This short video is from my Wilderness Systems teammate Troy Meyerhoeffer. It was taken at Kentucky Lake, which is one of the busiest bodies of water in the country. In my opinion, it pretty much says it all.
Dress warm and wear your PFD!
Posted by Troy Meyerhoeffer on Tuesday, March 10, 2015
I'll also urge you to read about the accident that FLW angler John Cox had this past weekend. While driving at a high rate of speed, his bass boat suddenly pulled a 360, ejecting both he and his cameraman. Their auto-inflating life jackets did not deploy and they sunk in 10 feet of water. Thankfully, help quickly arrived and got them to safety. Both were later reported to have suffered concussions, and the cameraman also broke his collarbone. Although Cox claims the fact that his life jacket did not properly deploy was a good thing (because the boat flipped virtually on the top of them), I find that comment to be entirely circumstantial. First, I'm glad that neither was hurt worse. I am also glad that as kayak anglers, we don't travel at terribly high rates of speed. But we do deal with rapids, waves, currents, tides, strainers, and other hazards. Plus, in many bodies of water, we still have bass and pleasure boats zooming all around us. The point of this is to think about your PFD.
I have personally turned down multiple "auto-inflating" PFDs. I just don't trust them. If I flip in a class-II+ rapid, I want to be 100% sure my life jacket is going to work. If you Google auto- or self-inflating PFDs, you will find many articles about how often they don't work. Among the results are instances where entire shipments of hundreds to thousands of auto-inflators did not work. Other studies have found that, even if properly stored and replaced as recommended, they only work about 50%-70% of the time. Yikes. They may be lighter and, arguably, more comfortable, but are they really worth it?
Whether you prefer NRS, Kokatat, or another brand, I strongly urge you to do your homework and always err on the side of caution. I know the phrase is overused, but you can't put a price on life. Tight lines!