($95, stohlquist.com )
The lifejacket crafters at Stohlquist have long been known for their low-profile and easy-packing designs. With the introduction of the Type III Coaster PFD, they've taken a further leap into minimalism with a Thin Back Design, which spreads a slimmed-down layer of foam slightly wider up the spine and across the low back. The wider distribution allows you sit comfortably back in higher seats without pushing the ripstop-nylon jacket up, and without sacrificing flotation (the large version, pictured and tested, adds 17 pounds). This lightweight, tour-anywhere Coaster (available in three sizes) adds a few surprising extras in the slight, yet well-thought pockets (looking at you, expandable beverage sleeve!). Plus it still features Stohlquist's calling-card standards — from easy-breathing open sides to adjustable shoulders and a cross-chest cinch harness — that help it fit a wide variety of male and female torso shapes, from rail thin to the big-bubba barrel.