The new hybrid PFD's.

Getting back in…
If you are capable of getting back into the kayak you probably don’t need to inflate the PFD, particularly when wearing other garments that provide buoyancy. Heads-up floatation is more of a concern when someone is incapable of reentering the kayak or canoe.

The only reasons for inflating before reentering that comes to mind is if someone is trying to lift a kayak to dump water before righting it or needs time to rest before attempting reentry. One could orally inflate the PFD, then dump the air when ready to crawl onto the deck.

It also might be easier to do a reentry and roll with less buoyancy.


Besides the military …
… whenever I see the DNR and County Sheriff’s Dept. boats (you know, the ones who enforce boater safety?) going around and doing inspections, all the officers are wearing the fully-inflatable PFDs.

Granted, we paddlers are usually in a little different environment (don’t bring along our own rescue boat, are often solo, etc.) but one could logically infer that if the vests are good enough for safety officers, they might bear consideration by paddlers.

Analogy …
If its good enough for law enforcement, firemen, EMTs, etc; it’s good enough for me.

Not necessarily!

A while ago I got a call from the highway patrol, regarding a cave rescue that was “in progress”. Would I come & assist? Yes, I would.

When I got there(with 2 other cave rescue trained caving buddies), a highway patrolman & a fireman who had attempted a rescue had exited the cave. The highway patrolman was saying,

“I’m never going back in a cave again”! The fireman had already departed the scene. Many police officers & rescue personnel had many excuses why they could not enter the cave to assist. Nobody had a map of the cave. The individual who they were attempting to rescue, was still trapped, at the bottom of a 30 foot pit, approximately 3/4 mile back in the cave. The patrolman & fireman’s rescue equipment of choice; a fence stretcher. Time wasted; approximately 5 hours.

While we were preparing our gear & checking “our” map before entering the cave, 2 ambulance EMTs in white shirts & pants, no helmet, no caving gear, no caving experience, no rescue gear, and one flashlight approached the cave entrance & attempted to enter the cave, to move to the victim. A police officer accepted my advice & denied them access to the cave.

After a gear check; we moved to the pit, rigged a haul system, lowered a seat harness to the victim, instructed him in it’s correct use, hooked him up to a belay & haul rope, and pulled him from the pit in 5 minutes. Total time in cave, entrance to exit with victim; 1 1/2 hour.

In my opinion, it is virtually always a mistake to “assume” that everyone in a postion of authority has “all” the correct answers, solutions, and equipment necessary to resolve all problems they encounter. Authority does not always equate to expertise.


Too true
People make the mistake often. How many times have you heard the “if the Navy SEALs use it, it must be the best” line?

The fact of the matter is, you need to buy equipment based on YOUR needs. The USCG uses any number of floatation devices; from flotation jackets, to cold water immersion suits, to plate carriers with built in floatation, etc. They use whatever they do based on their needs, not based on the notion of a “universal fit” for every application. If your DNR or Sheriff’s water patrollers are wearing fully inflatables, it’s probably based more on the fact that they don’t plan on spending much time in the water.

I’m not saying hybrids aren’t promising or very intriguing, I’d just warn against the logic that says “if it works for group A, it must work for me too.” Personally, though I like the idea of a less cumbersome PFD, I’m not sure the advantages will outweigh their disadvantages on the KISS scale.

Interesting that they don’t recommend it for sailing. I used to sail competitively,even offshore and we wore inflatable harness type IIs with no inherent buoyancy, and those were considered adequate. They inflated upon immersion.

As a non-sailor, I can only hazard a guess: For sailing, going overboard may involve a sizable fall to water level depending on the boat size, and the possibility of a blow to the head due to the boom (correct terminology?). Auto -inflation is a good thing for those situations, bad for kayakers in most scenarios.