Hey cowboy I hope you’re fast
‘Cause I’m the baddest gunslinger ever was
Hey outlaw, follow me outside
And keep your fingers on the triggers while we party all night.
Welcome to the gun show
- in this moment
The Astral Buoyancy Sea Wolf is a great new life vest introduced in 2012. The only downside is that strangers may come up and start touching you like this…. (see pic above!) Well, hopefully not, but you know how those old sea wolves are! Well, regardless of the questionable feel-up from Astral’s promo video we decided to buy a new Sea Wolf for Sue. . . Here’s why, Continue reading
I’m sure you know by now that some of the quirkiest things catch my imagination sometimes. Take the Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD for instance. I was wandering around the shop at Rutabaga last Sunday when this caught my eye. It’s PFD with a bit of officious looking paper and big orange rabbit ears in the pocket. On closer inspection, I realized that what I was looking at was a demonstration of how the Bahia Tour allows you to keep your fishing licence quickly accessible for when the game warden shows up. I don’t fish, but if I did I could imagine it being a pretty nice feature. In fact, maybe having it displayed so prominently would save you from having to talk to the DNR guy at all. Of course, where’s the fun in that?? On the other hand, that still doesn’t explain the rabbit ears. Quite the conversation starter… “Is that an orange bunny in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? ” Continue reading
And there his worship sat in state,
In doublet, and trunk-hose
And quaffed a cup of good old wine,
To warm his good old nose
Like a fine old English gentleman,
All of the olden time.
– Henry Russell
Up early this morning and planning to get out on the trails as soon as it warms up a bit. I’ve been spending the pre-dawn hours doing a bit of clean up work on old Quix posts. When you have 104 pages covering 5 years and 1,549 posts (ah, 1,550 posts counting this one) things get quite messy and it can take some time to bring it up to date. Now you may wonder if it’s worth it. That’s what crossed my mind too, but in going back over all the old posts I’ve found that for the most part all those articles about kit and practice are mostly just as current as if I had written them today. In fact maybe a bit more helpful in that at the time I was taking many of those things on for the first time myself.
What’s weird in our world? Ha! Where to start! I’ll take the blame for my weirdness. . . .
Confession number one; I often sit in a steaming hot bath with the shower running as well. . . . I love the total immersion in water. No real surprise I suppose. So somewhere shrinking in the hot vapour I was thinking that we should stop electing members to the House and Senate of the US and instate a draft instead. If you’re 18 years old or older and hold a drivers license, If you have no criminal record, and have not served in the last 10 years your name can be drawn to serve. . . As Jesus is quoted in the Bible at Luke 4:24 (depending on translation) “No prophet is recognized in his hometown (country). . ” So maybe selection by popular vote is missing the best candidates or at the very least, balanced representation. But then that’s why I don’t talk to folks about politics. I have weird ideas.
So I promised I would talk a bit of PFDs and this is the post. You know there are a lot of them out there (PFD’, not weirdos. . . I’ve moved on now. Please keep up.) and as we always say in the kayak world, “it’s all a matter of personal choice”. This is very true. What someone may wear in a 9 foot otter “on golden pond” as a friend put it recently, is certainly not going to be the same as what I would wear in an 18 foot NDK 3 miles offshore. The amount of gear you carry on your person will weigh heavily on your choice as well (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Another factor to think about is your body shape. If like me, you do not have a long ‘V’ shaped torso many PFDs will ride up no matter what you do. For some of us finding a comfortable vest can be a real chore. And lest we forget, not wearing a PFD is NOT AN OPTION. Nothing ticks me off more than some lunk-head taking a child out fishing without PFDs on!
When shopping for a PFD, first look for a Coast Guard Approved Type III vest. Often you can also locate a high or low floatation profile which will tell you how high your head and shoulders will be held above the water (depending on weight and fit). Some popular kayaking PFD makers to look at are Lotus, Astral & Kokatat. There are many others as well, but these choices will start you looking in the right direction. Also don’t order your PFD online or from a catalog until you’ve had a chance to try it on. Fit is everything when it comes to a choosing the proper PFD for you.
The big thing about fit is that you want a PFD that is comfortable and does not ‘ride-up’ to strangle you. The easiest way to check this is to put the vest on, strap it down tightly but comfortably, and then put your thumbs under the shoulder straps and try to lift the vest back over your head. If you feel it catching on your chin, or shoulder straps easily coming over your ears, then the vest is coming to high. You may just need to readjust it. However if that does not help try moving on to another size or type. Also consider the clothing you will be wearing. Even with re-adjustments a vest that seems fine over a t-shirt may not fit correctly over your drysuit or fall and winter gear.
Color is often an issue of choice although you will not be legal with a blue PFD in Canada. Obviously yellow and red will be easier to see so be sure to take this into account when you are weighing safety against fashion concerns.
Many of the PFDs you will see these days are fairly small compared to a few years back and put most of their bulky floation over your chest and belly and in the back. The sides are left open for mobility. When comparing PFDs keep in mind as well that you have to sit down in these things. You do not want them too long or too have much bulk in the lower back or belly. A vest like the Extrasport Ranger is fantastic but not likely to be comfortable in a sea kayak. Luckily for us and to the credit of talented designers, every year it seems PFD floatation is getting smaller and more form fitting. NRS has a new vest called the “Hustle” which looks great. The Lotus Deepwater has completely removed floatation from the lower back which is another good example. The down side is they often don’t take into account the gear a sea kayaker would carry on their person.
Which brings me to the next big issue, “a place for all your stuff”! Most PFDs today are designed for day trippers and have very little space for your gear. I’ve been surprised manufacturers have not made a quick call to a couple sea kayakers and found out what they need to carry on them. The list is fairly universal. Let’s take a look at the gear you may carry on your PFD;
Safety strobe – usually worn attached to an attachment point on a back shoulder.
Knife – worn normally over the chest for quick access.
Mirror & Whistle – safety signaling devices
Flairs or flair gun
and pretty much everything needs to be attached to the vest either with Velcro or with a short lanyard. (no, not the repair/rescue kits). None of this stuff is any good if it goes floating off in event of a swim.
There are a few guide/rescue vests that have more storage area but then you often give up the features you enjoy in a more standard vest. Last year Northwater came up with a good idea in their mesh “guidevest” that you wear over your PFD, but to be honest I was taken back by the price. In addition I get concerned with another set of zips, arm holes, mesh, straps and do-dads to get caught up in. Too much bulk.
So. . . if you’ve actually read this far you are probably wondering what I’m using. Ok, since YOU asked. . . I chose the Kokatat MsFit Tour. Designed originally for women, the “Ms” vests have found a market in the non-v shaped male audience. In addition they did a good job with gear pockets, pouches, and attachment points on the MsFit Tour. Yes, I’d like another pocket here or there, and reflective material on the shoulders but all-in-all this is a nice PFD. In addition I wear a Lotus EFT Pack which allows you to have water on-the-go as well as carry some of your gear with little impact on comfort. You can also add a Lotus “Whip-it” to your vest which hill give you one more pocket again without much impact.
Hopefully now you are completely confused and are ready to give up the sport of kayaking which leaves more open water for me. (Ah-ha, secret motives. . .) If not, just wait for my next post. (drum beat please) The main points again are choosing a vest that fits well, keeps you afloat and carries all your gear. Don’t drag that ratty old orange PFD out of your canoe and put it under a deck bungee. Get a decent PFD and ware it all the time. Even while driving to work in your rusty but loved 1979 Subaru wagon. . . .