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Old 05-31-2010   #1
Centennial, Colorado
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 11
New guy with a few questions

Hello everyone, I've been reading a ton on this forum and you guys have some great advice. Just to give everyone a little background on my experience, I just got back into rafting a little last year. When I was a kid I used to run the watauga and nolichucky rivers in NC and TN on my dad's little raft and also on a few guided trips.
I have a friend that is an experienced rafter that has a nice sized classic bucketboat and we hit up the lower blue early last year in May and had a blast.

After that trip my brother in law gave me a raft that was left in the shed when he bought his house. It is 9 feet long and doesn't have a brand name but it is rated for 6 persons and like 2500 pounds persons/gear. Last year I took it down the upper blue twice from silverthorne to nearly green mountain reservoir. What a blast!

Well this Saturday we went with my really experienced friend in his bucketboat down Brown's Canyon and now I'm hooked! My little raft would have been swallowed in those rapids at the current flow level! Anyway, one of my buddies went overboard and took a swim right through some crazy rapid (widowmaker I think was the name). He was cold, but otherwise OK. It really got me thinking about safety.

When I got home I looked at my PFD's(bought new last year before taking out my raft) and they are type III but under intended use it says "ski vest or wakeboarding vest". My question is are these PFD's safe for whitewater? I would never take my raft on anything above class III rapids and when I go with my experienced friend on bigger water with his raft we all use his PFD's (like saturday at brown's). I would appreciate any opinions on this as I have searched the forum and googled for hours and cannot find an answer.

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Old 05-31-2010   #2
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
With a bad pfd, any swim can be a pretty bad one. If you have concerns about any of your safety gear, replace it with quality stuff. Its really that simple.

"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 05-31-2010   #3
kclowe's Avatar
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 453
Permitted trips require that the pfd's say "for whitewater kayaking or rafting". I would suggest that you invest in new fpd's. They are pricey, but worth every penny.

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Old 05-31-2010   #4
Centennial, Colorado
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 11
Thanks for the replies guys, I wasn't concerned at all about them until I started doing research and saw that they made pfd's for "paddling, whitewater, canoeing, ect." I thought type III were type III and there was no difference. I think these will work well for my raft on class III rapids or below at medium flows and I might just replace them one at a time since the whitewater pfd's are pricey. We practice rescued a few times last year and they worked good.
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Old 05-31-2010   #5
kclowe's Avatar
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 453
I really suggest that you get paddling pfd's before you go out on class III water. Class III may look mild, but the consequences are no joke. Your pfd should be made for the sport. Don't screw around with safety. A bad decision now could mean your life later. I don't mean to scare you, but really, take this seriously.

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Old 05-31-2010   #6
mustloverafting's Avatar
Aspen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 65
What I have found is a ski vest PFD's are designed to make you "float" in calm water or lake water. Rafting or Kayaking PFD's are made to go through rapids and when properly tighten up, don't come off like a ski vest might. If you are NOT going over class III rapids, a ski PFD will work just fine. Anything over class III, get the proper equipment. It is true any permitted rafting area will require a type III Kayaking, sailing, rafting PFD. Some do say Kayaking/sailing PFD and they are the same as if it were to say "Rafting." Hope that helps.
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Old 05-31-2010   #7
I kayak DH.
Waterwindpowderrock's Avatar
Greater tri cities metro area, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 794

Can you find out how many lbs of flotation the pfd's you have are? I used to live my life on a wakeboard & there are large differences in type III pfd's for watersports. Some would come very close to WW type ones, and others will fall far short. I believe that the common flotation in a WW pfd is 15+ (someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that, I know my green is 16-something)

What type of jackets are they? A google search or similar may find out that they're horribly inadequate or that they're not as bad as we all think. Just don't assume that they're safe because they're intended to float someone in flat water... it's not apples to apples.
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Old 05-31-2010   #8
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kazak4x4's Avatar
SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,380
Ski vests don't have the bottom buckle which is very important in whitewater hydraulics. When you are pulled down, you tend to raise your hands up and most life jackets would slip off of you over your head. Whiteater PFDs all come with a bottom buckle, which you clip under your rib cage and that buckle will most likely safe your life some day.

River safety is not something you want to save money on. Invest on a most flotation PFD and you will be very happy the next time you are swimming a class 3 rapid. I'd also recommend looking for a PFD with multiple pockets, adjusting straps and a knife buckle.

Most whitewater PFDs will come in 16 lbs of flotation, this is enough for most cases, but the more flotation you have the safer you feel in the water. I got MTI Big Bouy MTI Big Buoy Whitewater PFD for both me and my wife and totally love the jacket, 26.5 lbs of flotation is nice! I've swam plenty of class 4 rapids to know how it feels to be pulled down under.

A good PFD should be the first investment you do when you get into rafting/kayaking.

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Old 05-31-2010   #9
kree's Avatar
Frisco, Colorado
Paddling Since: 07
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 29
I've been tossed around pretty good in "class III" with a ski vest. They don't have the floatation swiftwater vests do and they don't keep you up as high in the water making it harder to self-rescue. $100 is cheap IMO.
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Old 06-01-2010   #10
Centennial, Colorado
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 11
Thanks for the replies guys, I decided to spring for the correct pfd's and also picked up 4 pro-tec helmets so that everyone in my raft will be safe. Thanks and happy rafting!

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