In kayaking, safety is always a number one priority. Buoyancy aids are a key part of kayaking equipment. It will keep you afloat if you fall in the water. Buoyancy aids can also be called a PFD or personal flotation device (not to be confused with a PDF, computer users out there).
Every kayaker should wear a buoyancy aid whenever they go kayaking. Even if it is calm, flat water, you never know when this single piece of kayaking equipment might save your life.
Unlike a lifejacket, a buoyancy aid doesn’t have a neck support so it won’t keep your head out of the water if you are unconscious. However, it will keep you afloat if you get into trouble and allows more movement when you paddle. In recent years, PFDs have become lighter and less bulky than before but still have the same buoyancy.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF KAYAKING BUOYANCY AIDS?
There are three different types of buoyancy aids: recreational, sea kayaking and whitewater buoyancy aids. Recreational buoyancy aids are simple, safe and ideal for recreational and beginner kayakers. Sea kayaking buoyancy aids are more technical pieces of kayaking equipment. They have more pockets at the front and back, shaped foam and made from hard wearing material. Whitewater PFDs have extra flotation for safety in whitewater.
HOW TO TRY ON A KAYAKING BUOYANCY AID
When trying on a buoyancy aid, make sure you loosen all of the straps before pulling over your head. Once your buoyancy aid is in place, tighten the straps. There should be some on the side, on the shoulders and possibly around the waist. When tightened, get a friend to see if they can tug on the shoulder straps and try to pull it over your head. The shoulder straps shouldn’t come above your ears. If they do, then the buoyancy aid is too big and you should try a size smaller.
RECREATIONAL KAYAKING BUOYANCY AIDS
PALM ALPHA BUOYANCY AID
If you want a super minimalist yet safe buoyancy aid, then check out the Palm Alpha. It’s easy to adjust with straps around the waist, side body and shoulders. It is accredited for use in a slalom competition, so you’ll be just as comfortable on a running river as you would sit-on-top kayaking on a calm lake.
PEAK UK LEISURE ZIP BUOYANCY AID
Peak UK make top-quality kayaking equipment including the Team GB Olympic kayaking gear for London 2012. The Leisure Zip buoyancy aid is one of their recreational PFDs. It has a front zip making easy to take on/off, plus a big front pocket for storing a safety knife or whistle. It has 55 to 77N floatation and comes in sizes small right up to XXL.
SEA KAYAKING BUOYANCY AIDS
YAK GREENBURG BUOYANCY AID
The Yak Greenburg is a top of the range sea kayaking buoyancy aid. It has a serious number of pockets, so you can stash away everything from your whistle to your VHF radio. It has a jacket-style entry zipper at the front and a belt around the waist that can be tighten to prevent the BA from riding up. The Axial Core shoulder system allows more movement, making it easier and smoother to paddle. The Greenburg is a slim-line design but still packs in an impressive 70N lift.
NRS CVEST TYPE III BUOYANCY AID
NRS make a whole range of kayaking equipment, including different technical sea kayaking buoyancy aids. The cVest Type III is one of the best for touring and fishing while kayaking. It has a high back suitable for high-back kayak seats. The floatation is mainly concentrated around the front and shoulders leaving you more comfort at the back. It has lots of pockets for your fishing line, radio or whatever you want to fill them with.
WHITEWATER KAYAKING BUOYANCY AIDS
PEAK RIVER GUIDE BUOYANCY AID
Just like the name, this buoyancy aid from Peak UK is suited for river guides and those tackling whitewater. It is one of the best whitewater buoyancy aids on the market. The River Guide cut was inspired by the Olympic gold medal PFDs from London 2012. It is made from a tough ripstop nylon shell with environment-friendly Gaia foam inside. The shoulder straps are designed to hug the body, leaving plenty of room for manoeuvring.
PALM EXTREM BUOYANCY AID
Palm’s Extrem buoyancy aid is described as their ‘safest, most functional whitewater PFD yet’. It has all the whitewater safety features you need, including extra buoyancy, failsafe shoulder straps and pockets for a knife, carabiner and tow line, plus a removable chest harness for emergencies. It is super comfortable and comes in both a men’s and women’s specific cut.