PFD Question - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-22-2016   #1
McMinnville, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 14
PFD Question

Have a trip planned to float the Grande Ronde in a couples weeks with my girlfriend. I have a Stohlquist Drifter PFD since I spend a bit of time on the water, but my girlfriend currently has a cheap Stearns Type III PFD that we use while canoeing on stillwaters. It's a typical ski type vest you'd find at Bi-Mart, Wal-Mart etc. She likes it, its comfortable and fits her well but I'm trying to figure out if we should get her a higher quality Type III PFD such as a Stohlquist, NRS, Astral, etc. Does the higher quality vest provide a greater level of safety, or does it merely provide more comfort and style? I'm leaning toward getting her a new vest but just curious if the one she currently has would suffice.


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Old 06-22-2016   #2
Voodoo003's Avatar
Eugene, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 128
If it's type III she is good to go.

Way to go Hamilton!
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Old 06-22-2016   #3
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,440
I don't know about Grand Ronde specifically....but on most of the other mutli-day permited trips I've seen they don't like to see those "Ski" vests. Some of them actually specify that in the permit literature, but in general I think rangers prefer to see PFD's made specifically for whitewater. The Grand Ronde rangers might not care though... so I guess its up to you. It would kinda suck to get there and get turned away though.
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Old 06-23-2016   #4
UriahJones's Avatar
Salem, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 210
To answer the original question: An appropriate river PFD does both provide additional safety, and is also more comfortable. The 'ski' type III lifejackets that you are referring to that are available at Wal-Mart, Costco, etc... are commonly rated with 11lbs of flotation. The Stohlquist, NRS, Astral, etc.. PFD's that you refer to will typically start with 16.5-17lb of flotation. There are also higher flotation rated PFD's available with flotation upwards of 20lbs, these should be considered if you are likely to be dumped into large hydraulics, or rivers of a continuous nature where more flotation is required. The whitewater PFD's not only provide more flotation but also commonly have a greater range of movement allowed. Especially PFD's geared toward kayakers like the NRS Ninja (my personal choice, though I float a raft).

Which brings me to the other question by the OP. I think that your g.f. will be just fine on the Grand Rhonde. There are not many, nor large rapids that she is likely to be swimming in that vest, and so it probably is not necessary to purchase a more suitable whitewater PFD. However, if you plan on going on more adventurous rivers, I would strongly recommend upgrading your PFD's. There is nothing that will put your g.f. off floating a river with you more than being in the water in a Class III rapid and having her PFD keep her head about 3 inches below the water surface for 10-15secs before she washes out. Kills all the joy out of the experience!
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Old 06-23-2016   #5
Jackson, Wyoming
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 338
Also there is a key difference in a Type III PFD designed for "paddling or sailing" (that is the phrase generally used in river regs that specify, and it will say that on the PFD label). Paddling/sailing PFD's have a strap that goes all the way around, that is below all the padding/flotation. This "direct to body" strap is meant to provide better attachment and catch the ribcage and reduce the chance of the PFD from being pulled off over your head in turbulent water. She'll think its sweet that you'd prefer she not die.

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Old 06-23-2016   #6
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Post Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 861
I'd pick one up, comfort is key on a multiday float with ladies. I picked up an Astral with the natural fiber floation it's really squishy and my wife loves it.

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