Call it the big reveal. Mustang Survival’s new line of paddling PFDs and apparel has been a long time in the making, and provides big hints about what will come from the company next.
The brand, which is based in the Pacific Northwest, has been making gear that can handle adventurous environments since 1967. Its flotation devices and apparel have long been favorites among hardcore sailors and fishermen. Fast-forward to 2020, and paddling entered the company’s plans in a much bigger way. Mustang Survival merged with Massachusetts-based MTI, which specialized in US Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
MTI had a substantial catalog of foam-based PFDs that differed from the inflatables Mustang Survival had long produced. Since 2020, Mustang Survival has been rebranding that foam line, including PFDs for paddlers, and working on a line of paddling-specific apparel to go with it.
This past spring, the whole paddling collection was made widely available to the public for the first time. The goal with the apparel was to create a more versatile version of Mustang Survival’s drysuits—pieces to be layered and worn all day while comfortably paddling that keep the water out and the warmth in.
“The idea was inspired by kayaking,” says Gaby Hebert, who works on recreational product design. “The typical design in kayaks is that you have the hull of your boat, you put a neoprene skirt over the top of it, and if you flip your boat, the water has to go through a series of ups and downs to get into your boat. We used the same concept. It’s as close as you can get to watertight without having a drysuit.”
The apparel line is built in pairable pieces that work individually with the various PFDs for a good fit on most body shapes. Women’s PFDs, for instance, have different foam distribution than men’s.
“There’s actually a lot of different foam shaping that we’ve done, as well as a unique system called Adjust-a-Bust,” says Jonathan Liu, product manager for recreation. “It’s basically foam inserts in the chest area to support women of different chest sizes. Those are removable so women can be comfortable.”