Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hands On: Gill Compressor Vest


The Gill Compressor Vest is a new buoyancy aid geared towards the high performance dinghy and sport boat market. The vest has minimal padding and is very thin throughout to maximize mobility in the boat.

Unlike most life jackets the Compressor Vest is made primarily of neoprene and cut for a tight fit around the torso. The neoprene stretches to compress (hence the name) the gear worn beneath and provides a fit similar to a rash guard. This is excellent for preventing lose gear from snagging on hardware as you move about the boat.

The Compressor is a pull over style vest with a partial zipper on the left side and a buckled waist belt. Since it's a pull over it takes a little doing to get into if you have a lot of gear on but I didn't have too much trouble.

The shoulders are smooth neoprene with no extra bulk - ensuring that what is often a troublesome area on life jackets won't catch on the boom as you are crossing the boat. Some of the reduced bulk in the Compressor Vest comes from the fact that it is a buoyancy aid and is not a US Coast Guard approved life jacket. The vest is CE (European) approved.

The Compressor Vest also makes you look a bit like a superhero. Individual results may vary - damsels in distress have told me I have a natural hero-like physique to begin with. So the vest is a little unusual looking - the separate panels do make it look a little bit like something Batman or a swat team member would wear. Friends might be inclined to punch you to see if it hurts or not (generally it doesn't - it's pretty solid foam).

I think some people would not find the fit of the Compressor Vest to their liking - it really does compress like the name suggests and if you don't often wear rash guards or wet suits in your sailing this probably isn't the vest for you. If you do this is a great compliment to your gear. I think it's perfect for boats like the 49er or 5O5 and it could be good for some Melges or other sport boat sailors too.

If you're in the market for a new life jacket and you want low bulk and don't need it to be US Coast Guard approved the Compressor Vest should certainly be one for you to consider.

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