Quuestion about (new) kapok PFD

I see that some PFD’s are now with eco friendly kapok. Isn’t that the stuff PFD’s were made with 30 years ago? As I remember it, the kapok was encased in a vinyl bag which could be punctured. Then the kapok would absorb water and sink like a rock. The Coast Guard used to vigorosly squeeze your PFD’s when inspecting your boat, any that leaked didn’t count as life saving devices. Just wonder if we aren’t going backwards?

I wonder how reliable they’ll be?

I had an old kapok one years ago that I used as a kneeling pad. I got inspected once, and the officer thew the old kapok horse collar in the water to see if it would float…nope. Sank like a rock. It was waterlogged from being knelt on for 3 hours in a wet canoe.

Not sure I’d trust one as a #1 floatation aid.

Old vs New
The kapok in the old horse collar PFD’s was encased in a PVC bag, heat welded. If sat upon the seams would split and teh kapok was useless.

The new ones use a better envelope material, RF-welded I believe, and should be more durable. The difference in the fill vs foam is that the kapok can be recycled (via composting) whereas the flotation foam has to be landfilled.

Bur Arkay is right - I do not think our landfills are overflowing due to PFD foam.


Rip on Astral…
…if you want. But you can’t deny their attempts here. Sure, use of kapok is a small green step, but after talking with those folks I doubt if it’s pure marketing.

Regardless of your take on the alternative floatation used in some of their PFDs, they have come out with some innovative designs, and, in my opinion,one of the best rescue vests on the market.

You tell 'em ‘Scnellwasser’


Replace old pfds
If you look around at a lot of equipment on the water, it might not be a bad idea to replace old, highly used safety equipment. Shred Ready and some other helmet mfgs. recommend replacing helmets every two years of use. I’ve seen lot’s of pfds that have gotten so used that the colors have faded to the indecipherable end of the spectrum and frayed to the point of suspecting that the mice raided the left over Cliff bars in the pockets. That sort of wear can’t be good.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


Well don’t forget that Astral’s jackets all pass the certification testing. And that summed it up for me. I have spent a lot of time in the water floating in their kapok jackets and they’ve floated me as well as foam but fit a whole lot better. Getting a good fit is a priority and I feel kapok goes around the body better but I suppose it depends on how you are built.

yo Stick’-
…that’s Schnellwasser to you.


did old horse collars
not pass CG certification?

Green - green - green

– Last Updated: Nov-03-07 12:14 PM EST –

Please save the argument. Most mfgs making money could care less about green. After the initial concept Green is only a marketing ploy.

For those of you who believe otherwise....I'm sorry.

...and Shred Ready wants you to replace your helmet every 2 years. Sure maybe they'll start putting a born on date on them.

Maybe canoe/kayak mfgs should give a tree to plant eith each purchace.

I've been thinking about designing a bullet proof PFD with an unfolding hood in blaze orange for hunting season or possibly a PFD stuffed with freeze dried food for times when a paddler is saved by the PFD and has no food. Cut it open and eat it.

Chek your PVC
PVC off-gasses and many PFD manufactures have buried in the fine print that their life jackets ahve a 7-10 year shelf life. Sure they’ll last longer than that but they will no longer have the requreied 15.5lbs of flotation. I have an old Lotus vest that once the shell is saturated, it sinks. I keep it to prove a point, all safety gear made of foam, whether it be helmets or PFDs, need to be replaced on a regular schedule even if you do not use them. Kapok doesn’t off-gas. It is also a lot softer and form fitting. They are definitely more comfortable to wear. The same can be said about Gaia foam, it is much softer.

Not so fast on the praise of kapok
not off gasing. That baggie the kapok is in will off gas and deteriorate, probably faster than thick foam in other PFD’s.

kapok trees
are in bloom in south florida this week and they are absolutely beautiful. The seed pods will ripen later this year, and the “kapok” that is used for the jackets comes from these large pods. Will not weigh in on the durability question, but it is verry cool knowing that a life jacket was made from such a beautiful and sustainable source.

BTW, these magnigicent and large trees are ornamentals in FL. Am not sure where production quantities of kapok are harvested.

Freeze dried…
" PFD stuffed with freeze dried food for times when a paddler is saved by the PFD and has no food. Cut it open and eat it." I’m in,no Trans fats though? Is the fabric Gucci or Laura Ashley print? Can I pay after eating?

no it won’t

No th bag won’t deteriorate, or
no it won’t faster than the foam? Tell us what happens should the bag get a puncture. Is the plastic so special it will not deteriorate?

Wonder when my 20 year old foam boat cushions will lose buoyancy. They still float.

off-gassing versus bouyancy
So as PVC off-gasses, it looses flotation. That doesn’t mean one day it floats and the nest it doesn’t. It means that a PFD that originally has 15.5 lbs of buoyancy (the minimum required), 7 years from now it will have less. The average person weighs 12 lbs submersed in water. If your PFD no longer has 12 lbs of flotation, it isn’t helping your cause. Your seat cushions will probably float for many more years, but will they have enough buoyancy to assist someone in the water?

Kapok will float even if the bag is punctured. Although after a few hours, I seem to recall 6 hours, it will have absorbed enough water to compromise the flotation. Drying out the PFD renews the PFD. The bags which are not exposed to UV, and are made of more inert plastics than PVC, will not break down during the lifespan of the PFD. Sure, punctures can happen, but if you weren’t wearing a PFD, whatever could poke through the shell material, break the plastic bag, could easily punch into your skin. These jackets are pretty darn tough.

Durability issues
I worked for a rafting outfitter back in the early 70s when “horsecollar” PFDs were the norm. The greatest threat to the heat-welded PE bags containing the kapok was to have someone sit on a PFD and pop a seam in the bag. Outright punctures were not common. But when a seam blows, the kapok soaks up water like cotton. Forget about drying it.

The new PFDs are RF-welded PE bags, producing much better seams. Sure, you can still puncture the bag or stomp on it, but the chances of a rupture are much smaller with today’s materials. Yes, PE becomes less flexable as it ages, but so does Tupperware.

Astral has eliminated a significant chunk of their PVC usage and are to be commended for that.


Nermal, I have foam pfds older than
ten years that have not lost floatation that I can detect iu use, and that don’t soak up water.

What are you doing to yours??

Maybe he’s wearing out the nylon,
exposing the foam to UV, that’ll do it. Have a PFD bought in 1984 that still has full flotation.