I am looking to buy ny first PFD’s, one for myself and one for a guest since I bought two rec boats. On one hand I want great ventilation but it also seems important to be able to snug the pfd firmly around the waist so if you do capsize the pfd is more effective and does not ride up. The pfd’s I have seen seem to be one or the other. Any advice from an experienced kayaker on pfd’s? Thankyou
What is your seat ack like?
is it a high back seat? if so then you want a PFD the is designed for a high back seat. the lower portion of the back will be mesh. a PFD that is not built that way can be quite uncomfortable in a high back seat.
Check some of these out
NRS Vista relatively cheap and comfortable
Of course the smaller you go the more comfortable is the general rule but the higher the price.
I'm a fan of high visibilty colors not co-ordinated ones.
Go to an outfitter and try them on.
Sit in a boat with it on.A PFD you do not like is easy to get.
cinches to the torso and has great ventilation. Its worth looking at and they can be had for less than $100
Buy one you can try on…wear your paddling clothing (top) - bring or use a paddle and do a paddling motion right there in the shop.
generally you get what you pay for… the better quality pfds have more adjustable points of attachment… that is, the shoulders adjust and there are at least two racheting straps per side. Some makes have 3 per side. This makes it easier to customize to your torso, and to adjust for cold water paddling when you wear more layers.
Also, as the OP pointed out, you need a good fit so that if someone needs to do a rescue and pull you up by the shoulder straps, they are not too stretchy or loose or floating up in your face as you try to swim.
The better quality PFDs are built w. shaped panels, more curved to the body, not boxy. This work takes more time, and the foam used is more expensive. There are also organic kapok foams used by makers like Astral and Kokatat. Many find them extremely comfortable and the foam is biodegradable.
Check the fabric. Cordura is a common fabric, the higher the number the higher the thread counts… like sheets LOL. Tougher more durable fabric lasts longer.
Neoprene shoulder straps are more apt to be comfortable and conform to your shoulders and won’t tug as much as nylon straps.
A good rugged zipper w. a pull tab you can easily manage, even w. gloved fingers. There are also pullover type PFDs worn like a vest. I own one of each.
Try and see what you like.
One large pocket is a must. Two if you carry a lot of stuff. Your must have items (whistle, car key, knife etc) should all attach or be safely enclosed as appropriate. A lash tab is handy for knife attachment. It should be extremely hard to slide the knife sheath into the tab, you’ll not be taking it on and off.
If you are kayaking rivers, even mostly benign ones, with rocks, downed trees (strainers) or unknowns like concrete spoil, etc, get a PFD w. padding on the back
to protect your spine/back of neck. This is less important for easy touring in calm waters, unless you think you’ll go thru a surf zone.
I see you are in Vancouver. A small point, but worth considering, that if you think you might be kayaking in Canada it would be good to choose a PFD that is not only US Coast Guard approved, but also approved by Transport Canada. Yes they do check…
Finally, OP, if you are a well endowed woman (a full C cup or more) there are PFDs which are not so heavily padded on top. Check these out: MTI PFDiva, Kokatat MSFit Tour, Astral Abba, Stohlquist Betsea. These are just some that come to mind. Altho made for women, many men like them as well as most are well shaped to the body. They are esp. good for people w. short torsos.
As mentioned above, a great fit frees up your torso rotation and doesn’t hinder it. With a really well made, well fitting PFD you can actually forget you’re wearing it. Yes, this is possible
try the Atral, Stohquist, Extrasport, and NRS jackets. My favorite (most comfy) for light touring is the Astral LDB. You might hate it.