It’s creeking season now and the full on kayaking season is upon us. One of the best parts about getting ready for the season is breaking out and going through gear and finding reasons to replace that old gear. A lot of kayaking gear is made very well, durable and can last many seasons. However any rescue equipment or gear that I directly related to your safety such as PFD shouldn’t be pushed to the limits of years of abuse because when you really need it to work it might not. The best thing to do is get out your safety gear and check all of it thoroughly.
We all at some point have used our throw bag for extracurricular activities: as clothes line to dry out gear, tying boats down on the roof, to extend the reach to the tree for hammock, using as a slack line, tow strap for stuck car etc… If your throw rope has been used for double duty it’s probably time to retire it and get a new throw rope for dedicated rescue use only.
The next piece of gear to consider and probably most important is your PFD. There are many ways a PFD can lose functionality through regular wear and tear which is why you should take the time to inspect it often instead of just throwing it in gear bag or boat and waiting till the next use. UV damage can weaken the fabric, repeated use and loosen and cause threads to tear. Even having your PFD compressed can cause it to lose buoyancy over the years.
From the US Coast Guard standards concerning PFD selection, use and care.
Serviceable condition – A PFD is considered to be in serviceable condition only if the following conditions are met:
1. No PFD may exhibit deterioration that could diminish the performance of the PFD including:
- Metal or plastic hardware used to secure the PFD on the wearer that is broken, deformed, or weakened by corrosion;
- Webbings or straps used to secure the PFD on the wearer that are ripped, torn, or which have become separated from an attachment point on the PFD; or
- Any other rotted or deteriorated structural component that fails when tugged.
2. In addition to meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, no inherently buoyant PFD, including the inherently buoyant components of a hybrid inflatable PFD, may exhibit:
- Rips, tears, or open seams in fabric or coatings that are large enough to allow the loss of buoyant material;
- Buoyant material that has become hardened, non-resilient, permanently compressed, waterlogged, oil-soaked, or which shows evidence of fungus or mildew; or loss of buoyant material or buoyant material that is not securely held in position
Most of us don’t follow the USCG rules completely and some don’t apply unless in a power/moto boating situation but they are a good guideline when inspecting your pfd.
Check your PFD if you notice:
-Tears, holes stitching coming loose
-Straps/attachments/hardware damaged in anyway
-shrinkage or change of shape to buoyant materials
-doesn’t fit properly*
Then it’s probably time to start shopping for a new PFD!
* A proper fitting life jacket should not ride up on you and when floating should keep chin above water. To test stand straight up in a deep pool of water and check how much floatation you have.