Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Over the past week I paddled a string of lakes in northern Wisconsin with family and friends (and it was an excellent vacation). I was also reminded, while reading an article in a local paper, about the importance of wearing PFDs. Of all the drownings recorded so far this year, only two of the fatal events involved people in PFDs, and those drowning were in whitewater. PFDs save lives! But yours needs to fit properly and be appropriate for the activity. To get the best fit, buy from a reputable dealer and ask to be fitted. Fit-wise, it is especially important that your PFD is not too loose: you can slip out of it and/or find yourself floating with your head too low in the water. Activity-wise, the USCG approves five types--Types I-V (www.pfdma.org). Type IV is throwable and Type V is for "special use," and both types are seldom appropriate for paddling. With Types I-III, the lower the number the greater the flotation. Type I PFDs are recommended when you might be drifting a long time waiting for rescue, and they are heavier and less comfy than Types II and III. Type II will give you plenty of flotation in almost all paddling conditions, but they are not as comfortable as Type III. Most paddlers end up with Type III. But consider safety first, and choose wisely.