Posted by Laszlo on Jul 26, 2007

Hey George,

The only major con with that PFD is that it requires a positive action to make it work. If one becomes unconscious before the inflation tab is pulled, or trapped in a position where the tab cannot be pulled, the PFD might as well not be there.

That said, the best PFD is the one you actually wear. This one I've worn for many hours at a time with no discomfort. At Okoumefest I even loaded my boat back up on the truck while wearing it because I forgot I had it on. It's that comfortable.

For that matter, manually inflated PFDs are also used by all the airlines to meet the federal requirement for post-ditch flotation. So I am willing to accept the very slight chance that I will be physically unable to pull that tab when I need it.

It also needs a regular inspection program to make sure that the bottle is full and that the mechanism hasn't corroded (especially in salt water). After immersions (such as an unassisted wet re-entry into a Wood Duck 12) it needs to be opened up, dried and re-packed. Finally, it costs about $10.00 per inflation (for the replacement CO2 bottle).

But the comfort and convenience are absolutely worth it. Every time I run into other paddlers on the water, they are jealous of the ease of moment and the comfort (especially the well-endowed women for whom the traditional PFD can be like an iron maiden under a strait jacket).

The time I caused the most envy was when I was part of a group of kayakers paddling off of Maui. We had paddled to a reef with a sea turtle nest and gone into the water to do some snorkeling. Everyone else had the traditional PFDs and couldn't dive more than 2 feet deep. I was able to go all 30 feet down to the reef while wearing the uninflated inflatable and get a really good view of the turtles (one ancient male turtle snuck up and got to within a foot of me - his decision, not mine - gave me quite a start, but what an experience).

So I heartily recommend that type of PFD for kayaking. There's no special kayaking version, BTW.


In Response to: PFD by George P on Jul 25, 2007