Inflatable PFD's?

I love my old Lotus Straitjacket for canoeing, but I’ve started doing a little rowing and need something with a little (or a lot) less bulk for that.

Does anybody have suggestions on inflatable PFD’s? This would be for flatwater rowing only.

I talked to the (overly expensive) people at West Marine today, and they said they have a new inflatable aimed at the canoe/kayak market. Has anyone tried, or seen, that one?

I’d appreciate hearing from anyone with first-hand experience, good or bad.

Pete in Atlanta

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Stearns inflatable pfd
I use a Stearns inflatable pfd. My crafts are kayaks used for fishing, primarily. Also have a canoe. The inflatable is very comfortable, especially in Texas with lots of 95 + summer days. My pfd is a manual inflatable, that is, you have to pull a cord to make it inflate. I’ve had to use it, capsized in 12 ft of water. Pulled the cord and popped right up like a bobber. Its strictly a flat water pfd and has no positive floatation if you are knocked out and can’t pull the string. But, the best thing about it is that its easy and not hot in the summer. The secret to any pfd being good for you is in wearing it.

Thanks, Bob
I had searched, but only back 3 months. Hit paydirt by doing as you suggested!

Inflatable Vests
I have an SOSpenders PFD that is good for hot weather. At other times I prefer a conventionl PFD. There is a tradeoff in that you have to consciously pull the rip cord to deploy the inflatable type. There is a type that will self inflate, but they are not recommended for small craft. If you are rowing in a very athletic manner, then an inflatable is probably the PFD type that would make the most sense.



Probably not of much interest for paddlers, but for anybody rowing, the inflatables make a LOT of difference- lots more hand clearance.

Feels kinda weird when you’re used to a regular PFD, you don’t have the “strapped-in” secure feeling. But it’s CG-approved, so…

I ended up with the basic Mustang manually-inflating model (MD-3003), choosing it over the Stearns model mostly because the Mustang had wider webbing and hardware that looked a litle more robust. And the behind-the-neck portion of the Mustang was more comfortable. I imagine body shape and size could influence that, though.

Less than a month 'till Daylight Saving Time starts- WooHoo!

Pete in Atlanta

Kokatat Half-Inflatable
I haven’t paddled with this, but a local paddler that we’ve been out with has one of the new Kokatat PFD’s that is inflatable to some significant poundage (I forget what) via mouth or CO2 cartridge, but without that inflation has I think about 8 pounds of floatation. The value of the mouth tube (in front) is that you can blow it up to more floatation on the fly, the value of the CO2 cartridge is that you can pull it in an extreme emergency. And if you have pretty good Greenland moves, the base level of floatation will be enough to help you up. In fact, you could blow it up and gradually let air out as an aid to learning to scull, etc.

He says it is quite comfortable.

3 weeks with Kokatats new PFD
just returned from 3 weeks in florida where i wore a Kokatat Sea02 daily…comparing it to my old standard-a Lotus Locean or an Extrasport Retroglide there is no comparison for comfort…in most all of my yaks one of the first things i do is remove the seat (if it has one) and replace with a backband, but if you do have a high seat back (like in a QCC) then you will like the predominance of mesh on the back of the SeaO2…the ability to inflate manually as mentioned above is a nice feature–say for example you are headed out in what you know will be challenging conditions, then you blow it up fully before paddling,on a calm day in protected water leave it with its integral 7 pounds of flotation.

on the trip i enjoyed 3 days at the sweetwater symposium and stuck to dubside like glue and used the SeaO2 under a Tuliq with no problems, of course in that scenario it would be hard to get to to pull the emergency cord, but dubside wore his pfd on the outside…

Also, the SeaO2 has two pockets which i didnt expect from just looking at a pic on the internet…one pocket would easily carry a small shore-to-shore FM.