Pfd

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Feb 1, 2014
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Has anyone discovered a PFD suitable for canoeing? I've been using my old EXTRASPORT for years. Simple, no pockets, no mesh, just a front zipper and two side cinch straps; just a bit bulky. I'm ready to retire it if I can find a suitable replacement. Everything I've found has too many "bells and whistles" to snag, tear off, get stuck, etc.
What's your favorite?
 
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Well sure there are PFD's for canoeing! That said the Extrasport you have is a classic that alas is no longer made. Seems the trend is toward shorter that does not snag on the cockpit of kayaks.

I use an Astral Tempo that has pockets but not really functional ones. It does not snag. Its a few years old and alas no longer made. The Kokotat MS Fit is my husbands favorite.

He used to have an MTI that had few bells and whistles. You might look at the Journey http://www.mtiadventurewear.com/recreational

with a caveat that no one PFD fits all body types. This is one thing you really have to try in person to be sure it does not ride up.
 
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I have a Stohlquist Rocker
http://www.stohlquist.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27

I bought it for use in my kayaks but works well for canoeing too.
It allows plenty of movement and I forget I have it on.

Here's me wearing it.

IMG_20110823_104256.jpg


It doubles nice as a pillow.

7b127b96.jpg
 
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Thanks Tracker, That photo with your daughter gladdens my heart. I too use the pfd as a pillow, in the past it's scooted away, kind of like a squeezed watermelon seed. Now I lash it in place on my cot and it stays put.

Rob
 
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I guess I have a bit of GAS when it comes to PFD’s. We have (um, I’ll go count) nine.

OK, 13. We have nine that we actually use between the four of us. Plus a couple of “loaners” and two that live in a mesh bags in each tripping vehicle along with a spare throw bag and extra rope.

Four of them are warm weather mesh back models that we use for summer paddling. And sometimes off-season paddling; I use a back band and the floatation in a full cut PFD interferes with the lower back support.

Four of them are full coverage PFDs that we use for fast water and in winter.

Two are side zips, which I detest. That may be residual embarrassment from attempting to put one on in an outfitter shop years ago and becoming so hopelessly entangled that I needed a salesperson’s help to extricate myself. My wife and sons are more coordinated than I, so it works for them.

All of them except an old Lotus Wedge have pockets. I like a pocket (or two) so that things like a whistle and carabiner are always tucked away. And a rescue knife if the PFD doesn’t have lash tabs.

And, on the PFD’s that I use, a tiny pouch with a spare truck key and $20 bill. I’ve used the spare key a time or two, and the spare $20 more often. That Jackson has come in damn handy when running the backshuttle after a trip and (not) passing a roadside tavern. Back in the day that pouch also held a couple of quarters for pay phones (I would say a dime, but that would give away my age)

I’ve not had problems with pockets getting snagged or torn, although I wore out the mesh drainage bottom in one poorly designed PFD. I’d prefer pockets with straps and release buckles; a stuck pocket zipper when you really need to get at that whistle or rescue knife can be a huge PITA.

And I’d prefer a front zip PFD, with the caveat that cheap zippers do not do well over time in salt water and sand. I have no use for the pull-over (Type whatever) style PFDs; I believe to be USCG legal they MUST be worn at all times, and if it is humid, 100F and I’m in ankle deep flatwater the PFD is coming off.

Another caveat – Some of the mesh back PFD’s designed for kayakers have so much floatation on the chest area that single blade strokes become awkward, especially if the pockets are bulging.

Well, so much for my preferences. What was the original question?

Has anyone discovered a PFD suitable for canoeing? I've been using my old EXTRASPORT for years. Simple, no pockets, no mesh, just a front zipper and two side cinch straps; just a bit bulky. I'm ready to retire it if I can find a suitable replacement. Everything I've found has too many "bells and whistles" to snag, tear off, get stuck, etc.

As much as I would prefer to buy a PFD in a brick and mortar establishment where I can try it on for fit and swing an experimental paddle stroke NRS has the best on-line PFD selection I have found.

http://www.nrs.com/category/3117/life-jackets/life-jacket-styles

If you can find one still in stock the (discontinued?) Extrasport B27 comes as close as anything I can think of for your desires.

http://www.sierratradingpost.com/extrasport-b27-pfd-life-jacket-for-men-and-women~p~1917j/
 
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Feb 1, 2014
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yellowcanoe,
I guess I should have been more specific in that I'm not looking for a kayaking, outboard boating, fishing, etc. PFD but one that best fits the paddling constraints we are under. Everything now-days seems to have pockets which, when filled, are too protruding and would keep you from doing the solo sit-and-switch paddling style that I do.
You got it right in that they've gone shorter which only bulks up the area you want to be thinner for more freedom of movement.
Thanks, I'll look at a MTI PFD. We don't have a dedicated paddling shop with a great selection locally; I do want to try everything on to see if it fits!
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Life jackets are one of the most gimmicky and GAS-y products available. They're just slabs of foam or empty air bladders that get tricked with a bunch of French pastry and cost about 5x what you need to pay for fine protection.

Comfort is important to me, and coolness in hot weather.

You can get a CO2 inflatable life jacket for less than $80 at Sportsman's Guide. I don't own one but have tried them on and they are very unobtrusive and comfortable.

However, I like some foam in case I fall asleep paddling while thinking about the ACA. So I invested about $130 ten years ago in a Kokatat SeaO2, which is a hybrid vest. It has 8 pounds of foam flotation and can be inflated to about 22 pounds of flotation via a CO2 cartridge or breathing tube. I removed the CO2 cartridge, which is unnecessary in my opinion. The 8 pounds of foam floats me fine in flat water. The jacket can be fully puffed up with about 10 quick blows on the air tube, and then it will float you face up. It's the lightest and most comfortable life jacket I have. It can still be found around $150 at Oak Orchard and other places.

The last jacket I got as a spare was an MTI on sale for about $20. It has a front zip, two pockets, and is adjustable for all adult sizes. I'd recommend this for simple canoeing over all the fancy contraption and doodad jackets and vests.

I often sit on three rectangular flotation cushions, so those do a fine job in flat water for times when I don't want to wear a life jacket. If I tip over, which hasn't happened in flat water since 1985, I'm surrounded by three floating cushions and a life jacket.
 
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The last jacket I got as a spare was an MTI on sale for about $20. It has a front zip, two pockets, and is adjustable for all adult sizes. I'd recommend this for simple canoeing over all the fancy contraption and doodad jackets and vests.

Glenn, MTI Velocity?

If so I bought the same one (REI Outlet Deal of the Day). We didn’t really need a spare PFD, but I couldn’t pass up that price.
 
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yellowcanoe,
I guess I should have been more specific in that I'm not looking for a kayaking, outboard boating, fishing, etc. PFD but one that best fits the paddling constraints we are under. Everything now-days seems to have pockets which, when filled, are too protruding and would keep you from doing the solo sit-and-switch paddling style that I do.
You got it right in that they've gone shorter which only bulks up the area you want to be thinner for more freedom of movement.
Thanks, I'll look at a MTI PFD. We don't have a dedicated paddling shop with a great selection locally; I do want to try everything on to see if it fits!

I never said you were looking for a kayak PFD. I did say the trend for manufacturers was to make shorter PFD's (especially in the back) to accommodate the kayak invasion.

Inflatable PFDs have a problem in that they need to be rearmed with each dunking, unless you want to manually blow it up. Usually that is no problem and I have gone the manual route sometimes.

I have not fallen into the GAS chamber on PFD's yet and am not yet into the naptime mode that Glenn is fearful of. He is no Janey ( a student that DID fall asleep in canoe class and floated into the weeds in her MayFly. Stunningly she never fell out)
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Glenn, MTI Velocity?

No, a simpler model I got about seven years ago. It's just three foam slabs: one on the back, and two on the front with pockets. It just has straps on the sides, so it's very open for arm movements, which is more important for single than double blading because of off-side and back stroke contortions. Sometimes simpler is better for canoeing.

Thinking back over about 35 years, but not counting the horse collars I had for my kids and wife, I've had seven life jackets.

Two were the long kind with lots of thin trapezoidal tubes with waist ties and a fold-up bottom for kayakers. One of those had a pocket. They were popular but had small arm holes even when I was skinny.

For most of my whitewater career I used a Charlie Waldbridge designed Extrasport Hi-Float, which was also a fold up with waist ties. I replaced the waist ties with two prusik lines clipped together with two carabiners for z-drag rescues.

Then I got a really GAS-y short-waisted whitewater rescue vest from Stolquist. It has lots of doodads including a rescue belt, a tow line, and a rope bag that affixes to a pocket on the back.

This was all in the 80's and early 90's.

When I got into sea kayaking in 96 I bought a Lotus Lola. I was able to affix the Stolhlquist belt, tow line and rope bag onto it, and still use it for whitewater.

In 2005 I got sick of the weight had hotness of the all of the above and got the SeaO2, and then the MTI as an all-person spare.

I used to worship at the altar of always wearing a life jacket, even in one foot of water in the summer. But now that I'm statistically convinced I will die of something other than drowning in flat water, I'm more and more enjoying the literal freedom not wearing. I still always bring one, and maybe my cushions too, and wear it on moving and open water.

Bill Mason was frequently shown kneeling on his flat slab vest in his wood/canvas Chestnuts, so he got double duty out of it as a kneeling pad. Another factor is to get a type that can open up well to be a sitting cushion on rocky shores, muddy banks and snow covered lunch spots. The long-waisted ones were better for this.

Fat Elmo says that old foam life jackets lose their buoyancy and don't float him any more. I haven't tested any of mine in more than ten years and probably should do so. Pretty dumb to wear the klutzy things only to sink anyway. I do know my SeaO2 air bladders still work, as I did blow them up once last year.
 
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Two were the long kind with lots of thin trapezoidal tubes with waist ties and a fold-up bottom for kayakers. One of those had a pocket. They were popular but had small arm holes even when I was skinny.

Fat Elmo says that old foam life jackets lose their buoyancy and don't float him any more. I haven't tested any of mine in more than ten years and probably should do so. Pretty dumb to wear the klutzy things only to sink anyway. I do know my SeaO2 air bladders still work, as I did blow them up once last year.

We had those trapezoidal tube style years ago (Harishoks). I gave them to a niece along with a canoe and paddles as a wedding gift. I didn’t want her to sink so I took a swim with them first.

Despite being 15 years old and used on every trip they floated me just fine. It probably helped some that those were full floatation PFD’s. It probably helped more that we use our PFDs only as PFDs, not pillows, kneeling pads or butt cushions.

If I could find an inexpensive inflatable it might have a place in the PFD rack. Mandated gear for some western river trips includes carrying a spare PFD in the boat, and I didn’t want to subject one of our family PFDs to being stuffed under gear in the canoe in the silt, sand and bilge water.

I had bought that $20 MTI for just that purpose, but with the other mandated gear (toilet, fire pan), boucoup food, potable water and etc fulfilling that spare PFD requirement with something less bulky would be advantageous.
 
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I never said you were looking for a kayak PFD. I did say the trend for manufacturers was to make shorter PFD's (especially in the back) to accommodate the kayak invasion.

Inflatable PFDs have a problem in that they need to be rearmed with each dunking, unless you want to manually blow it up. Usually that is no problem and I have gone the manual route sometimes.

I have not fallen into the GAS chamber on PFD's yet and am not yet into the naptime mode that Glenn is fearful of. He is no Janey ( a student that DID fall asleep in canoe class and floated into the weeds in her MayFly. Stunningly she never fell out)

Yellowcanoe,
Sorry, I mis-read your reply. I am seeing nothing but short, kayak-style PFDs locally and it's just frustrating. I wish I could go to Canoecopis again and see all the manufacturer's models.
I'll look at all the models that have been suggested here.
Again, sorry; didn't mean it that way.
 
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Pilgrim the reason you see short PFD's is cause the longer PFDs are no longer made.

The market is in kayaks and kayakers and equipment that suits them. That doesn't mean that you can't find one that is comfy..

Alas even Canoecopia is morphing toward kayacopia
 
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I'm not sure I'm following all the ins and outs here, but some time ago I bookmarked one of those long life vests as a possible replacement if my old one ever wears out.
Extrasport Swiftwater Ranger Rescue Lifejacket

offered by Outdoorplay.com I clicked on it and they seem to still be there, a little spendy though $234
The way I think about the cost of something like a lifejacket is: what would I pay for it if I really, truly, needed it.

Best Wishes, Rob

YC, Thanks again for telling me about that "remember me" box!!!
 
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the reason you see short PFD's is cause the longer PFDs are no longer made.

That has certainly been the trend. Looking at the NRS link shows the predominance of short PFD’s:

http://www.nrs.com/category/3117/life-jackets/life-jacket-styles?ppg=all

Other than swiftwater and rescue type vests the selection of full cut PFD’s is scant, and fewer still without assorted bells and whistles.

You may want to scroll through paddlesport PFD manufacturer listings (MTI, Kokatat, Astral, Stohlquist, etc) to see what is available.

There are probably more choices in the selection of full-cut, no bells and whistles PFD’s from general boating manufacturers like Sterns and Onyx, but many of those seem designed to fulfill the need to carry (and not necessarily wear) a life jacket on motorboats and as such may be less comfortable, adjustable or permit a paddler’s range of motion.

Good luck. I’d be hard pressed to purchase a PFD without first trying it on, and if necessity forced my hand I’d want to look at the return policy before ordering.
 
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I had a chance to view three models from Onyx today. All seemed to have LARGE (1 1/2") buckles at the center of the chest; looked uncomfortable!
I'll keep trying.
Ron
 
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Hi Pilgrim, I was able to find that Onyx PFD on the internet, that big belt and buckle; isn't it designed to backup the zipper? On some, it's used to have rope attachment points. But anyway, it sure seems that if I really needed it I'd like that extra security of a belt. Given that it's on the outside over the floatation stuff I'd think it would need to be really tight to be uncomfortable.
You said "I had a chance to view..." does that mean try them on? 'Cause in my book that's the real test. The one I was looking at was offered for about forty dollars, it's silly maybe but I'd like to put out more for something that I might ask to keep me alive.
That Swiftwater Rescue I talked about (above) once I've put out that amount, and from a major outfit, I'm much more sanguine about some unwelcome wet event!

Best Wishes, Rob

PS: if I got the fancy one and wound up drowned anyway, I'll haunt the daylights out of the company!!
 
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The ones I saw at Sportsman's Warehouse (or Gander Mt.) were just buckled, no zipper. The buckles were so big I didn't try them on; just looked uncomfortable! I think they would work great for a water skier or someone standing up in a boat, not sitting down and paddling all day long.
Ron
 
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