Inflatable PFD

I would like to hear about inflatable pfds, and/or comfortable regular ones, if there is such a thing.


Wifey and I …
own inflatable PFD’s. A bit more comfortable in the heat of the subtropics.

Is it as good as a regular PFD for safety?

No, it won’t help you a darn bit if you can’t inflate it when you need it. Personal injury accident, etc.

That said, we realize we will die sooner or later, and accept the consequence of our decision.


Hybrid inflatable
The Kokatat Sea02 has 8 lbs foam flotation, which is enough to float me in calm waters. You can blow it up to 22 lbs with the C02 ripcord or by blowing about 10 puffs in the blow tube.

I took out the CO2 apparatus.

Much lighter weight and more comfortable than a regular vest. Haven’t worn my regular vests in 4 years.

Kinda Depends
The suspender or belt type inflatables are fine for hot weather paddling except that once inflated and worn, they make paddling impossible. You can’t paddle with the things inflated. They are fine for aiding the rescue of someone falling out of a powerboat, but worthless for paddling down a river, where one swim might be followed by another.

Many newer PFDs are very comfortable. I use two different Astral PFDs, the Touring 300 and the Hybrid whenever I paddle. Both are very comfortable. Like Glen, I prefer the Hybrid in summer heat.

I have been using a Mustang Survival Inflatable PFD for 3 seasons and love it. I’m a flat water paddler and like the comfort and freedom it gives you. However there are some + - you have to take into consideration when comparing it to a standard PFD. The hybrid from Kokatat does look interesting.

inflatables not for frigid waters
I own the Kokatat Sea O 2 and it is wonderful.

The only limit is for use in frigid waters. I saw your location.

The biggest problem capsizing into frigid waters is that the first

minute you are gasping and fighting to have muscle control. You

will not be able to blow up the PFD to its lager size.

So if you are using one in those conditions, go ahead and inflate it

to the 22 lbs before heading out.

Very useful beneath a Tuilik or other
special outerwear situations, and also very nice in hot weather and small water. No way would I head into open water in one. I view it as a convenience and special use device, not as a primary lifesaving tool. No air, no float, no way. Bill

Other things about the hybrid
You not only can inflate it before you go out, you can inflate and deflate it while you ARE out. A few times I have been on lakes and just started getting nervous. Basically, irrational fears. So, I just puffed up my vest and felt safer.

While I wouldn’t advise the hybrid for regular WW, it would be fine for the river with an occasional rip. You can inflate it just for the rapid and then deflate it.

Deflating is easy. Just squeeze the vest with your hands and/or by leaning back against something.

Finally, and I can only speak for the Kokatat I own, since the air bladders are mainly on the front of the vest, the inflated vest will float you face up like an old Mae West.

Find a kayak dealer and buy a pfd from him that’s actually designed for paddling. Most are very comfy.

Leave the inflatable pfd’s to the yachties.

Bill H.

Ohio DNR
Has a pledge program where if you sign a pledge to WEAR the inflatable PFD they have they will let you use it free for one year. Then supposedly you turn it in but they said they will usually let you keep it for another year. The have both the kind you wear like a regular PFD and one that is a belt/waist pack. Seemed like a good deal to me but since I like the immediate floation support when I go in I passed. If you live in Ohio though check it out.

inflateable pfd’s
what are the costs of such a pfd?

the belt-pack inflatables are under a hundred dollars. The Sea 02 hybrid inflatable paddling vests are about $200. Automatic inflatable harnesses (probably best for yachties) are about $200.

I have a sterns inflatable
I use it more often than not when paddling. When inflated it looks like a yoke type $5 pfd. When not inflated it looks more like a scarf. Much cooler and less restricting than a vest. I use it when I’ll be near shore and the water is relatively calm. When I need my skirt I generally switch to a vest.

You pull a rip-cord to inflate it using CO2. I didn’t go for self inflating because i was sure there’d be times when I’d get wet enough for it to inflate without being in the drink. I manually inflate it a couple of times a year to make sure it has not sprung a leak. I got it on sale for well under $100

The one place I don’t use it is on my sailboat. I’m afraid i’ll get hit in the head by the boom and be too dazed to pull the cord or inflate it manually.