I have both. For me it doesn't really matter. I wear my NRS Zen more now because it is so darn comfortable and I am either kayaking or guiding easier stuff. I did have a big water day the other week and broke out my zipper extra sport PFD with more floatation. I remember thinking to myself "wow this zipper is really easy and nice" The stuff I do I keep my jacket on from start time to end time it never comes off. I guess if I was on a float trip in a oar raft and I was taking my PFD on and off all day the zipper would be nice. If you keep it on all day for the most part I think the pull overs are more form fitting and comfortable.
I appreciate the input, I mostly do oar boats, both as a hobby and a guide, I do a little bit of kayaking as well. I'm leaning towards keeping with my traditional front zip because I am in and out of it several times a day,
I don't find it that hard to take the pull over ones off that much. I also have both, and don't really have a preference. The zippers feel like they would fail more readily and once you use them for a while they get a bit hard to zip up sometimes. A bit of lubrication (303 or even some WD40 on a paper towel does well) seems to cure it though.
I agree that the slip over kind tend to be a bit better form fitting. The two I use regularly are an original Astral Bouyancy vest (like the first one they ever came out with) which is a pull over and a NRS Big Water Guide vest which is a front zip. I've taken to wearing the Astral when its just a requirement or the risk of swimming is low or if the swim isn't that big if I do. The Big Water guide has a ton more floatation, so I wear that when there is a potential for a swim and the swim could be through big water. The Astral is significantly lower profile and more comfortable, so I prefer it heavily for most trips. I'm sure there are front zip ones that are just as comfortable though...so its not cut and dried.
Obviously the first thing to consider is how safe it is. Having said that, I've seen numerous glasses and sunglasses knocked into the water by pull over vests. Personally as someone who really needs my glasses (story behind that) it's not worth the hassle / risk of trying to pull PFD's over my head
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