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Old 03-30-2014   #21
Ft Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 198
I've got both a rescue vest and non-rescue vest, and I frequently use both. The only rescue features I've used in more than 3 decades of kayaking, including lots of class V, is the whistle and cow-tail. I _carefully_ sewed a couple belt loops on my non-rescue vest and almost always have a releasable rescue belt/cow tail with me. I always use the rescue vest on difficult runs but I personally don't think it's always necessary elsewhere. The non-rescue vest is noticeably more comfortable. Both vests have a pocket where I keep sun-screen, my most-used safety gear!

My experience is that I use the cow tail much more frequently on cl 3 and 4 (read: Poudre) than harder runs. Seems like intermediate boaters swim a lot more, they don't self-rescue their gear, I'm more willing to clip onto a boat on this sort of water, and boats don't pin as quickly as on creek runs.

Another note on cow tails: I've used all sorts, including rope and nylong runners around my waist, and for anything other than creeks I usually prefer the old-style CKS with the longer, supposedly weaker (~200 lb breaking) nylon cord. These are a PITA to repack, but the longer cord can make it possible to get into an eddy, or close enough to shore to grap a tree or rock. This is a big deal on especially higher-volume runs with no or few pools (think Animas, Poudre at high water, lots of creeks etc. - where it's REALLY HARD to get a boat near enough to shore to actually grab a tree or rock. In these situations you can easily be clipped on for a mile or more, trying to get a water-filled boat to a place where you can stop.

Finally, if you do use a cow tail, _practice_ releasing it in moving water, in a safe situation. I can quickly recall at least four times I've released mine ( ... a couple from doing stupid shit, like trying to haul a raft off a riffle and getting dragged under by a very long 1/2" throw rope ... the famous 'body anchor' maneuver!). To get the belt to start releasing, you may have to give it a jerk by rocking back and forth in your boat; you don't want to freak if you're underwater getting dragged by the line and need to do this to get the belt to start running through the clip. Several years ago, a very experienced - and safety conscious - kayak instructor took a horrible, nearly fatal swim through the Poudre lower narrows because he clipped to a boat and couldn't get the belt off.

Oh - I might add that a couple times I've been teathered by the belt when in the water, working to unpin a boat. This might not have been essential, but it sure made it a lot safer and easier.

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Old 03-30-2014   #22
caspermike's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,507
I've been lowered in to place from the harness on the green jacket,aswell as used the ring in the back as an anchor during safety situations. I've been down the pinch on my back before and the back protection does work. It has tons of room for prusik cord and carabiners. Aswell as a throwbag... Yeah they are mandatory with training when running anything where Murphy's law prevails.

Seriously who ties rope to the shoulder strap on a personal floatations device super sketch

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Old 03-30-2014   #23
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
I got mine for $30 more than a non-rescue and prefer the design immensely. I debated for a while but figured:

1) While am never likely to need to perform a live bait rescue the one-time I might will pay for it more than I can imagine
2) The inconvenience of one extra strap actually reinforces why I wear a lifejacket in the first place. It prevents me from getting lazy in both mind and practice while on whitewater runs.
3) I am often the only one who has any potential to help my rafting buddies in an advanced rescue experience.
4) Having a built in system is more elegant in a rescue situation and much safer in my opinion than an impromptu design. Releasable anchors are nothing to mess around with when your life is on the line. Efficiency becomes safety in technical sports, which whitewater qualifies as.
5) Its an investment in my wive's and friends lives that is really cheap. I would rather use a biner instead of a pulley in my z-drag kit then try to use a non-rescue vest in a technical rescue. And they swap out rather evenly in cost if needing to budget money thoughtfully.

I agree that knowledge is always key but they are not mutually exclusive. The right skills (honed efficiently and properly) paired with the proper gear will likely lead to better outcomes than just having the knowledge. In places where I might apply the rescue vest features minutes can matter.

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Old 03-30-2014   #24
peterB's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 567
It is one of those things that you will use if you have it and you will feel like your have been caught with your britches around your knee if you don't.

1. NEVER ClIP INTO a BOAT WHEN OBSTACLES are around....I saw a friend drug upstream across the face of Tombstone rock on Shoshone because the boat he was clipped into went the other way. Last summer on the Grand I used my cowtail quite a bit. Large volume unobstructed river = good use of cowtail. With practice you can dump a boat and push to rescue much quicker.

2. Standing holding rope on a slippery rock = good place to clip in.

3. Bringing dry kayak back across the river = excellent time to use cowtail.

4. Many of these tasks can be done with a salamander waist belt bag...Just know that they can spin on you.

5. Other than cost there is little reason not to use a rescue vest. Unlike the airbag pack you will use it for the benefit of the group if you have one. For example there was a raft stuck in a hole in BV at high water. It had been in the hole for 10 minutes causing hazard. I clipped into a throw bag and jumped out and grabbed the raft and had friend pull me in. Simple, quick and to the point. Would not have done so without a quick release.
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Old 03-30-2014   #25
deepstroke's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 505
I'm not sure how preparation for emergencies wins out over an avalanche airbag when that is what an avalanche airbag is. It is a preparation for an emergency. Same with rescue vests. If you want to be prepared for an emergency, then you should have a rescue vest. Pretty simple concept.
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Old 03-30-2014   #26
San Jose, CA, California
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 432
$240 Vest I call it cheep insurance.

While the green jacket might be the most expensive option for a rescue model I would consider it cheep insurance when compared with value of a life. Another, way to think of it is how much use you will get out of it. Say you paddle 50 days a year and take care of the jacket it could last you 5 years and that is less that $1 each use. And while were quoting TRG just look at what they are wearing in the (now old school) paddling films they made.

And while we are making comparisons to other life saving technological innovations lets look at the seat belt and air bag. The first cars did not have these types of safety features because no one had died in crashes yet. Just as the first life jackets did not have rescue features. As kayaking, backcountry skiing, car driving have evolved so have the quality of the safety features available. In advanced white water kayaking / raft guiding a rescue vest is an industry standard because they have proved there effectiveness in emergency situations.

In regards hype / worth I would encourage you to look beyond your swift water rescue course to where you see your self going with paddling. The course will give you knowledge but paddling frequently on more difficult water over many seasons will give you experience and thus a solid foundation for effective responses in emergency situations.

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