A lot of people ask why it is necessary for them to wear a PFD (personal flotation device) whenever they are embarking on trips to the waterside. It only makes sense to wear the right gear to ensure your safety if you unexpectedly take a tumble into the water during sea kayaking or fishing activities. Putting on the best PFD for Sea Kayaking is bound to keep you safer.
Even strong swimmers need PFDs to keep them afloat when the tide of the sea suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Sea kayakers particularly need the buoyancy features of PFDs when struggling to steady their kayaks in such harsh conditions.
In this article, we will highlight the features and specifications of the best kayak PFDs in the market right now.
What is a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)?
A Personal Flotation Device (PFD is any device that helps a swimmer afloat. The best PFDs in the market are:
Best PFD for Sea Kayaking, Whitewater, Fishing & Touring
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a PFD
There are a number of factors you have to put into consideration when you want to buy a kayak PFD. These factors are:
The first thing on the mind of any sea kayaker is safety. The price of a kayak PFD plays a role on how safe you would be during sea kayaking. If the budget you planned towards the purchase of a PFD is able to get you the best for kayaking, go for it. However, if you cannot afford it, forget a PFD that has a good number of safety features without pockets attached to it.
The kayak PFDs we discussed earlier in this article are mostly Type III or Type V flotation devices, but there are five classes of Personal Flotation Devices according to the United States Coast Guard (USCG). We would briefly discuss each class so you can make your choice on the right PFD for you.
Type I PFDs are great for use in all water bodies, as they come in vibrant colors aiding easy visibility and are the most buoyant of all PFDs. Sometimes they keep an unconscious kayaker in the face up position. PFDs that are made from foams and are inflatable are under this class.
Type II PFDs are used where the sea conditions are settled and the chances of quickly been rescued by authorities are very high. They possess features that enable them to turn an unconscious swimmer into a face up position. Their flotation rating is less in comparison to the Type I PFDs.
Type III PFDs are mostly used by boatmen and water paddlers in situations where the chances of being quickly rescued are high. They provide a comfortable, snug fitting which allows for flexible movements. They are designed for easy maneuverings into the face up position.
The Type IV classifications are the types that are usually thrown to swimmers who are conscious but have difficulty wading through extreme sea conditions. The flotation rating for this class is the same as that of Type II and III PFDs. Examples include rings, buoys and cushions.
The Type V PFDs are utilized for specific purposes such as sea kayaking, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and more. The flotation rating for this PFDs class is much higher than the Type II or Type III classes.
This factor is very critical when you want to buy a PFD. Buoyancy is the amount of water a PFD displaces and is measured in kilograms. Most PFDs possess the minimum buoyancy requirements, but we would recommend that you buy a PFD that has more.
The higher the amount of water a PFD displaces, the more the buoyancy. A PFD with 3.5kg buoyancy is adequate to keep the head of an adult above water.
Individual body size, weight, height and clothing worn during a kayaking trip do play obvious roles when making a choice of the buoyancy of a PFD.
Choosing a PFD that comes in a vibrant colour is very important. This makes you easily spotted by rescue authorities in the event of you getting stranded during sea kayaking.
Vibrant colours such as red and yellow are the best colors. If you are particularly in love with the color black, make sure that it is vibrant enough or has a patch of a vibrant colour attached.
PFDs that have pockets attached to them come in handy during sea kayaking. With pockets you could safely keep and have within reach your necessary accessories.
The fitting is an important factor to consider when purchasing a good personal flotation device for sea kayaking. You could purchase a PFD that comes with the best features but still end up not using it because it does not fit you perfectly.
Before buying a PFD, make sure to try out the adjustment straps. When you adjust all the straps, you should end up feeling comfortable and with a snug fitting. If you find out that you would not be comfortable and your movements are limited, you should not buy it.
You can also try out the fitting of a PFD by simulating the typical body movements during a paddling position. If you find yourself feeling comfortable, the PFD is ok. Avoid PFDs that would cause irritations in your crotch area as well.
It is important you buy PFDs that gives you free movement in cases where you need to engage in paddling or swimming through swift water. Buying a PFD that restricts your movement would only limit your ability to maneuver your way out of extreme sea conditions.
Materials used in the making of PFDs are quite important. In this instance, you would often hear the term ‘denier’ a lot of times. Denier is the tensile strength of the material used in weaving the kayak PFDs.
It is common for PFDs to be made from nylon because it is highly resistance to scratches and deteriorating effects of sun rays.
Pockets of high quality PFDs usually have insulated fleece linings to make hands cool even in summertime.
Having a PFD that fits your chest size is more important than body weight for adult kayakers.
A quick way to find out if the PFD fits your chest size, simply get a measurement of the broadest part of your chest and compare it with the specifications of the PFD brand you intend buying.
This goes a long way in determining how comfortable you feel with the PFD especially when you have to engage in paddling.
Features Of a PFD
Lash tabs and points of attachment
The lash tab and other attachment points are the parts of a PFD where you can easily keep your kayaking accessories such as whistles, strobes, knives and tow tethers.
Points of adjustment
These are specific points on a PFD that can be easily adjusted to get a good fitting, according to your body structure. A PFD that provides plenty of points where it can be adjusted for a good fit, regardless of individual physique is recommended. This prevents the wearer from being in a state of discomfort.
This feature is not present in all PFDs used in kayaking. The kayak PFDs that possess this feature are however the best when it comes to wadding your way through harsh sea conditions and for swift water paddling.
The rescue belt which has quick-release ability is used in attaching a tow tether to the PFD of a kayaker who is finding it difficult to find his way ashore.
In cases where the kayaker who is towing a fellow kayaker is at risk to his or her safety, the quick release rescue belt allows for easy detachment.
This refers to the way a PFD is securely worn by a sea kayaker. There are different entry systems such as:
- Front entry, where you have the zipper right down the middle in the front
- Offset front entry, with the zipper put on either side in the front
- Side entry, with the zipper on one side only; or
- Over-the-head entry, with the PFD pulled over the head and shoulders as there is no zipper in place.
As the name implies, this pocket is styled to be opened as a clamshell does. Then the benefits of a clam shell pocket over your typical zip pocket is that you can easily find small kayak accessories kept in a clamshell styled pocket.
Proper Maintenance of a Kayaking PFD
When you take time out to maintain your PFD in the proper manner, you would definitely have a PFD that would last for many years to come.
A lot of kayakers are guilty of not taking off their PFD vests after purchasing it, leaving it to accumulate dirt and moisture.
This only leads to a gradual deterioration of the general state of the PFD through mold growth, rust and rotting of the important features of a PFD.
To have your PFD lasting for many years, dip it inside water after sea kayaking. Then hang it out to dry, making sure it does not come in direct contact with rays of the sun.
Another maintenance tip is to avoid using it as a seat when you are in need of rest in Rocky terrains. This act tends to break the metal clasps of your PFD vest. This means you have to buy a new one altogether as most PFDs do not come with replaceable clasps.
Maintain your PFD properly and you can be sure of your safety when you wear it.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What type of PFD is used for kayaking?
The PFD that allows for free movement is recommended.
What is the best PFD?
The Stohlquist Drifter is the best PFD in the market today.
What is the difference between a PFD and a life jacket?
Life jackets come with features that turn an unconscious kayaker into the face up position whereas most PFDs do not have this feature designed into them. Most PFDs can only keep an unconscious kayaker afloat in the face down position, making breathing difficult.
PFDs are more comfortable because they have their buoyancy features on the back rather than the front as is seen in life jackets.
PFDs come with a design that allows for more freedom and flexibility in movements in comparison to your typical lifejacket.
Most PFDs come designed with features that make them more suited to certain sports like kayaking in comparison to life jackets.
How long does a PFD last?
With the proper maintenance culture, a typical kayak PFDs could last up to ten years.
Gone are the days when all that sea kayakers depended on were life jackets in the event of unexpected tumbles into the sea. Now, the best PFD for sea kayaking fishing are so many that one can make a choice from.
The PFD industry has made some great strides in the areas of aesthetics and advanced technology to make sea kayaking a safe experience.
PFDs have times without numbers saved people’s lives, so it is a must have one on your next sea kayak trip. Put it on, maintain it and always be safe.