Safety is very important to my guests and me as we paddle together.And frequently my female guests talk about their frustration with kayaking PFD lifejackets.Their irritation comes from dealing with sales people, the fit, and the feeling of paddling during the hot humid days in Florida.
Most kayak shops are in the business of selling the products that they have.Yet occasionally, I have heard of a small business owner who is in love with expanding the love of kayaking and not worshiping the pursuit of cash.The latter shops are cool because all of their staff paddles and have cool stories of their last adventures.Never the less, the former shops are more prevalent and most of those sales people and sometimes owners rarely paddle if at all. So if a sales person says…this lifejacket is what I use, all other lifejackets suck but this one, or you will never need a lifejacket so buy this cheap one to keep it on your kayak, RUN out of that store.
Your best bet it to try to find a sales person who is not overtly motivated by commission to sell what they have in the store.If they kayak and have a similar torso shape then their personal tastes may reflect your need.But your best bet it to try to find shops that will let you try on lifejackets on the water to find a fit that does not irritate the chest and under arm.
So what female kayaking lifejacket really works? In my experience as a guide and instructor in Florida, I have listened attentively to the women on my trips and in class about their experiences with lifejackets.
These women play in the whitewater rivers up north, surf kayak, paddle in the hot humid waters in Florida, scuba dive, and fish offshore.They all have tried and unanimously like three lifejackets due to their female friendly cut and flexibility. Check out MTI – PFDiva, Stohlquist – BetSea, and Kokatat – MsFIT Tour. Three things make these aforementioned kayaking PFD lifejackets female friendly.Each one has large armholes, a shelf that lifts, and is free of bulky paddling.So try them out, and stay safe on the water.
And each one of these lifejackets will keep you safe on the water.To quote the American Canoe Association on safety, be prepared “to capsize and swim occasionally when paddling a canoe, kayak, or raft – it is part of the sport! But when you hit the water unexpectedly, even strong swimmers need a lifejacket, also known as a personal flotation device (PFD). It allows you to concentrate on doing what is needed to execute a self-rescue and will allow you to assist others.Nearly 70% of all drowning involving canoes, kayaks, or rafts might have been avoided if the victim had been wearing a lifejacket!”
In Florida, the biggest excuse to not wearing the lifejacket is the heat. And heat exhaustion can be a problem. The great thing about two of the three female friendly lifejackets is the cooling feature. The MTI – PFDiva and the Kokatat – MsFIT Tour both have a long front venting zipper and a quick release buckle at the bottom of the lifejacket. And a kayaker is safer with the zipper open on their lifejacket than with the lifejacket under a deck bungee.In addition, as the temperature rises if a person splashes water on the inside of the lifejacket their torso will stay cooler than being in direct sunlight.
So please try out the MTI – PFDiva, Stohlquist – BetSea, and Kokatat – MsFIT Tour. All of the athletic and recreational kayaking women who I know use one of these three lifejackets. And I know that they will help to make your day on the water fun, and carefree.You may even forget that you are wearing a lifejacket after you use one of these suggested women friendly lifejackets. – Jeff
UPDATE – 28 June 2011
MTI Adventures has a female PFD that is allegedly designed to fit a woman that has more than the average woman. It is called the Mona Lisa. I have not met a woman wearing one yet since it is a newer product. It is described as having two pockets, front zip entry, and 7 points of adjustment. It is also designed with a deep V-neck and slightly longer waisted internal framework that should give more support. Consequently those two features should decree bulkiness. The company also makes it to fit women who are XS to XXL. The moment I meet a paddler who is wearing this PFD I am going to ask them to write a post. – Jeff