Photograph courtesy of Hyde

Last week I had the privilege of traipsing around the Outdoor Retailer show, in Salt Lake City, for a few days, gawking at all the newest gear for getting outside and having fun. The trade show covers everything from fishing and fire-starters to tents and running shoes. It’s a lot to take in, and there’s a lot to see.

This year, out of all the products that caught my eye for the fishing and boating market, my favorite was a life jacket from a brand-new startup called Hyde Sportswear. The company is trying to bring what I would consider one of the coolest and most-innovative life jackets I’ve ever seen, called the Wingman, to market. Mike Fox, a company co-founder, walked me through the idea and evolution of the jacket, which is, basically, a very thin vest with a CO2 cartridge that inflates a floatation chamber only when needed. The jacket’s profile is just 1cm thick, and altogether the jacket weighs next to nothing. It’s a life jacket when you need it and isn’t really noticeable on your body when it’s not. Likewise, it’s incredibly packable and can be reused over and over by simply repacking the floatation chamber back into the vest and installing a new CO2 cartridge. Mike let me try the jacket on and demonstrated how it works, blasting off a CO2 cartridge to inflate it. It was impressive, to say the least, fit perfectly, and was tailored from incredibly high-quality materials. Also, the jacket has webbing points for attaching accessories, such as a fishing chest pack, waist pack, and a hydration bladder. I was astonished that I was essentially looking at only one generation past the prototype stage.

The gentlemen at Hyde Sportswear have a Kickstarter campaign, going until Monday, August 31, and need to raise 60K to fund the project. I recommend heading over to the page if you’re in the market for a new life jacket. This is one slick unit and deserves a look if you’re sick of lugging or wearing super-bulky personal-flotation devices all day on the boat, need a travel PDF, have multiple uses for one jacket, or, simply, need to have extra life jacket(s) along for clients or a spare in your vessel.