Stearns Hybrid Fishing and Paddling Vest

Gearflogger reviews the Stearns Hybrid Fishing and Paddling Vest

If you're heading out on the water a personal flotation device AKA life vest AKA life jacket AKA Mae West is mandatory. For most of us a Type III, technically a "flotation aid," will be a reasonable compromise between security and mobility. This is not the kind of thing you want to get from a generic label, and no brand is more trusted to get wet than Stearns.

Stearns makes life jackets for military, industrial and recreational users, and their Hybrid Fishing and Paddling vest is a hands-down winner. Also sold under the Coleman brand, the Hybrid vest is great for medium to long distance paddling where you want a comfortable cut and also a bunch of storage options, and oh yeah maybe you want to do a little fishing along the way.

The Hybrid is a foam vest, bulkier than inflatable models but less expensive and absolutely reliable, even if you're more unconscious than usual. It's cut high in the back for comfort in the cockpit, and the design also aids in maintaining a face-up posture in the water should it come to that. There are seven pockets on the front of the vest: on the right side a medium open mesh and a small zipped; on the left side another medium open mesh and a medium zipped; and in the middle a large flip-down "work station" suitable for working up flies and hooks, and on the outside of that two small open mesh pockets.

Beyond the pockets there are multiple fabric loops to clip things to, and even a key ring on a spring cord on the right shoulder for fishing pliers, a whistle or general retainer use for things that shouldn't go overboard. It's a plethora of pockets that's useful not just for fishing gear but for safety and survival materials (bear spray on the Kenai!, comfort items or anything else you can think of. The Hybrid is a truly versatile vest, and it just gets better: the fit can be dialed in from small to large, and it wears all day comfortably. All of this, and a price that won't break the bank. Without a doubt, the Stearns Hybrid vest is our go-to for water safety.

$62.18 on Amazon


Note to readers: As of November 1, 2022, Gearflogger no longer participates in affiliate programs or accepts commissions on links to products. We’ll find some other way to make money. Maybe get a real job. Maybe not.

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