PFD Choices...

I have a question likely covered many times before. To that end, are there any comments on inflatable pfd’s for wilderness tripping on flat water? I hate wearring my PFD, I am thinking an inflatable may feel better, thus I would not hesitate to wear one, especially on a wilderness trip for hours at a time.


pros and cons

– Last Updated: Apr-01-07 1:02 AM EST –

There are two types: automatic and manual. Both of them are equipped with a one-time-use CO2 cartridge and oral inflation valve. Both of them have a very low profile when NOT deployed and in my opinion are more comfortable than traditional pfd.

Both manual and automatic pfd's I've tried carried a warning "must be fitted with a functional inflation cartridge or be worn fully inflated". So, for whatever reason the pfd is deployed, either manually or automatically (activated upon submersion without any input from its user), it must me be re-armed or worn fully inflated.

When inflated, they become bulky and may restrict body movements. So, for whatever reason a person decides to keep the pfd inflated(poor swimming abilities, fear of inclement weather, lack of replacement cartridges, etc.) he or she should expect some difficulties while paddling, climbing back into the boat, etc, etc

I would recommed an inflatable PFD (especially manual) to good swimmers only.

Try a few of them. Perhaps you will find one without these disadvantages.

Inflatable PFD
I own a manually inflatable PFD from Cabela’s and I love it. I wouldn’t recommend an automatic one for kayaking. I think it’s a great choice if you don’t want to deal with the bulk or warmth of foam PFD’s. One of the reasons I chose an inflatable is that I don’t want to wrap myself in nylon and foam in South Florida, it’s hot enough without wearing insulation.

Simplymatt brings up a couple of good points, but I don’t totally agree. Yes, they are very bulky when inflated and would interfere with paddling, but why would you have it inflated while paddling? Climbing back in your boat would be more of a problem with an inflated pfd, but I wouldn’t even think of inflating my pfd unless I was separated from my kayak and/or in some kind of trouble. If I’m getting back in my boat it means I wasn’t separated from it, and therefore, my PFD shouldn’t be inflated. Keep in mind that I’m a strong swimmer and very confident in the water. But now that I think about it, I think all paddlers should be able to swim and be somewhat confident in the water.

Pedro Almeida

I own/use a manually inflating
PFD. I use when I flyfish from my kayak. I had owned an automatic inflating one previously, however it inflated unexpectedly in choppy, windy, rainy conditions. That made it much more dificult to paddle, and very dificult to cast.

You’re right.
I edited my post so it’s a little clearer.


I plan to get one
I plan to get one but I might add a ski belt so that I’ll always have some constant floatation.

inflatable pfd’s
I had an automatic inflatable from my days singlehanding a sailboat. My feared scenario in that situation was getting clocked by the boom and tossed overboard while the boat sailed off on its own. A self-inflating version fit the bill…comfort and safety. When I started kayaking, I tried the kayak vests but both I and my wife found them cumbersome. I refitted my vest with a manual activation to avoid unintentional inflation and got another for my wife.

I still have some lingering doubts about having one requiring manual inflation, in case of injury, etc. I see some “hydrostatic” versions available now, which require immersion, not just moisture, to activate. Anyone have experience with these?

Koktat SeaO2
The SeaO2 is a hybrid vest for folks who don’t like the bulk of a normal PFD. 7.5 lbs bouyancy uninflated, 22.5 lbs bouyancy inflated.