19 June 2012

REVIEW: Kokatat MsFit and OutFit life jackets

After 6 years of paddling with a Kokatat MsFit Tour it was time to look for a new life jacket (aka PFD).
The MsFit Tour served me well but there were just a few little things that slightly annoyed me.
Instead of replacing the MsFit with an updated version of the same I went for the OutFit Tour, the men's version.
So what's the difference/impovement between the two jackets?

OuFit and MdFit

The MsFit (yellow) is designed specifically for women even tho a lot of guys fit that PFD well.
The pocket arrangement is similar but the position of those is slightly different.
The OutFit locates the pockets more towards the centre of the chest while the MsFit has the pockets slightly more to the sides.

OutFit and MsFit

I find that the new OutFit clears my arms better than the MsFit for my relatively low stroke paddling.
The side pockets on the new OutFit have two zippered compartments and they are just big enough to carry my compact camera so it's always accessible while paddling.
On the MsFit the camera would occasionally interfere with my paddling.

pocket OutFit

On the OutFit the pocket designed to house a VHF radio is now totally in the centre of the chest. I would not know if that is a better position since I don't carry a VHF there (not enough room to contain a dry-bagged radio).
Inside the front zippered opening there is a pocket for flares or a strobe light.

internal pocket OutFit

The shoulder straps have remained mainly unchanged and the heat moulded foam still pads the top excellently. The excess from the adjustment webbing is perfectly tucked into it's own sleeve and there is no annoying flapping of webbing hitting my face in a breeze.

shoulder detail OutFit

There is no pocket on the back for a water bladder since Kokatat prefers to offer it as an add-on. I find carrying water on my shoulders a nuisance (and tiring) and I prefer to stow it below deck with a drinking hose.

pocket detail OutFit
rescue knife lashing point has now a neat pocket to prevent catching it inadvertedly

The torso length on the OutFit is longer and while it fits me well I think that paddlers with a short torso would be better served by the MsFit.
The fabric is first class Cordura (the real deal, not a look-alike). This high tenacity fabric has proven to be extremely abrasion resistant in my backpacks and works just as well in salt water.
All the webbing is bar-tacked making a pull-out a rarity. Friends I paddle with also have Kokatat PFDs and so far no webbing failures.
What has failed in one jacket is the fabric fraying in one seam where the edge of the fabric has pulled out. It didn't compromise the jacket but a few stitches saved the fabric of unravelling further.
I try to keep my life jacket free from mould by rinsing it in fresh water after every outing. A salty jacket left in a warm and humid place like Queensland attracts moisture (hygroscopic effect of salt) leading to deterioration of the fabric by mildew growth.
I also avoid using greasy type sun block cream that seems to make the matter worse around the face/neck area (real grunge mouldy look). I prefer using a UV blocking sunscreen that is clear liquid and leaves no residue on my clothing or PFDs.
I never use my jacket as a padding to seat on at the beach or camp. Closed cell foam does get compressed by the body weight (even more so in my "hefty" case) making the jacket less buoyant.
Last but not least I don't consider my life jacket a Xmas tree. Adorning my PFD with all the possible gadgets and trinkets would make it hardly positively buoyant offering me very little help when I would need it most: keep me afloat!

Kokatat MsFit Tour

PS before some readers get their panties in a bundle again may I point out that this review involved no "free samples" from Kokatat, no money into my Swiss Bank account and even less no free services from an escort agency. Geez, somebody at least buy me beer...
Yep, bought the PFDs with my own dow and nobody prompted me to write this. So, free samples or not, why do I bother to write this shit? coz I like this gear and somebody else might benefit from my review.

PSS sorry, the above was uncalled for... or was it :-)


  1. I´m just about to change PFD so this was great info, thanks.

  2. The MsFit shown is not the current model, the new version has a knife pocket similar to the OutFit pictured and the pocket shape has changed too.
    From a Kokatat fan

  3. Thanks for the nice review, gnarlydog :)

  4. Thanks so much for this post. I love it. Gee really? I don't care if they send you this stuff for free to test. They should!

    But anyway, thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. PFD annoyances abound! I think a PFD is your best friend next to your kayak.

    Recently, in a paddle shop, I saw the new Kokatat jacket with the "PFD rescue knife lashing point that now has a neat pocket to prevent catching it inadvertedly" and I thought it was brilliant. I wanted one! But they didn't have it in my girl size.

    I have issues with my kayak knife sheath getting caught on things when I Cowboy Scramble up my kayak's back deck. Some kayak knife sheaths are round, some are too pointy. My first kayak knife in it's pointy sheath, pierced a hole in my kayak's soft rear hatch cover on my Maelstrom Vital 166 during a Cowboy Scramble practice. Replacing the rear hatch cover with a harder cover cost me $80. But a PFD that secures the kayak knife holder's tip is a better idea!

    To sum it up, I want the red jacket. I'm a girl. Come to Canada. I'll buy you a beer!


  5. Nope the waffle was not uncalled for :)
    I certainly appreciate the direct and clear declaration on the post for all to see. Much better here than on another link.

  6. Hi Gnarlydog, I have the OutFit Tour and find it very comfortable. I ordered also the back water holder, find it great, but the shape is not so "user-friendly" because format is different from the water sacks normally found in the market.
    I have two questions: (1) what kind of knife do you use and how do you attatch to the lashing point and (2) I could not understand the use of the mesh pocket inside the zipper (fourth photo), when I use the PFD I cannot find space in this pocket to put something there.
    Thanks so much, your posts are amazing!!!

    1. thank you for your comment.

      The knife shown on the PFD is a cheap fixed blade diving knife that is easy to attach to the lashing tab on the jacket. The blade is not very good and a bit soft but it does not rust.
      I find that knives that have a hard blade usually rust in salt water. There is one brand that seems to work (hard blade/no rust) but is very expensive. I carry my knife for the possibility of an emergency where I need to cut a string that entangles me. I almost never use a knife when sea kayaking anyway so that cheap knife’s blade will stay sharp enough for that “one time use”.
      Most other uses I have seen for an “emergency knife” is cutting cheese for a sandwich :-)
      The pocket inside the zip is narrow and long. I used to carry a little emergency strobe in that pocket but realistically I thought was not really needed: most of my paddles are rather close to shore where being lost at night and needed one is extremely remote. As I said: I like to carry just the stuff I actually need/use (even if just occasionally) and not the stuff that probably never will but makes me feel safe.
      What I have not shown in my images is the PLB (rescue beacon) that is attached behind the left shoulder.

  7. from an email to GDN:
    Q.>>What is the sunscreen that is clear? <<

    A. A typical sunscreen is usually milky white and feels kind of greasy on the skin.
    Sick of the mess that makes on my skin and clothing I looked for something that is clear and leaves no residue.
    So far I have found two brands that work for me; Banana Boat and Sun Sense.
    Banana Boat quick-dry Sport clear spray SPF30 is only available in USA (I buy it online) and the SunSense Clear Mist spray is made in Australia.
    I prefer the Banana Boat because is unsented.

  8. Hi Gnarlydog, thanks for your answer. Maybe a knife can be useful here where we paddle, because there are sometimes lots of fishers nets potentially dangerous. Also descending rivers we found some lines. I ask about how to 'tie' the knife to PFD because I have no idea about - maybe with a webbing or something like? Also ask about the knife because the scuba knifes I can find here in Brasil are very big and bulky to use paddling. Thanks again!

    1. The knife is supplied with a sheet that has a removable piece of plastic on the back that can be pushed through the lashing tab on the jacket and then secured on permanently (small stainless steel screws). I bought the knife locally but I am sure there are similar ones available online. Look for a holder that has a system that can be secured positively onto the jacket and can't be dislodged accidentally.

  9. Hei,
    How have you made the rescue knife lashing?
    - shockcord?

    BR Simo

    1. correct: a piece of shock cord just the length of my extended arm (cord under slight tension). Shock cord tends to tangle less than straight cord

  10. I have to agree, Kotatat make good pfd's. I have a couple over the years and they perform well and seem to be quite long lasting. Nice review, thanks


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