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Kayaking Montana Whitewater

A woman kayaks a scenic stretch of river in OSI’s homestate of Montana.

Image © Joe Michl :

Rescue PFD’s

Stohlquist DescentAstral GreenjacketRescue PFD's for your program or for yourself.

Rescue PFD's are important for any professional or personal paddle trip in moving water. With a rescue PFD you will now be able to help those unconscious swimmers with the quick release safety belt. But it is important that you know how to properly use a rescue PFD  before putting yourself at risk. This can be done by taking a Swift-water Rescue Technician course.

If you are in the market for a rescue PFD there are two that have caught my eye. They are the Stohlquist Descent and the Astral Greenjacket. Each of them have their own pros and cons.

First of all if you are taking your life jacket on and off all day it can be a bit bothersome. The Greenjacket requires you to loosen 8 straps and the safety belt before you can slip it over your head. The Descent only has 2 buckles, the safety belt and a zipper to slip off sideways. A bit faster and easier to get the Descent off.

Another thing that makes the Descent a bit better is that it  provides an extra 1.5 pounds of buoyancy. The Descent tests at 17 lbs of buoyancy at sea level compared to 15.5 lbs of the Greenjacket. The minimum requirement by the USCG is 15.5 lbs of buoyancy.

Also, the Descent has reinforced shoulder straps. They are a bit more stiff but still fits like a glove. This would give a bit more support if you are portaging your boat around the "big one". But on the other hand the Greenjacket is more flimsy (i can't think of another word for flimsy but i want too…?)and fits a bit better. It also has what looks like armor around the shoulder straps on your back for protection and comfort.

One of the things that I dislike about the Descent, is the mesh front pocket which makes me leery about it because of possibly ripping on a rock or stick. The Greenjacket makes a cloth front pocket with a drain hole which seems to be more durable.

Another thing is the placement of the quick acess (sp.) lash for a knife is near the bottom center front of the PFD, which when kayaking or sitting in a canoe or raft could get in the way. On the Greenjacket it is near the left shoulder strap, which is probably better if you are right handed rather than left but at least it is not going to get in the way.

Currently both PFD's are being made outside of the United States but Astral is making Limited Edition Greenjackets which are made in North Carolina.

Personally, I have been wearing a Astral Greenjacket for year while canoeing, kayaking, or rafting and love it for the kayaking but would prefer the Stohlquist Descent while canoeing or rafting.

All in all they are both going to feel like a bullet proof vest once you put it on.

Posted by

Ryan Welty

on 5/20/10
Field SafetyTools & ToysResource


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