How many o' ye test yer lifevests?

Yesterday, ah’ did a rare-fer-me summer Joisey Pine Barrens trip wit de HRCKC an’ since it waar gon’na be a hot day ah’ reckon’d ah’d waar one o’ me old lifevests - one o’ de ribbed kind since it be a bit cooler than me others. Well, swimmin’ around in a deep spot wit me lifevest on ah’ did notice dat ah’ kept sinkin’. Dag-blamed vest woodn’t keep me up!

So today, ah’s rounded up all me lifevests (10) dat ah’ coolected over de years an’ took dem out ta a local pond an’ found dat 3 of my very ol’ pfds wit de standard 15.5 lbs. didn’t do de job anymore. Pretty much sunk inta de drink while a few o’ me somewat newer 15.5’s - 16.5’s barely kept me afloat. Only me high buoyancy (20 lbs.+) vests were ok.

So it berls down ta two thangs… Ah’s gots more “heavy fat” now-a-days or PFD’s do lose buoyancy as they git older, or most probably a coombinatoon o’ both.

How often do all ye test float yer lifevests?


I replace mine
every year. Its $80 well spent. That being said, I haven’t worn mine for the last 200+ miles…Too uncomfortable. The buckles rub on my (massive) biceps when I am paddling. Gonna get a zip up one next week so I can wear it again.

Is that the thing that I keep on the…
back deck of my yak or way up in the stern of my canoe?

You mean to tell me that people actually wear those things?

Jack L

some do!
They are called “survivors”. Just like all the ones that don’t wear em and are called “survivors”.

I wear mine religiously when it is cold, conditions are bad, or if I got that creepy gut feeling that it’s not right. Other than that, mine is usually behind me on the floor.

What do I hate about them? Too hot, chafe badly, hot, hot, and worst of all they are like wearing a sweater. That is: hot.

PFD use is a good/bad deal. Whitewater and cold water, high risk stuff like that I can see how it can help. When you do marathon races in the summer when temps are in the 90’s and you are forced to wear a parka, its not so cool. Literally. I am guessing PFD use in summertime races becomes more of a hazard due to heatstroke than drowning becomes due to lack of PFD use. When I race, PFD use is usually mandated by the rules, and I wear one to prevent DQ. However, I have NEVER tipped in a race, never even been close. I have however been severely overheated,dehydrated, and fatigued, mostly from the result of over heating. PFD requirements in races suck, IMO.

PFD Floatation Tests

– Last Updated: Jun-20-10 7:50 PM EST –

I started with 16 lbs of barbell weights tightly tied around the PFD with the remainder of line for me to hold on to in case the PFD sinks. I then placed the PFD in a refuse container filled with water. I added or removed weight to find the point at which the PFD just floated. All of the PFDs are infrequently used except for my those highlighted in yellow; my Seda PFD has been used for five years of packrafting trips (includes using it as a sleeping pad and a sit pad on average of 14 days per year) and my Lotus Lola Rescue has been used for 10 years of sea kayaking. Only my Seda PFD has fallen below the vendor minimum floatation specification. I assume this is attributable to using it as a sleeping pad for an average of two weeks each summer while on packrafting trips. Heat and pressure will accelerate the out-gassing of all PFD’s foam blowing agent and so yours may degrade more quickly than mine have.

The PFD Test Results table URL needs to be pasted into your browser to look at it since this forum's hotlink software stops the link when it sees an @.

Intentionally or unintentionally?

Buy a good one.
Then test it every decade.

All the time, love rescue practice

I have a Lotus Sherman I have been
using since 1999. I keep inspecting it for weak strap connections or rotting seam cloth, but haven’t found any.

I’ve heard of cases where good PFDs were coming apart after only a year or two of use. So far it isn’t clear why that happens.

Good work. I no longer have weights
and will have to think of something else.

Pfd test…
Have a Stohlquist Rescue Vest, Lotus Rio Grande, Lotus Sherman, and a Lotus Lola.

All are at 5 to 7 years old.

I test each one every year, and all are doing fine.

If paddling, I wear one; don’t care if it’s 25 degrees or 95 degrees.

If I get too hot; it’s time to find some shade, take a break, drink some water, and take a swim.

No big deal.


I Make It A Point To Test Mine Yearly

– Last Updated: Jun-20-10 10:45 PM EST –

I TRY to wait for a warm day, but sometimes I get to test it during the winter or early spring when the swimming is more "Brisk" (LOL)! When I buy a new one, I make sure it's comfortable to move my arms in and doesn't chafe or bind. I wear mine any time I paddle. Sh..., 'er, stuff happens if you paddle long enough. Been paddling since the '70's and have had enough close calls that I'm relatively certain a couple of times I could have been the one in a newspaper article if I hadn't been wearing one. WW

good on you FE, good post too ,needed

Not routine testing
The 10-yr-old PFD still floats me, or a least it did when I last checked it a few months ago. The fabric has faded dramatically, though, so I got another PFD recently.

While I’ve never worried about new adult PFDs floating me, I need to test this latest acquisition because it’s a kid’s model rated to only 90 lbs. I bet it’ll still float me even though I weigh more than that. The size range is also extremely conservative, because I can wear it despite being several inches bigger around than what the label indicates for maximum. I just can’t wear something bulky, like a drysuit, under it.

Human density
The people hardest to float are those with compact, dense bodies. These tend to be people with athletic body builds, with a lot of bone and muscle mass, and not much fat. Fat is not as dense as muscle and bone, so people who are overweight can actually be easier to float than someone who is much smaller and leaner.

Heavy people do not need a higher buoyancy PFD because of their weight.

Most require only about 11 pounds of extra buoyancy to keep their head out of water. That is why a PFD with just 15.5 pounds of buoyancy can provide adequate flotation for an adult – even a very large person.

PFDs with 22 to 34 pounds can provide superior performance.

BUOYANCY: Most adults only need an extra seven to twelve pounds of buoyancy to keep their heads above water. A PFD can give that “extra lift,” and it’s made to keep you floating until help comes.

Your weight is not the only factor in finding out how much “extra lift” you need in water. Body fat, lung size, clothing, and whether the water is rough or calm, all play a part.

Test mine a lot…
pretty much every time I paddle with Daggermat :wink:

Our club did a rescue class last weekend which included boat over boat recoveries. My PFD is 5 years old, and it still floats me fine, although I am noticing a build up of that “heavy fat”.

Measured Weight?

– Last Updated: Jun-21-10 10:16 AM EST –

How did you measure weight? I weigh 185 on dry land but only perhaps 10lb in the water -;) , e.g. I have negative buoyancy and sink down slowly.

I guess a piece of metal dumbell would not have nearly as much buoyancy as I do when submerged, but it still displaces some water and thus weights less in water than on land.

Steel/iron have density of about 7,850 kg per cubic meter. Water is about 1,000 kg per cubic meter.

So iron/steel weights will be 12-13% lighter in fresh water than they are on land. Perhaps that explains why most of your PFDs rated about that much more buoyant than spec.

Interesting statistics though. Thanks!

This is excellent!
Next time I swim out of my canoe I will just shout to everybody:

“I’m just testing my PFD before we get to the tough whitewater.”


– Last Updated: Jun-21-10 2:10 PM EST –

Test all my gear - so when it counts no need to wonder if I should of.
One story:
This is a bit OT, but one time I tested my Wilderness Systems bilge pump early in season and found it jammed continually due to the grooves worm in the plastic pump shaft by sand, grit etc. The pump was not jammed w. that stuff, the shaft surface had just degraded & deformed over time. I replaced it w. a better pump w. an aluminum shaft.

I practice swimming in my pfd, with or w/out my paddle. Yesterday I showed a couple of new paddlers the value of doing this -and we cooled off, had fun messing in and alongside our boats.

IME a quality pfd that fits well is comfortable whether sitting or paddling continously. Out of the way during rescues. Just disappears while it's on. Comfort and buoyancy are two things I check for each season.

Just last weekend
I threw mine out into the pond, and it floated just fine.

And I was about to retrieve it with my boat, but then remembered that I can’t paddle without it on. Dang!

So I need a new one now.