Helly Hansen Inflatable PFD?

A friend pointed out a screaming deal on some closeout Helly Hansen inflatable PFDs. http://www.defender.com/product.jsp?path=-1|135|439|1383608&id=1383298

Up to this point, I’ve used a traditional PFD for packrafting. I’ve been wanting something more packable, though, but I don’t want to sacrifice safety. Does anyone use inflatable PFDs for relatively tame water? Any words of advice?

Yup, I have two Stormy Seas EXP100 Expedition Vests (the ones with lots of pockets) and they’re great. They do 'em without lots of pockets too, all in a variety of colours, and with an oral inflation/top up tube. The design, materials and build quality of these Vests is excellent.

I can’t understand buying the best, lightest Packraft and paddle, then lugging a heavy, bulky PFD around, it just does not make sense!


OK, this company won’t ship inflatables to Alaska because of the CO2 cartridges. Can you send such vests in your checked luggage if flying? I could have it shipped to my in-laws house, then they could bring it north, but I’m not sure how I’d get it here if the airlines aren’t OK with it.

What you do is…

Look up a company like this, http://www.tyreinflators.co.uk/ which supply CO2 cylinders for a wide range of applications. (Obviously look one up in your area , State or country!).

I buy my cylinders from Tyre Inflators here in the UK, and the price is pennies, even with mailing costs.

Its surprising the variety of uses that CO2 cylinders get put to, which means that there’s lots of places selling them at competitive prices that the marine and aviation life vest companies tend not to match!

I get 'em sent by surface mail, no problems, and they arrive the day after I order them.

Stormy Seas will ship the Vest, but not the cylinder, they won’t ship cylinders to the UK either, though their dealers do, but with a hefty ‘Hazardous Cargo’ fee, which is silly when you can buy the same cylinders for pennies!

I’ve never flown fixed wing with my vest, so I don’t know the rules.

Conventional use of an inflatable pfd seems to me to be inconsistent with many uses of a packraft. Ditching the CO2 bottle and inflating orally before launching the boat saves a few ounces of pack weight and eases transport of the pfd both in a pack and by air. By inflating before you bail, you can wear the vest beneath your dry top, thereby giving the vest extra puncture protection. Also, think about swimming twice or use of the vest when relaunching after a portage after a swim. Manual inflation is part of packrafting with an inflatable vest, so use it to maximum advantage.