pfd gadgets

Okay, First let me say that I hope I don’t open up a whole can of worms here, but I have a couple of questions regarding safely attaching a “few” safety items to my pfd. BTW, my PFD is the Discovery model from ll bean. I also have a small (17’) sailboat that I plan on using this PFD with so herein lies the questions. First, I have a gerber river shorty knife that I’d like to attach to my pfd for quick and easy access should I ever need it. I would think that I would primarily need it in case I went over on the sailboat and it went mast down in the water and I might need to cut a few lines and/or sail to get free. As for paddling, I don’t know when I might need it, but I’m a bit top heavy and seem to have perfected the wet exit lately. The knife has a hard plastic sheath with a boot clip and also 2 plastic rivets for permanent mounting, although I’m not sure how reliable the rivets would be. Any thoughts on where and how to attach the gerber? The second question is I’m thinking of getting some kind of strobe to attach the to back of the pfd. Any thoughts on what kind and how to attach that? The PFD has two front pockets that I intend to use one for a small etrex gps and the other, a couple of energy bars. I don’t want to get a lot of junk hanging off of the pfd, but I thought the knife and maybe a flashing rescue light might be good to have if I ever need them. As you can tell, I’m a newbie so please be gentle :).

pfd stuff
Whatever you end up attaching in and on your PFD, make sure you practice hanging out in the water and getting back in your boat with all that stuff on/in. Depending on your size, your boat, and your stuff, attachments may make it harder, or they may not make much difference. I like to keep my PFD without too much stuff, because I really notice a difference doing a roll. Other people don’t see a lot of difference, so it’s impossible to know exactly what will work for you until you get wet. A strong whistle is always a good idea, and a lot of people use a strobe. Knives seem to have gone out of style; someone else can say why (too many hands getting sliced?) I stick chapstick in my pocket. If I had a tiny little submersible VHF radio, I’d attach it too.

I forgot
I have a whistle on a loop of 550 cord that I can secure to a D-ring on the pfd or keep it in the pocket as well.

lash tabs
many pfds come with ~2" square lash tabs sewn on. that is usualy where the knife goes. I’ve used a shoulder strap for attatching a beacon but of course you won’t see it from the far side of my big fat head.


I would keep the whistle on the outside
of your pfd, if you need it, you’ll need it quickly. I just looped a short cord, with the whistle attached, around the shoulder of my pfd. I have a knife, attached to lashtabs on the front. My strobe is on a safety pin sort of thing, attached to a shoulder in back.

Check the Coast Guard Req’s
Get a NON flashing white light for the boat, a yellow clip-on light for your PFD as a minimum. (The yellow light is the most common and doesn’t attract bugs to your head like the white light does.)

As to flashing lights, check the Coast Guard and any state reg’s before you do that if you are talking about any navigable waterways. In some colors a flashing light is a distress signal indicating a need for rescue, and a boater who runs over to save you while you are enjoying looking up at the stars would be justly annoyed.

How tangled do you really think you’re going to get in your sailboat? What can happen that will force your head under water while wearing your PFD. The only thing I carry on me is a loud whistle that’s kept in a pocket. I want nothing on my vest that can get snagged. Clips aren’t a very secure way to carry a knive. If you feel you absolutely have to have one carry it in a pocket to prevent loss or snagging. In a kayak a paddle leash will work to keep you in contact with your boat. It’s possible to do a wet exit while holding on the paddle. Secure radios, flares, etc. to your kayak rather than your vest. By being properly dressed you’ll have time to access them. You’d be really pissed at yourself if the items on your vest prevented you from doing a re-entry. Remember that having a solid roll is less important than having a solid re-entry.

Visible DAYTIME signal
Do you only Sail or Paddle at night?

I have a small 2X3 signal mirror with a cord attached…it has instructions on it’s use printed on it…a mirror flash can be seen for miles…(for sale in most Army surplus stores).

I have a white light
on a 2’ pole for the stern of the kayak. I was thinking of a strobe on the pfd for emergencies only should I get separated from the boat.

no way

Have to totally disagree with you reference putting your emergency gear on your kayak, ie, a vhf radio, flares, etc. Depending on what kind of water you paddle, if your out in rough conditions, you could very easily become separated from your boat if you take a swim and wind/current quickly pushes your kayak away from you faster than you could swim back to it.

I have everything neatly tethered to my pfd, a vhf, 4 flares, dye, whistle…etc. All where I can quickly access them and they are not configured to cause any entanglement or get in the way of rolling or rescues. I carry this set up only on trips, obviously.

I know a lot of people carry a survival bag in a hatch but I have also set up one in a drybag behind my seat, that I could grab if need be.

PFD goodies

– Last Updated: Sep-04-05 1:00 AM EST –

I have the same Gerber knife. I mount it to a loop on my shoulder strap and I use a nylon zip tie as insurance to make sure it stays there. I also carry an Icom M88 VHF in the front pocket and it is binered to a D-ring in the pocket to make sure it stays there. I have a Princton Tec strobe that uses 1 AA battery and flashes about 70 times per minute. It is mounted using velcro to the rear lash tab on the left shoulder. I only have one small pocket left in my PFD so what I carry there depends on the journey. I have seen some PFDs (British?) with a big pocket in the back that would hold flares, food and other items. My fear is separation from my boat in high winds and waves or worse yet, I become a speedbump. The VHF may summon help from a near by boater. It does no good to me in the boat. I wish I had more space. I am working on a bail out bottle. It is a wide mouth Nalgene bottle full of the 10 essentials.

S/he with the most toys on the PFD wins (all else being equal).

On The Ocean
When on the ocean I will use a paddle leash. Even in calm conditions.

I have never lost my grip on my paddle and have capsized many times in whitewater and while practices surf landings. That includes submarining the bow and doing endos. Once I tried nailing a 6’ vertical face in high water on the Salmon River. My 14’SOT kayak was picked up and thrown backwards. Even then I managed to hold on to my paddle and grab a thigh-strap.

Knew an outfitter that almost died because his knife caught on the rigging of his raft after it flipped in high water.

When paddling my SINK I won’t even carry a knife on my belt because I don’t want it to possiblily hinder a wet exit.

Considering all the different whitewater conditions I’ve paddled with a 14’ SOT I’d say I have about as much experience as almost anyone in dealing with rough water conditions in a bigger kayak. Never would I wear anything that could hinder my re-entry. Paddling a SOT means I don’t roll so I have to have a cleaner PFD.

Placing the safety gear on your pfd depends on the type/model your using. There are many good pfd’s out there where you can package all of your flares/vhf radio…etc and have a very clean profile that will not hinder rolling or any reentry into your boat.

I practice with all of the said gear in my pfd on trips and I’ve scooted all over the deck of my kayak to identify potential hangups, but because of the setup, I’ve identified nothing that could bind or prohibit my safety rolling or rescuing.

You carry flares on your PFD. Why in the hell would you do that? Ever wonder if there’s a possibility of one discharging while you’re doing a re-entry? You’ve got a radio and still carry flares. Bet you wear a belt and suspenders all the time too. Don’t over gadget your vest. Instead be smart. Why would someone be out in conditions that are so bad that they’d feel the need for all that crap? Smart paddling means knowing what you’re getting into. Coastal weather is fairly predictable. Heavy sudden fog from warm air dipping down over cold water is about only real unpredictable event paddlers have to worry about. Flares are useless then.

The Titanic shot off signal flares which were spotted by another ship. They were ignored. Something to think about.

pahs says "sudden heavy fog…

– Last Updated: Sep-04-05 7:51 PM EST –

is about the only unpredictable event.... coastal paddlers have to deal with"???? How about boat traffic, how about storms that are not predictable. How about a shoulder dislocation on your party, or even on yourself, how about a rougue wave taking you hard and holeing your boat.

Read eric soares account of saving his own life with flares and then give advice. Of course you are a way better paddler than he is. Or better yet move out of arizona and get some serious ocean time in. You seem to be disagreeing with a lot of experienced paddlers on almost every thread, but of course we all know when that happens it's always them who are wrong. I also find your use of cursewords in an archived forum typical of someone with your attitude.

When you are a guide, when you are padddling with a group of friends pushing their limits, or when you go solo, you better go belt and suspenders. The idea that you want to be an outfitter/guide and have so many opinions outside of the consensus of experienced paddlers is laughable and scary. This post which knocks belt and suspenders thinking will make geat evidence when some client gets dead and the lawyers are down on you.

A prudent mariner favors redundancy; anything works on a pond.


Um, man I really don’t know how to respond to your ignorance.

You should really examine what you think your going to say or how you may think you’re going to respond to a thread, and then maybe say the exact opposite of what you were originally thinking…does that make sense or am I starting to sound like you?

Too many things to point out here…predictable coastal weather…come on! Some one else chime in here.

Using the Titanic as an example…are you serious or am I the one not getting the punch line?

A flare going off in my pfd? Hmm… Not the way I carry them. I spent a considerable amount of time in the military, carrying explosive devices of various kinds on my body and crawling, jumping, climbing, falling,…you name it. I would have been much more concerned about those things detonating than a flare that is configured in my pfd in a way that unless a little alien jumps in my pfd, rips apart the packaging, and proceeds to pull the rip cord,I’m fairly confident they won’t go off on my body. But hey, that’s the risk I take.

But I guess if I was such an experienced and knowledgeable paddler like yourself, I wouldn’t have to worry about “over gadgeting” my pfd where I would have to worry about getting things hung up on my kayak while performing a self rescue.

But since you are so knowledgeable, what can you tell me about a reentry and roll…wouldn’t that save you from worrying about things on you pfd? I don’t know…just wondering what your opionion would be.

Maybe I should forward a pic of my pfd fully outfitted. What you’ll see is nothing attached to outside, expect for maybe a whistle, and a little bulging of the cargo pockets…but that’s it.

How many total minutes?

– Last Updated: Sep-04-05 11:19 PM EST –

Have you spent paddling on the ocean?

Where have you paddled in coastal areas, just wondering what experience base you are talking from?

Did you carry a primer attached to an exposive device while running around? The military teaches you not to do that. That is what a flare has.

So I know nothing about weather. Do you even know about orographic affect? Tell me how that can cause a storm. Do you know about wind eddies? Tell me what causes a micro-burst. Had one take the roof off of my old log cabin once. Explain to me the wind change that takes place just prior to a thunderstorm. Have you ever heard of a belt weather kit? I’ve worn one many times. I own a handheld barometer/anemometer and know how to use it. Do you have to look up anemometer to find out what it means?

When visiting the coast I’ll turn on my VHF radio and listen to the weather forcast. With that information I can pretty much predict paddling conditions for the day. In Idaho there’s a saying: “If you don’t like the weather wait fifteen minutes and it will change.” Compared to inland weather coastal weather prediction is a breeze, literally.

When I took advanced wildland fire training I had three days of instructions with a meteorologist. Part of my responsibility on fires was to watch for changes in the weather. People’s lives depended on that. I aced my final BTW which was rare. Now tell me again how ignorant I am.

primer attache to explosive devices?
I thought those were called bullets!

Ok since you have asked for it
You are pretty ignorant to ignore katabatic winds, and other features that are likely to excape the notice of those not intimate with a specific area. I don’t know all that much but I know places where unforecast winds of 20 knots are the usual and you bettter be working hard to get around that point. Now for a paddler with an efficient forward stroke it’s no big deal, but for a newbie they might be reaching for help.

Not to mention your ignoring my arguments about the consensus of experienced paddlers and my point about prudent mariners preferring redundancy.