PFD's & Helmets

I am going to buy a PFD and helmet today…I am wondering if it is a whitewater PFD I want of another type. I will be starting out river running at first.

I’m not…
…certain I understand your question.

Often WW PFD’s require a snuger fit for more

freedom of movement than what you’d get, say, with one for a bass boat.

As far as helmets go, get one specificaly

designed for WW. M-cycle, bike helmets, etc are

NOT suitable.

Don’t skimp on Helmet and PFD

– Last Updated: May-21-06 10:41 AM EST –

You want a good quality whitewater PFD. Astal makes good designs (Astral 100 or 200) at a reasonable price. Several other good brands. Check out the NRS -online catalog. NRS is a great source of reasonably priced gear for kayakers. Plan on spending at least $100 bucks on PFD that will protect your back and won;t ride up when upside down or swimming. If you are tall and very thin you probably don't need the designs specific for women.

The Protec or Cascade helmets NRS sells specifically for whitewater are fine for ClassII or Class III. Old Protec helmets had issues and people will tell you not to buy them but the new models work fine. You can spend $40 on a helmet. You can spend much more if you want. If you start creeking you will want a really protective PFD and helmet but I would wait until you get to know local paddlers and what they use.

Cascade and Pro Tec helmets are NOT the best choice. You need to get something better. Here are criteria:

  1. The helmet must fit you snuggly and not move back to expose the forehead. You should be able to strike the front of the helmet with the butt of your hand (like in Italian movies) and not have the helmet move at all.

  2. Unless you are going to do only park and play get a helmet with good protection over the ears. There are helmets that provide that protection and don’t interfere with hearing.

  3. The helmet should also cover the back of your head as completely as possible.

    In my opinion the best helmet out there is made by Gath. Shred Ready also makes excellent helmets. Get one with the H.O.G. strap system.

Whitewater Paddling magazine
2005 edition provides info/comparrison on cascade, prijon wild-water, head trip, shred ready, grateful heads and pro tec. Here are some snippets… But probably you have gone and bought what you have bought.

According to their information:


"Of all the helmets submitted… the Cascade provided the most complete coverage…Like the Pro tec, the Cascade is a polyethlene helmet…impacts are softenned by muliple impact polypropylene liner… most Spartan in terms of cushoning and outfitting…

Prijon Wild Water Standard: Offers a full level of coverage…almost Spartan: a minimalistic closed - cell liner with a simple yet efficient retention strap… fitting is accomplished by foam inserts…it is still a plastic helmet that does not match the stiffness, or protection, of carbon or Kevlar laminates.

Head Trip…full on carbon/kevlar laminates…lighter stronger helmet…Lined with half inch of Ensolite and come with secondary Ensolite foam liner to furthe absorb inpacts. Out of the box the head Head Trip Daffy provided just about the perfect fit.

Shred Ready super scrappy. ABS injection molded plastic. While readers should heed the before mentionned limitations of plastic helmets, the Super Scrappy does feature the most advanced retention system of the bunch - SHred Ready’s HOG.

Grateful Heads: Offers the widest array of custom options. Are all composite with a focus on Kevlar. Two layup options are available, has various liner sizes available…

Pro - tec…Made of molded plastic with very comfortable dual density foam liners - stiff foam next to the shell to absorb impacts and softer foam against the head. Some comments about strap systems…

FNA Helmets are becoming more popular and their website is:

I have a Cascade and it has worked for me. If i could do it again and if i could afford it i would go for something non plastic.

Did not buy…
Well I will say first thank you for all this feedback!!! Very cool! I did not buy today as I felt very pressured buy the different salesmen at different stores to go with the more or most expensive PFD’s and really I know the most expensive may be the best but I am looking for mid range in price and those they had none that would fit me…the med was ok but i felt it was not snug enough so I will continue my hunt this week. I was told to look at the Dagger Momba for my build and what I want to do in the water…Opinions on this boat???

Check out these sale PFDs
I was just shopping for some summer gear. Check out the Astrals for whitewater below…

I know someone that started paddling on the Kern last year with a Mamba, likes it fine. Best to try out how it works for you at your weight in the water before buying. You can get one used in California for $500-600 bucks.

Only seen a Mamba

– Last Updated: May-21-06 6:25 PM EST –

in a store and it looked fine. I thought of buying one for big water and little play but opted for something more playfull. If i was looking in that direction of boats i would also check out The Diesel by Wave Sport and Hoss i think it is by Liquid Logic. Bliss Stick has something new out too. Also i recommend demoing, borrowing, stealing beore buying. See you downstream.

The Mamba is an OK boat
By current terminology it is a “river running creek boat”. There is lots of competition out there. While you obviously need to chose a boat that seems to work for you I would bet that you will like the Wave Sport Diesel better. You would probably like a boat from the Liquid Logic Li’l Joe/Hoss series better as well. It would be a mistake not to demo these boats (and others) if that is possible.

PFD fit
A couple of tests in the store:

Put it on, tighten it down, then sit on the floor in a paddling position and go through all the paddling motions you can think of. It shouldn’t significantly restrict your range of motion.

While seated, have someone pull up on the shoulder straps, and see how much it rides up.

Not full coverage, but probably one of the best values for the level of protection offered.

Mine took some fiddling to fit just right, but now it’s one of the best fitting lids I’ve used.



You might concider hooking up with the KCCNY club and/or the AMC NY/NJ chapter. Both these groups are very good at getting beginners on the water. You may also be able to borrow a boat at first from either of these groups.