Inflatable PFDs

Any thoughts on the advisability of inflatable PFDs for flat water paddling?

What do you want the PFD to do?
If you’re comfortable swimming in the water you’ll be paddling, dressed as you’ll be dressed to paddle, and the PFD is basically there as a backup to swimming, then I’d say yes. I use an inflatable all the time under those parameters. If you really need the PFD to stay afloat comfortably, then I might lean more toward foam. But an inflatable on your body is better than a foam PFD on your deck any day.

The only reason
you need a PFD for flatwater, or any water for that matter, is to provide you with flotation in the event of an unplanned capsize. Having to inflate a PFD after the fact seems like alot of un-needed, required extra activity in such circumstances. If the conditions are bad enough to put you in the water, you probably don’t need more proceedures to go through.

Just MHO.

inflatable pfd
My pfd is inflatable. My paddling is mainly flat water and I don’t go out in big water…my yak is 9’6". The best thing to do with an inflatable is to practice pulling the cord to inflate. They’re Coast Guard approved now. So, it is an option and a pretty good one if you are mainly a flatwater paddler. When I bought mine, the salesman was very careful about explaining that the inflatables were not for whitewater.

In Texas, it gets very hot in the summer. Foam pfd’s are uncomfortable and tend to become seat cushions. The inflatable isn’t anywhere near as hot, is fairly comfortable, and doesn’t interfere with fishing or paddling like some foam pfd’s I’ve tried. A big drawback to the inflatable’s is cost. You can find them as low as $70 and they’re good, in fact, just the same as the more expensive ones, but without bells and whistles. Pockets will cost you more.

Better an inflatable you’ll wear than a foam one that will become a seat cushion.

You forgot to mention…
…the cost of the replacement CO2 cylinders for them. The last I checked, they were $13 each, which pretty much guarantees that most people will never practice inflating their PFD except by mouth.

An Important Difference:
I was given a SOSpenders inflatable last year and checked it out in shallow lake water by manually inflating it and compared it to my normal foam PFD that I had along at the same time.

The most important thing I noticed aside from a comfort and bulk difference is that the SOSpenders is designed in such a way that when inflated, and when I’m floating, my head WILL be out of the water face up; however, the foam PFD would allow me to flop over and float there with my face down in the water.

I don’t plan to capsize my kayak and be rendered unconscious, but if I am, I’m happy to know my face will be out of the water.

SOS Inflatables
are great if you are the type of person that takes care of their gear. I have used mine for over 5 years and check it periodically for leaks, change cylinders and arming plastic once a season. Also, make sure to rinse it and dry completely before storing it.

If you don’t do these things and let it get puntured, etc or have the material rot from improper storage, it won’t do you any good when you need it.

Why the trouble? I paddle in south florida where it is so hot I refuse to wear a proper fitting non inflatable PFD cause it gives me the jeebs. The inflatables are comfortable and really provide alot of bouyancy more so than my old pfd. The best part is they are not hot.

Downside…if you get hit by a powerboater and become unconcious you will not be able to pull the cord and inflate the vest…

To me, that’s a “so what” issue
If you’re going to be in a situation where the speed of inflation via the C02 cartridge vs. the speed of inflation by mouth is an issue, then you should be wearing a foam PFD. If you’re not, what’s the point of practicing shooting off the CO2 cartridge? I’d be perfectly happy with an inflatable that didn’t even have the CO2 inflation mechanism, but AFAIK it’s a Coast Guard requirement.

I too wear
an inflatable for the above mentioned reasons. The foam pfd was uncomfortable and hot and consequently never worn. At least the inflatable is always on and supossed to inflate nearly instantly with a tug of the cord. One thing to keep in mind if you paddle in cold weather-I believe the Co2 is only good to around 40 or 45 degrees for proper full inflation. Otherwise on flat calm waters,FWIW I’d say inflatable is a good way to go. CUonH2O

inflatable pfd
Checked out the cost of co2 cartridges. You can find refill cartridges for inflatable pfd’s for about $12. It won’t deter me from trying the system out. After what you pay for a good pfd, inflatable or not, another $12 to test it is not much for making sure you know how to operate the thing.

one last thing
as I stated above, if you should get hit by a powerboat and are rendered unconcious you will not have any flotation when you hit the water.

If you are paddling in an area of high boat and jetski traffic even if it is flatwater, I personally would not get the inflatable and would go with a regular pfd.

Self Inflating PDF
I too use a PDF when it is really hot. However, I will only use a self inflating unit. I want to make sure it is working when I pass out or as mentioned, get knocked out. I have not had one go off unexpected on me, yet. I check mine regulary and inspect all parts. I have jumped in and tested it to to make sure it doesn’t ride up. I’ll spend the $ on refills.

Things happen really fast.
I’ve been in situations were things happen so fast that you don’t have time to inflate a PFD because of what is going on. If it fails to inflate you have to do it manually which takes away precious time. However, an inflatable is better than nothing. Just my .02 FishHawk

Since the PFD you wear is worth more than the one you sit on, I’ll stick, in spite of the negatives, with my SOS as I am really comfortable wearing it and have never once neglected to put it on…unlike other pfd’s I’ve owned…

inflatable PFD
DOn’t forget that if you inflate manually, thenthe cartridge goes off you will probably blow up you PFD.

Also it needs to be inspected once a year.


Sit on it?
Shame on you! A poor way to treat something that could save your life. I NEVER paddle without wearing a PFD and won’t paddle with anyone who isn’t wearing theirs. Yeah, yeah, hot weather, it gets warm here on Maui too, no matter, wear da PFD. ( Lotus Mildwater)

it’s not just the heat and humidity…
it’s the ticks and mosquitoes up here in the wetlands…I’ve never sat on a pfd in my life but I see plenty who do…keeps the population down, I figure…reminds me of one of my favorite signatures…“I’m not saying we should kill all the stupid people…just remove all the warning labels and let nature take its’ course”…LOL…

floating seat cushions
I guess if you are worried that your inflatable pfd won’t work, you could always take along a seat cushion or a life ring. Myself, I try to stay away from where skiers and jet skis hang out. Its more pleasant not for saftey, by noise and annoyance. Besides, they mess up the fishing.