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fxr vest

Life in the FXr

A long term review of the Palm FXr vest…

When I wrote my initial review of the Palm FXr vest I knew that the design was going to be a hit with paddlers. All the safety features of a full-on river vest, in the form of a minimalist, freestyle PFD. What’s not to like?

I’ve worn mine throughout the summer in the UK, as well as on a short trip to India and a season of raft guiding in Australia. Here’s my thoughts….


The fit is perfect.

Clever distribution of the foam means that it floats me high in the water, without getting in the way whilst playboating. Initially, I wore the vest low, with the shoulder straps as long as they would go. After a bit of testing however, I found that it floated me much better when cinched up tighter instead. I’m 6 foot 1 and still have the shoulder straps on the tightest setting.

One mistake that I have learnt from though… The front pocket can hold a tonne of rescue kit. However, getting carried away and overloading it does make getting back in to a raft much harder. Instead, I try to split the load between my vest and my Zambezi Belt.


The easy-access knife pocket is a step in the right direction, yet I’d still like to see the option for an externally mounted river knife. True, they’re frowned upon in the UK (Palm’s main market), but popular with raft guides working overseas. In India I paid a local shoe repair man to stitch my knife sheath on to my shoulder strap – problem solved.


The cow-tail park on the front of the vest is made up of a split D-ring, which opens easily under pressure. It’s a great idea, allowing the cowtail to drop free if it gets caught up on something on the river. As a raft guide however, I often find that it gets caught on the outside of the boat when climbing back in and pops free of its own accord. An easy fix – use an auto-locking karabiner, rather than a screwgate, to re-clip it with minimal faff.



Hilariously, the foam in my vest expanded and became stiff as a board when paddling at 4000m above sea level in Ladakh, India. Palm cannot be to blame here, as it happened to everybody else’s vests too and still functioned perfectly. However, when going back to sea level, I noticed that the foam in the vest had shrunk a little. That and the 4 long-haul flights mean that I’m starting to think about replacing it soon.

But what with?

Another FXr, for sure…



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