The Maximus PFD is Kokatat’s latest and greatest high performance whitewater PFD offering. Here are my thoughts on the Maximus after using it for much of the 2013 season…
Kokatat Maximus PFD Pros:
-Low Profile for Freestyle: Most importantly for me in a PFD, when sized down (see below), the Maximus works well as a low-profile freestyle vest. I liked the strap adjustments below the the main chest panel, which allowed me to really pull down that flotation, helping to prevent riding.
-Side-entry: I like a side entry PFD. It’s easier to deal with than a pullover vest, and you can leave the webbing tightened how you like it and simply unbuckle the three straps to get in and out of the vest with minimal adjustment.
-Well-made of high quality materials. 500 denier Cordura® outer shell and non-PVC “Gaia” flotation material.
-Chest zipper pocket is low profile yet still large enough to be functional. I could fit a fin or two for my SUP in there, plus a sunscreen stick.
-Kokatat Maximus Prime PFD is a solid workhorse rescue vest with the added functionality of the quick-release safety harness with O-ring
-Flotation felt great when swimming back to the eddy after a SUP ride in the whitewater park. Definitely feels like a vest you can trust to keep you on the surface in heavier conditions.
-Quick-release harness concealed by the front flotation panel in the Maximus Prime. Nice to have that big piece of webbing tucked away for both looks and to avoid potential snags.
Kokatat Maximus PFD Cons:
-Medium/Large felt pretty bulky for my liking in a freestyle vest. I liked it fine for applications like SUPing or rowing my raft, but for freestyle, the flotation material extends from the main chest area toward the shoulder straps, and this firm material rode up sometimes and felt cumbersome during freestyle rides. All of this was addressed, however, when I sized down to the XS/S. My chest measurement is 40 inches without any layering or gear. Kokatat recommends measuring your chest with your paddling gear on, so I’d be at more than 40 inches. Either way, M/L range is 40-46, so I’m at the low end of the M/L. The XS/S size is for chest measurements of 32-38 inches, so I’m bigger than that but much preferred XS/S for freestyle since it pretty much eliminated my fit complaints from the M/L.
-Neoprene shoulder straps didn’t do much for me. The added padding for boat carrying is minimal. To me they just add bulk around my neck and accentuate the dread “riding up” sensation when it happens. Not a big deal, but a lower profile webbing material that can be tightened to remove slack is my preference.
The Maximus PFD is a strong offering from a great company that stands by their product with industry-leading customer service. Freestyle paddlers should pay close attention when choosing their size, and definitely take it seriously as a great option for a freestyle vest. For all other applications, I recommend this vest without reservation.