What is the Most Minimal Bouyancy Aid

-- Last Updated: Jan-10-10 2:52 PM EST --

I canoe and kayak mostly on flat water. I have been using a PFD designed for water sking and it is very uncomfortable while paddling. Not enough freedom or movement, and it's hot.

I spotted the palm fx which looks good in the picture but not sure if it is avail in the USA as I can't find it on the manufactures web site in the US

Are there comparable or better models out there?
Are the inflatable type my best bet? ( I am a skilled swimmer ie... was offered a scholarship in college for swimming )

Others have this type

– Last Updated: Jan-10-10 3:33 PM EST –

FYI, any paddling PFD will be more comfortable than a water skiing type for paddling. The torso will be shorter and the arm openings bigger.

That said, I don't know of a reputable manufacturer of paddling PFD's that doesn't have something in a low rider style - Stohlquist, Lotus, Kokatat, Astral... that's just what I looked at quickly.

Re the inflatable ones, they have advocates especially for hot days. Most we paddle with just get a regular one that is comfortable though.

Most regulations
only require that you have one on board. Except for inflatables, they have to be worn. For flatwater, I used to put my PFD under the bungies.

Let the flames begin!!!

Orbit is pretty low profile http://www.kokatat.com/product_detail.asp?code=orb

Sea02 is even lower profile, and still has some pockets. It’s a hybrid foam/inflatable.

But if you’re currently using a ski vest, even the cheapest foam kayaking PFD will feel like a huge improvement. Ski vests are really really long, IME.

OK, you asked for it

– Last Updated: Jan-11-10 7:50 AM EST –

The Coast Guard, state boating agencies, the ACA local clubs and other organizations make a big effort to encourage people to wear PFDs and you're going to discourage someone who WANTS to wear one??? That is really dumb advice! Irresponsible, stupid, idiotic or just plain wrong; pick your own adjective.

A PFD that's not being worn is useless. The typical line of "I'll put it on when I need it" or I'll put it on in the water if I capsize" are pure self-delusion. If you're on the water and conditions change to the point that you need your PFD, you're not likely to be able to take your hands off the paddle for long enough to dig out your PFD and don it. I have yet to see anyone demonstrate how to put one on after a capsize in rough water while at the same time holding onto their boat and paddle.

The bottom line is simple, if you're going to paddle, wear a PFD. It's no different than wearing a seat belt when you drive; it should just be part of the routine.

Minimal PFD
Kokotat makes the SeaO2. It’s an inflatable with lots of pockets. Really neat in hot weather.

West Marine makes a nice one called the Kayaking Vest. It’s inflatable also.

I would think that holding a big breath
in would be about as minimal as you could get.

That orbit tour looks pretty good
and since their site seems to be down I will have to wait to find a dealer near me to take a better look.

Sea02 looks good but is it worth the extra cash over the tour model?

Stoking the fire
BNystrom stated strongly how fruitless it would be to try to put on a PFD after you get in trouble. For lots of folks that’s probably true. Our basic water survival training in the Navy taught us how to make flotation devices out of our clothing, while treading water. No PFD allowed. The first and most necessary piece of safety gear is your brain.

Hot Dang!
Ah’ recollect doin’ dat pants pfd thang in de Boy Scouts too!


GS did that too
Required in Girl Scout camp - before we could even go out in a canoe, we had to be able to strip off sneakers, jeans and a buttoned shirt then have the jeans upside down and acting as floats within a pretty limited number of minutes. I remember that because it took me a couple of tries to get within the time frame.

But would I even think about relying on that one in colder water, or for prolonged times? No way. It was an art form to hang onto the jeans just right so they trapped the air.

And besides that
who wears cotton jeans paddling these days? I say that we advocate paddling with no PFD and wearing cotton.

"Minimal Bouyancy"
I’m sure that you will find you don’t need to aim for some “miminum” amount of bouyancy. Check out the paddling PFDs made by any major brand (See Celia’s first post in this thread). Get one of those that fits properly and you’ll be amazed at how it allows complete freedom of arm and shoulder motion AND how it does not “ride up” when it’s keeping you afloat (a water-skiing PFD does neither of those things). The amount of bouyancy provided is pretty standard (I believe that this is necessary to meet Coast Guard requirements) from one model to the next, unless you are looking at really specialized rescue models and the like.

If for some reason you can’t afford a name-brand paddling PFD, check out the fishing PFDs from any boating or fishing supply place. Bass Pro Shops is a good starting point. Those PFDs won’t “stay put” quite as well when they are keeping you afloat, but the degree of comfort is pretty good, and they will work fine for paddling a canoe. For kayak paddling, a fishing PFD might occupy too much of your lower back (paddling PFDs leave your lower back uncovered), and thus interfere with the seat back, so check that out before buying.

Question 3 Parts
This is actually a 3 part question. Part 1 is a sincere question asking the minimum flotation requirements, recommended flotation requirements, and recommended PFD designs… Part 2 is what is the minimum I can get away with. Part 3 is what and how do I attach my safety equipment to my PFD.

Part 1:

This has been answered with Type III with 22lbs of flotation and always wear it even though USCG may not require it. Check with local regulations. If you pass out for what ever reason in water you will probably drown without a PFD because a rescuer cannot get to you in time. IMHO inflation devices for MOST paddlers should not be used. The Tuilik can be used with considerations. Most groups require you to were a PFD at all times. Various PFD designs offer freedom of movement and cooling. Demo friends PFDs and try them on at kayak shops. My grandiose self valuation is more than $100. Though some would say $1.

Part 2:

What can I get away with? Paddle deep water with cement blocks and strong rope tied to your legs. It should work.

Part 3:

What safety equipment and how should I attach it to my PFD. This is a different thread and very important.

Momma told me not to suffer fools and an idiot only argues with an idiot.


I think what you really want
is a paddling PFD (Type III). Lots of them for lots of different builds. What is comfy for me (Astral LDB) may not be for you. Find a local shop or a club and try before you buy if possible. Astral, Stohlquist, and others make some great products that are well worth the $100 or so.

And don’t be overconfident in your swimming abilities. When the water is 50 degrees, some of the best swimmers will struggle to make 100 yards. In 75 or 80 degree water you can rely on your swimming skills a little more. Unless you get a cramp, or an injury, or you are unconscious, or …


also suggest
a regular kayaking PFD… My Astral is comfortable… I can swim very well … but am usually far enough away where I want a PFD and VHF on me…

I knew a few Girl Scouts
who must have taken that course …

jeans, sneakers, and a buttoned shirt off in record time!

G K Had a plan.
But seriously not all of us are Marine Commandos or serve with the SEAL’s.

I have no idea where the poster is but if he swims here, right now without a PFD he will die.

Getting into a PFD in a pool is a neat trick (I learned) but it was hard. Add 4 foot waves 5 degree F water (F is for Fahrenheit not…the other f.)

The inflatables have to be worn at all times here, as opposed to stowed.

Too many things can go wrong with them and they are not immediately apparent.

I would suggest you get a decent PFD and wear it.

Marines have it good. If things go wrong they can swim for a while…

I was Airborne and I can’t fly a lick.

Hey have fun with it. We had a guy, Georgia Kayaker, on this group. He never wore a PFD…

I did CPR on a drowning victim for 35 minutes and I have hunted for bodies.

Wear the PFD!

I use an inflatable in hot weather
I think they are the obvious hot weather solution.