MTI Journey: Is Simple Better?
Gear Review: MTI Journey PFD
This review is the first in a series of articles testing and reviewing a selection of MTI PFDs suitable for stand up paddling.
I was prepared to not like the MTI Journey PFD. The thing looked like one of those clumsy life vests your instructors make you put on during a school trip. You know, those ugly, bright-orange things? Horrible to wear and even more horrible to move around in. Any kid with an ounce of pride fought putting one of those things on.
The Journey has other things wrong with it. No pockets. Who makes a PFD without pockets? In this age of portable electronics, how could anyone make a PFD without pockets? Where the hell was I supposed to put my phone, my camera, or my Hammer gels, or Clif Bar? And then there’s the distribution of the floaty material. Most PFDs have it concentrated in the front so if you’re tossed into the water you tend to float face up. This one is evenly distributed, so you bob up and down like a cork. It felt like a kevlar vest, but without the kevlar. Not only that, the darn thing doesn’t have all those cool adjustment straps, just two cinching straps on each side. No loops for carabiners either. Plus it’s… well, it’s that ugly orange.
Simple design but easy to wear.
I tried it on anyway. It was a freakishly warm day in February (60ºF!), and I was going on a paddle with a friend. My personal safety rule is that if the water is hypothermia-level cold I wear a full PFD. I don’t screw around with safety like that. Cold water can shock your body terribly, and today the water was about 35ºF — dangerously cold. So I put the MTI Journey on and my gear went in a waist pack.
Like all SUPers, I don’t like wearing a PFD. They rub against your arms. They get in the way of your paddle strokes. Except this one didn’t really. I actually forgot about the PFD. Even when I started paying attention to it, it wasn’t bothering me. I never had a PFD that felt so organic. Most PFD’s feel a bit like bits of plate mail, but this was more like a thick sweatshirt. I’m sure it helped that I was wearing a wetsuit, but this felt very different than other PFDs.
I let myself float in it once. The water was too cold for any real testing. It kept me up, so I declare that a success. (Maybe I’ll try that again in a few months.)
The MTI Journey is a low-budget PFD. It’s supposed to not have any frills or neat stuff. It’s a PFD to keep around when you need one, but maybe that’s it. I probably wouldn’t take this on an expedition (I need pockets!), but I’d be happy to loan it to a friend. This is also a great PFD for a quick run. And while that ugly orange is a fashion nightmare, it’s very visible from a distance. I wish my other PFDs were ugly, bright colors too. The better to see you.
So I did like the Journey. I didn’t expect to get fond of this orange thing, but I did. Maybe the Spartan design is meaningful in itself. Often a thing is better without a lot of bells and whistles. I have great admiration for simple, elegant designs like the VW Beetle or the Louisville Slugger or Teva sandals. These are things that work so well, and shouldn’t be mucked with. I might have to put the Journey on that list too.
MSRP – MTI Journey: $54.95
No doo-dads or special features, just flotation.