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TheBrownLeader
distinguished member (289)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/09/2018 05:20PM
Been away from the boards here for a while. I got canned 18 months ago and have been picking up the pieces of my career. BUT, it's getting better and I have a trip to plan again!

Does anyone have any experience with the lightweight pfds that you inflate when you go over by pulling the ripcord? Many also have a backup system you can blow into if this fails.

They look comfortable for portaging, but are they good to paddle in? Do they work?

I suppose if you hit your head, or get tangled up and can't pull the cord you would be in a bad spot. But I am intrigued by the design as I get hot wearing my pfd sometimes, and I don't like wearing it while I portage. I figured this model might solve both things, but only if it is something I trust to function properly when I need it.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. It's good to be back.

TBL
 
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01/09/2018 06:18PM
Some members will bang the "hit your head" drum. I prefer the idea of the best PFD is one you will wear, as far better than one you wear but not comfortable in.

I have used a Sterns Inflatable Fishing vest, SOSpenders, and most recently a Kokatat SeaO2 hibrid. They do work, I preferred the manual inflators over the water activated. One big thing is seasonal testing with subsequent co2 cylinder replacement, I used cheap power-lets from a local hardware, also installing fresh refill buttons as needed by USCG. I nornally tested in spring with an intentional canoe roll.
I have moved to a lighter PFD though, an Astral YTV.

butthead
Goldenbadger
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01/09/2018 07:08PM
I have one that is both manual and water activated. That way if you do hit your head, it will still inflate. It is not supposed to inflate in a rain storm. It needs to be fully submerged. In fact, it did sit out in a rain storm and did not self inflate. They are very lightweight. I barely know I have it on. It does not get in the way of paddling or portaging at all. That being said, I did not portage the canoe. My paddling partner did that.
01/09/2018 07:27PM
I won't use one. I've had tripmates with them twice. The first time we dumped the first day, real bad situation alone in early June. He tried and couldn't inflate with the pull cord. Then we got to shore and he was showing me how it didn't work...and poof...wore a balloon necklace the rest of the trip. The full story is here:
When the wheels fall off.

The second experience was Day 1 going from Moose to Knife. At one Portage, the guy with the inflatable threw it in the boat and missed. The end with the activator draped into the water...and poof...he wore a balloon necklace the rest of the week. Neither guy had a recharge kit.
TheBrownLeader
distinguished member (289)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/10/2018 08:25AM
Badger, what is the brand of your pfd. Sounds like it did what it was supposed to do. I'm still cautious of things that can break and cause problems like Wables shared, but I'm just very curious about this subject.

TBL
01/10/2018 09:00AM
"and poof...wore a balloon necklace the rest of the trip."

I believe USCG regulations require an oral inflation method (normally a valved tube), every version I have seen had one and could be uninflated and reinflated as needed. He would need to inflate it on water to meet PFD laws but inflated enough to offer buoyancy and fully inflated by a co2 cartridge are 2 different things. Knowledge of his gear and it's use would have helped a lot.

For rechgarge kits I used individually purchased Green Indicator Pins and hardware store co2 powerlets (most take 16 gram the Stearns used a 23 gram).

My preference for manual inflation is the result of practice inflation's I normally did as part of yearly maintenance. I found having the choice I could swim easier with it uninitiated. The 2 times I did accidentally dump wearing an inflatable, I never inflated it, choosing to swim to shore. But the choice was considered while under water each time. It is quite an experience looking up at the bottom of my canoe when seconds before I was paddling it high and dry!

butthead

muddyfeet
distinguished member(623)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/10/2018 04:55PM
Butthead said it. I was often the guy who would get hot or who found it most convienent to just stuff the pfd beneath the seat and forget about it: still in full compliance with all regs. But really the best pfd is the one you wear. So I got an inflatable that I don't mind wearing at all.

It is an Onyx M16 belt-type. It's marketed to SUPers who need a legal pfd. This is perhaps the smallest pfd with typeIII floatation out there. However it does have downsides: it is only worn around the waist, so upon activating it, you get an inflated pillow at your chest. You then have to don the second strap behind your neck. It will keep you on the surface face-up, but it is difficult to swim with. I have a bunch of rearming pins and cylinders on hand and I test it twice a year-in the water to make sure I'm comfortable with its operation if needed. I have also practiced with the manual inflator tube. A spare cylinder/pin are in the pack when on trips.

Reasoning/disclaimer: I am a strong swimmer: like butthead, this is only for emergency when I cannot keep myself above water. Kicking off footwear and swimming is probably easier for me, but the pfd is there if I need it.

Is it better than a foam vest pfd? No. Is it better than the foam vest pfd shoved under my seat out of reach? Yes.
ockycamper
distinguished member (482)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/10/2018 05:22PM
I also won't let anyone in our groups bring an inflatable PFD. We had two guys on one trip capsize and had difficulty swimming with the tube around their knecks.
Rather then go by what is the most comfortable, why not go by what works best in the water and is easiest to swim with and get back into a canoe with in deep water?

Epilogue to the two guys above. . .they capsized two more times on that trip and ran out of CO2 cannisters. The PFD's were then worthless.
01/10/2018 06:13PM
"and ran out of CO2 cannisters. The PFD's were then worthless."

Some knowledge of the equipment goes a long way. Inflatables come in many styles and are no more or less restrictive than some other types of active flotation PFD's. Every one I have seen has an oral inflation tube so even if the co2 has been discharged and dissipated they can be orally inflated and deflated, a USCG legal requirement.
Worthless? Not by a long shot!


butthead
OldFingers57
distinguished member(5409)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/11/2018 07:12AM
Beware of some of these PFDs that are supposed to inflate when they hit the water. We bought some for our fire department boats as the guys wanted something lighter and not bulky. We had some guys go in the water and they did not inflate until the guys were out of the water 3-5 minutes later. We had some others that would not inflate at all. These were not el cheapo brand ones either. Took them all back and got regular PFDs.
ockycamper
distinguished member (482)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 08:39AM
The problem with a PFD that may need to be inflated by mouth in a capsize is that I don't know the swimming capability of those I take up to BWCA. Further, in my experience having had several capsizes in groups over 12 years, there is somewhat of a sense of panic when they go in as it is unexpected. I don't think they would be clearly thinking that they need to inflate something to keep afloat.

Far safer to eliminate all possible human screwups. And when it comes to PFD's, they are one item that works because. . .if fitted and tightened. . .there is no need to "know how to work the equipment".

We take 10-20 men each year from 8 years to in the 70's. We have seen many capsizes over the years. They have all come out okay as the individuals have had good PFD's on and secured so when they hit the water they did not have to think about anything other then the canoe and the gear.
01/11/2018 08:49AM
TheBrownLeader, and anyone interested in an inflatable, it is your choice. They are reliable and proven, in spite of anecdotal reasons contrary. They see use in branches of the military and law enforcement as well as commercial use. Knowledge of the types is important as well as maintenance.

Inflatable PFD maintainance has a lot of good info and explains much about how different styles work. An often ingnored item is that most all inflatables offer substantially more buoyancy than standard PFD's, typically 30+ pounds of equivalent buoyancy vs under 20 for standard. That is why they are difficult to swim in, and manufacturers recommend using the oral inflation tube to release enough co2/air to enable maneuverability.

Negative comments that cannot explain the failures do not count in my opinion.

butthead
ockycamper
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01/11/2018 09:04AM
And yet there are no stories about standard PFD's not working.
ozarkpaddler
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01/11/2018 09:19AM
ockycamper: "And yet there are no stories about standard PFD's not working."

Of course if someone is bound and determined that the inflatable is all they're going to wear..... Kinda like only wearing your seatbelt on the interstate, IMHO, but "Different strokes." I really like Wables title for that trip "When the wheels fall off" because one thing experience has taught me.....WHEELS DO FALL OFF occasionally.

There are a plethora of PFD's on the market to fit all kinds of paddler sizes and shapes. I wear one every time I'm on the water even in sweltering triple digit heat and high humidity Ozark summers. I always recommend a PFD that doesn't require you to do anything to it for it to work. But, an inflatable that is WORN is better than a non-inflatable that's on the bottom of the boat, I guess?
ockycamper
distinguished member (482)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 09:26AM
One other thought. . .climbing back in to a canoe or kayak with PFD on is not an easy task, even more difficult in waves and wind. There is always the possibility of a PFD getting snagged on something while you are dragging yourself over and into the boat. Given that tears in a PFD are a possibility when trying to re-enter a canoe in wind and waves when gear is also tossed about, a tear in an inflateable could be deadly. A tear in a standard PFD is just a tear.
ockycamper
distinguished member (482)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 09:32AM
Good point on the wearing aspect. We tell our groups that we have only two rules. Let someone know where you are going. And the PFD MUST be worm and secured at any time you are in the canoe. . .no exceptions. We cover that in McDonalds back in KY to there are no questions about it when we get to BWCA
01/11/2018 09:38AM
ockycamper: "And yet there are no stories about standard PFD's not working."

The other 20%

butthead
TheBrownLeader
distinguished member (289)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 04:27PM
I appreciate everyone's thougts on this. I get that people are not all going to agree. I am a cautious person, so I wanted to hear from people both pro and con. Definitely, this thread has been informative. Thanks all.

TBL
OldFingers57
distinguished member(5409)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/11/2018 08:07PM
butthead: "TheBrownLeader, and anyone interested in an inflatable, it is your choice. They are reliable and proven, in spite of anecdotal reasons contrary. They see use in branches of the military and law enforcement as well as commercial use. Knowledge of the types is important as well as maintenance.


Inflatable PFD maintainance has a lot of good info and explains much about how different styles work. An often ingnored item is that most all inflatables offer substantially more buoyancy than standard PFD's, typically 30+ pounds of equivalent buoyancy vs under 20 for standard. That is why they are difficult to swim in, and manufacturers recommend using the oral inflation tube to release enough co2/air to enable maneuverability.


Negative comments that cannot explain the failures do not count in my opinion.


butthead"


Well the failure is that they would not inflate in the water. One of the brands was a Stearns one that was about a $130 for it. I have not been impressed with Stearns at all since they got bought out by Coleman. We have had issues with them with our Ice Rescue suits for repairs and one they lost at their factory. So they sent us a reconditioned one that was older then what we had sent in. We sent the Stearns inflatable PFDs in and were offered new ones or a refund and took the refund. They offered no reason for the failures on the two we had.
Goldenbadger
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01/11/2018 08:28PM
TheBrownLeader: "Badger, what is the brand of your pfd. Sounds like it did what it was supposed to do. I'm still cautious of things that can break and cause problems like Wables shared, but I'm just very curious about this subject.


TBL"


I have a mustang. They're not cheap, but you get what you pay for. It's very comfortable and I've not had any issues with it. I got tired of uncomfortable, bulky pfds that sat in the bottom of the boat for that reason.
rdgbwca
distinguished member (120)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 08:32PM
butthead:


The other 20%




Thanks for this article.
thegildedgopher
senior member (83)senior membersenior member
 
01/11/2018 09:16PM
This will be my first summer with an inflatable. I have historically been awful at wearing my PFD and spend a lot of time in my boat fishing big water or dangerous water, usually solo. Really trying to commit to this. I got a Cabela’s model at half price for Christmas.
ockycamper
distinguished member (482)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2018 09:23PM
A good high end like an NRS Chinook, Stohlquist Fisherman, or Kokatat Bahia Tour Fishing PFD are not uncomfortable at all to wear. Plus the pockets and accessories are designed for your specific type of paddling. I have an NRS Chinook and a Kokatat MsFit Tour PFD. Both are great PFD's that I can keep on comfortably all day.
01/11/2018 10:39PM
I've seen a couple of comments of PFDs being uncomfortable on portages. Buy yourself an NRS Chinook or other comfortable model, and take the 10 seconds at the Portage to take it off and clip it around your seat. Have your partner do the same so the canoe stays balanced. You won't forget it on the portages and it is ready when you push off.

As far as anecdotal evidence on inflatables, I don't consider 2 failures in a sample size of 2 anecdotal. If we were talking about air bag failures in cars, 2 in 100,000 would probably prompt a recall, but we can all take our chances I guess. In my opinion, do the rescue guys a favor and write your name on your arm with a sharpie marker before the trip if you choose an inflatable. It will make the job of IDing you easier.
thegildedgopher
senior member (83)senior membersenior member
 
01/12/2018 09:01AM
Wables: "The second experience was Day 1 going from Moose to Knife. At one Portage, the guy with the inflatable threw it in the boat and missed. The end with the activator draped into the water...and poof...he wore a balloon necklace the rest of the week. Neither guy had a recharge kit. "

I guess I don't understand how carelessly throwing your vest into the water and not coming prepared with a recharge kit amount to design flaw or product failure?

Let's say I bring a fishing rod with my favorite lure tied on and Mr. Pike cuts my line, bye-bye Shad Rap. If I fail to bring any additional tackle, am I to blame for being unprepared, or should we conclude that fishing rods are unreliable?

I'm not saying all inflatables are perfect but we do have a responsibility to be prepared and to be familiar with our gear, especially if we're going to depend on it in potential life/death situations.
mastertangler
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01/13/2018 08:56AM
I despise regular PFD's and would probably self combust if I were to have to wear one of those bulky hot torture devices. I paddle hard and all day and tend to run a bit warm anyways.

I have been using a Mustang hydrostatic self inflating for over a decade and will tell the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I got pulled over out on the water for violating a no-wake zone I observed the coast guard officials wearing the hydrostatic Mustangs. Hmmm, I considered, as they wrote me up, if it's good enough for the coast guard it's good enough for me. Due to cost concerns however I first purchased the pull cord variety and not the Mustang version. Deep down I had that nagging doubt that I had made a mistake by not investing in the rather expensive ($200 +) Mustang.

I never had the opportunity to test the cheaper version as I updated. My first experience with the Mustang came a year in at the end of a group trip at Isle Royale where I busted off a big northern and rolled my solo. I remember thinking just how precarious my situation was as I clinged to the side of my solo canoe when the CO2 cartridge blew and popped me comfortably above the water line. As I had suspected, I had worn the PFD so much as to not even become aware of it (that's how comfortable they are) and the thought to "pull" a cord never even occurred to me. Get the hydrostatic! I was able to kick to shore. A fully inflated Mustang however is even worse to wear throughout a day than a traditional PFD but more about that later.

My second inflatable event came at Irregular Lake in WCPP. I had stopped at an island to release a musky and decided lunch was in order. While my hash browns were browning I eased over to get some water. The rocks were slick and my slide was slow and irreversible. I ended up dog paddling along the deep bank trying to regain the shore when the Mustang decided to pop. My language was certainly inappropriate as I lost my temper. Had there been a u-tube video I'm am certain it would go viral as it must have been hilarious to have witnessed.

My third event came the following year at Musclow lake (WCPP) when I gave the device a casual 5ft toss at a portage landing and the consequent unintended land based inflation was very startling. Don't toss your PFD!

I went from thinking it would never be needed to 3 events in under 10 years. Due to expense and weight I never had purchased a replacement cartridge. The trick to wearing a Mustang which has already inflated is to deflate it about 1/2 way. It is amazing at how few breaths are required to fill the bladder manually.

This, however, is still not close to preferable. Now I have a back up CO2 cartridge. Ironically I wouldn't be surprised to never need the thing from this point forward.

Now the bottom line........a top of the line Mustang hydrostatic PFD is so comfortable as to not know you are even wearing it. Many is the time I would start to set up camp without realizing I have it on. That is HUGE for me as I despise a bulky hot PFD for typical flat water summer travel. The other positive is the 35lbs of buoyancy floats you very comfortably indeed.

The negatives are models other than the Mustang are unreliable IMO. The expense is also another drawback. The hydrostatic models will set you back around $225. Throw in a heavy replacement CO2 cartridge at around $90 and it's no small sum. Omit the replacement cartridge and you end up with a bright yellow horse collar in the event you have an event.

So the negatives are not inconsequential. But, even after experiencing the costly and uncomfortable inflation events, the thought has never even occurred to me to go the traditional PFD route. For better or worse I am wed to the Mustang and find the comfort so liberating and the "quality of life" so superior as to make it of no contest.
ockycamper
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01/13/2018 10:47AM
good points. . .but just as the mustang is a quality inflatable, there are non inflatable PFD's that are bulky and uncomforable, and others that will fit you like a glove. My typical go to PFD is the NRS Chinook. In addition to not being hot or bulky, it has enough pockets that I actually carry a "ditch bag" worth of gear on it in case of capsize and separation from the canoe.

In both camps. . .you get what you pay for. The most comfortable standard PFD's I have found are Kokatat PFD's. A Ronin Pro is very minimalist. I own an Outfit Tour. It is not bulky in the least and has the advantages of quick access knife and radio pockets, and a detachable "pack" that goes on the back of the PFD you can put a first aid kit in.

PFD's boil down to this: If you only where one when you think you might need one you are pretty much defeating the purpose. All PFD's will work, but only if worn and worn properly. Given that I want a PFD that I absolutely know will keep me afloat with no actions on my part other then putting it on.
 
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