May 8, 2013 at 5:57 am #1302688
My first MYOG PFD (entirely inflatable) ended up in the recycled materials heap after dying the death of the thousand modifications combined with never really getting the valves to stop slowly leaking.
For a second attempt, I was going to go with bottles like the late MLD "The Thing". Based on some trial mockups, I couldn't find a way to use bottles in the front without interfering with either the spray deck or my paddling. Ultimately I came up with this PFD. It's two layers of 0.6" closed cell foam in the front and one layer in the rear plus a bottle.
Float (Front): 5 lbs
Float (Rear): 2.3 lbs + 2.2 lbs (air)
Total Float: 9.5 lbs (vs. 14-15 lbs for a proper whitewater PFD or vs. 5 lbs for a slalom racing vest).
Fabric: 70D nylon
Straps/Buckles: 1/2" (from Quest)
Accents/Pockets/UL Cred: 1.2oz cuben
Foam: Wal-mart cheapo mattress
I'm also working on a second front portion with just a single layer of foam. This can be used with the current rear sans a bottle, which drops total float in half but reduces bulk for calm trips. That should weigh ~6oz.
Rear section with a bottle. Velcro is to fold it flat when not in use.
Front section. There was a front pocket but I ripped it off because it becomes useless when the PFD is curved around my chest. I should have planned that better.
May 8, 2013 at 9:07 am #1984393
Here's the super light setup with half the float (5 lbs total). Not for big water, but it's a mere 5.8oz and super compact (for a foam PFD).May 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm #1984541
@hamericaLocale: Northern Virginia
Nice! Would you feel comfortable with something like this in class II water?May 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm #1984544
The 5 lbs float PFD is for class I-II water. The 10lbs version is for the bulk of backcountry use (up to class III). I anticipate using it a lot.May 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm #1985395
Tim CheekBPL Member
Do you feel that you need a PFD on a lake? I'll confess I didn't use one last summer on a trip in the Wind River Range. I pieced together a route that was arguably safer on the water than the adjoining scree field and cliffs. I tried to stay a few "dog paddles" from shore, and stayed out of the wind. I felt safe…although I admit appreciating the durability of the Scout, I paid so much for, when I knew I was in deep water!
Looking at your lightweight setup, I'm wondering if there isn't a dual use PFD/sit pad/pillow on the market like what you've done. MLD no longer sells their The Thing. I have seen some of the inflatable PFDs, but no one seems to provide the weights and they all seem to be overly complicated with pockets I don't need.
Interested in what you have tried for lakes? I travel solo, so I don't try fast water.May 12, 2013 at 2:46 pm #1985559
Ted EBPL Member
@mtn_nutLocale: Morrison, CO
i would think that rear design could be dangerous by making it hard to float on your back in an emergency while in any sort of moving current.
Maybe use a small inflatable pillow and some sort of webbing/netting on the front to hold it to make a low profile inflatable with most of the flotation on the front. plus then you have a pillow for sleeping too. i would think a small pillow (cocoon hyperlight) or something would not interfer with your paddling or spray skirt as much.May 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm #1987406
Tim: PFD's are a personal call, so learn what you can and make a decision that suits your situation/skills and risk tolerance. I personally don't use a PFD on lakes, but that's not to suggest that's what everyone should do.
Ted: Can you expand on how the rear section could be dangerous? Are you suggesting the current will grab the protruding bottle?
I took a class II swim this past week and this PFD (in 10 lbs float setup) worked well enough that it never occurred to me during the swim. I used this for 40 miles of up to class III plus some flat water paddling over the course of 7 days.Jun 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm #1992620
Ted EBPL Member
@mtn_nutLocale: Morrison, CO
PFD's have more flotation in the chest area to keep you face up in an emergency / loss of consciousness. i would think that large float on the back might push you onto your chest in an emergency in swift water. having 5lbs of float on the front and 5 lbs of float in the back will not keep you face up.
Its your call. I have worked as a raft guide, and i don't care how much experience you have, you can't out swim a river (even in calm areas), and in remote situations, i personally would want 12+ lbs of float, with 2/3 of float in the front to flip me face up. I'm pretty happy with my kokatat pfd with 16 lbs of float. i bet it could be stripped down and lightened up without removing the amount of float if i ever wanted to.
if i were floating something really shallow (the paria river from whitehouse to lee's ferry comes to mind), i wouldn't worry about much a minimalist pdf, but that's a very low flow river you can easily walk in.Jun 3, 2013 at 5:40 am #1992707
Fair enough, I tried to put a bit more float in the front than the back so it may help to float me face up. But of course as the total amount of float drops the usefulness of the PFD drops and the river increasingly gets its way.
In "10lbs of float mode" with the bottle (I'm using 710ml volume), there is 3.9 lbs on the back and 5.1 lbs on the front, so it's a 43%/57% weight split.
In "5lbs of float mode" sans bottle, there is 2.4 lbs on the back and 2.5 lbs on the front – so nearly even but at 5 lbs the PFD isn't doing much anyways. Even if it did keep me face up I'd likely drown from being under half the time.
Thanks for the comments on how much float you'd want and the front/back ratio. This kind of info is super hard to come across and I'm sure I'll end up making a few more PFDs over the years ahead.
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