Adding pockets to a PDF

When I bought my PDF I tried on all that the store carried regardless of price. Fortunately the one that fit and felt the best was also one of the cheapest. Unfortunately it came with no built in pockets for keys etc. Since I’m just a short trip recreational paddler I don’t need to take much with me. There are times however when I could use a few pockets.

Would it breach the integrity of the PDF to have some pockets sewn on if I can find someone (and appropriate material) to do it? Any ideas on where to find material?

I know I can buy a multitude of little dry bags and boxes with lanyards but the lanyard thing sort of worries me. I just see myself getingt entangled or stuck on something with one.



– Last Updated: May-08-10 9:22 AM EST –

The USCG says:
"Modifying a PFD, such as (permanently) adding additional body strap webbing, voids the device's approval, no matter who does the modification."

Adding pockets would mean that the PFD was no longer USCG approved. It's possible, but unlikely, that you could be cited for having an unapproved PFD if you were stopped for a safety check by a marine patrol officer.

I use a small w/proof roll-top waist
pack by Gaia in my canoe to carry wallet, phone, keys, snack bar, etc. Can shift it around my waist as needed. I just carry emergency gear in/on my life jacket. Most new jackets have closed cell foam so guess you could sew pockets onto the cover. If you sew on pouches, or use a waist pack, just be sure they don’t interfere with your paddling stroke, or exiting your boat especially in a sit-in kayak. R

Great reply Angstrom on legality
Could cause lots of grief. Thanks, R

I don’t know about pockets
but if you have a front of rear hatch in your boat, you can always just put your stuff in a Pelican drybox and throw it in there.

You can also put your keys on a carabiner, and clip them onto the boat somewhere.

One thing I have done with my keys when I was practicing rolling was simply hid them in the woods near the landing where I could find them easily.

You have many options out there if the pocket thing doesn’t work. However, I have cut apart a PFD before, and they usually are simply some kind of fabric over a closed cell foam. I wouldn’t think adding pockets would compromise it.

I added two small pockets to my vest to hold a signal mirror and flares. I doubt very much if the coast guard would make a big deal about something like that. They do not interfere with the usefulness of the vest.

The waist belt sounds like a possible interim but again - I feel there is some small risk with it catching on something during a dump.

I don’t have a hatch (OT Loon) but there are certain things I don’t want to be separated from in case I lose the kayak (I’m not very experienced and this almost happened already on the Sturgeon in MI). Cell phone, keys, maybe extra glasses (I’m well past legally blind).

In certain situations I do the hide keys thing but still would want to take a cell and/or maybe glasses.

I suppose the authorities could get me but if I do this I’ll risk it as long as the PDF itself is not compromised. My first pocket would be a small inside key one that wouldn’t be visable.

I wear a ditch kit

– Last Updated: May-08-10 10:46 PM EST –

essentially its a waterproof fanny pack.

For me pockets interfere with self rescue.

I have my PLB and fire starting material and a small survival kit in the ditch kit plus some other items I might need for transport out.

The ditch kit of course has a quick release buckle.

The Coast Guard truly are idiots.

you could slip this on over it

mary1000, the PFD itself causes risk
of snagging. You’re worrying about add-ons that are less likely to catch on things than a PFD. Some carry knives to cut themselves loose from snags, but the knives that are easiest to reach pose the biggest risk of snagging. You can’t win.

I suggest going to and finding a deal on a PFD with a bunch of pockets.

Just make a pouch
That has a loop on the back. You can slide an existing strap through it or use a caribiner to attach it to your pfd. Just make it removable and the CG will be fine.

kayakmeds idea added to the back
of my pfd by shortening the waist belt it now sits up high between my shoulders. went poling with it on and did not know it was there. its attached in a way that all you do us un-clip it it and its off the vest fop easy access. thanks for the idea kayakmed.

Do what the Coast Guard does…
…and wear a mesh vest with pockets over your PFD. That’s what they showed us when we met with them a few years back. It’s perfectly legal to do so, as you have not modified the PFD in any way.

Sounds like more risk of ensnaring
than sewing on a pocket here or there.

Fortunately, I’ve yet to run into a Coast Guard cutter on Georgia rivers, though I have struggled to explain to DNR officers why enforcing the letter of the law can cause people to leave their PFDs in the boat rather than wear them.

It’s really simple. The CG sets standards for PFD performance and manufacturer’s PFDs are tested to meet those standards. There is no way that rank and file CG personnel can possibly evaluate whether modifications made by PFD owners adversely affect the performance of a PFD, nor (I suspect) do they want their people to assume the responsibility - and liability - for making those judgments. Sticking to the regulations simply makes sense.

That said, I’ve never heard of an incident of the local CG harassing or citing anyone for PFD modifications. Heck, a friend of mine paddled for years in a PFD that was held together with duct tape. He used to see the CG regularly, but never had a problem with them. From what I’ve seen, the CG’s attitude is that if you’re wearing a PFD, they’re happy.

Maybe a good PFD hydrator pack
You want one that anchors on four points - each shoulder strap and a side strap on each side. You can fill the water bladder lightly or not at all, since you probably keep water in the boat with you, and use the sac for a waterproof pouch with keys or whatever. Put the interior pouch on a lanyard so you can pull it out.

Re car keys, if the key itself is not electronic (the electronic fob is a separate part) you can split off the key itself and hook it into a shorts or pants pocket that zips or has an interior D-ring. Many water short/pants have this feature.

It sounds like you carry so little that this’d be enough space.

And you can always have the partially filled water bladder in there as well…

I added pockets to a Word document once.
Just kidding, but adding anything to a pdf is difficult unless you have Adobe Acrobat, not just the Reader… :slight_smile:

sorry, couldn’t resist…

One of the most common modification
seen is removing the leg straps from a PFD. The child complains that it is bothersome. It is less cumbersome to put on. Of course it can now move up holding the childs head underwater. What seems reasonable to some, isn’t. It wasn’t tested with the modifcations. It voids the approval and legal requirement. End of story.

Have Never Been Bothered By CG…

– Last Updated: May-09-10 5:56 PM EST –

with my modified PFDs in Boston Harbor. If I have something on, they are satisfied, including my homemade surfing "flak/impact vest" that is comprised of just .5" thick minicell foam. (CG can't tell except that I have a vest on from afar).

CG has bigger fish to fry that pulling over paddlers to see if PFDs are "regulation."