Do PFDs wear out from use and exposure, or just age?

If I buy a second PFD of a model I really like now, can I keep it for later when my current one gets too old? Or will time deteriorate the materials? Thanks.

Everything deteriorates, but if you keep it in a moderate temperature, away from sunlight, it will have the best chance.

I bet you will be able to find a pfd you like when you need a new one in a decade though. Might even find a better one

Yes, probably you’re right. I just hate shopping and having to go through the whole try-it-on process over again, and wish I could just buy a lifetime supply once I find something I like!

As we get older, the lifetime supply becomes very obtainable…


And as you get older, sizes are subject to change.


I think that the flotation foam in modern PFDs is much more durable than it was in some of the models of yesteryear. But the shells of most PFDs are nylon which degrades with prolonged UV exposure.

Some of my favorite old Extrasport PFDs have failed because the shell material deteriorated to the point that it tore and ripped. Those PFDs which saw less use, and therefore less UV exposure, seem to have held up fine.

Thanks. I often fail to buy “extra” of something I like, only then to find it’s been discontinued and the newer model is far less good for me. As for changing size, I’m determined not to let that happen so I keep fitting in my boat!

The average lifespan of a PFD is 10 years with moderate use and reasonable care. Rinse with fresh water after every use, especially if used in salt water. Periodically hand wash with a mild detergent like Dawn to remove sweat and grime. Store dry out of direct sunlight in a well ventilated space.

Like everything else, PFDs are constantly improving and evolving. .I’m sure that many years from now you can easily find a new PFD that is just as good or better than the one you have now. In addition, even if just stored and not used, a PFD will experience some degradation over time.

Well, I agree that everything is constantly evolving, but it’s not always improving! Some things just seem to get made more and more shoddily each year. But perhaps PFDs are not among these items.

Things may evolve (though I bet Darwin would shudder at this application of his idea) but the selective force that drives that evolution is the market. And the market isn’t huge for the really good high end stuff - and the prices of such quality stuff limit sales, and an awful lot of people don’t have use of it.

I sure wish that I could still find a PFD of a design like those old Extrasports Pete was referring to… Great flotation, offered some physical protection if bounced off rocks , and (foremost in mind as the weather gets cooler) they’re warm. Gone the way of royalex, Dagger whitewater canoes, and Sawyer solos. Those were all successful for ages but they weren’t improved upon as evolution would predict and didn’t survive. The market apparently favors Pelicans and Walmart kayaks. Where have all the flowers gone?

Is this the old Extrasport design that you have mentioned?

Yes. Really nice, aren’t they? Close to 20lbs flotation, if I recall.

I think that really depends on how often you go out, I usually replace mine somewhere around the 3 year mark, as pfds get exposed to the elements their flotation value goes down.

willowleaf that “high float” in your pic is down right modern with a pocket, the hip duel color scheme and the matching colored zipper. When I switched out of the “high float” to the more modern designs I felt a bit “naked” but in a very short time I learned to embrace the sleekness. Swim some unobstructed wavetrains and see how a pfd floats you.

Actually, that purple one is currently for sale on Ebay.

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I’m a big fan of Astral PFDs (own 4 models at the moment) and noticed their newer Ringo has some nice features. One is that the shell is polyester fabric rather than nylon. Polyester is inherently more UV resistant than nylon. They also use their panelized design (for body hugging fit) and flexible encapsulated kapok flotation, both of which I have really appreciated in my Astral Abba.

I still have one of a similar disign that I bought from Charlie Walbridge in the early 80s. Has two but gave one along with an xtra large high float to a special needs kids camp. Still useful for gentle paddling but I wouldn’t use it anymore for this:

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Nice, thank you. Alas, It’s a couple inches too small. Not sure purple is my color either, but I’d probably go for it anyhow if it fit.
Why isn’t this style still made? By anybody? Why these evolutionary dead ends? It sure has its place even if it isn’t compatible with spray skirts and is warm. I’m satisfied enough with my old Lotus but, as this thread suggests, it wouldn’t hurt to replace or supplement it. I’ve been using it for a long time now…I won’t trash it, but it sure would be nice to find something to supplement it that that would be more suitable for colder weather and bigger water.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Does not look good to use with a spray skirt. Just my guess.

Probably would not work well in a kayak either, with all that bulk over the hips. Canoe, yes.

PJC: You do know that Astral was started by folks that came from Lotus, right? I still have my first kayak PFD, a Lotus purchased in 2002. I got the first Astral (a well ventilated V8 model) in 2009 and it’s been my warm weather go-to since then. I added an Astral Camino for more flotation and full coverage foam all around a few years later for colder conditions.

Astral’s habit of continually changing models has plusses and minuses. On the one hand, if you like a model and want to recommend or replace it, it may be discontinued. On the other, the constant model churning (which includes design changes nearly every year even on retained models) means that they almost always have discounts on the “last year’s models”. The Abba was an impulse buy (I loved the bright green color and it was on sale – it’s a “girl thing”…) But it rapidly became my all around favorite for fit and features.

Since I have multiple boats and often outfit friends for outings, I can justify having 6 PFD’s. I keep them clean and always stored in light proof bags when stashed in my vehicle and in a closet when at home. After 50 years of having outdoor gear made of cordura and other forms of coated nylon I have noted that storing items made of those fabrics in garages or unheated basements seems to degrade them faster, I suspect due to temperature and humidity swings.

I have noticed that an MTI PFD I bought around 2007 has not held up as well as the Astrals or the Lotus, despite not being used that much (mostly as a loaner.) There is definitely a quality difference there.