Help selecting PFD's for my family

I’ve been looking at PFD’s for about 2-3 weeks now and I am overwhelmed. I haven’t have a chance to run to store yet to actually try some on, but wanted input and advice from experience people.

My family = Me 6’4" 200lbs, Wife 5’4" 125lbs, Titus 15 months and about 27lbs.

I canoe by far the most, and mostly by myself on small rivers and lakes, whatever I can find that is close and easy to get in and out in an hour or two.

But I want to get good PFD’s. But I’m not sure how ‘advanced’ I should go? I don’t want to skimp on safety, but I’m pretty tight on money as I’m sure everyone is.

I’ve worn the cheap life jackets that like wal-mart sacks with foam blocks. And I’ve morn some over padded neoprene jackets as well.

But I want something that isn’t annoying to wear, so that I will actually keep it on. I use a GCI SitBacker, and so a thick back gets in my way pretty fast.

I may do some whitewater, but that would be 2% of the time so that is not a main focus.

Are there some good PFD’s out there for around $50? What does everyone use?

And more specifically for my son, any recommendations. I’ve seen some Target jackets, and some cheap campmor jackets, but I want my son to have the best jacket out of all of us, if that means spending a wad of cash then so be it, I will just wait to put him on the water until I can afford propper safety. Anywho, recommendations?



For Kids and Canoes
LL Bean used to sell a high quality PFD for kids that had a yoke that goes around the neck that will float the kid head up out of the water, they also came with crotch straps and a grab loop on the back of the yoke and on the shoulders. The grab loop came in handy for getting kids out of the water quickly. The PFDs were comfortable for kids to wear and seemed safe for flat water. I don’t know if they still sell these or not. I do know NRS also sells some pretty decent PFDs for kids. MTI makes decent life jackets too …

They make models for adults for about $50 that are decent. I got an Astral whitewater PFD this year and it really fits me well, is comfortable and stays put in rough water, but they cost about $100 bucks.

I like …
I use a Lotus Rio Grande now, but had been trying on some others recently. I really like the Stohlquist models built on the drifter platform (drifter, betsea, mocean, floater). I bought a bunch of drifters and betseas for use at work in 2004 and everyone seems to like them (and wear them). The drifter usually sells for about $100, but I have seen them on sale for about $75. The floater is less expensive.