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Do you wear your PFD (open water)

-- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 5:09 PM EST --

Been reading the second Deep Trouble book "More Deep Trouble" book. Seems like I often read people not wearing the PFD's but instead putting them under there deck bunjees.Now I get it when some dont wear a PFD paddling down a creek were you can stand up in the creek. I still wear mine but many dont under those conditions.

BUT in open water do you ALWAYS wear your PFD?? I do. Just curious about others.

Side question, if you bring a VHF or PLB were do you keep it, on you? On me for my answer.



  • First, you have to assess the degree of
    risk associated with not wearing your life jacket, and then, you must decide what level of risk that you, personally, are willing to assume.

    I wouldn't paddle a sea/touring kayak out on open water without wearing my life jacket. But my two-stage risk assessment is mine alone.

    Sometimes, because they get tired of dragging for bodies and cleaning up after us, state or federal agencies dictate that we *must* wear life jackets whether we like it or not. Right now, that applies mostly on whitewater rivers.

    I call them *life jackets* because that is their primary purpose, to save lives. "PFD" is a typical government euphemism, if not an outright evasion of the real issue.
  • depends on what you call open water
    I have paddled in fairly close proximity to shore on a warm water lake without a PFD now and again as I have on a straightforward and relatively narrow Class I stream.

    I would not paddle on a wide, deep river or attempt a significant open water crossing without a PFD, however.
  • Open water for me
    would be a lake and yes I wear it

    1. Its like a seat belt once your get used to wearing it you just wear it.

    2. Most of the time we paddle with kids in the group so we wear them to set the example.
  • I always wear mine.
    I'm never in "open" water.

    I think wearing the PFD in rocky creeks is very important, since the likelihood of cracking your head on a rock and becoming unconscious is greater than when in open water.
  • My PLB is attached to my PFD
    and that is attached to me. No doubt in anyones view the Gulf of Mexioo is open water. We did 11 miles today off Cedar Key ..in a fog with 100 ft visibility. Losing anything was not an option.

    In this case I would have needed all free hands to get back in and not lose the painter on the boat. Within five seconds it could have been buried in the fog.

    I always wear it on the ocean.
  • Always, regardless
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 10:35 PM EST --

    If I am not wearing it for the sake of flotation I have it on because I have stuff in the pockets I might want fast, like the waterproof camera or a nut bar. For the little added money it costs to get one that is really comfortable, I don't see any reason not to do that.

    BTW, saw a photo in the latest Eddie Bauer ad with three paddler offshore down in Baja somewhere, rock cliffs behind by at least a quarter of a mile so if they did capsize in any real trip it was going to have to be handled on the water. Guess what they were wearing? The prettily colored technical jackets that Eddie Bauer was advertising on that page, completely unblocked by anything as silly as a PFD. On the facing page, they listed their highly qualified guides in each of the sports.

    I know that they were models, and there was a motor boat nearby just out of the shot as well as a guide telling them how to hold the paddle and go in to help if they did capsize. We saw a publicity shoot like this happening where we vacation on the coast on Maine a couple of years back. It was pretty funny when we came in from a paddle out to Eastern Egg wet, hungry and in faded PFD's and dry suits that used to be whatever color. Not exactly a match for the models in clean clothes trying to figure out which end of the paddle was up. We felt sorry for the kayak guide they had hired.

    But I still find it galling that someone like Eddie Bauer will, on the facing pages, tout their highly qualified guides and place more emphasis on the cute colors of their clothes than fundamental safe practices. They are supposed to be about the outdoors, especially in this display. If they want to be about the new spring colors they don't need the boats to do it.

    Later PS - I don't expect folks who do crew to wear a PFD, though I have seen less than comfy practices from the motor boat escorting the shell with all that stuff. I would probably try to make a waist mounted inflatable work if I cared about racing in a kayak. But I would as soon watch paint dry as race myself, so it is not an issue.

  • probably wouldn't save you
    Only a Type I PFD, which virtually no recreational boaters wear, has much of a chance of floating you with your airway out of the water.
  • Open water..............
    -- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 12:22 PM EST --

    I don't paddle open water; never wanted too, and have no plans to ever paddle open water.

    I do paddle on a large lake, flatwater, moving water, and occasionally some whitewater rivers.
    It doesn't matter what venue I paddle; I always wear my pfd. Season does not matter; it can be 20 degrees, or 100 degrees. My wife always wears her pfd; as do the vast majority of my padding friends.

    If those I don't know, choose not to wear a pfd, and they are an adult; that is their decision.
    I would have empathy for their family if dire natural consequences resulted.

    Ex Lifeguard Instructor, and Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor(Never used as excuse to not wear pfd)

  • First question: no, not always
    -- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 7:04 PM EST --

    Second question the PLB is on my PFD. My PFD is either on me or on the rear deck of the yak.
    My vhf is always tethered to the front deck.

    Jack L

  • always - feel naked without it
    I always wear my PFD. Feel naked without it. Even wear it when SUPing.

    VHF location is a bit more convoluted. If with others, and doing stuff like surfing or rock gardening, it may be in day hatch (to keep out of the way). But if solo, it is attached to me.

    I am planning to buy a PLB when I get the cash, and it will be stored in a pocket that is built into the water bladder pack that is permanently attached to my PFD. So will be with meat all times.
  • yes
    I always wear my pfd---and when I have my vhf, it's in the pocket on the pfd
  • Options
    PFD is a habit
    -- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 7:55 PM EST --

    Getting a good fitting, comfortable , PFD "may"
    take a slight teeny bit of effort, i.e. you
    might have to try out a few different manufacturers
    and various models by clipping them onto your body.

    After that, it goes on my body just like my swim trunks,
    or paddling pants or drysuit. It's that natural a move.

    People make all sort of excuses for not wearing one
    and I believe its because they haven't been
    scared enough by mother nature just yet in their paddling

    It's a little like that cyclist who flips
    over his handle bars on concrete
    and then wears a helmet

  • I ALWAYS wear my PFD
    well, I did go on a cruise a few years ago and didn't wear it on the ship. I wear it on whitewater, flatwater, lakes, river, saltwater marsh, creeks, and swamps- in a canoe, a kayak, a duck, or a raft.
    That's me. You do what you want. Call it what you want as well: a lifejacket, pfd, lifevest- it doesn't matter. If you wear it your safer than if you don't. I've never finished a day of paddling and thought- I wish I hadn't worn my lifejacket today. On the other hand there have been many days I was glad I made the decision to wear it. Personally, I find "open water" to be one of the most intimidating environments,a place where I would want to wear a pfd the most. A change in shore topography/weather/wind/waves can result in a sudden shift in conditions. I'm an old boyscout, better to "be prepared". As far as shallow being safer, that's where I dislocated a shoulder - glad I had my lifejacket on that day as well. It makes a nice sling.

    http://youtu.be/q7aSL6m4L5Y check it out at 4:17
  • Always
    It's become second nature and a wise habit.
  • Inflatable belt?
    An area kayak shop had a picture of one of their salesman out on the gulf and it appeared he wasn't wearing his PFD. So many people commented they posted a caption saying he had on an inflatable belt type PFD

    I wear my Astral unless I'm spending more time dragging my canoe than paddling, then I switch to my Fisherman's PFD
  • Always
    1. I was a man overboard one time, in the middle of the Chesapeake, and all I had was my shorts. A passing boat picked me up after I survival bobbed for a few hours. A few hours by myself, during which my survival odds were dwindling, made an impression, and that's an experience I will never repeat, because I wear that PFD all the time, even on power boats.

    2. Wearing the pfd models good behavior for people that might not know any better.

  • Always...
    ...if I'm out on the water, it's on me.
  • It saved my life.
    See pg 251 of More Deep Trouble. I made enough stupid mistakes and assumptions that day that my survival margin was razor thin. A Dr. told me later I was within minutes of losing consciousness.

    The PFD's flotation kept me higher in the water and provided insulation , while saving effort to stay afloat.

    I always wear it and keep my radio on it or in the deck bag.

  • ALWAYS! my rule is lifejacket on
    WHENEVER I am on the water, openwater, closedwater, shallowwater, deepwater.
  • I do
    and I don't paddle with people who don't. I've had to do enough rescues in cold, and sometimes moving, water that I've learned a healthy appreciation for floatation.

    In all situations, rescues increase risk to everyone involved. If they can be avoided, or rendered less severe, though the use of a PFD, this should be done.

  • Mostly...
    What works in the cold waters of the Great Lakes, or the coast of Oregon may not be what works for the shallow Gulf coast paddling with warm water and a hot sun. Even here in the warmth, I'd lean toward using it in what I'd consider open water.
    Use your head, and use your tools. Your life may well depend on it.
  • PFD
    Always on no matter what type of water we paddle.
  • another mostly, but only don't when
    The air and water temp is quite warm, I am in a group, conditions are calm and the water is often only waist deep. In the sounds of NC, those conditions come together more often than you might think. But most of the time I am very vigilant about it.
  • Always, no exceptions.
    My VHF radio is always mounted on the shoulder strap of my PFD. Here's how to do it:
  • Always
    when kayaking in pool, creek, stream, river, inlet, bay, surf, ocean. Even before reading DT the first time some years ago. I prefer this to remain my choice and not govt mandated.
  • Options
    If I am on the water (even in a pool) I wear one. Its easy to put on and since I wear it all the time I don't notice it.

    VHF goes on the PFD where I can use it one-handed, not in a pocket.
  • Most of the time
    Except in hot summer weather when I'm paddling close along shore. I see it as a relative risk. I also ride a bicycle several thousand miles each year on New Jersey roads and that is many times more dangerous than a summer paddle on Barnegat Bay. But when I get down to Barnegat inlet with its fast running currents and big motor boat wakes, the PFD goes on regardless of the temperature and humidity.
  • Always
    I always wear my PFD while on the water, just as I always wear my seatbelt while driving my car. I've found that life becomes so much easier if one just develops certain good habits--like always wearing the PFD while paddling. You arrive at the launch site and automatically put on the PFD, rather than engaging in some sort of debate with yourself whether today is a PFD day or not. It's always a PFD day, so one can concentrate on other, more important issues.
  • Always, no question
    I have not VHF or PLB, though, which is probably something I should fix.
  • In my younger years
    I spent a lot of time sailing and never wore a pfd, but then I was also invulnerable. To some degree I brought that attitude to kayaking, but not when I stepped up to sea kayaking. Maybe it was part of the aging process, but also I think it was part of the sea kayaking motif in that it is part of the uniform. Finally, acquiring a really good pfd that is so comfortable and comforting, it has become my security blanky.
  • Options
    yes, other than some races.
    All of the time while not racing, 90% of the time racing.
  • Only Open Water?
    Akin to wearing a seatbelt only when you're driving out on the interstate IMHO. I paddle primarily streams you'd have no trouble throwing a ball across. Every year we come across and assist a few folks in trouble, and they are the ones who rarely have a PFD on.

    On the water, crap can happen. And one thing you always seem to hear echoed about most drowning victims is "He/she was a GOOD swimmer?" When you mix adrenalin and emergent situations, most folks have trouble swimming. Add a boat full of water, belly full of beer, cold water, a nasty strainer, tough water conditions, et al and you're playing Russian Roulette.

    If you'd ever had a kid bobbing underwater screaming "Don't let me drown, DON'T LET ME DROWN" as you struggled to find an eddy next to a nasty strainer to attempt his rescue, I bet you'd encourage EVERYONE on the water to wear a PFD as I do?
  • Glad to see
    Glad to see people wear there Life Vest. I guess the ones I read about in the two deep trouble books are exceptions to the rule. Plus alot of those stories are from several years back too.Maybe things have changed over the years.

    I was just curious. The other thing I noticed most was that many were not in the right clothing for the water temp. As one poster mentioned about his story on page 251. I was paddling on the Niagara River late this season and water was at 45F. I wore my drysuit, about 10 others in the group, most I didnt know. No one had much of anything on. They looked at me as I heard some say, jeezze look at this guy with the full suit.Like I was the crazy one. Conditions were dead calm but still.
  • Eddie Bauer
    Celia, I saw and thought the same thing in the Eddie Bauer catalog that showed up in my mail box. I posted the same thing in a couple of facebook groups I belong to. I also love the caption at the bottom of the photo that lists the "professional" guides names and then says "paddling the shark infested waters...." The caption adds just a hint more to danger factor.

    Of the four guides listed, only one is listed as a kayak guide and I would bet $100 that he doesn't let his clients leave the beach without a PFD.

    Like someone mentioned, not wearing my pfd is like not wearing a seat belt. I feel naked without it. I could be paddling a mud puddle and I'd still wear mine. It's about being safe, responsible to myself and others and it's smart. I don't buy the "it's hot" excuse. You're 6" from the water, splash yourself.
  • always.
    -- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 12:31 PM EST --

    I'm so used to it I don't feel right without it on. I use it in pool sessions even. It's what I'd be wearing if I capsized in rough conditions so it makes sense to be as used to it as I can. I went to a different brand for a cooler PFD, but if I overheat in the middle of a body of cool water that's my own fault.

    I only take my VHF sometimes but when I do it's on my PFD on the front of the shoulder strap. GPS is on-deck if I take it. Cellphone is in a waterproof bag in my PFD pocket. I'm not telling you where I keep my wallet.

  • Always on the sea but not always on lake
    -- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 2:02 PM EST --

    If it's a big lake with rough conditions or very cold water, I treat it as ocean paddling minus the tidal factor: Wear the PFD.

    If it's small, sheltered, and not so cold, I usually don't wear the PFD.

    On rivers, I always wear it, regardless whether "open" or with nearby shoreline.

    There is also an occasional exception to my ocean rule: If in a sheltered cove or bay with warm weather and water I might not wear the PFD.

    It depends on more variables than "openness."

    When I bring a VHF radio, it rides in the day hatch.

  • Life jacket
    Always. vhf is in the chest pocket.
  • "Deciding"
    Pikabike's post demonstrates that "deciding" thing at the launch site. All those factors..... Easier (and safer) to just develop the PFD habit, and be done with the deciding ritual.
  • I'm in Jackl's boat.
    I will wear one most of the time but not always. If the temps are high and I'm paddling flat water I leave it on deck.
    I'm the same way with a bike helmet. If temps are high and I'm riding in a low traffic area the helmet stays home.
    I know this will send the PC crowd into a frenzy but you have to judge the risks and plan accordingly.
  • Sometimes
    -- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 1:04 AM EST --

    I paddle (relatively) safe small rivers, small/medium lakes and large but slow rivers here in MN. I only wear a PFD when the water is cold, conditions are rough, or there is some other risky circumstance. I try to avoid risky circumstances (paddle with a group in general) and paddle close to shore when appropriate (not too hard to do in the midwest).

    As earlier posts elude, its foolish not to wear one when there are elevated risk circumstances such as fast moving water, cold water, a long distance to shore, rough conditions, or whatever else may likely contribute to an unforeseen accident. Its good habit though; I wouldnt argue that for a second and never discourage others from wearing one in any condition. I basically make the risk assessment at shore. If im 99.9999% sure I wont die, I probably wont wear one. If im 99.9998% sure I wont die, I put it on =) Ill take the 1:100000 chance that something freakishly unlikely happens. But anything is a possibility any time you're on the water...

    Every spring during early season paddling, I see ignorant paddlers or fishermen in a T shirt and no PFD on within a couple weeks of iceout...I guess it pays to be lucky? In those conditions, Im cautious even with a drytop and pants, pfd, 2 changes of clothes, fire starter, paddling close to shore ect. The most dangerous ones 'dont know what they dont know'.

  • Options
    In the boat = wearing PFD. And will not paddle with anyone not wearing one (that fits them properly).
  • Why Is It?
    Why is it that people who state that they always wear their PFDs only need a sentence or two to explain why it makes sense to them, whereas the "deciders" need many paragraphs to help us understand all of the many, many factors and variables at play in the decision-making process? I hope they don't go through those agonies while figuring out whether to brush their teeth!
  • Options
    Ever forget to pack your PFD?
    I did once. I was paddling by myself too and I felt so uncomfortable without it. I was in LI Sound but just stayed along shore. (I'm a good swimmer and roller too)

    I keep a spare PFd and paddle in my trunk and even an old spray skirt and many times I have bailed out friends who forgot something.

    Only beginners who know nothing paddle without PFDs. This is a good winter blues type reading thread. Next post should be "why wear a PFD if you know how to swim".
  • PFDs
    In the West the water is usually cold, so it makes sense to always wear one. I insist that everyone on my trips wear a PFD. I paddled with a guy recently that always had some excuse like, "I changed clothes and forgot to put it back on." That was on a trip in Feb. I no longer paddle with that guy.
  • Well, I Don't Consider It the "Police"
    -- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 11:47 AM EST --

    But, as I said, things happen in calm and easy conditions and those conditions can change in a hurry. Ever seen a phantom gust of wind come out of nowhere and blow a boat 30' in a couple seconds? Ever paddled full out and an unseen underwater reef or boulder stop your boat cold throwing someone overboard or injuring them? How about a nice, gentle current and suddenly, around the bend is a tree completely blocking the water and you're in the water before you can react? These are just a couple illustrations of things that can happen in otherwise benign conditions.

    Summer in the Ozarks is no picnic; we regularly get 95-100 degree temps with high humidity. A comfortable PFD with some mesh makes you no more uncomfortable. Take your time, go slower, keep a wet hat on your head and a wet bandanna around your neck to help keep cool.

    Wear a PFD, don't wear a PFD, it's a free country. I'm just trying to reach out and make folks think and make an informed decision about being safer.

  • It is really very simple
    If conditions are such that I would have no trepidation whatsoever to jump in the water and swim, I might take off my PFD. I have even (horrors!) gone swimming in lakes and the ocean without a PFD. And it is possible to slip getting into a bathtub, strike your head, and drown, and I don't wear a PFD while taking a bath either.
  • Always. I meet a lot of new paddlers
    and I have grandkids watching me on the water. One picture is worth....
  • Yes, always
    -- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 12:46 PM EST --

    I paddle Lake Michigan, and always have on a pfd, even in relatively flat water conditions, since the truest words ever spoken were "better safe than sorry."

    Even on smaller lakes, I'll wear it, since God forbid something happened unexpectedly that took me out of the boat in an unconscious state, at least I'd be easier to spot if floating rather than not. Worst case scenario, at least it'd make it easier on the guys sent to fish out the body. No reason to be a pain in the ass, dead or alive.

  • totally agree
    -- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 2:55 PM EST --

    I have been out paddling "close to shore" on lake Erie and Ontario when out of NO WERE a sudden little isolated storm comes upon me. Suddenly its 40 mph winds were it was calm moments before. One of the stories I just read in "More Deep Trouble" was when a storm that wasn't supposed to come for another 2 hours showed up early. It came so fast upon them they had no time to put there PFD on.

    Been paddling were a submerged bolder which wasn't seen flipped a guy, totally calm flat water but he was in the water.Had he been alone and not capable of re-entry it could be bad thing to happen.

  • YES
    yep, Idiot would not.
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