

Kokatat has updated the Maximus by rearranging the storage, sewing some fast tech buckles on in some key locations and packing in a few more zippered pockets on the original Maximus frame. They kept the 18 lbs of flotation, slapped some new colors and decals on it and what’s left is the Maximus Centurion(If you say it in Optimus Prime’s Transformer voice, it only gets that much more awesome…if you place a beautiful woman in it, again…just that much more awesome). I left my Green Vest with a Mexican River guide this past fall in Tlapacoyan and gladly dawned the Centurion after parting ways with it’s predecessor, the Prime, a couple of springs ago.

For all intensive purposes, let’s all acknowledge that the name “Maximus Centurion” is a little cheesy, and sounds like something out of a comic book, rather than Kokatat’s design office. Now that I’ve said it, don’t be fooled by the label. This side-entry PFD is anything but cheesy. It has been designed around the stringent demands of being a bombproof piece of rescue equipment.

When you strap into the Centurion, the 3 buckles side entry system and Rescue Harness belt, cinch the paddler into nearly 18lbs of flotation with more rib padding than any other PFD of its kind while still providing maximum mobility for hard charging paddlers, big water oars(wo)men, paddle rafter and rescue teams.
Kokatat_Maximus_Clipped_Up

Kokatat kept all of the sweet features of this vest like bomber Cordura construction and wrap around rib technology. The obvious difference between the Prime and Centurion is the storage.

This updated model has moved the main pocket to the upper chest, making it left hand accessible and the pocket includes a mini-tether to ensure chap-stick security or prevent loss of your spare car key. I keep candy bars, ear plugs, and random items stashed away in this one.
Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Top_Pouch

The biggest update is the inclusion of a new beer-belly pocket, which consists of 2 zippered compartments as well as yet another mini-tether! YAY! I never like to be caught off guard without my sunglasses (eyeballs ain’t cheap) and the back-pocket is the perfect size for stashing them separately from pullies and carabineers, ie-scratch free.
Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Sunglasses
In the front pouch of the beer-belly paunch, I usually store my emergency pin kit; 2 pulleys, 3 carabineers, 2 prussic cords, and some blowing bubbles with room left to spare. The bubbles are key for lightening a bad situation. The paunch can also be removed if you’re looking to stream line your load.

Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Kitchen_Sink2

If a Grand Canyon self support trip is on your bucket list, than the Maximus Centurion should be as well.

Looking for more storage? I have also seen boaters store carabiners or prussicks in the sheath that the left shoulder strap runs into.

Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Strap_Storage

Additional storage for an extra carabiner and prussic.

The Centurion also keeps the comfiest collarbone padding on the market with the thick Neoprene shoulder straps. Of course, the shoulder padding is backed by USA sewn webbing. Once again, while portaging some high water drops on the Big Banana section in Mexico, I wish that my green vest had these neoprene bands to help stave off the cockpit rim from cutting in my precious doughy raft-guide skin. Either that, or I just had Aniol’s fortitude and hand rolling skills to fire up silencio at flood stage.
Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Waterfalls

The side entry vest option is neat, but unless you have patience, the 3 buckle system can be a bit of a hassle. One must wade through 3 quick-snap buckles as well as the rescue belt looping. I am not the most nimble fingered, except under the proper circumstances. It makes me wish that this vest used a zipper instead of buckles, probably a difficult task to sneak by the US Coast Guard certification board. Also, the buckles are all black and fit one another. In other words, when snapping up, it’s easy to mis-snap corresponding buckles, thus creating a rats nest of straps. As a suggestion, Kokatat should color code the buckles with their corresponding male/female parts. So I don’t have to fiddle, I often keep the jacket snapped up and simply use it as a pullover. Voilà, dual purpose PFD!

Another nice feature is the addition of a fixed rescue ring. Sewn webbing keeps boaters’ rescue leashes from sliding. In the event of a live bait situation, it limits the potential for side loading. If for some reason that slide is a necessity, it’s a quick and easy switch-a-roo.

Kokatat_Maximus_Centurion_Back_Shot

The back of the Kokatat Maximus Centurion – notice the fixed rescue ring. Nice touch.

PROS:

  • Shoulder Padding
  • Extra Storage
  • Knife Sheath
  • Rib padding
  • All around adjustability for shorter/longer torsos
  • High Flotation (18 lbs)
  • Well displaced bulk
  • Incredible impact absorption.
  • Kokatat is made in AMERICA!!! North America to be more specific. This means that when you buy from Kokatat, you’re dealing with folks in your own back yard.
  • Just as an aside, I personally watched as a Kokatat Rep turned down a representative from internet giant, AMAZON, when asked if they would start underselling their retailers by selling to amazon at lower bulk prices. The Amazon rep stomped off infuriated that there was a company out there that cared enough about the paddling community and the local paddling shops to stick it to the multi-billion dollar company. Awesome!

CONS:

  • The chest is a little motion-stifling for those looking just to whitewater kayak
  • No Jelly-Roll pockets like the green vest.
  • Spider-web of fast tech buckles for side entry
  • The tow tether fix-lock is still located on the rescue belt: When holding a carabineer, the belt droops.
  • Rescue Belt pull tab is on the left side(Yes there are lefties out there that are pumped on this. To each their own.)
  • Not the best jacket for playboating

OVERALL:

I think that this PFD is a great option for a number of whitewater groups; It’s for big-water boaters looking for some extra floatation in the event of a big-water beat-down. It’s the perfect PFD for the rescue industry considering, not only is it smothered with reflective material, but it has stream lined storage and maintains all around padding to the core to take the brunt of impacts during swift water rescue scenarios. It’s for guides that find themselves on steep/bony/jagged/big/guide-swimming rivers. Stand up paddlers, who find themselves in the water as often as they are “on” the water, will also appreciate this PFD and it’s 18 lbs of float.

If you’re looking to win the steeze-factor at your local park-and-huck, this might not be the best jacket for you. In that case, I would probably go with something from your dad’s old paddling kit or something from another brand. That’ll get all of the young church goers excited. However, if you are hoping to win the popularity contest by handing beers out which were stashed in your pfd after saving your buddies from getting beat down in a sticky weir-hole just moments prior, this is just the vest for you. But seriously, stay sharp while on the water people.

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