I found a Lowrider that is brand new. I know that buoyancy in a PFD decreases over time, but is this from wearng it and compressing the foam and UV exposure or because the foam'off-gasses' or some other buzzword? Or is it a combination of the 2?
I know my wife's pfd which gets used about 1 or 2 weeks a year holds it's bouyancy quite well, it is 3 years old and looks and floats like it is brand new. Mine gets used 4 or 5 times that much is a year newer and does not float well. I also have a big type IV that I have used as a spare for 10 years and is just fine. If the pfd is unused but older, it should be fine.
My lotus pfd is 13 going on 14 years old. I thought about replacing it this year as my knife loop was failing. The thing is I did not like anything I saw as a replacement, and since it still floats me fine, I decided to let it go a few more years.....
Take a good look at your PFD, is the stitching solid or loose? Are there any faded areas? Do the buckles or straps look stressed? If your PFD is questionable in any of these areas I'd look for a new vest; but hey, its only your life.
Give your vest a good and thorough look over, jump in a clam spot and swim around. If it does what its supposed to, keep it around till you can get a new one.
I've seen many "old vests" that are in much better shape after years of abuse than 1 or 2 year old vests but that comes down to quality workmanship...
Due to the nature of the PVC based foam that is or was in all PFD's they do naturally lose about 1-2 % flotation every year.
To be a Type III jacket it has to have a min. of 15.2 lbs of floatation, the average adult only takes about 10-11lbs to float them in water which is a neutral buoyant state. So there for if you are a bit larger it generally takes less to float you since you displace more water as well if you are a stick you displace less and then you sink like a rock.
The best thing to do is make sure it is not torn anywhere and give it a test if it floats you like you like then you have a new jacket.
I had a Lotus Lola and after 6 years I jumped in the river - and sunk...
The vest probably had 300-350 days of use at that stage. A great value for sure, but it was a big surprise to see how much flotation you can lose. I don't know if the loss of float was due to use, sun or time. But I have PFD's that are a similar age that have a fraction of the use and seem to be fine.
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