The Onyx M-16 belt pack PFD is a well thought out, comfortable and attractive, low profile design which provides the necessary degree of safety for paddlers who are comfortable in the water and know how to swim. The model is a USCG approved Type V user assisted manual inflatable PFD with Type III performance when worn properly.
Unique Attributes of the Onyx Belt M-16 Belt Pack PFD
During the course of my testing, I found two main distinctions between the Onyx M-16 belt pack PFD and similar low profile belt pack PFDs from other manufacturers. The first distinction is the incorporation of sleeves, one on each end of the cover, to hold the folded PFD when worn (prior to deployment) around a paddler’s waist. The sleeves securely hold the folded ends of the inflation bladder inside the PFD’s lining compared to the row of Velcro used by some other manufacturers. By using the sleeve design, the Onyx PFD inflation bladder stays firmly inside the lining and will not inadvertently come loose during while paddling (prior to deployment).
The second main distinction is the shape of the inflation bladder itself. Many low profile designed PFDs have a tube-shaped inflation bladder which is fine, but depending on the water conditions or experience of the paddler may be on the low-end of the spectrum for a paddler’s comfort and safety. By comparison, the Onyx M-16 belt pack PFD utilizes a large rectangular shaped inflation pad which I felt provided a greater sense of stability in the water when deployed. For example, I could comfortably float on my back with the Onyx PFD deployed due to the shape of the inflation bladder, whereas the tube-shaped design on some models from other manufacturers felt less secure and may take a bit of effort to hold in place.
Repacking the PFD is quick and easy. The inflation bladder has written directions and arrows printed on it so there is no question about how to fold it up. Onyx also went one step further by printing the outline of a pull toggle on the outside of the fabric cover so you know where all the pieces should be when you finish repacking the PFD.
Inflatable belt pack PFDs have quickly established themselves as the standard across the majority of the SUP community. Intended to be worn by paddlers who are able to swim and are paddling in warm water where the response time for a rescue is short, the Onyx belt pack PFD offers a high degree of comfort with a minimalist design compared to a traditional vest style PFD. When using this model or any safety gear for that matter, I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with how your PFD functions before strapping it on and going for a paddle. Unpack it and practice inflating it with the oral inflation tube on land. After you have practiced operating your PFD on land, practice donning and inflating it when you are in the water. Again, you can use the oral inflation tube so you can save your CO2 cartridge for an actual emergency.
All in all, the Onyx M-16 belt pack PFD is a great option for paddlers seeking an attractive, sleek and modern designed inflatable PFD. It is lightweight, easy to use and so comfortable to wear you will not even realize you have it on.