Paddle sports in general require only three basic types of gear. We understand that’s very minimal but that’s all it really takes to get out on the water. A boat or SUP, a paddle, and a life jacket. Now we aren’t going to call ourselves PFD experts by any means but one thing we do know is what we don’t want. Yes, that’s right, we said “What we don’t want”. In adventure racing a lot of race directors require you to use their boats, paddles, and PFD’s to make gear management and transitions flow easier. Now we’re not talking about the old school orange life jackets you used at camp but they’re just a step up from that if you ask us. That’s why we were excited to bring you a light weight, low profile PFD that can take a beating and keep on going. The NRS Ninja Personal Flotation Device.
The Ninja is a U.S. Coast Guard type III PFD designed specifically for freestyle kayakers and other active boaters and paddlers. This is mostly due to the Ninja’s unique athletic design, it won’t interfere with paddling or rowing no matter if you’re sitting in a Kayak or standing on a SUP. We found that the super comfortable low profile design makes it a perfect fit for adventure racing. Its compact design gives you total freedom for extended comfort and range of movement. We also noticed that is very easy to wear under a race bib for an extended period of time without becoming a burden.
NRS has crafted the Ninja from only the softest PVC-Free foam, not to mention the flotation panels are shaped for a super comfortable fit. The soft stretchable fabric on the inside lets the Ninja PFD flex to your movement and enhances breathability. However, don’t underestimate the 50290-denier Cordura shell. It may be soft to the touch but it is an industry leading fabric and is very durable. Multiple times during this test I ended up in the water being drug up against some rough river rocks and repetitively pulling myself back into the kayaks.
A few things that we really like about the NRS design are the four side adjustments and the two shoulder adjustments because they allow you to really create a custom fit. When you’re on the water as long as we are that is crucial. The side entry is secured by quick release buckles making it easy to put on and take off. This side-zip feature makes this a user friendly PFD and is awesome for boaters with short torsos who may have a difficult time wearing life vests that unzip right down the middle. Not only does this adjustment system allow you to create a custom fit but the four adjustments are ideal when you have to wear your PFD over multiple layers during long, cold, winter adventure races. We also found them to help prevent the PFD from riding up on our torso which as you all know is a chore in itself.
Another feature we thought was very innovative was the floating front panel. This piece of tech allows the PFD to adjust to your body’s shape adding comfort and we also found that it was a safe place to store some things that we like to have readily available like our riding/paddling gloves, maps, hand warmers, snacks etc. The list could go on, this is just another great feature to help you customize your PFD.
One of the Ninja‘s other great features is the front mesh pocket. We really love the location of this pocket and that it is secured with a quick release buckle to hold all the essentials, because Velcro doesn’t last in wet conditions. We found that this pocket works great for GU gels, whistle, sunblock, etc. Inside the pocket is an attachment point for a strobe, glow stick, keys (which we don’t recommend) and plenty of other stuff. We were surprised at just how much we could fit in this small pocket, as the super durable stretch mesh really expands to hold a lot. We could only find one con about the NRS design which is that there is only one pocket. However, utilizing the floating front panel for storage added a ton of space and in no way would this effect our judgement of this product.
Another feature that almost all PFD comes stock with is a lash tab, the Ninja also comes stock with one well placed lash tab that securely holds your rescue knife close to your body and out of harm’s way. We opted to use our always trusty NRS Pilot Knife for this review but almost all water rescue or boating specific knife will come with a sheath that is compatible. We were amazed at just how well the lash tab held, it was almost difficult trying to get the knife sheath off of the lash tab which is a good thing when you think about it. We felt very secure about it’s placement in rough water and when we were getting in and out of the boat from the water.
NRS offers the Ninja in a variety of different colors and there are 3 sizes available. The Small/Medium is 33″-40″, we tested the Large/Extra Large at 38″- 46″, and the Double Extra Large is 42″-50″. All three sizes are very true to size with plenty of adjustment points if needed.
We put this life jacket through a whole season of some of the most rigorous testing we could find. We drug it through adventure races, packrafting trips, SUP trips and what we found was that the Ninja PFD is a great option for both beginner and advanced paddlers. Kayakers, stand up paddlers, and Adventure racers alike can benefit from this light weight, extremely durable, and super comfortable PFD. We like them so much we’re even planning on picking them up for the whole team.
Head on over to nrs.com and check out all their incredible paddling and water specific products.
See you on the trails!