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Old 27-03-2017, 15:21   #1
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PFD - Where to start

Hello all,

I did look though the past 2 years of posts and looked at every PFD post. There is good information there. Some of the info seems dated and wanted to get more recent comments on this.

I'm a newbie and need a PFD so that I can start crewing locally to get my feet wet. The goal would be to get something light, comfortable, safe, reliable and from a reputable company (not in that order). I'm leaning towards an HIT version with harness attachment. I would prefer having face/head shield, strobe and space to include an EPIRB.

I've been looking at Mustang, Onyx, and West Marine.

Are there any other manufacturers that I should be looking at (I'm in the U.S.)? Or specific models that you have had good luck with?

Please - not trying to start a flame war. Just want to have a solid place to look. Most of the reviews I've found online seem somewhat tainted from an advertising stand point. Also - can't tell if any of the Amazon review are coming from experienced sailors.

Thank you in Advance. Cheers!
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Old 27-03-2017, 15:38   #2
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Re: PFD - Where to start

I don't know if the Mustang has a spray hood or strobe. Mine, a few years old with harness, does not. However I fit a small ACR strobe inside the cover that activates when the vest inflates.

You won't have room for an EPIRB. If you buy a PLB, the personal version, you can attach it to the harness on the exterior.

You should also be looking at Spinlock. They are more expensive, but racers prefer them because they are generally more comfortable than other brands. They also have a spray hood and a strobe that pops up on a wand when the vest inflates.

Wherever you buy it, you might want to avoid buying it on sale unless you can inspect it in person. Often the units that get put on sale online have an imminent expiration date for the cartridge. What you saved on the sale you end up spending on a new cartridge. I know more than a few people who this has happened to.

That said, Defender.com is an great vendor with good prices and excellent customer service. I would never hesitate buying from them.
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Old 27-03-2017, 16:11   #3
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Re: PFD - Where to start

Just another thought. I like non inflatables. I've had mustang and other brand inflatables, and they are fine but require maintenance along with everything else. Next thing you know... it's out of date or worse not working. You cant fly with the C02 cartridge either. KISS
I suppose if you are crewing in hot climes on hot days that's a reason to not like normal PFD's. But frankly, throughout the Caribe, if the wind was blowing hard enough for me to want a PFD on, a regular one wasn't a bother at all, it can be chilly even in the trade winds.. And in cold weather, they are a benefit. I have one old one that just fits me like a glove. I think it came free with others on a boat I bought.
Not one of those orange things, this a quality foam type.
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Old 27-03-2017, 16:23   #4
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Re: PFD - Where to start

None of the above.

I have a Mustang, but after reading some evaluations of deaths following boats being swamped, my next PFD will be a Spinlock.

The issue with most inflatable PFDs is that they slide up when inflated, the device slides up and will not keep the head above water. I heard that Mustang now offers crotch straps, but am not 100% sure.
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Old 27-03-2017, 16:36   #5
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Re: PFD - Where to start

I have an inflatable from Cabellas of all places; uses the standard mustang cartridges. Does what I need it to do. But I am not a fan of them (inflatables) when it comes to really being safe.

This video by an ex-coastie convinced me that other than for casual use, inflatable just aren't the best choice...

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Old 27-03-2017, 16:52   #6
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Re: PFD - Where to start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
None of the above.

I have a Mustang, but after reading some evaluations of deaths following boats being swamped, my next PFD will be a Spinlock.

The issue with most inflatable PFDs is that they slide up when inflated, the device slides up and will not keep the head above water. I heard that Mustang now offers crotch straps, but am not 100% sure.
Yes, you can get crotch straps, and if you race offshore they are in fact required.

I've taken the Naval Academy Safety at Sea seminar a few times which is required by most offshore races for a percentage of the crew. They make you jump in a pool with and without crotch straps. The difference is pretty disconcerting.
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Old 27-03-2017, 17:04   #7
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Re: PFD - Where to start

These things seem to change from year to year. It's hard to evaluate without seeing the latest model.

I have a blue WM "offshore" model from six or seven years ago that has a lot of good features, and bought another of "the same" model two years ago for guest use. I'm not sure which company really made that earlier WM-branded jacket, but this newer one is like the cheapest imaginable knock-off of it. No pockets, no padding, no equipment straps, and the edges are un-hemmed and saw into your skin. Currently listed as "discontinued" on line. The newer one does have more reflective tape.

After-market crotch straps are available for all these PFDs. I met one guy who says he always clips on a fanny-pack to contain his PLB and other safety gear. But it sure seems more convenient to have that all in one package. Of course, if you carry too much stuff, you might as well just wear a full-sized Type III with big pockets.
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Old 27-03-2017, 18:31   #8
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Re: PFD - Where to start

I bought multiple mustangs for my boat, then had to buy crotch straps afterwards. Then wanted to get into some racing and found out that I could not retrofit spray hoods(which were required for offshore racing), so ended up buying new spinlocks which had the spray hood, crotch straps, light, whistle nad knife. Just had to add my own AIS beacons. Bought 6 at Annapolis boat show to equip my boat. Took them down to Antigua two at a time on plane, and a spare cartridge. Just put a copy of home security rules and airline rules with each jacket and told them at check in. Just had to go to special baggage drop off No problems.

Bottom line go with spinlocks.
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Old 27-03-2017, 19:41   #9
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Re: PFD - Where to start

Just went through this same exercise myself. After much research online, reading the forums, etc,. I chose the Crewsaver Ergofit 190 offshore. Don't have much time with it yet, but so far it seems high quality, and comfortable. Has all the things mentioned, spray hood, light, external pocket for a knife, crotch straps. I'd put it on the list with spinlocks to research further.

One minor point (in my opinion at least), is that these, along with spinlocks and many other European inflatable life jackets, I believe, are not USCG certified, so depending on where you sail, you may need to have other jackets on board.
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Old 27-03-2017, 20:01   #10
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Re: PFD - Where to start

Preferable to have either type I or II for safety as they will right you if unconscious, but tend to be bulky and restrict movement. Type III floater coats are a nice option for colder or cooler climates ( I see you're in California so maybe consider if winter sailing?) i have had two full sets of mustangs float coat and bibs and prefer them over inside as you can just wear one or the other for effective layering; these are not self righting and if solo should be worn with a auto inflating vest but do offer protection against hypothermia which can occur even in the tropics. Type V are the inflators self inflators and sport specific pfd's and if you're considering from this category check out salus, NRS, Stolquist or other white water paddling jackets; they have a high level of bouyancy and the greatest range of motion with room for knives, plb's pocekt storage and harnesses as most are designed for both sailing and paddling. As for brands for any typ pfd, try a bunch on and see how they fit, each brand will fit different people, well...differently.
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Old 27-03-2017, 20:29   #11
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Re: PFD - Where to start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
Yes, you can get crotch straps, and if you race offshore they are in fact required.

I've taken the Naval Academy Safety at Sea seminar a few times which is required by most offshore races for a percentage of the crew. They make you jump in a pool with and without crotch straps. The difference is pretty disconcerting.
The world has known since at least the '79 Fastnet disaster, that life jackets without crotch straps are practically useless. It baffles me that they are even still sold without crotch straps. I certainly wouldn't have one on my boat.

Imagine for a moment a parachute harness without any strap going between your legs. A lifejacket does the same things -- pulls you up. What is it going to pull you up by? A number of people were documented to have been killed in the Fastnet disaster, when their life jackets just went over their heads in the water.
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Old 28-03-2017, 08:28   #12
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Re: PFD - Where to start

I have been using life Jackets manufactured by Crew saver of Gosport England since 1973. never used anything else. +44 1329 820000
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Old 28-03-2017, 09:55   #13
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Re: PFD - Where to start

USCG had a PFD design contest a couple years ago. They asked our boating association if we wanted to submit something - though we didn't. I don't know what became of it. USBOAT was advertising the contest so they might know.
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Old 28-03-2017, 10:12   #14
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Re: PFD - Where to start

The Spinlock DeckVest Pro fits the criteria you mention [as do others] and happened to be the ones that we found most comfortable for us. Everyone is different, so you really need to try them on and wear them a while in the store if you can...

We maintain a page regarding our PFD choices in case you are interested in more details why we selected Spinlocks and their attachable pouches. Now you can order them with a MOB device installed for automatic activation [AIS and DSC...] so you will be ready for anything once you attach your tether.

Best wishes finding what is best for your needs.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 28-03-2017, 10:17   #15
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Re: PFD - Where to start

We love our spinlocks when we are wearing inflatables. Ours are the non harness version. Much more comfortable than our older Stearns harness versions. One note though. Once you get yours, be sure to try it out so you get a feel for what its like inflated. The first time we jumped in with our Stearns it was near panic as it seemed like they were going to pop our heads off!
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