Question: I’d like to find out what PFD’s are available for a small paddler. I’m considering a Kotatat SeaO2. I’d appreciate your comments. I’m 5’2″ tall, 120 lbs., with a measurement from base of sternal notch to waist line at 13 inches. I have a Kokatat Bahia and an Astral V-Eight. The Bahia is good on the back, great for lay back rolls, but the front is too bulky. With my short arms, a self rescue with paddle float and a hand of god rescue would be challenging. The Astral’s back is too long even with the mesh at the bottom. Dubside has a MsFIT which I tried and I liked, even with no mesh on the back. His is old, however, and with the manufacturing/design changes, the MsFit may be bulky these days. Your thoughts?

Answer: There are many kinds of PFDs out there, and most would be fine for a small paddler as long as it is the right size. I have a Kokatat SeaO2 and love it. That variety provides built in flotation, but it is low volume. More buoyancy can be added by pulling a cord to release the CO2 cartridge, or by manually inflating it. For a PFD with set buoyancy, I’d suggest the MsFIT. I have one of those as well, although I tend to wear my Kokatat SeaO2 more often. Your other option is to get a PFD with no flotation except for what is provided by the CO2 cartridge or manual inflation. I wear a suspender type. However, because of the lack of buoyancy, I wouldn’t recommend this option unless you have additional flotation, such as a neoprene tuilik.

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