Admittedly, this is our third time reviewing Slippery Wetsuit’s Array Side-Entry Neo Vest. While minor changes were made from our first foray with the red-and-silver camouflage Array vest and the all-black, minimalist-printed 2019 model that we reviewed a little over a year ago, the 2020 model is a nice balance in-between. But why even bother reviewing the same model of personal flotation device, you might ask. That is because as mentioned, Slippery is a forward-thinking brand that sees to develop the best-fitting, most comfortable riding gear available and is persistent in this cause.
Personally, side-entry vests have never been our preferred form of PDF. Oftentimes, they’re clunky, ill-formed, made from uncomfortable materials or are simply a chore to get in and out of. That is likely why we at The Watercraft Journal have often favored mainly front-entry vests. Yet, that policy changed for the good once Slippery Wetsuits redesigned its Array Side-Entry Neo Vest a couple of years ago. The red-and-silver camouflage was just a little to flashy for our taste – then again, taste is subjective, so take that with a grain of salt. Yet, the biggest qualms were how easily it showed dirt and the heavy layer of silk screening coating the front and back panels, which began to show cracks after a year of use.
Gratefully, Slippery is not abject to criticism, and revisions to its Array Side Entry Black Neo Vest were made for 2019. The biggest improvements were in its construction using super-comfortable, stretchy neoprene providing plenty of give and being comfortable on bare skin. Interestingly, being a USCG-approved Type 3 vest – meaning its required to provide sufficient flotation to keep an unconscious person’s head above water – one might expect the Array Side-Entry to be far bulkier. Rather, it’s surprisingly slim and smartly cut.
This is achieved through the use of multiple hinge points molded into the EV foam panels. By breaking up the larger panels, Slippery could design a vest that looks more like flexible body armor than two slabs of foam strapped around your torso. The segmentation gives the Array Side-Entry fantastic range of motion; doubling over the handlebars to reach inside the front storage bin isn’t such an ordeal as many more cumbersome vests make it. Slippery also limited the amount of foam on the sides, placing the thicker portions to the upper body – adding a little to the vest’s superhero-padding effect.
Yet, what could be seen as the Array’s best features are the generously-cut armholes and narrow shoulder straps giving the vest its wide range of motion. Even a wide neckline at the collar gives the head and neck a similarly wide range of motion too. While the thick silk screened pattern is gone, the 2020 model uses colored neoprene to break up its all-black body. Large 1-and-a-half-inch wide belts are tucked within the soft neoprene carapace, capped with buckle closures that cinch tight. These snap over a thick-toothed, coated zipper, securing the opened side for easy entry. Slippery includes the same D-ring sown into the net webbing, and has included a tethered emergency rescue whistle too.
One last advantage over conventional side-entry vests is the Array Side-Entry Vest’s long torso cut. This means that the Array reaches your waistline. No longer a midriff, this vest provides sufficient coverage. It might sound a little self-conscious, but this means no more silly sunburn lines on your lower back or flanks! Priced at $99.95, the Slippery Array Side-Entry Neo Vest offers a far superior fit and feel than the itchy bargain-priced nylon vests, is far less cumbersome and fells surprisingly natural – all things we thought we’d never use to describe a life vest.