life vest

Folks, I just bought a kayak. Now the vest and paddles. What is the difference between a 29.95 vest and a 59.95 vest or even higher. A 40.00 paddle at LLbean 0r a 200.00 one!! Is it all hype?

Not hype
There is a great aount of difference among PFDs as well as among paddles.

In PFDs, check for comfort, mobility, boyancy and the ability to hold the accessories you want in/on your vest.

In paddles, you really have to try as many as possible. The more expensive tend to be lighter and better balanced. They also usually enter, move through, and exit the water more smoothly.

I know there is alot of differrence in paddles. The paddle can make more difference than the boat. Price is not directly corelated to performance. Onno paddles are a great bargain for what your get.

Don’t ask me about PFDs. I have a dozen, but none that fit. I probably need one from Omar the tent maker…

PFDs for kayaks usually have a higher mount for back flotation so when you sit against the backrest you are not sitting against the flotation pads. This also makes spray skirts more comfy. Paddles … like said buy a good one and you will not regret it. I use a Sea Swift 220cm and my wife uses a Mid Swift 220cm. These are made by Eddyline. Onno, Werner, Epic are a few really good that come to mind. Some really nice wood ones are available. Length of paddle has a lot to do with body lengths and heighth of combing above water. I’m 6’3" and the wife is 5’4" and we use same length paddle. I use a higher stroke than her … so many variables for correct length. Try first and if not ask about returns and exchanges. Bob

Paddle with a 40 dollar heavy…
…paddle all day, and then paddle with a 200 dollar one, and you will see the justification for paying more.

No it is not hype

Now if I could sneak some 5 dollar rag that weighs a half a pound on as a PFD in my next race, that I might try!



Hype happens.
There are horrible paddles and excellent paddles and horrible PFDs and excellent PFDs. The excellent ones are generally more expensive than the horrible ones, but just because it costs more doesn’t make it better. There is a fair amount of logo markup.

PFD: comfort and extras (pockets, clips, buckles vs zippers, side vs front closure, material, mesh vs no mesh, etc). The bottom line is in order to get the Coast Guard Type certification they all will do the same job. But the best one in the world will not do you any good if it is lashed to your boat. Boats do not drown. Spend whatever it takes to find one that is perfect enough for you that you will wear it all the time. This brings the material/accessory/comfort issue to the front of the PFD decision. You can not make this decision by looking at pictures and reading.

Paddles: Price largely driven by material + strength + weight. Then type and finally manufacturer. By the one that fits you and the type of paddling that you do the most. Once you paddle for a while and figure out some more stuff then go buy the best paddle for you that you can afford and keep your original one as your spare paddle that you take for emergencies.

Don’t worry about getting started perfectly, just get started.

Sage advice
"Don’t worry about getting started perfectly, just get started." - Tinkerbell

The thing is that you can’t get started perfectly. As a matter of fact it will never be perfect.

The great thing with paddles is that you will need two. So, your first paddle will eventually become your back-up paddle. Buy the best paddle you can afford, knowing that when you realize you want a different (or better) one your first acquisition still has value.

As far as PFD, having an extra one never hurts, so the same applies.

Obviously the most expensive piece of kayaking equipment I have is the boat itself. However, in terms of where I put more money to get more value, it was the paddle and the pfd. I think it was a good decision. For the record I use a carbon fiber Werner Camano paddle and a Lotus Straightjacket vest. Both have worked very well for me.

not all pricey
you can find good stuff on sale, keeps your eyes on gearswap and your local shop (in the off season.) I bought a brand new Rescue PFD (tags still on it) for $65. and its great! paddles, i bought a $110 paddle and it is a piece of (insert anything smelly here.) my mind-set was that since i had only paid $200 for my boat i was not going to pay more for the paddle then i had the boat. (principal of the thing)now i wish i had shelled out the bucks. i dont know what kind of kayaking your into but im into whitewater and ive tried a few friends paddles out- bent shaft is great, and lighter is better till a point. mine is an incredibly light “skinny shaft” design and i feel powerless with it. id find some paddling friends you can buddy up with and see if they’ll let you play with their paddles;) holding mine in the store it seemed just dandy, in the water is a different matter entirely. but for you own sake, dont be chinsy when it comes to your stick.

I found
middle of the price range works well for me. A extrasport pfd that has room for my arms,doesn’t ride up while paddling and a RS magic carlisle paddle.

I just started kayaking this year. Made a big mistake purchasing my first PFD. It rubbed in all the wrong spots and was generally irritating. Finally, after trying on many PFD’s I ended up with a Lotus that fits just right and I don’t even notice it when paddling. The most important thing is to try the PFD on when you are sitting in your kayak. Different seats will definitely mandate what type you purchase. As for the paddle, lighter weight is preferable and I found that the lighter the weight, the higher the price. So, I bit the bullet and invested in the best I could afford. Good luck!

part of the pfd I got is the thin back panel made for kayak seats. For $60 it was a worthwise buy in my opinion.

Two rules of thumb I see.
1) The more likely a piece of gear WILL (not just may) save your life some day, the more expensive it will be. A livery vest is cheap in both senses: usually around $20, no pockets, no D-rings, no rib/waist strap to keep it from riding up when employed, fits like an oversized mitten. A WW/touring vest will normally be more: ample storage, will recieve a rescue harness if not already built in, all kind of adjustments so it fits like a glove for both you and your boat, and costs usually near $100 or much more.

2) The more the boat is worth that the item is made to go with, the more the item itself will be. Rec boats, rec vests, rec paddles, etc. are usually don’t hit your wallet as hard. Eventhough WW boats usually fall in the middle pricewise between recs and touring, WW gear is usually the most expensive, but gets the most abuse/use too.

The same rules appear to apply to canoes also, but don’t necessarily have to (unless you go C1/C2 WW).

what they said
Any Coast Guard approved type III PFD has at least 16 lbs of flotation. what you pay more for is fit, comfort, durability, and extra features you might want. The more expensive ones tend to be more comfortable and stay on better in rough conditions. But if an inexpensive one works for the kind of paddling you do, more power to you.

A decent paddle can make a big difference in ease and comfort of paddling. The best thing to do is try a bunch. If you can’t tell the difference, then it’s not worth it.

Another tip…
As already said, make sure the vest goes with the intended boat, but it goes both ways. A long fitting rec vest in a whitewater or touring boat will pull the spray skirt way down and cause problems. A high riding, but immensely thick, bouyant WW vest will be really uncomfortable, only half against a high seat back of a rec boat. A touring vest may or may not do well in a rec boat depending on its cut, and may not have the reserve bouyancy for WW, or may have too many snag hazzards.