PFD for a big guy.

-- Last Updated: Apr-17-11 3:43 PM EST --

Hello there, I am new to paddling and bought my first kayak this year. I am a big guy, 5'8" 290 lbs, and finding a PFD that fits and is comfortable is tough. I may have to go with a non paddling pfd, those I can find. I could buy online as most retailers have extended sizes however I would like to make sure it fits well before I buy it. I will be doing mostly flat water and some rivers with a little fishing thown in. Thanks for any help.


Safety for a Big Guy

– Last Updated: Apr-16-11 1:31 PM EST –

Take responsibility for yourself.
There are not enough people in the very large
size range to make the expense of testing and approval practical for manufacturers.

Clip-on body strap extensions are the preferred method of accommodating large people.
An additional length of body strap be added to a yoke/bib style PFD

The same types of materials should be used as in the approved PFD.
The PFD manufacturer may be willing to provide the clip-on body strap extension.

The user should then test the modified PFD in the water.

For a person with a chest size over 130 cm (52 inches),
using an adult universal PFD with a clip-on body strap extension
does not void the USCG approval.

A PFD manufacturer (or anyone for that matter) may produce an un-approved device
for larger persons without Coast Guard approval.

Test in the water. - Test in the Water - Test again

Mid Michigan
There used to be a whole web site devoted to us overweight. Wes’s something or other. Unfortunately he let the web site lapse and now we’re left with nothing but guessing and word of mouth.

There are lots of specialty kayak shops in Michigan. I’m not from Michigan, but there are plenty of people here who are. Maybe somebody can help with ideas. Good luck!

this site?
The kayak mirror

The pfd mirror

Stohlquist Fisherman Vest in the Universal size. I have you beat by 50 pounds and it fits fine. Room to expand, which I hopefully won’t do.

Thank you for all of the responses. Stohlquist has what looks like a very good selection in adition to the fishing line. I want a good comfortable vest so that it doesn’t end up on the deck or (worse) on the beach. I also want to set a good example for my children while paddling. The articles were also an interesting read.


What do you think…
about this vest from Bass Pro Shops?

It is a nice looking vest and a great price. Good size info and extended sizes.


Try non-kayaking PFD

– Last Updated: Apr-17-11 4:18 PM EST –

- doesn't necessarily mean "not paddling". Check West Marine and other non-kayaking stores and ask for "canoe PFD" or loos-fit PFD. Here is an example - it's in Canada, but it should be available under different names anywhere:

Check camping/fishing shops and general marine stores like West Marine. This Buoy-O-Boy has a loose fit, there is no narrow waist. It's made like a coat, not like a "bomber jacket" of a typical kayaking PFD, and if zipper won't close, you still have a belt. My Buoy-O-Boy was more comfortable - it had several narrow 2-inch vertical foam panels instead of a few large panels like this on the photo. I saw them (like mine) in kayak and canoe rental shops, you may go and check too (and they sell it for $25 used).

PS: not a good example on the photo - this one is definitely a "non-paddling". Mine BoB had no collar.

It all depends what your life is worth

– Last Updated: Apr-17-11 4:14 PM EST –

Where do you paddle, conditions, time for rescue, etc...

Is you life worth $ 20 - will the stitching hold up,
will the sun eat the fabric in a season and rip/tear ?

Would you clip a carabiner onto it and pull a hulking
mass of man out of a river based on the vest alone... ?

How is someone going to pull you out of the water
- hopefully not by your swim trunks for a wedgie.

Personal choice plays a key role in purchase

All great points you make. I will go to the store to check build quality. I see that it is USCG approved but any type III gives you only minimal protection and is not a “Rescue Vest”. I am not a beleiver in the “more $ is better” school of thought. I will be doing mostly flat water on small lakes in fair weather, and rivers only with groups of paddlers and I’m a fairly strong swimmer. Thankyou for the input.


Best of luck
Enough said

I work part time at a livery in the summers and we have put extrasport livery universal jackets on some huge guys. One bouncer came in and was well over 400 pounds. The vest looked like a postage stamp on the guy, but it fit.

Kokatat Bahia
Kokatat Bahia. I have two of them in the XXL size, one regular, one the touring model with extra pockets. Very adjustable, and pretty comfortable.

Body Density & Flotation Requirement

– Last Updated: Apr-19-11 7:35 PM EST –

The people hardest to float are those with compact, dense bodies. These tend to be people with athletic body builds, with a lot of bone and muscle mass, and not much fat. Fat is not as dense as muscle and bone, so people who are overweight can actually be easier to float than someone who is much smaller and leaner. Heavy people do not need a higher buoyancy PFD because of their weight.

Most require only about 11 pounds of extra buoyancy to keep their head out of water. That is why a PFD with just 15.5 pounds of buoyancy can provide adequate flotation for an adult -- even a very large person. PFDs with 22 to 34 pounds can provide superior performance.

About the same size as you.

– Last Updated: Apr-20-11 12:33 PM EST –

Stohlquist A-Sea fits well, is comfy and has good features.


MTI Reflex II
I use it in a canoe, not a kayak, but I’ve been very happy with my MTI Reflex II. 6’4" 300#

extra large
sometimes I use a overly infalted tractor innertube, but makes rolling tough- Bert…

I’m 6’ and 250, I got a PFD from Dunham’s (don’t know the brand right off hand) but it’s made for kayaking and they go up to at least 2 and maybe 3x sizes. The one I have is great for me and the straps still have plenty of play room, they’re about 40 bucks on sale.

ill get hell for this
but i use a pool noodle

Thanks for the laugh.