Not all paddlers are well aware of why they should wear PFDs at all times as long as they are on a kayak. A PFD or Personal Floatation Device or a lifejacket is not optional. In some US states and other parts of the world, wearing a PFD is a legal obligation. So, in spite of possessing a good boat, a paddle and essential gear, you are not ready yet if you do not have a lifejacket.
Why do you really need a PFD?
There are several reasons you would get one for yourself.
Answer to some familiar arguments
A lot of paddlers would argue that they barely need a PFD as they are planning to stay very close to the shore. Some would say they are quite good as swimmers. Even some would praise the air and water. However, what you do not know is when you need a lifejacket. Well, you do not know when things would go wrong on water, do you?
S.Coast Guard has approved PFDs with certain features, but the sizing depends on the person who would use one. Also, what PFD you use needs to be readily accessible and in good condition. Although different states have different points of jurisdiction on the use of life jackets, the USCG always encourages paddlers or boaters to have a PFD on them during the rides.
No more words on the necessity of a PFD. So, how do you choose the one that fits you and serves you real good? You should always start with Sizing and fitting.
Not all PFDs are suitable for everyone. You have one for yourself, but that would be useful for neither your kid nor your pet dog. A quick walk through about the proper sizing of a life jacket has been given below:
For both men and women, it is the size of one’s chest that matters when it comes to the right PFD size. Do not go by your weight. Which brand and model you want to pick will also be a matter of consideration regarding the size of your life jacket.
How should it fit?
Much like a glove, a PFD should come with a snug fit so that you can enjoy flexible movement. If you have to fret because of wearing a PFD, you would rather want to get rid of it. You should have your paddling or fishing outfit on first. Then, you should try the PFD to find out if it fits comfortably.
PFDs for women
There are life jackets that are specific to women’s use. Those items offer a more comfortable and snugger fit than the ones for men. With princess seams, the PFDs come with contoured cups to support larger bust. In addition, there are styles for women with larger torsos.
A few common facts
In order to get a great fit and feel with your PFD, you should do the following after getting the right size for yourself.
In terms of fitting and sizing, differences between PFDs for adults and children are important. Make sure the fit of a PFD for your child allows it to keep its head above water. Some parents get large PFDs thinking their beloved kids would grow into them. Unlike the adult PFDs, the one for a child is chosen according to the weight of the child.
Below is a list showing the right PFDs for children with different weights
Must-have features for a PFD for a child
Not all dogs can be good swimmers though some others do have the skills. In order to save your favorite pet from panicking away from water, you can get it a lifesaver having the following considerations in mind.
“Category comes after size”
Manufacturers have so far produced five categories of life-jackets with each one being different from others in some ways.
These PFDs are called ‘Offshore Life Jackets’ designed for serving wearers while being away a little longer from rescue operations or on remote or rough waters. In spite of being bulky, the best thing about this category is the highest level of buoyancy. Another salient feature is the bright color that can attract people, even the most indifferent or unconscious ones towards the water.
These PFDs are known as ‘Near-shore Vests’ geared for safety in inland and calm waters where rescue operations come real fast. Heavy yet lighter than Type 1, these vests can turn some people but not the ones who are too unconscious to notice nearby places.
Known as ‘Flotation Aids’, these items are on top of paddlers’ choice due to their intent being lucky enough to expect a prompt rescue. With constant comfort in mind, paddlers would love to wear these things most often, and this is the single most important consideration taken during the manufacturing process. For a face-up position, this type is ideal, but you might need to tilt your head back, so you do not have to endure a face-down situation in water.
Known as ‘Throw able Devices’, these items are often called ring buoys or cushions which are crafted in a way that they can be thrown to people who require a backup, much like a PFD. If you do not know how to swim or are simply afraid of waters, you should not choose such things.
These are called ‘Special-use Devices’ which can be used for performing special activities. According to the USCG, the user can use this device only for some certain activities labeled on their packaging. These items come with a range of varieties, such as deck suits and hybrid vests for windsurfing, water skiing and kayaking.
Never forget to check for Buoyancy
Since a PFD’s principal purpose is to keep you floating, buoyancy comes here as an influential matter. It is the force a person requires to have his/her head and chin above water. Buoyancy is measured in pounds. An adult usually requires buoyancy of an extra 7-12 pounds for floating though some require a little more or less. Keep in mind that bouncing around in calm waters is never the same as it is in rapids. A typical fact is you need a higher amount of lift if you are physically fit and stout. So, these are the factors critical to the required amount of buoyancy.
How to check?
Well, it is good for you if you know how to find out the buoyancy of a PFD. You need to tilt the head back and relax the whole body as much as possible.
If you can breathe easily with your mouth above water, the buoyancy will work for you. If you cannot have your chin above water, it indicates that you require a life jacket with a higher amount of buoyancy. Remember that the device is required not to go or ride over your head. People with a larger stomach than the chest, ride-up can be a normal event.
Features are always important
Although you have already got strong basics of a PFD, you are yet to learn some of its features which make it a tricky matter while choosing one. Keep reading.
Close yet comfortable fit (Snug fit)
As you have already got a picture of what a snug fit actually refers to, you need to ponder over this so much. All you need to do is become conscious about a PFD’s offering a close but comfortable fit. You will find some very attractive and good with tons of extra facilities. Do not fool yourself by the looks or designs. You should always prioritize the ‘fit’ over look.
How it fits (Adjust-ability)
Sure, you will move the upper portion of your body frequently as you paddle or fish with a kayak. So, the PFD needs to allow you to vary the tension around your torso. As mentioned earlier in this article, adjustable straps are good when they come in a greater number. One simple thing you should know that manufacturers do not always know what clothing you will have underneath. So, they craft designs to fit different body structures along with multiple layers of clothing on them.
Wide arm holes
Most PFDs available in the market come with one obvious issue, which is the measurement of the arm openings. PFDs for paddlers feature over sized arm holes. Keep these points in mind:
PFDs for paddlers often come with high waistline which is important for the following reasons.
How to find out if the waistline is good?
Sit on the floor extending to the front and wear the PFD. Mimic the way you sit on a kayak. Now, if you feel comfortable being seated that way, the PFD is good with its waistline.
Neoprene trim and lining
Make sure your paddling oriented PFD has neoprene lining and trim. As the PFD will touch the various parts of your body like the neck and shoulder areas, it is crucial for a comfortable PFD experience that those areas do not get chafed.
Benefits of neoprene
Many PFDs come with nylon or mesh in the shoulder straps or side panels either to maintain affordability or to improve breath ability. However, you should be willing to go for a PFD with high quality neoprene trim.
Attachments (Pockets and Rings)
A PFD comes handier when it contains pockets spacious enough to store a whistle, bandage scissors or a knife. The whistle is for signaling and the scissors or knife can be for cutting tangled lines or snags. Whatever forms these pockets come in, D-rings or small sewn straps or loops, they will serve well. Avoid looking for a PFD with so many attachments because too many of them could be cause of being hooked or snagged on stuff.
While choosing a PFD, bright colors are great. You should buy one that looks brightly colored with great visibility so that rescuers can get a good visual of you in case of any accident on waters. You do not have to compromise on the aesthetic appeal of the PFD. However, try to find one that comprises both bright colors and beauty.
Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket
Measurement: 4-inch high and 17-inch wide
Available Colors: Steel Green, Red, Red/Grey
Pros & ConsCheck Price in amazon
Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket
Measurement: 4-inch high and 16-inch wide
Available Colors: Mango, Black, Fireball Red
Pros & ConsCheck Price in amazon
NRS Vapor PFD
Measurement: 21 x 17 x 7 inches
Available Colors: Black, Blue, Red, Yellow
Pros & ConsCheck Price in amazon
NRS Ninja PFD
Measurement: 16 x 17 x 8 inches
Available Colors: Red, Black, Blue
Pros & ConsCheck Price on amazon
NRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD
Measurement: 17 x 15 x 4 inches
Available Colors: Bark, Blue, Orange
Pros & ConsCheck Price in amazon
As long as you want a PFD, there are several other options which could be as good as the above ones, but these ones have been chosen for those who are serious about paddling and fishing. Also, price is a factor you cannot leave unconsidered. The above PFDs meet the conditional factors of both features and price.