Advice on rescue PFDs?

I took a 2-day swiftwater rescue class this past weekend, and now I’m seriously considering buying a rescue PFD for my whitewater kayaking. I’d appreciate any comments – good or bad – about rescue PFDs you’ve owned or used.

How was Wallbridge’s class? Which river did you folks use?


The first afternoon we worked around the Pemi playhole in Bristol on wading, swimming, rope rescues and lowers. The second afternoon we went up to Livermore Falls on the Pemi in Campton, NH to set up pinning and entrapment scenarios.

The class was very good – I’m smiling every time I feel all the leftover sore bits. I’ll try to post a good report soon. There’s nothing like being on either end of a rope rescue to give you a new appreciation for the power of moving water.

Look Forward To The Report
I am inspired. I’ll make a good effort to get in the class next year.


I use the Lotus
Lola rescue vest. I have had it a little over a year now and have enjoyed it.

That being said, when i retire it next year for a new one, I will look hard at teh Astral vest or (if they are being distributed in the states yet) the one made by Hydrolic out of New Zeland. A vest i see a lot of but have never worn is the vest made by Stolquist. One of the best features on it is the retainer for the ring in the back to keep it centered when not in use.


I just got the 200 with the pocket in front, not the specific rescue vest. There is a pass through behind the pocket which I can just wind my tow belt through. I think I need to jerry rig a velcro strap onto the Astral straps (stitched onto the front) to ensure the quick release buckle doesn’t slide behind the pocket. I dont’ see a big difference, from the pics, between the Astral 200 and the rescue, except that the rescue version has reinforced shoulder straps, a tab, and a rescue belt?


Stolquist …

– Last Updated: Aug-09-04 5:03 PM EST –

Bought mine shorty after I completed Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor training.
I encourage anyone who purchases a Rescue PFD to receive training in Swiftwater Rescue. Taking a short class, and having enough money to purchase a Rescue PFD has gotten more than one person into positions where they were "over their head". If you "hook up" to a rope while in a Rescue PFD, you'd better know what you're doing, and have practiced the techniques you'll try to use. The person on the "other end" of the rope better know what they're doing, and have practiced the techniques you'll be using too!
It is very possible to drown on the end of a rope, wearing a Rescue PFD.


those reinforced shoulder straps
are VERY important.

They are probrably other changes that are not noticable just by looking at it as well.

Checked My Astral 200
again. The shoulder straps are built for comfort and not weight bearing. Definitely wouldn’t be useful with some weight attached to a line, attached to the vest.

Right now I keep myself to simple tows with the tow line/cow tail on a quick release belt.

Based on Angstrom’s report, I look forward even more to getting into a SWR intensive.


Any particular reason for preferring the Stohlquist over other makes? Are there particular features that your experience has shown to be useful or useless?

I appreciate your comments. I’m well aware that I’m still near the bottom of the learning curve on this stuff, and have no desire to become another victim by playing the hero.

angstrom …

– Last Updated: Aug-10-04 12:44 PM EST –

I completed my Instructor course in l995. Back then, nobody had heard of Lotus. The Stohoquist was suggested by my Instructor Trainer, Wayne Sundmacher, co-author of the Whitewater Rescue Manual with Charles Walbridge.
I recertified in an ACA update course on the Wolf River in Wisconsin, and did another update course at NOC on the Nantahala River; used the Stohlquist at both. Never had any problems with the vest, it always served me well, comfortable, functional, instructor trainers satisfied with it. One of them was wearing the same model.
No problem with Lotus; just have no real reason to upgrade. I have several Lotus vests; a Rio Bravo, a Lola, and a Rio Grande.
I think anyone considering serious involvement in swiftwater rescue should take the full course, get a dedicated rescue pfd; and not try to jury rig a regular pfd for rescue.