Surprisingly, this review was an especially interesting one to research. Let's be honest here, a recreational kayaking life jacket often times can be a bland and dull topic to write about. They typically to not have very many cool features, and often times are built with a lesser grade of construction, as compared to a whitewater PFD. Astral Buoyancy has once again diverted from the norm, and created a pair of his and her's recreational kayaking PFD's that not only have a unique story, but carry on the Astral tradition of offering the most comfortable, durable and environmentally friendly life jacket in it's class.
So what's with the name? Who are Linda and Ronnie? And more importantly, why name a safety flotation device after them??? Linda was the original sample maker for Lotus designs (back before the Astral days). She has quite a bit of tenure, and now works for Astral in North Carolina. I have never had the chance to meet her, but Bryan Owen (a guy that wears a lot of hats for Astral) described her as a truly incredible person, who has done some amazing things for Astral over the years. This PFD is a tribute to her. Ronny is her husband. He's a Vietnam vet, who has an equally as amazing personality, and also helps with the Astral production operation. Similar to the LE series of Green Jackets, the Linda and Ronny have a cool story behind them, which makes them quite interesting to write about. For more information on the Linda and Ronny love story, check out this review that Bryan wrote for the Astral Blog...
The real Linda and Ronny, wearing their Linda and Ronny's.
Useful Ronny informationLinda info for the ladiesInformation on both the Linda and Ronny for Astral owner and lead designer Philip Curry.
FITS A WIDE DEMOGRAPHIC OF PEOPLE:The Linda was built around the frame of a 5' tall, 100 lb women. They did this because it's much more difficult to build a PFD that properly fits someone small, than it is for someone large. Once the first version was finished, they expanded into a full female size run(which is much easier than shrinking a PFD), and shifted production over to the Ronny(men's version). Because of this construction method, the Linda and Ronny truly fit a very diverse range of people.
Paddlers of all shapes and sizes (including both men and women) will fit well in either the Linda or Ronny.
SUPERIOR COMFORT AND FIT FOR USE WITH RECREATIONAL KAYAKS AND SUP'S:All it takes is putting on either a Linda or Ronny for about 30 seconds, and you will get an idea what "Astral fit" is all about. The PFD has volume where you need it, soft edges where you want them, ventilation where it counts, adjustment tabs that fine tune the fit, and a large pocket within easy reach. This is all no surprise; Astral is known for building PFD's that fit like an Italian suit.
The Ronny (and Linda) has large arm opening for a high range of mobility. This is especially nice for Stand Up Paddling.
LARGE ARM OPENINGS, ALLOW FOR A HIGH RANGE OF MOBILITY: As previously mentioned, both PFD's have large arm openings, which make this life jacket a solid choice for stand up paddling and even whitewater based recreational kayaking.
SCULPTED CHEST FOR WOMEN (ALSO COMFY FOR GUYS):Both PFD's have a tapered chest area. This makes it more comfortable for women, and it actually feels great on a guy too. I have worn this jacket quite a bit, and can testify that it's the most comfortable rec PFD that I've ever worn.
Women in particular will love the tapered fit and large openings.
BUILT WITH THE HIGHEST QUALITY OF CONSTRUCTION, AND WITH THE ENVIRONMENT IN MIND:Again, this comes as no surprise, but the Linda and Ronnie are built with the best and most environmentally friendly materials out there. There's no PVC on this jacket; it's built with 100% PE foam. This is a polyethylene material that's less toxic, and more importantly is recyclable. Astral uses the scraps for dog beds, and other odds and ends.The exterior material is a 200 denier Nylon shell. This is pretty impressive for any PFD, let alone an entry level rec jacket.
VENTED MESH ON THE BACK KEEPS YOU COOL:The "Thin-Vent" mesh stripe that runs down the center of the back of the Ronny does a good job at breathing air out of the hottest part of the jacket. These jackets are great options for paddlers and anglers in the southeast.
The breathable mesh stripe dissipates heat and moisture away from your back and cools you off.
THOUGHTFUL FEATURES LIKE THE SMALL HYPALON TAB BELOW THE ZIPPER HELP TO MAKE THE LINDA (AND RONNY) MORE USER FRIENDLY:When zipping up these PFD's, you'll notice that there is a small piece of Hypalon rubber just below the zipper. If you grab that while you zip it up, life is a little bit easier for the moment. It's little touches like this that separate Astral from many other PFD manufacturers.
Grab on to the small pull tab when zipping up your PFD. Nice touch. YKK zippers are top of the line.
THE POCKET ON THE FRONT IN HUGE:The front mesh pocket is massive. It can fit a tackle box, or even 2 12 oz cans of river soda.
Mesh pocket with fastex buckle. Large enough for whatever you need to bring with you on the river.
TYPE III US COAST GUARD APPROVED. THIS JACKET IS GOOD FOR USING ON WHITEWATER
STYLIZED BY ASTRAL TEAM MEMBER AND FORMER GREEN RACE CHAMP ROBIN BETZ:The colors, style and design subtleties were designed by Robin. Astral PFD's are known for their style, and the Linda and Ronny are no exception.
Robin (Astral Stylist) dropping into the notch, and about to spank the monkey.
This PFD is not really intended for heavy whitewater use. The back is thin (for good reason), and because of that it does not offer a whole lot of protection. If you spend more time in class III whitewater, and less in flat moving water, check out the Camino (or even the Sea Wolf), they have more protection in the back, and other features you may want / need. The V-8 is also a good option to look at.
MSRP IS $89.95.There are recreational PFD's on the market for half the price of the Linda or Ronny. If you are going to use your PFD once or twice in a blue moon, maybe spending $40-$50 is the way to go. You will be guaranteed that they will not be made with the highest level materials, fit as comfortably as an Astral, look as cool as an Astral, or most importantly (in my mind at least) are constructed with no PVC...and are recyclable! Yes, that's right! Astral actually cares about the planet, and is actively doing their part to contribute.
There was a gap in the recreational kayaking market that needed to be filled. A high end, comfortable and extremely functional PFD was needed to be used along side the new breed of high performance recreational kayaks, such as the Jackson Coosa. The Astral Buoyancy Linda and Ronny fills the void, and it does it well. Try one on for size, and you will see how a rec PFD IS SUPPOSED to fit.