Life Jackets, Floatation & YOU


Spring time is a great time to re-asses the floatation on your PFD.  Not only can the water levels be unpredictable


when rains or snow melt kick in, but for many paddlers this is the end of ski season & the kick off for there paddling.  You may be rusty from being out of your boat for months, & it seems like more swims seem to happen in the earlymonths of the paddling season before we all are back in paddling shape.

The great thing about PFD’s or Life Jackets is that they float you…. well  at least they should…. When did you last check yours out to see how well it floats you?   There are several items of gear that should be upgraded every so often to make sure that you are ready for the epic day on the water.  PFD’s are made up of a variety of materials which can be damaged by use, the environment they are used in and time.

  Here are the main factors to think of when you consider how damaged your PFD is:

  • Sun – sun breaks down the outer materials of your jacket you can see this by color damage these materials over time become less structurally strong. Sun also degrades the foam inside the jacket causing it to loose the air
  • Heat – similarly to sun damages the foam on the inside of the jacket
  • Oils – some oils will be reactive with the foam in such a way that the air pockets in the foam will soften & loose air content resorting in less floatation.
  • Age – foam floatation inside life vests sits and off gasses, as it does this the foam looses floatation.

So how often do you use your PFD?  How long have you had it? What type of environment has it been subjected to?

4 Ways to tell if your PFD is starting to lose its floatation.

  1. Does color looked damaged by sun, including looking at shoulder straps and stitching in critical areas that will be hauled on in an emergency.  IF there is color damage your pfd is not as strong.
  2. Squeeze the foam between thumb and index finger, release, does the foam bounce back instantly or does it gradually come back out.  IF it gradually does the foam no longer is holding air in many places and has lost floatation.
  3. Go out and test it.   Get out in deeper water, if you feel like the vest is floating you well great, keep in mind whitewater is aerated and does not hold you up as well as non aerated water.  Saltwater will give you more buoyancy.
  4.  Come into the shop we are happy to test the PFD for Free in our dunk tank which measures accurately how much floatation your PFD still has.

Example if you paddle over 100 days a year heavily in the summer months your pfd is probably showing age in color deterioration.

Most pfd’s used in the paddling industry are type III or type V these hold 15.5 to 22 lbs of floatation.

5 tips to caring for your PFD:

  • Air dry in a cool out of the sun area when you are done using pfd keeping it free from molds, oil & salt 303_8oz_500x500residue.  NEVER dry with an external heat source like heater, dryer, or in hot sun. as this will damage thefoam floatation.
  • Clean pfd with a mild soap periodically to help maintain exterior fabric.
  • Do not use the PFD as a seat cushion it will damage the foam floatation.
  • Check buckles, zips & cam devices to make sure they are in working order
  • Apply 303 to the outside of your vest once a year to give it sun protection.