Canoe PFD help

Out in my new Mad River Indy today. I am wearing my kayak (Kokatat) pfd and find it too bulky for a proper canoe stroke. I would like to know what others are using. If your not wearing one,I need not know.


In what way is it too bulky?

– Last Updated: May-03-10 11:00 PM EST –

Just to answer your question, I wear a Kokatat PFD too, but I have absolutely NO idea what model it is. I didn't know or care what the name of it was when I bought it, but chose it because when I tried it on it promised to allow comfortable cross-handed rowing. It did work well for rowing, and later, for canoe paddling. After looking at Rutabaga's website, I'd say my PFD is similar to the one they call the "Outfit" (one of the pockets is different, but the design looks the same).

I just tried to imagine a way in which a normal paddling PFD might interfere with canoe paddling and came up empty. Therefore, I suspect your body build is a more important factor than the exact type of PFD. I might add, I originally bought my Kokatat right after discovering that my old fishing-vest PFD, rubbed the insides of my upper arms when rowing, not due to bulk, but due to cheap, inexact, "vest-like" fit.


the only way to tell is to take your
paddle to a store and air paddle with a bunch of PFD’s.

Working on hit and switch I found my side zip Lola catching and annoying me. So I switched to a Kokotat MS fit.

No one else is you. Your PFD should fit you and not me. If its adjustable so that it does not ride up nor interfere with your stroke its for you.

Expect to spend a few hours trying on though you might get lucky.

PFDs, past and present, can
interfere with the upper arm during normal paddling, and can interfere with the lower arm during cross strokes. Why some may not have noticed this problem is hard to say.

I just try to use a PFD where the foam panels are low, relatively thin, and flexible. I usually use an old Lotus Sherman that interferes minimally.

Yeah, that’s why I figure it is a …

– Last Updated: May-04-10 12:19 AM EST –

... matter of individual body build, not the PFD itself. There's nothing hard to say about it. If it doesn't rub, it doesn't rub. My old one rubbed so I switched to one that doesn't. The "good" one might not work for someone else though, especially if their belly is as broad or broader than their shoulders. I think that would make it tough to keep the panels out of the way no matter what.

Hearing this I believe it is not the pfd, but rather the junk I have in the pockets. Well , not junk, but as a guide I do carry stuff in my pockets and perhaps I could put all that in a dry bag and attach it to the Thwart. I will have to try it again with empty pockets. I was hoping to find a canoe specific model. Well this could save me some coins.


May also depend on body size
and shape. I tried an Astral LBD, but found the thick kapok-filled front combined with my girth prevented me from getting my grip hand arm far enough across my chest to “stack” my hands (in CEW’s parlance).

I can see where full pockets would do the same.

I am now using a Stohlquist A-Sea which keeps it’s flotation low on the torso.


Right, but it also depends on technique.
Technique that causes upper arm interference with PFDs is not “wrong,” it is just different.

It’s harder to keep PFDs down and out of the way now that my gut is bigger. But I float better.

Kayak & Canoe PFD’s
with the growing popularity of inexpensive kayaks the bulk of PFD’s are now constructed with the kayaker’s needs ahead of the canoeists. The backs are cut high to clear the seatbacks of kayaks and the bulk of the floatation is high in the front. The bulky front piece and the high fit do interfere with the upper arm motion of a canoe stroke. I tried many PFD’s that did not allow the upper arm to pass across the chest without rubbing against the PFD. With the paddle held at arms length like a kayak stroke there was no problem. I ended up with a Kokotat OutFit to replace a very worn 25 year old Extrasport.

Kayamedic’s suggestion to AirStroke with a paddle while wearing the PFDs is a great way to check the freedom of movement and interference.