Exclusive Review and Video: New Stohlquist Descent Rescue PFD

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Stohlquist adds second generation Descent Rescue PFD to its line, whets paddlers’ appetite for new products.

With the help of Nick Hinds and Luke Spencer, Paddling Life has an exclusive review of the new Stohlquist Rescue PFD, the Descent.

Descent Generation 2 Review

The 2021 Stohlquist Descent is scheduled to hit shops by May, but with material shortages and shipping delays, shops and paddlers alike are crossing their fingers hoping to get their hands on the new rescue vest.

Stohlquist second generation Descent Rescue PFD
Stohlquist adds second generation Descent Rescue PFD

I was stoked when I got off the phone with Nick Hinds asking if I wanted to hit Canyon Creek and do a review on the new Descent for Paddling Life. As a long-time paddler and owner of Clackamas River Outfitters in Estacada, Oregon, I’m also anxiously awaiting Stohlquist’s new rescue life jacket. I thought to myself, “what better place to test the new vest then on one of the Pacific Northwest’s classic local creeks!” For reference, I’m 5’11” at 175-180 lbs.

Photo by AJ Frank of Nick Hinds on the Skykomish loving his Descent 2021 Life Jacket by Stohlquist
Photo by AJ Frank of Nick Hinds on the Skykomish loving his Descent 2021 Life Jacket by Stohlquist

Although I never had to deploy (thank goodness) the vest rescue features, I did get a good chance to see how I liked the 2021 Descent. I am currently sporting the Astral Green Jacket which I love, so it should make for a nice comparison. Prior to the Green Jacket I rocked the Gen 1 Descent so I feel like I can give a solid comparison.

DESCENT PFD COMFORT/FIT

Right away the Descent will stand out from other rescue vests when paddlers put it on. With a convenient side zipper for entry, this life jacket is easier to get on. Sizing is different for every vest and I imagine I can wear either the S/M or the L/XL (Stohlquist offers the vest in Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, and XX-Large). I reviewed the L/XL which fit me fine, even though I’m more of a medium or large. The L/XL did not feel too big and before I even hit the water I was stoked on the fit. The soft supple foam felt nice when I put it on and snugged it down. The vest settled in nicely on my lower torso and had a naturally conforming fit. On the water, the low-profile design made for comfortable paddling and I really didn’t even notice I had it on. Overall I’d rate the Descent fit as highly comfortable.

Stohlquist second generation Descent Rescue PFD

DESCENT PFD FEATURES

I feel like Stohlquist put good thought into the features on this vest. All your standard rescue features are present with a quick release belt, a break away plastic D-Ring for attaching the carabiner on your tow tether, and two different types of attachment points for folding- and squeeze-lock-style rescue knives. I also loved the large top opening front pocket: easy access, low-profile design, nice interior pocket options, cool exterior pocket on the front, and a reliable zipper design. Two highlights on the pocket design were the zipper-style, which I feel is less prone to failure over time, and its semi-flexible nature, which fits items better while creating a lower-profile design. Other cool features to note: The redesign of the shoulder straps—they’re now fully adjustable, which was needed as the lack of ability to tighten and loosen them on the older model was a big complaint for many paddlers. Also the added padding will make for easier kayak carrying. Lastly I dig how the interior non-slip panel keeps your PFD from riding up. I really like this vest’s features and feel like Stohlquist put a lot of thought into its design.

DESCENT PFD COOL FACTOR

Ok now we’ll get to style. Historically, Stohlquist PFDs haven’t been on the top of the list for the style and cool factor, but I do feel like this vest is an improvement on past designs. I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t a brighter color option for higher visibility while on the water. Although Stohlquist doesn’t offer any flashy colors or LE (Limited Edition) models, the clean look, stylish logo placement, and a few nice little color accents give the Descent a nice look. I’d rate it higher on “Cool Factor” then past models with room to still improve.

Photo by AJ Frank of Mike Nash running Boulder Drop on the Skykomish River using the Descent 2021 rescue PFD by Stohlquist
Photo by AJ Frank of Mike Nash running Boulder Drop on the Skykomish River using the Descent 2021 rescue PFD by Stohlquist

Parting Thoughts

I would definitely buy this vest if I was looking for a well fitting, feature-rich and comfortable rescue PFD. I like the style, but would love to see another bright color option. Stohlquist left the door open for adding in a bit more bling. If you want to hang out at the Little White Salmon takeout you may need to to grab your LE edition.
–Review by Luke Spencer of www.clackamasriveroutfitters.com

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