Lotus Sea Sherman or Strait Jacket

Anybody have experience with the old style Lotus Sea Sherman (2001)

Rutabaga Canoe and Kayak has them on sale and I’m looking for a PFD with more pockets than my Stohlquist.

They’ve also got the Lotus Strait Jacket from around the same time. I’d appreciate your thoughts on each.


I have the S-Jacket
purchased from Rutabaga.

I had tried several different vests before settling on the old style S-J. I’ve used it for just over a year now and love it.

I tried a new model S-J and didn’t like it near as well so I purchased another of the old style S-Js from Rutabaga while they were still available.

Definitely one of the best buys out there.


sea sherman
I have the Sea Sherman and like it a lot. Not sure what year it is, but it has a side zip that I like a lot but lacks at least extra pocket that could be very useful. Very comfortable.

It’s all in the fit, or is it?
I have the old style S-Jacket. I attached a Lotus tow belt and the configuration has worked well for me–the S-J offers a less expensive rescue vest option that purchasing the more expensive rescue models. I found, however, that the despite proper adjustment, the PFD tends to ride up in the water (and sometimes while paddling)–encouraged no doubt by expanded waistline. Ride seems to be a common experience for just about any PFD model when worn by large waisted folks.

The S-J pockets hold a lot of essentials and it’s overall comfort is the best I have tried–the two primary reasons I purchased this particular vest. I have used mine so much that it is showing some abraded areas and is probably in need of replacement (just one more season perhaps).

While I like this model more than any vest I’ve tried in the past (and I tried many before settling on the S-J), I’m actually considering the Astral 300 after trying one on at a local shop. It’s much more comfortable and a bit lower in the front than my S-J which, as I mentioned, sometimes rides up enough to rub under the chin while paddling. In fact, NRS has a sale on most of their Astrals (still expensive), so I may post an inquiry after yours runs its course and see if anyone has one and how they like it.

BTW, Lotus customer support is top notch; they went the extra mile for a non-PFD related Lotus product I had trouble with a couple of years ago. They replace the item outright, no questions asked.

Overall, I like the S-J and would purchase another one; but as with most equipment, you need to try it on and see how it feels and assess the design to determine if it really meets all of your paddling requirements.

sea sherman

– Last Updated: Jan-04-05 1:11 PM EST –

i've got one and like it a lot, although it's the only $100-plus PFD i've ever owned. it fits well and has nice pockets with d-rings. very comfy. i looked at the site and would definitely pay $80 for a new sea sherman.

Sherman can hurt
I’ve had a Sherman for two years and like it okay but it has a problem. The lowest strap—the one that goes around the bottom—is exposed at the sides, so that it directly touches the body. When worn over a spraydeck tunnel or a wetsuit that’s not a problem, but I do a lot of my paddling in warm weather in Sit-on-tops, wearing nothing or just a polypro shirt under my PFD. Worn that way, the waist strap rubs against my skin which quickly results in wiplash-like welts around my “spare tire”. I’d advise against the Sherman unless you’ll be dressed for protection against abrasion from the strap.

i’ve never had that problem. i paddle about 70 percent of the time with a thin synthetic shirt on. maybe it’s a body-type thing.

Thanks for all of the advice. Sounds like I wouldn’t go wrong either way.

One more question though. How would you rate the jackets in terms of flotation.

Anybody wear one during a swim?

The thing I like about my stohlquist is that 60% of the flotation is in front so that it naturally turns you face up. It’s still easy to swim in though.

I think only Stohlquist does that and the more I paddle the less I think it’s a concern (though still kind of comforting).

Thanks again,


Lots of good PFDs
Are you down to these becauese of discount pricing somewhere? I never find anything my size anymore, but did get a Lotus Lola Pro cheap a couple years a go (also a decent vest).

If your search is not price driven - check out the Astral 300T. Pretty much does it all and is very confortable. $35 off at NRS, Might be on sale at Rutabaga too.

My Lola Pro (2002 model bought in 2003?) is still like new (well used, but doesn’t show it), fits great and is quite comfortable, but has been left high and dry since I got the Astral.

Type 3 or 5?
Adding a tow belt does not turn a standard type III PFD into a rescue vest!

A type V swiftwater rescue vest has continuous internal webbing, making it much stronger than a typical type III, and the belt has been tested for performance under load. There are no standards for tow belts.

If all you need is towing capability, a type III with a tow belt works fine. But it’s not interchangeable with a “rescue vest”.

Astral 300T
I’ve been looking at the 300T. I know Astral makes a small and a large hydrator but haven’t seen pictures of them or been able to determine how much they hold. Do you use one of the Astral hydrators? How do they fit the PFD?

Prefer hydration pack inside kayak

– Last Updated: Jan-05-05 1:17 PM EST –

Don't use one so don't know about how it works with the Astral. If their packs are half as well though out as the vests - they should be very good.

Prefer my hydration pack stored in the cockpit (SINK) or on rear deck (SOT).

Why carry what your boat can carry for you? Why raise you COG? Why have more gear on you to get hung up or have to haul up out of the water on rescues/rolls?

Besides - the PFD mounted ones don't hold near enough liquid for most of my hot weather paddles (I carry a 100oz UnBottle, some times more for longer summer paddles). I have three places it can go (in underdeck bag, between legs on bottom, or behind seat) but prefer it behind seat as it's secure and out of the way there. I can still close my skirt and run the tube out over the coaming (I don't recommend running it up through the tunnel).

I'm sure the mounted ones work fine for many, I don't see a benefit, just downside for my uses anyway. I prefer clean decks so pretty much everything is stowed. Guess I just automatically extend that thinking to me/my PFD.

All good points
Thanks for making them!

More storage
My searh is driven by the need to increase storage.

I just want a place to keep my VHF and maybe a snack.

I like my stohlquist pfd and it’s mostly like new. But the tiny mesh covered pocket isn’t useful for much more than keys.

On the contrary…
I much prefer to have my bladder on my back. I use the Lotus EFT pack.

The two quarts of water weigh a scant 4# and I’ve never experienced any problems with COG. Self rescues, rolling, etc., are not compromised. I paddle a medium volume 21.5" boat.

I carry a filter instead of additional water and take a break when my bladder needs refilled.

I have nothing on my decks with the exception of a spare paddle (canoe), and a map. I don’t want a bladder or other receptacle in my cockpit. My skirt is very tight and I’d prefer to leave it in place. If I tried to run a tube between the skirt and the rim, the tube is smashed or my skirt seal is compromised. Additionally, I’ve outfitted my cockpit for minimal volume and have little space for a larger water receptacle.

I’m of the opinion that emergency gear, e.g., first aid, signaling, communication, water, etc., are best attached to the paddler in the event of an accident that results in the loss of the boat. Perhaps not an issue for many folks depending upon the waters they frequent.

Of course, I’m also one of those weirdos who, after a year of paddling with one, has decided that day hatches are not all that important to me.

I often take short wilderness hikes when I paddle and having my water and emergency gear at hand is important and convenient. The EFT pack pops right off and becomes a simple day pack for such endeavours.

Again, it really depends upon personal preference and usage.

One man’s castle is …


Other options
A Northwater under deck bag or a day hatch (Nordkapp’s have them, no?), and a waterproof VHF radio small enough to clip near shoulder, would let you pick a PFD by better criteria than storage.

I keep ID/$/keys/a minimal first aid kit/flat duct tape/signal mirror (takes up no room - more likely useful for self applied first aid that actually signaling) in my pockets. All pretty flat stuff. Even that’s overkill here. Whistle/knife/nose clips/and sometimes VHF attached elsewhere on it.

That reminds me - I need to see about setting that up on the Astral. I usually just have the VHF along if needed, not on all the time, so it’s usually stowed (quick and easy access from in or out of cockpit - as long as boat doesn’t get away) - but I like the option to shoulder mount too. Should be easy to find a good spot to rig it.

My Lotus Lola Pro PFD pockets could hold the radio and more, if I left the antenna out - but it was awkward there. Bulging pockets seem to get in my way paddling and make the PFD fit less comfortable (even external mesh ones).

Sound good, for you.
I’m sure lots of guys like to use a strap on! L

Your points aren’t contrary, just different uses.

I don’t hike from the yak (but my other Camelbak is ready to go if I did), need more than 2 quarts 8 months of the year, and paddle polluted salt water so filter is out.

Works for you, wouldn’t work for me. My neo skirt does not crush the tube, but is left open a lot down here.

BTW - If you still have a day hatch, an extra hatch cover, with a snug fit little hole for the tube, could give you another option for carrying liquid. Could shove a pretty good size hydration/day pack in most day hatches, and still access anything else on top of it while on the water.