There are a lot of different options for life jackets dedicated to paddle sports. I cannot stress how important it is to have a pfd with you at all times - not just for safety but because it is the law and you don't want to get a ticket. As far as the different options I use go, there really are only two configurations: a high back foam pfd and an inflatable pfd. Many of you are familiar with the MTI Adventurewear Dio F-Spec as well as my new Solaris F-Spec that I have been using quite a bit. These two pfd's would qualify as the high back foam pfd. These are great for when you need to carry gear close by and are in more dangerous water than usual, such as rapids and strong currents. However, if you are in flatter and calmer water there isn't as much of a need for a life jacket that takes up some extra space. This is where the MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0 comes into play.
The Helios 2.0 retails for about $140.00 and weighs in at only 1.6 lbs...extremely lightweight. Due to the minimalistic design and tank top structure, the Helios 2.0 is about as close as you can get to not wearing a life jacket while still wearing one. This is a huge benefit to many people who just can't seem to throw on a pfd.
Why should you use the Helios 2.0 and when though?
The reason why you should use it is for the extreme comfort that you can obtain while legally having a life jacket on. Due to the Helios 2.0 being inflatable, there is no permanent foam for flotation and also no pockets for storage making this pfd extremely ergonomic and streamlined. The best time to use this life jacket would be when you only are expecting to be in calm water with little or no chance of a tip over occurring. The reason why is because the Helios 2.0 requires the user to pull a hang cord for the life jacket to deploy. In rapids, this is not what you want because there is always the chance of flipping and hitting your head, and as a result you get knocked unconscious and cannot pull the hand cord for deployment - this is when you would want a high back foam pfd such as the Solaris F - Spec. However, if you are in calmer water or out in the open with little chance of anything hitting you except water, the Helios 2.0 is the way to go.
The other aspect about the Helios 2.0 to consider is its versatility to be used in a wide variety of applications. Paddleboarding, fishing and just kayaking in general are all good options but the Helios 2.0 would also work great for any time you go out boating.
In a quick review, the Helios 2.0 is a great investment if you prefer not wearing a life jacket, as it is pretty much the closest option you have to "almost not wearing a pfd". It is extremely lightweight, durable and easy to adjust to a wide variety of users. Open water and calm water are the main friends of the Helios 2.0, as any situation involving rapids would be risky with a non-automatic deployment pfd. Overall, the Helios 2.0 is a great option from MTI Adventurewear and you will be sure to catch me out on the water with it on when the conditions are right. If you are interested in purchasing a Helios 2.0 or would like to learn more about this life jacket please click here.