Kayaking Floatation Devices, Life Jackets & PFDs

Every water sport is fun and exciting, but many are also sports including kayaking that personal floatation devices or commonly known as life jackets are a necessity to stay safe. Waters can change rapidly when kayaking, currents, tides, waves and whitewater can turn from friendly and fun water to dangerous in minutes.

These devices are not new, they have been around much longer than many people realize, seamen have long known the dangers of water and some of the early records of personal floatation devices are by Norwegian seamen who were known to have used either blocks of word or cork and the modern lifejacket is traced to a man named Captain Ward of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the UK. He was an inspector and in 1854 he invented a cork life vest for lifeboat crews to wear for both weather protection and their buoyancy in the water no matter how ruff it might become.

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Today, personal flotation devices are made differently, having different levels of protection and made for different sizes and weights. It is important to have the correct size that fits properly especially for kayaking, if thrown in to rapidly moving whitewater a personal floatation device that does not fit properly may not do its job. It can even become dangerous should it rise up on the body in the water.

There are different materials that personal floatation devices are made from and this will help decide which is the proper one for the type of water that kayakers intend to find themselves. There is one that is made of nylon material that has foam enclosed inside, these are often used at swimming pools, ponds and lakes, however they are the lowest level of protection in this type of device.

For a higher level of personal floatation devices or jackets that are geared more in line with protecting kayakers on the ocean, rivers or whitewater are constructed with different methods to activate their floatation ability.

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These are personal floatation devices made from a heavy vinyl material and are constructed with air chambers that are usually located on the back and the upper chest. These air chambers can be inflated in one of a few ways; some are made that they can be blown up by mouth or air pump; there are others that are constructed to inflate when submersed in salt water or fresh water. Another type of personal floatation devise is a jacket that is filled with carbon dioxide cartridges; these are filled when a cord is pulled to activate the cartridge.


One that is popular with kayakers is a short profile jacket that is not only highly buoyant, it is also fitted with places to attach rescue harnesses in the case of a kayaker who finds themselves in trouble and needs to be rescued.