Declaration time – I used to distribute MTI beltpacks in New Zealand, so I know the brand really well. When it became apparent that beltpacks were the way to go for competent paddleboarders looking for minimal encumbrance, I spent quite a bit of time looking for a really good product. There were already several beltpacks available in New Zealand but they all had flaws. Then on a trip to USA I discovered the MTI products, and knew I’d found what I was looking for. So over the next few years I distributed many hundreds of the Fluid 2 beltpacks to retailers and enthusiasts all over the country. How many warranty returns or failures did I have to deal with? Not a single one. (In case you’re wondering, the only reason I stopped distributing them was because I moved on from the distribution game completely, to concentrate on the safety education side of things.) I also used my own MTI Fluid as my demonstration beltpack when running SUP safety courses, so it has been inflated and repacked on literally hundreds of occasions. It’s still looking in great shape, nearly 8 years later.
So why is it so great? Firstly, it’s really well constructed. Big thick chunky webbing and stitching. I’m trusting my life to this thing, I want it to be robust! It’s also extremely ergonomic – it sits really nicely on your waist. It’s super comfortable to wear. The big wide belt has plenty of fixing for other attachments too, which I like. The small pocket on the top doesn’t have a whole lot of carrying capacity but it’s big enough to put a car key in a ziploc into, or indeed a spare CO2 cylinder.
Yes, it’s not the smallest, but I really don’t care about that. I really like the fact that it has a 24g CO2 cylinder, so it gives me a whole lot of buoyancy when inflated (133N / 30 lbs). I love the way it has been shaped so it holds the folded-up buoyancy aid really nicely, with that big observation window there so you can see the red/green indicator. Many beltpacks have a system like this now, but the MTI one, because it requires CO2 cylinders with a bayonet fixing, is the only one I have found that actually works 100% reliably. (More on the bayonet fixing anon). The other systems that show red/green tend to continue with a green setting even after the CO2 cylinder has been deflated, which obviously rather defeats the object.
It’s really easy to open the device up with your fingers, allowing you to manually don it and inflate it should the auto-inflate mechanism fail. This is a hugely important asset in a beltpack. If you can’t easily open it manually, don’t buy it!
Once you’ve inflated and used it, deflation is easy and having the how-to-fold-and-put-it-away instructions printed directly onto the buoyancy aid makes packing it away a doddle. As said, I’ve repacked mine 100s of times, it takes just a few seconds.
So is there anything not to like about it? The only issue is that CO2 cylinders with the bayonet fixing are not available in every country. Also, just be aware that you do need to follow the proper procedure when inserting the CO2 cylinder, otherwise you will snap the bayonet pins.
Overall though, an absolutely top recommendation. After 8 years of use I still have nothing bad to say about this product.