The Salus Proto is a truly versatile vest, and is perfect for the paddler that does it all. It was designed as a white-water cross-over vest for play boating, but can easily outfitted for guiding, river running and tripping. Strip it down for play boating with the ability to conceal most of the webbing and adjustments for a clean, streamlined vest. Or, gear it up with the quick-release belt, tow line, river knife, strobe and hydration pack, to make it a great choice for guiding or long river trips.
I bought this PFD to replace a Kokatat Ronin Pro. I liked it but made the mistake of buying a SM size that I was at the outer size range for. It was fine for summer, when I bought it, but an uncomfortably tight squeeze over a drysuit and fleece for cold weather paddling. Well, lesson learned. I bought the ML size this time around. Coming from front zip PFD’s, I found there was a bit of a learning curve in donning a pullover type PFD. However, a few practice runs at home and I found I could don it easily and quickly adjust it. Having lived with the Proto for a couple of months now, I must say that it’s the most comfortable and best fitting PFD I’ve ever worn. The adjustment straps allow a perfect, unrestricted custom fit. The design allows free arm and torso movement without the feeling of bulkiness one can experience with whitewater vests. Unlike the zip front PFD’s with their adjustment tabs often uncomfortably far to the side, the Protos are at or close to the front and store unobtrusively under a neat zip pocket for a very clean appearance. On some PFD’s, including the Ronin Pro, I have found that the straps didn’t slide smoothly through the buckles, making adjustment a struggle. I have no such problem with the Proto. Quality of materials and workmanship is first-rate. I very much appreciate the ability to choose your favourite location for your cow tail carabiner lash tab. On other PFD’s, I’ve found the fixed tab placed too low and the cow tail flopped around loosely. By choosing a tab up nearer the shoulder, it neatly fits closely under my arm without the usual sloppiness. Plus if you’ve ever experienced a knife sheath sticking out below your shoulder, you’ll appreciate the knife garage. This has enabled me to move to a folding knife with tight fitting clip that snugs the knife down neatly inside the garage. I haven’t used the hydration backpack feature yet, but can see that this would be a very convenient way to access drinks. There is more storage room in the zip pocket behind the main front pocket than I had with the Ronin Pro. It’s adequate for a phone, keys, multitool and energy bar. However, if you want a PFD capable of storing a full rescue kit on your person, this isn’t it. This is not what the Proto is designed to do. It’s a super comfortable, clean fitting, sleek design that you will enjoy whether playboating or tripping. I also very much like being able to buy a Canadian designed and made PFD with Canadian DOT certification. None of the top range whitewater PFD’s on the market are cheap, and the Salus Proto is no exception. However, if you are in the market for a great full-featured rescue PFD, I’d give the Proto a careful look.