Well, I answered "always", but that was a lie. There was one memorable trip on which I made a deliberatee decision not to wear it.
We were poling and tracking our way up Spencer Stream and Little Spencer Stream in Maine. The water was shallow (deep enough to drown in facedown, but that was about the only way), and the air temp was, like, 95 and humid. There seemed to be more of a chance to succomb to heat exhaustion than to need flotation, so the PFD's came off.
Every other time, it has been on. I've seen the results of people not wearing their PFD, assuming that they can just swim out of any trouble, which also incorrectly assumed they'd be conscious at the time.
If I am on a river that I'm not concerned with any white water above a class II, than no I don't usually wear one. I don't base my decision on water depth because most rivers I know can go from 2 inches to twenty feet very quickly. Not to mention that you can drown in just a couple inches of water.
If I'm on a river that has some class III then I will wear one, at least for the rapids.
If I'm on an open lake, I definitely wear one. No matter the size of the lake or boat traffic.
Always. Stuff happens on the river. I've found many "Good swimmers" aren't in a crisis. A PFD lying in your canoe's as good as an unfastened seatbelt. It'll do you no good if you need it! Rescued a kid this summer. Will never forget that voice saying "Don't let me drown, don't let me drown!" After we retrieved gear and he calmed down I gave him the same spiel. Betcha he'll always wear one now as I do!
Always!! I hate the thought that I'd get up to the pearly gates and Saint Peter is looking at all the black marks against my name and with a fresh entry that "he gave up his gift of life so he could be a little more comfortable." It's going to be dicey enough, getting in, without antagonizing anyone with foolishness.
Best Wishes, Rob
Most of the time for me but not always. Tripping or gear in the boat, all the time. Fast river, weather white water or not, always. Local river, rarely. Lakes, most of the time. The small lake I play around on I don't wear a PFD, bigger lakes, I always do. Around motor boat traffic, I always wear it.
I used to go without alot, I was a good swimmer and let that lead me into a false sense of security, but as I aged I realized my ability to swim out a problem was long gone, if in fact it was ever really there, so I started wearing my PFD all the time in the canoe.
I didn't vote because I think the nature of polls is that they are supposed to be anonymous, plus "always" is too strong and "sometimes" is too weak.
I wear one almost always.
I don't on really shallow water.
As I've gotten older and started to worry more about my cardiovascular system and the effects of heat, and since I paddle a lot in hot climates, I will now sometimes go without a PFD in hot weather when I am paddling familiar waters near shore. I am more concerned about heat complications than tipping over, which has never happened to me in flat water canoeing except once in 1984 when standing in my Lotus BJX.
I wear one, unfailingly, every time I'm in my canoe, even when it's horribly hot and muggy. I find that after a few uncomfy minutes, I forget it's there. My wife, who is a stronger swimmer thinks her swimming ability means she only needs to wear it when the wind is up, in current, for big lake crossings, or paddling in cold water. She refuses to wear it in good, warm weather on flat water. I nag her about it every canoe trip, but it does little good.
I went with “Always” because there isn’t an “Almost Always” selection.
Always when solo, always when in big open water, always on fast moving water, always in the shoulder seasons and winter.
I will shed my PFD during hot summer days on flatwater when the shore is within easy reach or it is very shallow water. Like Glenn my risk avoidance in those conditions leans more towards avoiding heat stroke (even with a mesh back PFD) and dehydration or running out of potable water. Even then it is “shed”; I always start off with it on.*
*OK, almost always again – a few years ago I set out from camp on a coastal bay nightpaddle, and a mile or two out into the bay suddenly realized that I not only wasn’t wearing a PFD, I didn’t have one in the canoe. I had been very comfortable paddling out, but was semi freaked out and very happy to get near shore when paddling back.
I removed my PFD twice a few weeks ago on a swamp run for yet another reason; two of the limbo logs that day were so low that I couldn’t squeeze under with my PFD on. Not the ideal time to be taking the PFD off, but I saw one of my companions nearly flip when his PFD held him up midway under a limbo log.
In the spirit of continuing confession I was not as reliably PFD clad many years ago. When my sons started began paddling it became a lead by example thing. And I had been involved in a couple of minor rescues on group trips and realized that always wearing a PFD helps avoid creating another victim.
Almost always. If I can stand up..and the bottom is solid and there is no current..maybe. I too have self snagged and had to get the PFD off to disentangle myself solo. OTOH I was exploring a bit of the French River in really low water and sank to my hips in ook. I was grateful for the PFD as I figured out how to get out of that mess. Again solo.
For those risking heat stroke an inflatable PFD might be a reasonable tool. I guess I have to go with "always" though I am far from a saint.
I took the PFD off on the Wood River in the Everglades. Much of the eleven mile stretch of river involves ducking head and avoiding side snags. Before I took it off the PFD got snagged twice and nearly pulled me out of the boat.