Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

Discussion of safety equipment and use.
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NorthSIKer
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Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#1 Post by NorthSIKer » Sat Jan 30, 2016 1:16 pm

I figured I’d post up on this here as the Palm PFDs are just about unheard of in Australia.

After nearly 8 years of use my trusty Ultra Trek PFD finally gave up the ghost. Actually, the PFD is still perfectly serviceable from a safety perspective. However the material around some of the zips on the pockets has deteriorated, snagged in the zippers and popped one and the other is hard to use. As these are side zippers I don’t have a secure spot for my PLB and some other bits and pieces so I decided to retire this PFD from regular use and relegate it to back-up and loaner purposes.

The Ultra Trek PFD has been and still is a fine PFD. It remains 100% functional where it counts – after nearly 8 years of use under the tropical sun that is a worthy achievement. I would recommend them – and they are very competitively priced relative to their quality.

But the grass is always greener elsewhere! So I began the research into alternatives. Criteria were:
  • 1. A true ‘paddlers’ vest designed to sit right, stay put on the torso and still be comfortable for long days – i.e. sea kayaking ‘expedition’ style.
    2. Durable materials, quality construction.
    3. Large hydration bladder pocket (non-negotiable).
    4. Good number of pockets and solutions to attaching gear to the PDF.
And of course the vest had to meet a good standard of floatation and safety.

I looked into a number of options, but finding something with all of the above was limiting. The large hydration pocket was surprisingly rare – I guess it is only here in the tropics that front of mind if you fall in is whether you have enough water to survive the next few hours. Just for paddling I also want to have water very easily available – two things ruin your day fast up here: 1. Getting dehydrated; 2. Getting sunburnt.

In the end I ended up finding the UK brand Palm, and their Kaikoura Tour PFD (they call them buoyancy aids over there). From my research I could see this was developed (and subsequently modified over several model updates) with lots of input from sea kayakers. It had also been very favourably received by a kayak fishers over there for the excellent pockets and storage. There is a real art to getting pockets right so they are not intrusive to paddling, are easily accessible and hold the bits and pieces you need. Looks simple when done right, but very many designs fail at it.

To my original criteria:
  • 1. This is firstly designed as an expedition paddlers first PFD. Best of all, the model has been around for a while and things that didn’t work changed and improved – so the current model appears free of ‘bugs’.
    2. Looking at the existing reviews (just google ‘Palm Kaikoura Tour review’) showed excellent construction and refinements. High quality materials, all the stress points in the stitching are bar tacked and nice neoprene under the arms to minimise chaffing.
    3. It has a very large hydration bladder pocket – 3 litres fits easily.
    4. Lash points are much more numerous than most other PFDs. There are buckles and clips within the pockets as well as out, so now my PLB doesn’t need to have a lanyard sticking out of a pocket. There are also a couple of fleece lined 'hand warmer' pockets with no zip. They'll get zero use as hand warmers up here but they are perfect for stashing a couple of objects fairly securely for quick and easy access (e.g. some trolling sinkers and soft plastic scent). One thing I am not keen on is the two lashing buckles on the front of the vest have a deliberate split so you can pull anything attached there free with a good yank. I would prefer the no pull security and won’t be using these.
The PFD meets international Standard ISO 12402 and Personal flotation device Level 50 (formerly known as Type 2 in Australia) European Standard EN 393 (Lifejackets – 50N). Hence it is compliant to Australian standards – even though it is not AS rated. Palm claims it is at has 20% greater floatation than the standard (so it should be 60 Newton of floatation - just checked again and labelled as >70N for my size).

The pricing of this thing is premium, but not too bad directly out of the UK. I couldn’t find it for sale in Australia but it is available in New Zealand. Straight up I will agree the Ultra PFD is better value, but at the same time this PFD appears to deliver enough quality, refinement and comfort improvements to justify its price for many.

Out of the box it is everything it says it is, fits very comfortably and my gear stows nice and neatly (carrying more on me than I used to be able to). A couple of crappy photos below.
PFD 1.small.jpg
PFD 2.small.jpg
The vest is designed to sit quite high (this is a sea kayak comfort thing) and is quite bulbous at the front (wife says like bad man boobs :roll: ). I don't think this will be in the way paddling though (no reviews have suggested an issue) but I guess I will only know for sure after it gets some ocean time.

First test is out to the Palm Islands in a couple of days – That is a 22km ocean crossing to camp and then likely another 20-30km exploring so should be a good first test.
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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#2 Post by yaqdoq » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:42 pm

Looks ok .
I'll wait for the report in 8ýrs for comparison :grin:

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#3 Post by NorthSIKer » Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:26 pm

yaqdoq wrote:Looks ok .
I'll wait for the report in 8ýrs for comparison :grin:
I'll put a diary note in Outlook for then? :cool:

There are a number of detailed reviews already on the web from the UK and a couple of those were second time buyers (purchasing the updated version) - so were able to provide real world commentary on durability and the changes made to newer models. As a side note, I always consider it high praise for a product when people buy them again to replace the previous purchase - rather than trying something else.

Considering the materials, quality of workmanship and attention to detail I would expect this PFD will last longer than the Ultra. Ask again in 8 years to be sure :grin:

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#4 Post by gbc » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:02 pm

Have you paddled with rear hydration before? I know the fast guys don't love it, but for sea kayaking I am pretty much sold that my next pfd will have it. I am interested to see your views after a few paddles?
The cut on yours is similar to my Marlin - strange in photos but comfy as.

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#5 Post by NorthSIKer » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:20 pm

gbc wrote:Have you paddled with rear hydration before?
Yeah, always carry a 3l bladder full in my old PFD as well.

I have also been told that the weight high on your torso is not good for paddling efficiency, but I wouldn't be without it up here. Never paddled without, so don't really know better :?:

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#6 Post by Plakkyboat » Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:01 pm

NorthSIKer wrote: Yeah, always carry a 3l bladder full in my old PFD as well.
I have also been told that the weight high on your torso is not good for paddling efficiency, but I wouldn't be without it up here.
Never paddled without, so don't really know better
Hi NorthSIKer,

Thanks for posting a detailed report on your research and choice of a new life-jacket/pfd

What brand and model 3 litre bladder do you use?
Cheers -- Paul
My first true love was the Sea. After threescore spins around the Sun...she's still there...as my mistress — Plakkyboat Image

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#7 Post by NorthSIKer » Tue Feb 02, 2016 4:28 pm

Plakkyboat wrote: What brand and model 3 litre bladder do you use?
I have a Camelback Antidote Reservoir (3l).

I wouldn't particularly recommend for or against it. It happened to be on sale once when I had an order for gear from the USA (remember when the Aussie was $1.10? :grin: ) so got it then on a whim.

Before that I just used ebay no brand bladders - essentially no problem with these either - though the camelback is a bit easier to open and close to fill.

For walking I use a Source Convertatube. This works directly off a water bottle. I find it easier to fill bottles at streams then fiddle around with bladders. But bladders are more space efficient and give a bit better pressure when you drink.

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#8 Post by NorthSIKer » Tue Feb 02, 2016 4:53 pm

Also forgot to mention, I am just back from the trip out to the Palm Islands.

So after 75km in the new jacket - what is there to say? Simply that it is as expected.

Compared to the Ultra it is better fitting (more contoured to the torso and more stable on the body), higher sitting on the torso (which I liked as I can move back and to the sides more freely in my deep sea kayak cockpit) and has more pockets making for better storage of items and fishing gear.

Nothing else to add that isn't obvious looking at the product features or the other, more detailed reviews already online elsewhere. I guess just keep an eye on this thread now for the 8 year durability review :lol:

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#9 Post by Plakkyboat » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:08 pm

NorthSIKer wrote:
Plakkyboat wrote: What brand and model 3 litre bladder do you use?
I have a Camelback Antidote Reservoir (3l).

I wouldn't particularly recommend for or against it. It happened to be on sale once when I had an order for gear from the USA (remember when the Aussie was $1.10? :grin: ) so got it then on a whim.

Before that I just used ebay no brand bladders - essentially no problem with these either - though the camelback is a bit easier to open and close to fill.

For walking I use a Source Convertatube. This works directly off a water bottle. I find it easier to fill bottles at streams then fiddle around with bladders. But bladders are more space efficient and give a bit better pressure when you drink.
Thanks for that info about your 3 litre bladder. The Camelback have a pretty good reputation especially with walkers.

Not long ago I just bought a Source WXP 3L Hydration Bladder (about $35 via an online Aussie website including delivery in Australia) for my kayak (see pic below).
http://www.wildearth.com.au/buy/source- ... vQodqT8HwQ

I have an Ultra Pinacle pfd that accomodates a bladder and bought a couple of cheap $10 bladders from Anaconda about 3 years ago when I first bought the pfd.

Never used the bladder inside the vest but last year I decided to use one of the cheap bladders inside the cavity behind my seat on my Kaskazi Dorado II (acres of room in that area)

I changed to a longer 10mm tube (Bunnings)that exits the hull via an electrical gland in the fibreglass deck behind me to my right side and the mouthpiece rests neatly in the the loop of the nylon handle strap that's next to where I sit. (see pic below, prior to changing to the Source bladder) For now I'm using the same mouthpiece and will keep the Source mouthpiece as a spare.

I found that the cheap 2 litre bladder wasn't enough volume on long paddles. Also the cheap bladder couldn't be easily cleaned like the Source bladder which has the wide mouth opening at the top (great for adding ice). Anti-bacterial surfaces inside is an important feature too. The tube on the cheapie couldn't be disconnected from the bladder easily to remove it from the hull for cleaning and refilling.
Source WXP_3 Litres.jpg
Hydration Tube.JPG
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Cheers -- Paul
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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#10 Post by Plakkyboat » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:19 pm

NorthSIKer wrote:Also forgot to mention, I am just back from the trip out to the Palm Islands.

So after 75km in the new jacket - what is there to say? ...........
Sound like your fitness levels are nothing short of "bloody amazing". :lek:

I've certainly experienced being 'young and fit' but 'oldish and fit' currently eludes me... :roll:
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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#11 Post by NorthSIKer » Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:47 pm

Source make top quality hydration from what I understand. That is a very neat way of plumbing it into the boat. As mentioned I want mine in my PFD as if I did end up in the water and the kayak blows away I don't want to get dehydrated waiting for the chopper!

Can't say I ever clean my bladders :gu: so the wide mouth hasn't been a great benefit too me.
Plakkyboat wrote: I've certainly experienced being 'young and fit' but 'oldish and fit' currently eludes me... :roll:
I'm middle aged and probably trying too hard is all :?:

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#12 Post by Plakkyboat » Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:28 pm

NorthSIKer wrote:Source make top quality hydration from what I understand. That is a very neat way of plumbing it into the boat. As mentioned I want mine in my PFD as if I did end up in the water and the kayak blows away I don't want to get dehydrated waiting for the chopper!

Can't say I ever clean my bladders :gu: so the wide mouth hasn't been a great benefit too me.

I'm middle aged and probably trying too hard is all
Well done indeed for a middle aged paddler to do the miles you cover. I can relate to the 'trying too hard' part.
My mind often writes cheques that my body can't cover.....but eventually pays for in various quantities of pain :cry:

Call me a "hygiene freak" if you must but I don't like the restrictions of not being able to easily clean out any unseen slime or algae that may build up over time inside my hydration bladder.

If I don't use my bladder for a while for any reason, I use the wide mouth opening to easily dry it out properly with paper towels.
Occasionally I make up a salt water brew and let it sit inside the bladder for a day or so. Bacteria can't live in salt water.

I can understand your measures to ensure you have water on yourself via your pfd, especially with the miles you do.
If it was me in your situation, I'd most likely put one bladder into my vest and another inside my ski.

Do you use a lanyard from your body to your ski (see below) to protect against being separated from your ski in rough conditions ?
That way you can hopefully also activate your EPIRB (attached to your ski) as well as your PLB on your jacket.

Of course, that's assuming you carry an EPIRB (to be legal) and a PLB (to be practical) when over 3 miles offshore.
Man overboard strap.jpg
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Last edited by Plakkyboat on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Cheers -- Paul
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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#13 Post by NorthSIKer » Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:26 pm

Plakkyboat wrote: Do you use a lanyard from your body to your ski (see below) to protect against being seperated from your ski in rough conditions.
No, I don't use a tether to the kayak. The idea has merits, but also deficiencies. In my case, I have to physically pull myself out of my kayak (Can't just fall out) so figure I should stay in contact. If not, I work on having all I need for a bit on my person. Touch wood in my 8 years on the water I have not gone in yet (other than the 'surf' zone). And yes, i have practiced re-entries at sea (just in case).
Plakkyboat wrote:That way you can hopefully also set off your EPIRB (attached to your ski) as well as your PLB on your jacket.
Of course, that's assuming you carry an EPIRB (to be legal) and a PLB (to be practical) when over 3 miles offshore.
Man overboard strap.jpg
Actually nearly everywhere I paddle (included that Palms trip) is classified partially smooth waters - so no EPIRB required by law. I always have a GPS-locating PLB on me (in the PFD). I do occasionally stray outside partially smooth waters but true EPIRBS are just not practical in kayaks - your number one risk is being separated from the kayak so you need something on your person. I don't know of any sea kayakers who use them.

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#14 Post by R0g3r » Mon Feb 08, 2016 9:21 am

Thankyou for a great read, I had a look at the Kaikoura and was impressed but I did notice a difference between the 2015 and 2016 vest.
Do you know what improvements have been made to the 2016 vest if any?

Image 2016.

Image 2015.

Cheers,
Roger.

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Re: Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD – First Look

#15 Post by NorthSIKer » Mon Feb 08, 2016 7:04 pm

Thank you R0g3r.

Honestly, I have no idea of the differences between the 2015 and 2016 models are! Mine is the 2015.

Certainly there were a few issues to fix / improve on the earliest models, but it seems everything noted on early reviews/feedback has been addressed by 2015. Possibly just a styling change - as all consumer products do from time to time?

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