Originally Posted by themechanicnotthetool
I'm just sayin. isn't it the swift water rescue knowledge that's important and not whether i'm sportin an Astral Greenjacket on the north fork?
Kayaking safely is a combination of knowledge, experience, and gear. All the knowledge in the world won't do you any good if you don't have a rope when someone needs one, if you don't have the ability to live bait when someone needs it, or if you don't have the right footwear to have traction on rocks when you need it. There are tragic stories of folks dying on the river because a piece of gear wasn't on hand.
A rescue vest is not an overpriced fashion outerwear that people "sport'. Rescue vests are technical rescue gear that can be life saving in the right spots. Rescue vests have undergone years of innovation after hard learned lessons.
For class 3 rivers or playboating I could see the rescue vest being a "nice to have' vs. mandatory. For class IV and up or creeky runs where pins and rescues are likely, rescue vests are a key piece of gear and mandatory in my mind.
I can think of a couple of incidents off the top of my head where rescue vests were key to saving peoples lives. Experienced boaters use the quick release strap frequently to back each other up in rescues and safety scenarios. If you are paddling hard whitewater and you don't have the propper gear you are a liability to the folks you paddle with. I once had a guy tell me that he didn't need a specific piece of safety gear that I considered mandatory for a run,which baffled me. That guy is dead now, so you can see where loose logic can take you.
Its true that you could likely rig up much of the functionality of a rescue vest with a throw rope and biners, but improvising something when seconds count is a recipe for disaster and thats why they make the jackets.
The only thing I consider optional on a rescue jacket is the cows tail. I think they are more of a hazard dangling off jackets than a utility unless you are chasing swimmers non-stop down a class II run.
Have a read through this story and think about what having the right gear means to you and the people around you.