Many colorful kayaks tied up at shore

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How to Choose a Life Jacket, Life Vest, Personal Floatation Device (PDF) for Recreational Kayaking

So, you’re a recreational kayaker. Maybe you’ve been using equipment provided by your local kayaking rental company and after a few times you’ve tired of wearing those grungy life jackets with the high necks that don’t fit well and are about as stylish as a pig in a mud hole. Many of these life jackets are so worn-out, they leave you wondering if they will keep you afloat should you fall in the water.

Assuming you’re in an open kayak on a calm bay, the chances of your boat rolling over are slim to none. Unless you’re look for ways to make this happen… Years ago I went canoeing with friends. One of them insisted that his canoe could not tip over and stood up to prove it. He rocked back and forth a few times, toppled the boat, and landed in the water, taking his angry canoe mate with him. Okay, so if you stand up in your open kayak and rock back and forth, you might fall in, but if you use the craft as intended, chances are only your feet and seat will get wet.

Now you may be thinking, “Well, if the kayak will not turn over, why do I need a life jacket?” Life jackets are for your safety and there is no guarantee you will not fall in. Perhaps a boat speeds by and rocks your kayak, which upsets your kid, who loses his balance and falls backwards into the water. If your child is wearing a life jacket, they will float until you reach them and get them back into the boat. Maybe your dog jumps out of the kayak and heads for a patch of reeds thinking it is shore. This happened to me once. My dog was wearing a dog's (canine) life jacket with a handle on top, which I used to drag her 40 pounds back into the boat. If not for the handle, I have no idea how I would have gotten her back in the kayak without going in the water myself.

Buying a life jacket is an investment in your peace-of-mind and requires some thought. Are you sticking with calm lakes or will you attempt rougher waters? Are you likely to spend a week kayaking down a river or is an occasional two hours of fun enough for you? Does kayak fishing appeal to you? The answers to these questions will help you choose the best personal floatation device for your needs.

Post Date: 8/8/2014

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