Best PFD for a beginner sea kayaker on a week long trip?
December 4, 2006 9:44 PM   Subscribe

What is the best PFD (personal flotation device) for a beginner sea kayaker? Is it an essential to try on before buying and is a used PFD something to avoid?

I'll also be using it, hopefully, for mellow whitewater canoeing. The REI in Salt Lake has put away the water sports stuff and I can't find a close store to try on a nicer quality PFD.

I'm planning on buying a type III PFD.

posted by cast4321 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend likes Patagonia PFDS (Lotus Designs).
posted by k8t at 10:34 PM on December 4, 2006

I would not buy a used PFD, just like I wouldn't buy a used bike helmet. Using vest-style PFDs frequently as seat cushions, long exposure to sunlight, piling items on top of a PFD, etc., can weaken the foam inside a PFD and the fabric, and could make it less buoyant or prone to failure. It's not something I'd want to take a chance on, unless I knew the seller and trusted that they'd taken care of it properly.
posted by holyrood at 10:52 PM on December 4, 2006

Agredd, try out a number of different designs, and when you find one that fits you, don't scrimp. I whitewater kayak, and I wish I would have gone out and purchased a full-on resue vest the first time instead of stepping my way up. I'd consider purchasing used if the vest has only been worn a couple times and just didn't fit, etc., but generally it's a bad idea. Salt water and sun are both pretty hard on nylon, and it's not the sort of thing you want to fail on you.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:28 AM on December 5, 2006

Keep in mind that all PFDs are not designed for the same purpose. Vests made for paddling are a lot lower cut under the arms to allow for ease of arm movement. You're probably looking at paddling vests anyway, but just wanted to chime in (just in case)...
posted by richmondparker at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2006

I get my PFDs from MTI Adventurewear (local to me, but they are available near you...I checked.)

The recreational ones should suit you fine.
posted by nekton at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2006

I'll echo what's been said above, first off, do not buy second hand. There's just too many ways a PFD can be damaged or worn down that you might not notice right away. Not worth the risk.

Secondly, do try it on before you buy it. As a former kayak instructor (those where the days) I can speak from experience when I say that not all PFDs are made alike. Fit is a big issue, as is range of motion. Just because it looks good doesn't mean it will necessarily fit your torso. I've also heard from girls that finding good kayaking PFDs that fit over breasts comfrotable can be an issue, although your username doesn't exactly reveal gender, so sorry if that's irreleveant.

Also, from personal experience, I've found a great advantage can be had from finding a PFD that gives you a little more than the min requirement for flotation. If you're going to be floating in the water regularly, you'd be suprised how much difference having an extra inch of height can make - both in terms of being able to see the area around yourself and in terms of comfort.
posted by tiamat at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2006

I've had good luck with the Stohlquist brand. I've had my PFD a number of years now and I'm just now getting ready to replace it. Many kayakers do not like the Stohlquist brand but I'm convinced that they don't take good care of their gear. ;-)

The eSCAPE would be a great choice for you - good for both sea kayaking and for dabbling in whitewater. Cheaper option too.

Stohlquist eSCAPE

I find that Lotus Designs (Patagonia) pfds are really really nice but super expensive and thus not a good choice for people who are just starting out.

Oh, and what tiamat said - good advice.
posted by rlef98 at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2006

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