I need a new PFD, the one I have is not working with the paddling I’m doing. Anyone have any preferences? I’m 5’ tall and only 115 and so far each one I’ve tried on is too big or gets in the way of the seat back. Only pleasure trips, no dangerous waters.
a few to check out:
Kokatat Aries -comes in small adult sizes and youth sizes too. Smallest adult pfd I’ve seen.
also, don’t know a model name, but Extrasport makes some one pocket pfds that are slim on the sides and across the torso and correspondingly light. Found a couple used and use one for SUP.
2nd Vote for the Airies
My wife is a smaller than you. She has a the XXS/YL.
Comfortable, clean design, and no hanging/flopping straps. Provides excellent flotation as well.
Stats: 5’5", 119#
2nd the ninja
Ill 2nd the Ninja. Its very ergonomic for paddling but may get in the way of a seat back. Bring your boat with you if possible to try it out
Another option may be the Stohlquist rocker. Its very comfortable and has a higher back.
another vote for Astral
I have an Astral V8 that fits my friend when I loan it to her (5’ 1’ and about 120#). Also has the benefit of the mesh back that does not interfere with the kayak backband, and it is ventilated and mesh lined so it is very comfortable in hot weather. I find the Astrals are not as bulky as many other models (I have owned 6 different PFD’s) and fit short upper torsos well. L L Bean and REI both carry the V8, if you can get to one to try it on, and it usually sells for under $100.
I like the look of that one with the mesh, problem is… I can’t find one near me to try it on! Looks good.
For Astral V8
Don’t think that is what she has in mind, DK.
Since you are in the Thumb, can you do a day trip to the REI in Troy? They usually stock the Astrals. (and if you buy from REI you’ll get 10% credit back on your purchase next year.)
The V8 is super comfortable and adjustable. I often forget to take it off until I go to get in the car after paddling even on hot days – doesn’t feel restrictive at all.
I like mine
There is a size small V8 right now on Ebay for $75 (though they want $15 for shipping so it’s not all that great of a deal).
REI is too far for me, but there is a new Cabelas in Saginaw that I may stop in and try a few on. Maybe they have something.
Cabelas has nothing
I checked their on line catalog and they have nothing. All their PFD’s are fishing style (either inflatables for power boating or bulky “one size fits most men” behemoths). Only one, a Stearns, has a lower mesh back and it only comes in large. Same with the Gander Mountain in Saginaw. Nothing but bulky vests for fishermen or models for water skiers.
You would be better off ordering an Astral from REI or one of the outfitters. I doubt you would be disappointed in the fit of a V8. In fact, I bought mine totally on impulse. I had a perfectly good Lotus PFD that it had not occurred to me to replace. But I stopped in REI one day to buy a part for my car roof rack and spotted the V8 on display (I admit the tangerine color caught my eye) and when I looked it over and tried it on I loved it enough to drop $100 on it and never regretted the decision.
She should try one on before buying
The XXS one, that is. I bought the Aries in that size, gambling based on having used a Stohlquist kid PFD. There were no Aries for me to try on anywhere close to home.
I can wear it…barely. And that is with a wetsuit, not a bulky drysuit. The length is good. The chest circumference is very snug. I mean the upper straps are as far out as they can go. Meanwhile, the waist straps have room to tighten up. And I am not busty. So she should definitely try this size on first, because there is little margin to mess with (unlike with any adult size PFD I have tried, even the so-called XS ones).
Sizing obviously varies by manufacturer. My Stohlquist kid PFD states an even smaller number for chest range, yet it is roomier. I have actually worn it over my drysuit, although that is the max it can accommodate.
Now for the really weird thing: the foam in PFDs seems to expand at higher altitudes, affecting fit. Seriously. When I bought the Stohlquist kid PFD in Colorado, it felt snug. After moving to sea level, I swore the PFD got looser. Chalked it up to age of the PFD.
Recently I took the newer Aries to paddle at Upper Klamath NWR. I struggled to zip the thing up. Really had to suck in, pinch the zipper sides together, and still pull hard. Zipping it closed without me in it was easy. No, I did not gain weight, AND when I got back to sea level it resumed being easier to zip closed. So th same thing happened with both PFDs. The only reason I never had noticed this with adult sized PFDs was that they always had so much excess room in the first place.
I guess the foam itself expands, much like water bottles and sealed bags expand after being brought to higher elevation and get sucked in when brought back down. I used to feel the changes in bike tires doing the same.
PFD fit is so personal that I think you really need to try them on and sit in a kayak with them.
My wife is just 5’, 120lbs and a really good paddler but she is rather “well endowed”. At a recent big paddling show she tried PFDs from all the top manufactures there and came away with a Stohlquist Misty…in large! This is the size the Stohlquist rep recommended and for her was the best compromise we could find (even if the shoulder straps need to be cinched down as much as possible).
The Misty does have a thin back that conforms very well to her kayak seat.
kfbrady brings up a good point. At your height you want to make sure you get one with adjustable shoulder straps. Also, though I am taller than you (5’ 5") I am long legged and short waisted so my upper body is more proportional to somebody 5" 2". As a result I have to shorten the straps on my PFD’s. I have found that some vests rise too far in the front in design and when I am in the cockpit of a kayak they can ride up uncomfortably close to my chin. You may want to look for one that is sort of a vee-neck in the front for more clearance.
The Astrals tend to be good for busty body types too. The foam is not as stiff as in many other brands and the designs tend to flex with your body. Astral’s Abba model is stuffed with natural kapok and is supposed to be very flexible and comfortable. Have not checked on out in person (almost afraid to in case I really like it – I really don"t need another PFD, actually own more of them than I do kayaks at the moment!)
I don’t have to worry about the bust part, I’m shaped more like a young boy, lol. I’m really considering the Astral V8, I like the mesh and in watching the video on how it was made they started with a 5’ 100lb model.