Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Do You Know How to Use Your Inflatable Belt PFD?

A woman with a C02 inflatable belt style PFD came to me at the beach the other day and asked if the C02 cartridge was properly armed.  Not ever having used an inflatable PFD, I took a peek but told her I couldn't confirm her question.

Have you actually tested your inflatable PFD?  Pull the string and see what happens.  Learn to put the inflated PFD on in the water so if the day happens when you have to do it for real you can do so with ease.  Many of the belt style PFDs also have an manual inflation tube.  Test this as well and see how many breaths it takes to fill the bladder.

Drowing Last Summer..
In Wa State last summer, we had a drowning when a paddler was unable to inflate his belt style PFD.  He was a renter and wasn't given a leash.  In windy conditions he wasn't able to use his board as a secondary floatation device and was unable to inflate his belt style PFD without having any experience in using such gear.

Test your gear before you hit the water - Try to inflate the PFD doing the following:

- Treading water.
- With one arm only.  If you blew a shoulder, how will you be able to pull the string?
- Try to pull the string with the PFD spun around on your backside, (a common place to put it).  
- If you store it on your board, learn how to remove it and inflate and put it on it while on your board and in the water.

Be Prepared -  
- Buy extra C02 cartridges and carry one extra on you while on the water.  
- Know how to arm the PFD with the C02 cartridge.
- Wash your PFD after each use, especially when paddling in saltwater.

Belt style PFDs are a great option for those who know how to use them and are commonly used in racing and for those living in warm weather locations where a Type 3 vest style PFD may be too uncomfortable to wear.

Below - the Fluid Pack by MTI.




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