I come from a background of never having experience with Phil Curry’s previous Lotus designs. I had of course seen them around the web some years back as well as in the flesh when I was out in the US.
I first spied the Astral AV200 on boaterinformation.com. It looked pretty good and seemed to be pretty well thought out. I ordered one!
Well I have not been disappointed. The construction is great. The stiching is close to a work of art – obviously good quality control.
The fit is good I found that the XS-M size was best for me as it fits upto a 42inch chest! The PFD is low profile and unrestrictive. A swim test showed that the bouyancy was spot on for my 14st bulk.
The entrie fit of the PFD is adjusted via only two straps, that do a zed over the back so when fastened it tightens everything up. The straps also fold back and get stored away in a hook.
A waist belt is also provided to aid the fit. I found the technique of getting the PFD to stay put is to fasten this waist belt first and then adjust the other straps. Everytime I have fastened it this way the PFD has stayed in the correct position.
The front pocket is big enough to store a camera or snack. Access to the pocket is very simple and effective – just a velcro tab. The pocket is also big enough to take one of Astrals own throwbags or small hydration systems.
Behind the pocket is a hand-warmer tunnel. A great addition for boating in the UK, again a simple but well thought out idea. Another small pocket (suitable for a knife) is located on the shoulder strap along with an accessory tether point.
The rear of the PFD has a pocket that will hold a hydration system like the camelback or platypus products. Astral produce one themselves but similar products on the market fit just as well.
A womens specific AV200 (the Wondervest) is also available along with a full on river running model.
The PFD is US Coastguard approved but not CE approved. So please bare this in mind if you purchase one to use in compettion.
I have been trying one of these PFD’s for over a year now in all kinds of water conditions. Not once has the PFD not lived up to expectations. Late 2005 will see SystemX bringing Astral PFD’s into the UK, which I’m sure will soon become the most popular range of PFD’s in the UK. If the new kit is only half as good as the AV200 then it will be a sure fire success.