PFDs, or Personal Flotation Devices are an essential piece of equipment for any kayaker. Different types of PFDs exist to suit different needs and there is one out there that will be perfect for you! In this article we will discuss the various benefits of each type as well as their drawbacks so you can make a decision about which one is best suited to your kayak adventures.
What is a PFD?
PFD which is an acronym of Personal Flotation Device, is a device used for personal protection against drowning. Generally, these are life jackets and buoyancy aids that can be worn by people in or on water to help keep them afloat and face up should they fall into the water
Different Types of PFDs for Kayaking
PFDs for kayaking belong to the life jacket category and are worn by people who go out on a boat or in water. There is no set standard rule that says which PFD you need but it depends on the type of activity you will be doing, whether fishing, sun bathing, surfing etc. Different types of PFDS have different benefits
Type I: Offshore Life Jackets
22 Pound Flotation
Type I Life jackets are large and bulky but they are very strong. They can be used for offshore and coastal use as they have a large buoyancy capacity. The biggest advantage of this Type I Life jacket is that it is designed to make an unconscious person float faceup on the water.
The downside to this type of PFD is that it has limited mobility so people who wear them will feel uncomfortable in the boat or water, which will make their time on board unpleasant.
Type II: Near Shore Personal Flotation Device
15 Pound Flotation
Type II life jackets are smaller and more lightweight than Type I, making them ideal for near shore use. They have a limited buoyancy capacity so make sure you always wear it when in the water.
The advantage of this type is that they allow people to be active while wearing them because they offer mobility.
It does not have the ability to float an unconscious person face up on the water but it will provide limited protection from hypothermia (cold shock). The downside with this type of PFDS is that they are not as strong as other options so they might tear easily if you are doing something like surfing, fishing etc., which could lead to drowning.
Type III: Flotation Aid
15 Pound Flotation
It requires the paddler to stay conscious because you will have to inflate this PFD manually if your kayak capsizes. The best thing about this Type III PFD is that it allows greater mobility and that means, you can put this on while fishing from your kayak. They are extremely comfortable and are available for the cheap.
Type IV: Throwable life jackets
They offer just enough buoyancy to help you stay afloat in case, your kayak turns turtle. They are lightweight and available for the cheap. They are also known as horseshoe buoys, ring buoys, throwable cushions and more. Throwable life jackets are made to be thrown out in the water and they will inflate automatically when they hit the surface. The best thing about throwables is that you don’t have to wear it during your kayaking adventure, which makes them perfect for a day use or with kids who cannot swim yet. They also come at very inexpensive prices so this should never be an excuse not to buy one of these!
Type V: Special-Use PFD
Secial-use life jackets are made to be used for specific activities like surfing, fishing or sailing. They usually have a lot of features built in that make them perfect for the job at hand such as large pockets on the front for carrying all your gear or flotation foam blocks inside allowing you stay afloat even when wearing heavy winter clothes. As with any other PFDs they come in different sizes and prices so it’s easy to find one that fits your needs!
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.