M-16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
($89, comes with 16-gram CO2 cylinder, onyxoutdoor.com)
Paddlers stepping into a canoe or kayak typically understand the importance of wearing a properly fitting personal floatation device (PFD), should they become separated from their craft. As the popularity of standup paddling continues to grow, however, oftentimes paddlers (hopefully) leashed to boards forget about the legalities enforced on some waterways that classify standup boards as vessels -- and thus legally require paddlers to wear or carry life jackets. Onyx's affordable new M-16 takes low profile to new levels with a belt pack that actually feels like belt. Keep your paddling shoulders swinging free with a pack that clips around your waist, nesting a single rectangular chamber which rapidly fills open with a rip-cord jerk activating a small CO2 chamber. Toss the chamber's strap over your head and you're floating with 17 pounds of buoyancy in a U.S. Coast Guard-approved jacket (Type V/Type III performance), with an air tube that can provide adult paddlers (over 16 years, or 80 pounds) up to 26.5 pounds of buoyancy. Combine the M-16's simple design (the chamber folds down accordion-style into a Velcro-ed nylon holder) with its insanely light weight and you've got one svelte belt that won't have you drawing bulky fanny-pack parallels.
-- C&K editors pay tribute to the Gear We Love.