PFD help please

Hi there. This is my first time on this forum. Because I have the best and most understanding wife on the planet, we will be driving down to Minneapolis (we are from Manitoba) to pick up a Bell BlackGold Northstar and a Bell BlackGold Magic. I’ve just kissed goodbye to any possibility of ever retiring. Broke the bank for this and I’m betting we will never be sorry. And for some strange reason, our grown up kids (and their kids) all pushed us to go for it too. Are they thinking they will ever be allowed in these boats? Well, actually that’s one reason why we feel good about doing this; it will be a family affair!

We haven’t canoed for a good number of years but are now getting back into it. Our problem right now is in finding good quality PFDs that don’t break the bank, or what little is left of it. We want something that will be comfortable to wear, and provide the best protection for our kids and grandkids (and us) and yet not spend more money than necessary. Are there any particular brands and models that we should be looking at/for? It’s -38C / -36F right now, but that gives us time to hunt down the right stuff. Looking forward to your help.

Congrats on the great new boats!
I’m envious.

Regarding good PFDs that don’t break the bank, I’ve be pleased with my MTI Orleans that I’ve been using for the last couple years. At retail of $60.00, I haven’t found any others that seem any better for anywhere near that price.

I just shopped around and was
impressed with the moderate prices of MTI.

If possible, buy in a retail store where you can try on the PFDs and make paddling motions, crossing your upper arm over to feel for bunching under that arm. I’ve bought a couple of PFDs sight unseen over the internet that were disappointments in spite of the reputations of the makers.

The MTI Orleans is good for paddle
movement - both single blade and double blade for me. I picked it over several other models that I tried in the stores.

Trying on for fit and motion is highly recommended, if possible.

I use
a Lotus design. My paddling bud used a lotus grande.

Paddled thousands of miles over the last few years using them and I am satisfied with them. I have been dropped out of a boat during a race in Dec and had no issues.

All USCG-certified PFDs will meet the same standards for flotation, regardless of price. So unless you need special features(swiftwater rescue capability, etc.)“best comfort and safety” really comes down to fit: Is it comfortable to wear paddling, and will it stay on in the water?

To check paddling comfort, your best bet is to sit and run through the full range ofpaddling motions. To test fit, sit on the floor and have someone pull up on the shoulder straps.

important regs
if ya’ll buy a uscg approved pfd it will not be approved by canadian cg . The regs allow “visitors” to use their us pfd’s in can. while there . Somethingg ya might wanna consider . Course ccg is’nt as aggressive as us. Check out sales at M.E.C.


I have a Lotus Sherman which is over
ten years old, and has been my primary PFD. The fabric is not faded, the stitching is all sound and strong, and as far as I can tell, the flotation is still up to snuff. I do hope to find a verified 16 pounds of weight to check the flotation.

All PFDs must meet USCG standards, but they can’t test for long term life. Their approach is to recommend that PFDs be replaced after 5 years. My recommendation is that if your PFD fabric is bleached and slack, or if the seams spread when you pull them apart by hand, or if the floatation no longer holds you at a comfortable level, you ought to get a new one.

Try Bass Pro Shop
My wife and I have been using the mesh top angler pfd from Bass Pro shop:

At $29.99 it’s an excellent price. They also have one without the pockets on the front for $19.99

Do the CCG standards differ much, or
is it just a matter of having to go through another approval process? Maybe Canadian PFDs have to float your head out of the water even though it is covered with black flies and mosquitos.

Canadian standards for

– Last Updated: Jan-02-10 10:20 PM EST –

lifejackets appear to specify only certain colors, and must have a whistle attached.

From information on site linked below, it appears that PFD's may have different standards as regards colors.

Might be good idea to contact Canadian Coast Guard before you buy a PFD.


Canadian PFD standards
Thanks for all the help with this. I had no idea that I would have to buy Canadian approved PFDs. And it’s nice to know that a good PFD doesn’t have to cost a lot.


Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op…
…carries a variety of PFDs, and their staff are really knowledgeable and helpful. It’s also worth checking the website’s Online Gear Swap - we’ve picked up some really good deals on really great equipment thru it…

Canadian regs

– Last Updated: Jan-04-10 1:56 PM EST –

Sea kayak safety guide: (see pages 16 & 17)

Nice guide to paddling in Canada -- not just regulations.
General rule:

Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and
rowing shells less than 6 m (19�8�)
in length

Personal protection equipment

1. One (1) Canadian-approved personal
flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate
size for each person on board

2. One (1) buoyant heaving line no less than
15 m (49�3�) in length

Boat safety equipment

3. One (1) manual propelling device (for
more detailed description, refer to the
manual propelling device definition)
An anchor with no less than 15 m (49�3�)
of cable, rope or chain in any combination

4. One (1) bailer


One (1) manual water pump fitted with or
accompanied by sufficient hose to enable
a person using the pump to discharge
water from the bilge of the vessel over the
side of the vessel

Navigation equipment

5. A sound-signalling device or a soundsignalling

6. Navigation lights that meet the applicable
standards set out in the Collision
Regulations if the pleasure craft is
operated after sunset and before sunrise
or in periods of restricted visibility

Nice Publications! NM

A plastic whistle on each child PFD?
Isn’t that going to increase risk that children will be murdered by their parents or others?

Still need help with PFD?
Sports Chalet had a great year end close-out sale. I purchased a Stohlquist Getaway Universal for $40. In addition, they had a Extrasport Riverine for $32.50 Both of these vest retail for around $80.

Astral Bella and Willis
What you pay for in a PFD is mobility, breath-ability, and adjust-ability. In my opinion, the best fitting PFD that moves with you is the Astral Bella (wmns) and Willis (mens). They both cost about $150. You can get a pfd for less, but you get what you pay for if you want one you don’t mind wearing. BTW, the Bella has a built in sports bra for the ladies.

Lotus is out of business, for those who suggested that line.

I don’t think they differ much
but I have read of people being fined for wearing a CCG-approved PFD south of the border and vice versa. I guess the coasties don’t stop to call in and see if another country’s standards are stringent enough, they just look for the approval tag for their country. The stories I have heard might be apocryphal, but worth checking into further for anyone who might live close to the border.

Canadian Coast guard approved pfd

– Last Updated: Jan-08-10 6:32 PM EST –

or perhaps it is now called Transport Canada - is needed in Canada if you live and are paddling in Canada. I got rid of my CCG jackets when i moved to the US and bought USCG pfds.
You really need to try them on as i passed on many many before i found one tolerable and didnt rub in the wrong places which can be agony after a long paddle. If they fit poorly, especially kids will find a way to not wear them, and our rules are no pfd - no boat. It does work for my teens as this is a very important safety item to us and "must" be worn.