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PineKnot
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03/02/2021 05:12PM  
Ok. Been thinking about this for awhile. I've used "regular" PFD lifevest forever. I usually solo with a yak paddle and like using a GCI seat back cause "lumbar" seats sit too low. Haven't found a regular vest that is that comfortable over a couple weeks on a canoe trip.

Anyway, after trying multiple regular vests, I'm thinking of getting an inflatable. Not interested in the "auto" inflatables for obvious reasons, but maybe the "manual" inflatables.

Would be interested in comments from fellow paddlers regarding manual inflatable vests....not looking at cheap types, but not ones too expensive either....thx.
 
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PineKnot
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03/02/2021 05:22PM  
By manual inflatable I mean the kind you have to pull the ripcord, as opposed to the vest that detects immersion and inflates automatically.....
 
03/02/2021 05:48PM  

I have a bunch of years comfortable use in a Kokatat SeaO2. It is a hybrid inflatable. Pull cord inflation with 16G CO2 powerlets and extra charge buttons. Fixed 8 pound foam panels. Combined around 24 pounds flotation. It's comfortable but weighs around 2 pounds.

Want to try it? I am willing to part with it.

butthead
 
Savage Voyageur
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03/02/2021 05:53PM  
Take a look at the Onix AM-24 automatic/manual inflatable life jacket. I just bought two of these last week for my wife and I. I have not used them yet but I tried it on. I can’t even feel it’s on, very comfortable. The back of it only has straps so nothing in the way while in a seat. There is a law here that says you need to always have it on while on the water, if this is your only PFD. And you need to wear it on the outside of any clothing. There are three ways to inflate this pdf.

One is if you capsize the second you hit the water the trigger is automatically is released and inflates the vest.

Two is in manual mode. In this mode if you fall overboard absolutely nothing will happen until you pull the ripcord. So if you fall overboard in cold water and you gasp for air you probably will drown. Another thing is if you fell overboard and hit your head you might drown. I’m not a fan of this mode but it is an option. In this mode you remove the water soluble trigger button and replace with a plastic cap, you still need to have a full co2 cylinder installed. I suppose you should use this option if it’s raining out so it won’t deploy, or maybe someone working on a dock around waves that might deploy the PFD.

The third way to inflate the vest is manual mode. You just locate the tube and blow into the vest. Lots of things could go wrong if you capsized in ice cold water. You might inhale water, gasping for life, trying to remember where or how to inflate it. Fingers might not work very good in cold water to manual inflate. Or hit your head and unconscious. I would only use the manual inflate tube to top off air if air leaked out while in still in the water. I’m not even sure this is legal and counts as a PFD if it has to be manually inflated with your breath.

Not sure what your price range is but you can get these at Amazon for $129. A new rearming kit is about $20.

I will be in a canoe or kayak in the automatic mode. Even though I’ve never capsized I also bought a rearming kit that goes with me. You never know when you will go for a swim.
 
RMinMN
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03/02/2021 06:16PM  
Before you buy an inflatable PFD, check what the cost of the cartridges might be. One cartridge may be half the cost of the PFD and it would probably be wise to carry a couple spares along.
 
dschult2
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03/02/2021 06:32PM  
Ok, I know this isn't answering your question but have you tried a NRS Chinook? High back for kayak or seat backers, and lots of pockets, mesh, and adjustments.
 
Savage Voyageur
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03/02/2021 06:41PM  
RMinMN: "Before you buy an inflatable PFD, check what the cost of the cartridges might be. One cartridge may be half the cost of the PFD and it would probably be wise to carry a couple spares along."

A rearming kit for mine is $20.
 
LarryS48
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03/02/2021 10:41PM  
A very old fashion Type II (keyhole) pfd has no back and is dirt cheap. In addition, they do a better job of keeping your face out of the water than a Type III (vest). Pretty retro though.
 
03/03/2021 07:15AM  
Rearming kits can be made/assembled from parts. $2 per 16G CO2 powerlet I think the full inflatable suspenders need a 24G, and the required Inflator Replacement Indicator Pins $1 apiece. Total $3 for full arming kit.
Part of my son's job in the USN was servicing inflatable vests, they used bulk CO2 powerlets. I tested my vest each year and replaced the inflator yearly and some. The photo I used of my SeaO2 shows the powerlet on the valve, the oral inflator, 2 extra powerlets and pins.
Very interesting to be on the bottom of a pool and pull the release!!!

butthead
 
Northwoodsman
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03/03/2021 08:02AM  
I have an Oynx Impulse A33. It's so comfortable that I often forget that I have it on. The rearming kit with cartridge and bobbin is $20. I would highly recommend it. I looked for a few months at everything on the market and actually waited until the newer model was available. The latest model has a little sleeve where the manual pull is tucked in to, the older model has it hanging loose. I paid around $250 if I recall.
 
RMinMN
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03/03/2021 05:30PM  
My inflatable PFD is branded SOSpenders and the rearming kit was $40 on Amazon. It takes a 38 gram cartridge which are not common nor cheap. When I look for a kit now most places show them out of stock.
 
PineKnot
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03/03/2021 05:57PM  
Thx for the good info, folks. Most appreciated. Guess I'll stop at a couple retailers to hopefully try them on, then get one when on sale....be nice to have for this season's upcoming trips....
 
03/04/2021 09:54AM  
RMinMN: "My inflatable PFD is branded SOSpenders and the rearming kit was $40 on Amazon. It takes a 38 gram cartridge which are not common nor cheap. When I look for a kit now most places show them out of stock."

Just to be clear, the re-arming kits from inflatable makers are expensive, but not the parts.
The 38g co2 cartridges are not hard to source or that expensive, 38g spear gun cartridge The re-armed pins can be found in bunches also.

The co2 cartridges are used in soft drink mixers/paint ball guns/spearguns/plumbing supplies/bike tire inflators -----------------
You just need to match the neck style and size.

butthead
 
singlebladecanoe
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03/04/2021 06:43PM  
I personally don't care for them. I had one once and when I did a planned test jump off the dock, the velcro that holds it together when in normal use, did not separate which prevented that side from inflating. Also if you do wind up having to use it for whatever reason, you need to make sure you carry enough recharging kits to get you through the rest of your trip. And then what happens if gets used more than once in a trip?
 
03/04/2021 07:14PM  
Not complaining about your experience or decisions. Just pointing out it may have been particular to the vest you had. They are legal if left inflated, and the amount of inflation can be adjusted for use. Mine has worked fine each time tested and I have done that regularly when I used it. It also helps to know how to manually inflate them and adjust the buoyancy.
Mine was a bit heavy and eventually replaced with a much lighter more minimal Astral YTV.
I did test it just last year though. It worked fine, to the amazement of an 8 year old grandson!

butthead
 
tumblehome
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03/05/2021 05:14PM  
I do not talk about this much, but I took a spill in Quetico a few years ago while solo tripping.
It's the first time I've ever tipped in my life, and it didn't go down the way I thought it would since I have thought about it many times.

I will say that a manual inflating option might kill you. You don't know you've spilled until you are already under water.

When I spilled, I didn't know what had happened until I realized I was in the water and I was bobbing like a bobber because I had my PFD on. Myself and all my gear was slowly floating down a river at the mouth of a small rapids I was trying to paddle upstream. The tip of my canoe caught some current and spun me sideways then filled my canoe with water.

So if you are floating in a river and you see: Your pack, your paddle, your canoe, your map case, your portage yoke, your boots... What do you grab first? It turns out you have to grab all of it. I corralled all my stuff like cattle and swam my canoe and gear to a shoreline.
That's the short story. A PFD probably saved my life that day.
Tom
 
burgydancer
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03/05/2021 07:42PM  
Absolutely agree with discussion about dangers of manual inflatable life vests. All it takes is a sudden capsize, cold water and/or a canoe or paddle to the head. You are dead.

I am also one of those that shakes my head at paddlers not wearing their vests. It doesn't do you much good if your PFD floats away without you in it.

The automatic inflatable vests? Well, I admit I sometimes get wet with my canoeing. It is part of the fun for me.

I second the note on Kokatat life vests. I have one which gives me a lot of mobility.

 
arm2008
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03/05/2021 10:26PM  
butthead: "Rearming kits can be made/assembled from parts. $2 per 16G CO2 powerlet I think the full inflatable suspenders need a 24G, and the required Inflator Replacement Indicator Pins $1 apiece. Total $3 for full arming kit.
Part of my son's job in the USN was servicing inflatable vests, they used bulk CO2 powerlets. I tested my vest each year and replaced the inflator yearly and some. The photo I used of my SeaO2 shows the powerlet mon the valve, the oral inflator, 2 extra powerlet6s and pins.
Very interesting to be on the bottom of a pool and pull the release!!!

butthead"


I didn't realize this. The cost of the rearming kits is what has turned me away every time I looked at the inflatables. Time to reconsider.
 
bottomtothetap
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03/08/2021 01:34PM  
I'm with Savage Voyageur on the Onyx AM-24. I bought one and have now had it on a couple of canoe trips. Very comfortable and that means I actually wear the darn thing rather than often use the vest as a seat cushion, like I did with previous vests. I paid about $90 and bought a re-charge kit (about $20) right away to keep as a spare. Certainly more than I've paid for life vests previously but still dirt cheap if you are ever in a situation that you need it (so far I never have).

The way this is constructed, extremely unlikely that the vest would "go-off" due to rain or even water splashed on it. Water would need to be forced up to the trigger mechanism from the bottom opening of the vest and then the trigger needs to be submerged for 2 seconds before the vest is activated. Once triggered, full inflation takes a couple of seconds as well.

If it ever happened that I used both the original and spare triggers, then I would go to my old style vest, which we often carried an extra of (like an extra paddle). No problem bringing that along still since it yet works fine as my seat cushion and now is the group's "extra".
 
andym
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03/08/2021 02:32PM  
For a dual floatation PFD, I am tempted by the Mustang Survival Khimera. The foam is very thin, gives 7.5 lbs of floatation, and looks like it would be comfortable while still giving a margin of safety if you go into the water unconscious. Then there is manual inflation to boost the floatation if necessary. But at $200 it doesn't qualify as inexpensive. So I'm still pondering as I have good regular PFDs.

Many people I sail with wear auto-inflatables. There's plenty of spray and water flying around. I haven't heard of any accidental inflations.
 
muddyfeet
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03/16/2021 11:03PM  
I have and use both, depending on level of risk.
When fitness paddling on local water, I sometimes wear an onyx M16 belt-pack style SUP inflatable vest. It's the bare minimum of a wicked small vest, and when inflated it really just gives you a chest pillow that makes it all but impossible to do anything but bob upright in the water. I guess you don't really know how it swims until you test it in the water. It's far from the best, but in these situations I'm comfortable with that. I'm on a known river close to shore in nice weather, and sometimes shirt off working hard. I used to just have my PFD tucked under the seat, but I figured that the small inflatable vest I wore was still far better than having a really good one under my seat.

When tripping in the wilderness, or paddling marginal conditions, I wear my NRS Ninja closed-cell foam PFD. (the Ninja I modified by moving the shoulder straps outward). Good range of motion, comfortable for all-day wear, and I can portage my canoe/pack without taking it off.
 
Blackdogyak
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10/11/2021 12:13AM  
Interesting discussion. I am a saltwater surf fisherman. Standing in surf, usually at night, in waders. I bought an Onyx AM24. The first time I used it was interesting. I suppose I was hit with some spray...waves crash...it's a wet environment. I left is as it was, set from the factory on automatic. Several hours after, I have the vest on the passenger seat and I'm driving. BANG! The thing activates without warning. Some moisture on the vest from a wave spray had finally worked it's way into the trigger.

After that, I converted it to manual. If you are just quietly paddling flatware on a nice day, it's probably going to be fine in auto mode. If there's any rain or spray in the environment, my experience is that it will activate at some point.
 
andym
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10/11/2021 02:46AM  
Surf fishing may be extreme or maybe you had a faulty unit. Many sailors wear auto vests with rain and spray and no problems.

Personally, I like the idea of the hybrid units in manual mode.
 
ockycamper
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10/11/2021 02:11PM  
dschult2: "Ok, I know this isn't answering your question but have you tried a NRS Chinook? High back for kayak or seat backers, and lots of pockets, mesh, and adjustments."

I am also a kayaker and use the Chinook PFD in my kayak. The vest is designed to use in kayaks and has the flotation very high up on the back. Lots of pockets on the front. I also have a back pocket on it as well, up high on the vest. I can carry a first aid kit, compass, whistle, kayak style knife, gps, Spot X messenger and a few other items no problem on the vest with no comfort problems in either kayak or canoe.
 
Savage Voyageur
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10/11/2021 05:51PM  
My wife was getting into her Kayak on Vermilion over Labor Day weekend. She slipped on the moss covered cement landing and fell in the water. It was only about 1 1/2 foot deep but she got the inflatable PFD wet. I was just about to say quick stand up, then the thing inflated. Boom, only about 1 second after she hit the water it inflated. Im now a big fan of these.

In June I took my Onyx-24 with me on my annual canoe trip. I really liked it on the long days on the water in 90 deg weather.
 
ockycamper
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10/11/2021 06:04PM  
We had two guys paddle with us several years ago. They capsized just 20 minutes into the paddle and their inflatable PFD's inflated. They rode up on their necks and were difficult for them to work with in the water. That afternoon they capsized again and they had to keep the PFD's inflated as they only had one recharge.

I don't allow them on our trips as I won't risk someone capsizing and the PFD's failing to inflate for whatever reason. Why gamble on an inflatable when you know the standard PFD will save you 100% of the time. . .even if you are knocked unconscious when capsizing?
 
mjmkjun
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10/12/2021 06:49AM  
I have a manual inflated PFD but forgot which model. I hardly know it's on most of the time. I don't know if I'd buy one again if I lost mine. As mentioned in replies, if there is a sudden dump and disorientation.......a person could have some confusion and shock (cold water). Too long a time to get oriented to pull the cord.
I don't know about all models but mine can be reconfigured to be blown up if the cartridge is engaged and it deflates. In that scenario, you'd wear a PFD that is inflated for the rest of the trip.
 
pswith5
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10/12/2021 10:46AM  
I am curious if it is troublesome to switch modes. In case you find yourself in heavy spray or a big storm.?
 
10/12/2021 02:22PM  
I have no idea now, but some inflatable were not rated for cold weather use. Maybe that has changed?
 
Savage Voyageur
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10/12/2021 02:49PM  
pswith5: "I am curious if it is troublesome to switch modes. In case you find yourself in heavy spray or a big storm.?"


It’s really easy and fast to change from automatic to manual mode. You just unscrew the clear plastic cap and remove the button. Put both in a waterproof bag for later. Then included and installed on the other side of the PFD in a small pocket there is a Yellow cap. Install the yellow cap by screwing it on where you just removed the clear cap. Done. The Yellow cap has a warning tag that dangles outside the PFD so you and anyone that puts it on understands that it is in a manual mode, not automatic mode.
 
Savage Voyageur
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10/12/2021 02:57PM  
ockycamper: "We had two guys paddle with us several years ago. They capsized just 20 minutes into the paddle and their inflatable PFD's inflated. They rode up on their necks and were difficult for them to work with in the water. That afternoon they capsized again and they had to keep the PFD's inflated as they only had one recharge.


I don't allow them on our trips as I won't risk someone capsizing and the PFD's failing to inflate for whatever reason. Why gamble on an inflatable when you know the standard PFD will save you 100% of the time. . .even if you are knocked unconscious when capsizing?"



Have you ever had one not inflate when you hit the water. Just wondering why all the concerns and not letting trip mates go with you that have these. They would not be Coast Guard approved if they were not safe and gone through extensive testing. I have personally witnessed it go off. It took all of one second to inflate after hitting the water.
 
ockycamper
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10/12/2021 04:35PM  
My restrictions are based on having two guys have their inflatables go off twice in one trip. They had a lot of difficulty swimming with them inflated and found it impossible to get back in the canoes with the inflatables inflated.

The inflatables have all the flotation in the front and are also thicker in the front when inflated. A quality PFD like a Chinook or Kokateck has flotation in front and back which makes in much thinner in the front.

I don't know of anyone that has successfully got back in a canoe or kayak with an inflatable inflated.

In my view. . .inflatables only do one thing better then standard PFD's. . .and that is they are more comfortable. Our groups do everything with the idea of "what would we do/bring/wear if we absolutely knew we would go in the water?". Could you swim 50-100 yards in an inflatable? What about getting back in a canoe. We have done both with standard PFD's.

Also we go in late September when water and air temps are colder. I simply won't take a chance on a life saving device that "may" work vs one that always works.
 
Savage Voyageur
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10/12/2021 07:22PM  
All PFDs have benefits and disadvantages. Yours probably has lots of pockets to hold gear, mine does not. Mine is comfortable and cool, yours is not. I forget I have a PFD on, others I wear not so much.

I’m sure if I fell out of a canoe I could swim 10 feet back to the canoe. I’m also sure if I fell out of a canoe I could swim 50 or 100 yards wearing it. We used to swim all the time in these as a kid at the lakes. Getting back into a canoe I’m not sure about because of the inflatable part getting in the way. But for that matter I would have a hard time getting in a canoe anyways.

As far as water temperature in September I just went swimming yesterday in a lake in northern Minnesota, it was October 11th and I was in for 15 min no problems. So it sounds like your trip mates PFD worked just as designed, they went into the water and they deployed.

Thanks for responding, but we still disagree on this one. I will continue to use my Coast Guard Approved PFD when canoeing and kayaking. Happy paddling.
 
andym
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10/12/2021 08:06PM  
There are lots of choices. It is interesting thinking about swimming in them. In sailing bigger boats, where inflatables are really popular, you don't swim to the boat. The boat comes to you as part of a man overboard procedure. And people help you onboard. For solo sailing on bigger boats, you also wear a tether so the boat can't get away from you. In either case, it is no problem to carry a bunch of rearming kits or even an extra foam PFD in case you run out of cartridges.

For small sailboats that can capsize, people don't use inflatables because we tend to capsize a lot and even practice it. Those boats don't get away from you because if you capsize and are in the water then the boat is almost always on its side and right next to you. If it stays upright then a properly designed boat should point itself into the wind and come close to a stop.

The hybrid I have my eye on is the Mustang Survival Khimera. It provides 7.5 lbs of floatation from foam and has manual inflation to go to 25 lbs but does it in a better shape than the standard inflatables. It seems like it would be very comfortable for paddling and sailing all sizes of boats. I probably wouldn't use it for offshore sailing where I'd rather have a foam PFD or auto-inflating. For small sailboats that capsize easily, I generally have on a wet suit and so that adds some floatation too. Note that the company says that the Khimera is only for good swimmers.

It's nice to have lots of choices.
 
10/12/2021 10:25PM  
The Mustang Hydrostatic is supposedly one of the best PFD’s you can buy. It will automatically open but not by water spray or humidity. It will open when submerged in 4 inches of water.

Expensive for sure but rated the best by professional boaters, kayakers, etc

Mustang Hydrostatic PFD
 
ockycamper
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10/13/2021 07:42AM  
Savage Voyageur: "All PFDs have benefits and disadvantages. Yours probably has lots of pockets to hold gear, mine does not. Mine is comfortable and cool, yours is not. I forget I have a PFD on, others I wear not so much.


I’m sure if I fell out of a canoe I could swim 10 feet back to the canoe. I’m also sure if I fell out of a canoe I could swim 50 or 100 yards wearing it. We used to swim all the time in these as a kid at the lakes. Getting back into a canoe I’m not sure about because of the inflatable part getting in the way. But for that matter I would have a hard time getting in a canoe anyways.


As far as water temperature in September I just went swimming yesterday in a lake in northern Minnesota, it was October 11th and I was in for 15 min no problems. So it sounds like your trip mates PFD worked just as designed, they went into the water and they deployed.


Thanks for responding, but we still disagree on this one. I will continue to use my Coast Guard Approved PFD when canoeing and kayaking. Happy paddling.
"


My comments were just coming from our groups own experience with both types. While the inflatables are clearly more comfortable and cooler, when inflated, a quality PFD like the NRS Chinook (what I wear) offers much better freedom of movement then a vest with all flotation on front. The only reason I hear guys move to inflatables is that they don't like wearing standard PFD's due to being bulky and uncomfortable. They will spend $200 plus on a high end inflatable but have never really tried a quality PFD like the NRS line or the Kokatat line of PFD's.

We teach guys canoe re entry on our trips which is much easier in a standard PFD. Maybe our guys are not in as good as shape (probably because we are all 50 to 70 years in age), but we have found through experience that standard PFD's are much easier to swim in the inflatables.

If someone refuses to wear a PFD because they are hot and uncomfortable, I am all for the inflatables if that is all they will wear. At least they are in a PFD. I just won't roll the dice on trusting PFD that is supposed to inflate, is almost impossible to get back into a canoe with, and much more difficult to swim in then something like the Chinook. NRS Chinook
 
10/13/2021 08:45AM  
I use both and as the odd person I am, I learn all I can about the gear I use. Inflatables always, by law, have a manual inflation tube easily accessible when worn and inflated and a manual activation. It is a simple thing to let some of the excess CO2 out to make them less cumbersome. Inflatables often are over buoyant by design. When the CO2 is released a bit they are as easy to swim with and maneuver in as a regular PFD.

butthead
 
ockycamper
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10/13/2021 09:55AM  
I am sure that is true. However, the guys we have had capsize has been in wind and rougher water, and cold temps. They were also all 3 a good distance from shore. They were grabbing the canoe and gear as quickly as they can. I don't think any of them would have had the foresight to deflate an inflateable. They were totally focused on getting their gear and getting out of the water as quickly as possible.
 
10/13/2021 10:18AM  
As a person whom is rough on things, I would worry about punturing a inflatable with a hook or something else. I throw my PFD on the rocks at camp etc. Also how does the the rubber or whatever material last without aging?

I also agree with comment above, if your a person who would otherwise wear nothing, than it would be for you.

Mention by a few about PFD foam location. A good PFD will float you upright, not face down, thus you want more floatation in front.
Attended a Coast Guard class talking about some PFD's actually floats you face first down. They have found drowned people in a PFD floating face down. Some PFD actually would flip you face down if unconscious.
 
Blackdogyak
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10/15/2021 09:08AM  
Pinetree: "As a person whom is rough on things, I would worry about punturing a inflatable with a hook or something else. I throw my PFD on the rocks at camp etc. Also how does the the rubber or whatever material last without aging?


I also agree with comment above, if your a person who would otherwise wear nothing, than it would be for you.


Mention by a few about PFD foam location. A good PFD will float you upright, not face down, thus you want more floatation in front.
Attended a Coast Guard class talking about some PFD's actually floats you face first down. They have found drowned people in a PFD floating face down. Some PFD actually would flip you face down if unconscious."


The vests are constructed with and outer Cordura she'll....and the air bladder folded up.imside. When the CO2 inflates it, it splits open the two vertical chest segments along a Velcro seam and the air bladders pop.oit.
You could bang the thing on rocks all day....it won't affect the air bladders inside.
 
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