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I had a nasty swim in a badly balanced IK on the Middle Fork this summer and felt like my life vest did not keep me above the water enough even once out of the meat. Observers felt the same. I weigh maybe 220 with a husky build. Current Vest has 15lbs 8oz flotation. I would like something that levitates me out of the water and places me on dry land if that's available. Otherwise I see many vests that I can buy that add 1lb-2lbs over what I have, then you step up to 24-28lbs. Would a small change make a difference or should I look to more bulky vests in that higher range?
 

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HiFloats make a big difference and I don't mean Type V's with the flappy thing behind your head. Being in an IK and not intending to do rodeo moves in a kayak and being a burly 220; I suggest getting a properly fitting HiFloat. Do not buy the first one you put on; try them all which means going to a store with a selection. Where do you live?

A properly fitted PFD makes a big difference. I've seen people swimming with most of the floatation up above their shoulders because the PFD was not snug enough.

How old is your PFD? An engineering friend of mine (a Colorado School of Mines graduate(aka pocket protector type:)) did a rated floatation vs age and determined that back then that the foam lost a small percentage a year. If we say perhaps 2% per year(on a high end?) then in 10 years your PFD is far less functional. Foam may be better now then back in the late 80s. He published his results in "Canoe and Kayak" or "Kayaker Daily" or something like that. Or maybe it was in "Believe it or Not".

Also, were you wearing a dry suit or just splash gear over polypro? Saturated polypro beneath wet splash wear can really weight you DOWN.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Mine could be 10 years old, not sure. No splash gear or anything. Only White Water store with in the range of the Jet age of transportation from Albuquerque is 4 Corners River Sports. But selection does not seem great in the store.
 

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The highest float Class III PFD I've found is the NRS Big Water Guide at 22lbs of flotation. I have 50lbs additional weight on you and that is what I use when I'm worried about floating. There are definitely days where I wish Extrasport still made their HiFloat vest...not sure why they stopped. It looks like MTI makes one called the Atlas that has 24lbs of flotation for the small and 28lbs of flotation for the Large too.

I love the flotation of the Big Water Guide...but its not the most form fitting vest ever. It kinda feels, and to be honest is, just two slabs of foam with some straps between them. It seems like you could still get a higher flotation PFD that fits well...but maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe time to bring back something like the Extrasport one. It is big and bulky...but it sure has a lot of flotation. I'm gonna have to find one of those MTI Atlas PFD's to try I think.
 

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My name isn't Will
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How well does your current PFD fit? How snug did you have it the day you took the swim? The issue may or may not be floatation. It may be fit. If your vest rides up, your head won't be as high.

As a SCUBA diver, larger people often need MORE lead to get off the surface than smaller people. It depends how dense your tissues are.

To be sure, vests lose buoyancy over time, and maybe it is time for a replacement. Get one that fits well, and make sure to cinch it up good every time. I bought a high-float vest for a Grand Canyon trip a couple years ago because there's some BIG currents that can take you DEEP (NRS Big Water Guide). I wanted to get back to the surface as soon as possible in that case. It's comfy. I use it to row sometimes, but often I still go to my arguably too old Astral Green Vest with "only" 16 pounds of buoyancy. I have crotch straps for the NRS, and when they are clipped in, the vest absolutely will stay in place.

That said, nasty swims will always be nasty. Even with lots of buoyancy, if you get into some nasty currents, you'll spend some time in a dark, quiet place that doesn't feel that comfortable. Remember rule number one: Stay in the boat. Remember the second rule: Stay in the boat. The third rule: get back in the boat.
 

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A friend, "asleep at the wheel" and a bit careless, was playfully rolled from his recumbent position atop a cat tube into the water. As he was going in he grabbed the cigar he was smoking and held it high above the water. He came up, grabbed his (floating) hat, shook his head to get the water off his glasses, and took another magnificent draw on his stinking cheroot. Say what you will, HiFloat still rules.
 

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Another call for a new edition of the HiFloat.
If I could find a PFD with the buoyancy of a pair of snout tubes, I would buy it.
I love the canyons, and I really enjoy boating, I love everything about rivers, but I positively hate being in the water.
For me, there is no such thing as a good swim. Were I to be in a boat with a dozen cats, going thru Lava, before we hit Tequila Beach the Colorado would be running red. But I would be atop the pile.
 

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It looks like MTI makes one called the Atlas that has 24lbs of flotation for the small and 28lbs of flotation for the Large too.

I love the flotation of the Big Water Guide...but its not the most form fitting vest ever. It kinda feels, and to be honest is, just two slabs of foam with some straps between them. It seems like you could still get a higher flotation PFD that fits well...but maybe I'm wrong.
I picked up an MTI Atlas for big water. It's really comfortable and fits great. Three sizing choices. There are two pockets up front. In the large gusseted non-mesh pocket I have a 10' flip line, pulley, prusik, & big locking carabiner and could probably put that much more stuff in it again. The mesh pocket is non-gusseted and holds about half as much. The jacket comes w/ a built-in whistle on a bungee cord. Really burly shoulders. Loops to attach crotch straps. The front and back of the jacket are joined with mesh panels, which gives it a greater performance feel than the NRS.

I tried on the NRS Big Water but felt like I was swimming in it. Two sizing choices. For whatever it's worth, I'm 5'10" and 155lbs. I wear a small in the MTI and can put a crap ton of layers on and still have lots of strap length left to cinch down.
 

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Damn...sounds really nice. Wish I knew about that PFD a couple weeks ago. It would be perfect for my Grand trip I launch on next Tuesday.
 

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Its just foam guys...lots of ways to increase your buoyancy. Just look to the Russian whitewater scene for inspiration and remember most (but not all) of the flotation needs to be above your navel.
I willing to bet that at least one of those Russians decided not to do that again.

Thanks for the video. From there I dialed into the canoe and kayak world cup finals. That is some amazing shit also.
 

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Mine could be 10 years old, not sure. No splash gear or anything. Only White Water store with in the range of the Jet age of transportation from Albuquerque is 4 Corners River Sports. But selection does not seem great in the store.
I suggested trying on several PFD's because I was amazed when fitting people how much body dimensions, body dynamics and personal preference came into play.

I'm surprised 4CRS doesn't have a good selection but it sounds like you are getting good recommendations on a few options.

What were you wearing? Just asking since water saturated loose fitting clothing can be a real dampener when trying to swim in turbulent water. It's weight and loose fit keeps you low in the water and allows the currents to better grab your body and drag you lower and away from where you might want to be going.
 

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The Astral 300 vest used to have an additional "booster" insert that gave it an additional 5.5lb of flotation.

There's nothing to say you can't carve a block of closed cell foam to fit in the pocket/pockets of your current PFD.
 

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There's nothing to say you can't carve a block of closed cell foam to fit in the pocket/pockets of your current PFD.
Actually there is, I think. At least it used to be the case that any flaw, faded labeling or modifications to a PFD at Lee's Ferry resulted in a rejection by the ranger. It also was the case in Dinosaur but they don't seem to be as strict now. So better check on that idea. Perhaps someone else might know the current status.
 

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If you’re not up for a high flotation jacket but want something that provides a bit more than the rest the astral Norge uses the kapok bladders and floats like a bobber! It is 17.2 pounds of flotation and is super comfortable.
 

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Actually there is, I think. At least it used to be the case that any flaw, faded labeling or modifications to a PFD at Lee's Ferry resulted in a rejection by the ranger. It also was the case in Dinosaur but they don't seem to be as strict now. So better check on that idea. Perhaps someone else might know the current status.
Putting a piece of foam in a pocket is not modifying the PFD. In fact, you could just wait until it passes inspection, but you're right; the rangers want to assure that every person has a PFD in good condition with labels legible and no alterations. It might add just a pound or two of buoyancy. The rangers don't test the buoyancy; they just check to see it's rated for the intended use.

A friend had a PFD rejected because mice had chewed some mesh on a pocket, and he had put a few stitches in to make the pocket work. There was no impact to the PFD itself, but that's all it took.

On one trip I was on, a PFD was rejected because there was a sewn-on patch. It actually was a patch from Phantom Ranch. Had it been ironed on, it might have passed inspection. We had another PFD that was ~almost~ rejected because of how faded it was. The ranger told that person it would be the last time it passed inspection. Little did they know, he would die from a medical cause before he bought a new PFD. Rest in peace Ken.

We had a similar issue on my last trip. The ranger passed a well-worn PFD that was still serviceable, but marginally so. I hope he replaces his because he's still rowing. Oddly, his name is Ken too, but he's still alive.

I am kind of curious about my older Astral. I might take some SCUBA weight belts and see if it still has close to its rated buoyancy and how much it's lost. I should do the same for my other PFDs. It would be an interesting experiment. I have one that for sure has lost some, but I use it only on flatwater.

If your PFD is old enough to have lost a significant amount of buoyancy, evidenced by it not keeping you afloat, it's time to replace it and retire it. I'm always surprised to see PFDs in second-hand shops. That shouldn't be legal. Same as used bike helmets. I'd be really suspicious of buying used climbing gear or other items that are life support and can't be tested.
 

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I may have misunderstood. Nothing illegal with putting foam in a pocket, as if many PFD's have much in the way of substantial pockets space. I assumed that MT4Runner was suggesting to open up your PFD's stitching to insert additional or replacement foam in the existing buoyancy "pockets"/sleeve.
 
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