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ERIC PAYNE
(vaporjourney) - M

Locale: Greater Gila
PFDs on 03/22/2011 07:46:01 MDT Print View

Having just ordered a decked Llama and paddle, now I'm starting to wade thru the infinite depths of PFD options. Trying to find a PFD that is relatively light and doesn't interfere with the spray deck has been tougher than I thought.

I had been planning to buy an inflatable pfd (Stormy Seas), but now that I'm about to do a San Juan River trip with their Class III/V pfd requirements, I'm not so sure. I don't think that inflatable's are coast guard rated, and I'm afraid I'll be turned back by the rangers at our put-in. So instead I've been looking at foamy's.. And I'm not the greatest swimmer in the world, so I've been considering getting a vest with over 20lbs of flatation. Is this overkill for Class II rivers??

I've seen the Extrasport B27 recommended for a foam vest, but nothing else. So many manufacturer's aren't listing the weights of their vests, nor are they listing the length of the vest in the back. And the lenght affects how it fits with the Spray Deck.

Recommendations anyone??

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 08:55:20 MDT Print View

To my knowledge the Stormy Seas vests are not rated by the Coast Guard. They have a lengthy explanation on their website as to why. Also taken from their website is this description with regards to the buoyancy necessary for flotation:


"A device that provides 35 lbs. of buoyancy is capable of supporting 35 lbs. of a very dense material (iron, lead, gold, granite, etc.) - it will not allow the material to sink to the bottom. How can this help a large adult?

The average adult weighs approximately 10 lbs. in the water.
It works like this:
A 200 lb. person is approx 80% water = 160 lbs. (water has no weight in water)
A 200 lb. person is approx 15% fat = 30 lbs. (fat is lighter than water)
Actual weight of the person = 200 lbs.
minus 160 lbs. water and 30 lbs. fat - 190 lbs.
10 lbs."

You need to make sure that what you are wearing is sufficient to support your weight in water. Since you aren't the greatest swimmer in the world, I am not sure that you want to worry about deploying an inflatable vest should you end up in the water.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 09:06:36 MDT Print View

I got an Astral V8 but I'm in the SE and all of the mesh may be a little cool in other areas.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 09:07:56 MDT Print View

I've been researching this lately. It seems that the primary advantage of inflatable PFDs over the lighter foam ones is in packability rather than weight. A salient issue, as my foam PFD is just an odd shape to put in a pack. On the other hand, the paranoid part of me likes the foam floatation, and a PFD makes a great pillow.

As for meshing well with the spray deck, I found the main issue with a stock PFD is that the back would interfere with both the backrest and the deck. The former would push the PFD up, which would then in turn cause the PFD to push the dec down and let water in the back. Hassle. I ripped open te bottom seam of my PFD, pulled the foam out, cut it in half, stuck both pieces up into the upper part, and sewed it back together. This solution has worked perfectly, with no downside.

Still thinking about bladders to put inside an ultralight infltable PFD for wilderness trips without gnarly whitewater. Wine bladders. Camelbaks? We shall see.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 09:07:58 MDT Print View

"...a San Juan River trip with their Class III/V pfd requirements..."


Are you talking about the San Juan in southern Utah? It's been a long time since I was there, but IIR, Govenrment rapid was a II, and easily avoided with a river right.

What time of year are you going?

If you are doing Class V rapids you Do want a rated PDF. The thing the bouyancy comment above misses is the force of moving water that can flush you under and hold you there. It's not just a body weight discussion.

Edited by greg23 on 03/22/2011 09:09:44 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 09:16:41 MDT Print View

For reference, the average American is more like like 25% fat.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: PFDs on 03/22/2011 09:26:43 MDT Print View

Yep, most definitely a foam PFD with fast moving water. Most inflatable PFD's are Coast Guard rated, but you want the complete reliability of foam on moving water.

I'm taking a Stearns 13-gram inflatable PFD to Isle Royale this summer, but we'll mostly be on inland lakes and protected bays. This PFD weighs 13 ounces, which is a bit heavier than some of the lightest foam PFDs, but will pack much much easier. Plus, its way less bulky when on--think skinny fanny pack.

Once I do some real water, I'll be looking back to threads like this one for some ideas (Thanks for the mod tip, Dave).

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
PFDs on 03/22/2011 13:20:58 MDT Print View

Eric, go with a foam PFD. It's safer and it makes a great addition to your sleep system as a pillow or part of your sleeping mat. I'd also recommend something that either has a pocket on it (or one you could easily sew a pocket to) as well as a place to lash your river knife.

ERIC PAYNE
(vaporjourney) - M

Locale: Greater Gila
re: PFDs on 03/23/2011 13:36:45 MDT Print View

I've definitely decided on a foam PFD. Now I just need to wade thru an insane amount of options. I'm currently looking at the MTI Journey, which is only $40, 15.5 lbs of float (enough?), and weighs less than a lb. Any recommendations for something else light-ish??

chris: is the v8 actually 2lbs 3 oz like Sierra Trading post states (!?)

greg: The San Juan trip is indeed thru southern Utah, beginning around Bluff, going thru Mexican Hat, and ending near that evil reservoir past Grand Gulch. I was under the impression that Government Rapids was class III. I'd like to try to run that, but it would definitely depend on my confidence level when I got there. The reference to Class III/V was just the coast guard rating system for PFDs.

Edited by vaporjourney on 03/23/2011 14:10:10 MDT.

James Landro
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: re: PFDs on 03/23/2011 14:07:37 MDT Print View

19 ounces - Stated here: http://packrafting.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=927&p=3649&hilit=astral#p3649

I have one, you can just fold it up and clip it to the outside of the pack. I hardly even notice it and feel secure that i can dump in it, even if it is punctured and still have lots of floatation.

Edited by justaddfuel on 03/23/2011 14:09:20 MDT.