Hi All,

New guy again.

I’m just buying gear for sea kayaking, and am looking at the SOSpenders PFD. Check them out at

Any opinions on them vs traditional PFDs? What about recommendations?

Thanks in advance.


Wouldn’t Recommend
These are one time use PFDs. They work by being either manually or automatically inflated with CO2 when in the water. If they are not inflated, they don’t act like a PFD.

Once they are inflated, that’s it until you recharge the inflation/arming device.

I think that they are targeted for individuals that feel that they have little chance of going overboard or falling out of/off a boat and don’t like to wear lifejackets (PFD). They idea is to wear them uninflated like a piece of clothing and then,if you find yourself in the water, inflate them and get out of the water into a larger craft. Typically, this type of “man overboard” is a quick rescue that involves other people helping you.

I also think these are trageted to the typical non-PFD wearer. If people had to choose between wearing an uncomfortable standard “bulky” PFD for a slim chance that they end up in the water and not wearing one, most wouldn’t wear it. With the SOSpenders, at least there is an option to wear a “comfortable” PFD for that chance that you find yourself in the water.

Kayaking is different in that the chances of ending up in the water or much higher than a larger pleasure craft. For that reason alone you want a PFD that has “permanant” flotation. Also, all ot of times, your rescue depends mostly on you to get yourself out of the water and into your boat. Futzing around with a CO2 cartidge inflation device or manaully blowing up the PFD could be a problem. If for some reason your are knocked out or have a medical issue that keeps you from inflating the SOSpenders, your SOL, and you could drown. The “permanent” flotation always works.

Get at Traditional Type III PFD if you plan to kayak. Lot’s of good brands from minimal to many $$. All will work, some just have more pockets, fit options, than others.


prob not…
Don’t know what others feel about these, but I wouldn’t rely on these for sea kayaking, especially in conditions. Plus, they’re nothing for storing any necessary gear…depending on what level of sea kayaking your looking to do.

Good luck,


An inflatable isn’t exactly a one-time-use item. They can easily and quickly be blown up by mouth. You’re not dependent on the CO2 cartridge.

Having said that, I agree that an inflatable isn’t really a substitute for a foam PFD. It’s more of a supplement/backup to swimming. I use a waist-pack inflatable on my surfski, but I’m paddling in warm water and dressed to swim. In most other circumstances, I’d stick to the foam.

Inflatables are fine

– Last Updated: Dec-30-05 3:39 PM EST –

I ask this question 2 years ago and got jumped for even thinking about it. But since then I know people who use just a belt pack no less.
they work fine, they are not one time use and the U.S. Coast Guard even uses them for rescue operations.

Fish and Game personal were very disapointed this past summer when they hailed a friend for not wearing a PFD only to find that he was wearing a perfectly legal belt pack. I will have one before summer. Freedom of movement is unsurpassed

Inquiring mind…
I checked out the Mustang Survival site, and took a quick look at some of their products.

Questions immediately arose in my mind:

Some of their devices were advertised as (no inadvertant inflation). So I suppose that means that some “will” inadvertantly inflate?

What materials are used in these devices construction? Is the material similiar to something like a thermarest air mattress

with a cartridge attached that’s used for inflation? How prone might these devices be to being accidentally punctured; either before they’re used, or after you’ve inflated them for use?


personally I would not trust em.
Depending on use , I could see and accidental puncture of the material. Also , check laws regarding use. I know they used to be not considered legal.

Industrial/Commercial Applications
I know these kinds of PFDs are used quie a bit in situations where capsize is possible but not likely. I’ve been issued them to wear in small boats in the UK and Denmark. Got to wear one on a replica of a viking raiding ship off the coast of Denmark. I would bet they are rugged and work as advertised. I think they are meant to keep you up until rescue comes and pulls you out of the water. If you are really into seakayaking on the ocean you need to be prepared for rough water swimming and I don’t think I would want to swim any distance if rough water with them. Kind of cool if you want maximun freedom of movement, but I think a PFD designed for kayaking would be better in the long run. Remember a PFD also provides buoyancy for righting a boat while doing extreme braces, warmth to protect against hypothermia and body armor to protect against getting pounded by your boat or paddle? A couple of years ago I got pitched over the falls fairly unexpectedly and maytagged with my paddle, it hit me in the kidneys and backbone pretty hard with the force of a breaking wave. I was really glad i had the PFD on, I was still sore for several weeks.

Kind of like a catch 22
type III inflatables will keep you floating face up if you are unconscious and no high end paddling vest that I know of will. So they do have that advantage. I don’t think they are good for cold weather because they offer no insulating qualities and in freezing conditions wouldn’t be trustworthy. But for those 90 degree days they are a welcome relief from a bulky vest.

I’ve inspected some of the Sospenders and the fabric is quite tough. I would think that the Mustang vests are even better. And like Mike said “You could drown in an inch of water” so I think it’s a personal preference as to weather you use one or not.

I had one and took it back because too tight on neck. I prefer cabella pfd that buckles at bottom and usually leave it unzipped for air hitting chest.

Some basics for you.
perhaps you should research the basics yourself.

some of these vests are designed to automatically inflate upon immersion. Catch a big wave and whoosh the thing can inflate, or maybe it will a minute after the big wave. Others offer Manual co2 inflation (pull a cord). This is very similar to a divers BC and I have never seen or heard of one going off by mistake, (no doubt it has happened). I think thy all offer oral back up and this would be the normal use for a SK.

Now a manual C02 inflation is an interesting idea. It is very much like a bouyancy compensator (BC). with no inflation, you can swim under big waves in the surf zone and then pull the cord for massive floatation. Or breath into it for moderate inflation. I like this versatility. Eric Soares has recommended a BC for expert kayakers who are experienced surf zone swimmers.

As for durability a stout urethane bladder inside a good nylon outer sheath is very durable, this formula is what is used for scuba buoyancy compensators. I do not know if this is what the inflatable PFDs use. I put about 10 years on mine before I gave up the sport and the BC bladder is probably still intact.

The type three PFDs that most of us use are not necessarily going to flip us over if we bang our head and are out of it. While I choose to use a foam vest, I could easily go the other way if I got back into fighting shape again. If I ever get to do in-wave cinematography for the local buttboarders it will be with a BC on. Rip that cord and you will be floating face up!!!

Have been useing a Stearns inflatable fishing vest, it can be inflated and reinflated as needed. It can also be partly inflated and used that way. Bigest problem is fit [too loose] and weight [too heavy]. Have heard that Camelback is working on an inflatable SOS style harness/hydro pack. Another interesting pfd is the KOKATAT SEA 02 hybred foam/inflatable vest.

Hope you’re right about Camelbak
Right now, all I carry on the ski is Camelbak (w/VHF in pocket) and waist-pack PFD. Combining the two would be slick.

inflatables are the way to go
when I lived in fla and the water was warm and the air even warmer. The National Park Service uses them and the rangers tested them with full web gear on and they would pull them to the surface from the bottom of the pool when you activated the cord. The big benefit is that its not to hot to wear (I saw many people down their in the summer time with their pfds on the back of their boats). I don’t use it up here in Alaska but it was a godsend in fla. I did used my foam pfd when it was cooler but for the backcountry around EC they are Great!