How to Choose
Finding the right PFD can seem like a daunting task. Designs have become increasingly complex and specialized. The study of anthropometrics, ergonomics and advanced material technology, combined with increased consumer demand for quality and choice, have allowed and inspired PFD manufacturers to design and develop superior products. The result is that you have more choice than ever. The challenge is to make the best possible choice.
Choosing a good PFD extends beyond finding one that fits and floats. After all, not all vests work for all people, and no one single vest works well for all activities. What’s involved in choosing the best PFD is researching the one that is RIGHT for YOU.
What’s Your Sport?
First, you need to consider how much time you’ll spend in the water versus on it.
For sports that involve frequent visits to the water, such as white water kayaking, you will want a vest with lots of adjustments to create a secure fit that will eliminate in-water ride-up. A secure fit can also be achieved with leg harnesses or straps high under the arms, but arm straps are uncomfortable when paddling and leg harnesses are simply “not cool”.
For sports that involve less frequent visits to the water, such as canoeing or sea kayaking, you have more options. Looser fitting vests are more acceptable for these sports and can be more comfortable. Larger arm holes provide minimal interference with your paddle stroke, but in the event of going over, the looser fit may result in some in-water ride-up. Another feature of the looser fit is venting, which keeps you (the paddler) cool and comfortable. If you’re not going to be getting wet doing Eskimo rolls, venting of some kind is required to stay comfortable during long, hot paddling trips.