By Sarah Thornely (Supjunkie)
When an item has received one of the first Kings Awards for Innovation, you certainly sit up and take notice of both the company and the product itself. I have been delighted to be able to test and review Spinlock’s award-winning ALTO Belt Pack.
Based on the Isle of Wight, Spinlock Limited has a 40-year history in the design and manufacture of high-quality safety devices for the leisure and commercial marine market, which has resulted in the ALTO, a waist-worn lifesaving device designed for SUP, kayaking and other watersports.
The ALTO is a very neat and tidy product, and as a compact and lightweight flotation aid, it is undoubtedly innovative and incredibly well-made. The belt will fit a waist size from 74-145cm, and the excess can be rolled and attached back onto the belt to keep it safely tucked away to avoid any snagging. The design is for adult users only of 40kg+.
You could wear this pack front or back if you are consistent and know where the inflation pull is situated. The ALTO is manually operated, and once inflated by the 16g CO2 gas cylinder, the inflatable bright yellow horseshoe tube supports the user under the arms and around the chest. You can also inflate the ring by the mouthpiece. The ALTO has a minimum 75N buoyancy when inflated.
My test involved fitting the belt and paddling with it positioned front and back – this didn’t make any significant difference to comfort, although do bear in mind any leash/quick-release waist belt system. I then inflated it and popped myself in the water. Once inflated, you position it under your arms, and it remains attached to the belt so it will not float away. It’s like a very grown-up version of a child’s rubber ring, very buoyant, stays in place under the arms and is not cumbersome at all to swim in.
From the Spinlock website, “Swimmers only, sheltered waters help at hand, limited protection against drowning, not a lifejacket.” After testing, I felt this would be the perfect additional flotation aid for someone who can swim, paddles regularly or a SUP racer, where this type of belt might be a requirement for a race. I would feel more confident if I fell in whilst paddling in challenging conditions, and I know that the Spinlock ALTO would give me that extra bit of assistance whilst gathering myself together to get back on my board or swim to safety. I also tested getting back on the board whilst wearing the ALTO, and I had no difficulty achieving this.
The ALTO can then be deflated by the mouthpiece and folded along clever marker lines numbered 1-7 to ensure it pops right back neatly into the pouch – genius!
Spinlock is also a Certified B-Corporation, and all their products are assembled and quality checked by hand in Cowes, UK. The ALTO is UKCA and CE-approved, ISO12402-5 50N Buoyancy Aid and ISO12402-6 Special Purpose Buoyancy Aid.
This tiny, lightweight floatation aid is so easy and comfortable to wear, and I would have every faith in its ability to help me out if I came off my board. Even with 11 years of experience, you can always be complacent, so the Spinlock ALTO Belt Pack will now be a regular part of my safety kit.