Packrafting PFD

I have my jacket from my Sea kayak days, but in my Yukon yak, it has too much foam in the back. When I try to use the backrest in my Yak, I’m bent over and very uncomfortable. I have tried less air, no air…I need a PFD with no back padding. Any suggestions?

You got to be kidding! 16 veiws, and the so-called experts, don’t have any suggestions? Oh!, I guess you have to be in the CLICK!

I think the stormy seas inflatables have no back. Forrest?

Several manufacturers make pfd’s with no low back foam or less low back foam. Most inflatable pfd’s have the air bladders in front.

LL Bean Comfort Mesh Back
Patagonia Mesh Back
Astral LDB
MTI Orleans (may be discontinued)
MTI Solaris
NRS Chinook
NRS Clearwater
Stohlquist aSEA
Stohlquist TREKKer
Kokatat SeaO2
Extrasport pdf’s with “baja back” (less foam on bottom back)

we prefer you use the term “Cult” rather than “Click”. and if you want to join you have to get jumped in first.

Thanks for the input. I earned my Jump in…in a Avon in the North sea off GB. Rafting in Wales, and midwest river running. Sea kayaking around England and California. :laughing:

The Stormy Seas have an air bladder in the back. But it is up high and works well with the Alpacka back rests and spray decks.

I have a Lotus Designs Life Jacket as well. Not sure what model. It is more than a few years old. I have not noticed it interfering with the backrest. It does have a tendency to push down the spray deck.


The previous Lotus Designs Quietwater and Mildwater (recalled) also had the mesh back. I still have not sent back my mildwater pfd : ). The new Patagonia Mesh Back is the updated version of the mildwater.


Any Idea what any of these PFD’s weigh? I can’t seem to find their weights anywhere. Don’t want a PFD that weighs as much as my PackYacht, ya know?

I may be way wrong but for flat water, and within 2 miles of shore, I’ve been using a Stearn’s inflatable and my old trusty Extrasport and Sea Eagle PFD’s (Both half decent sleep pads). Since I’m new to anything whitewater I really have no clue as to what PFD’s would be best to use. I’m sure hoping someone with experience will say, “Whatcha got’ll do nicely.”

Anything sold commercially is likely to be relatively heavy, so as to stand up to the “wear and tear” that such products need to. Th lightest I found was about 1kg, and I suppose the whole thing comes down to whether you are carrying it or not.

There was a post and replies about PFDs on this site earlier - some seem even to use thermarest pads wrapped around them quite effectively.

Why not consider making your own PFD - I’ve made a few, but the best to date has been one designed around the shape of a normal PFD, with front and back floatation, but making the shell out of 1.5oz nylon, and using 10l wine cask bladders for floatation. The shell has zippers along the bottom so that the bladders can be inserted, and I fold the bladder to the vague shape of the shell. This will easily support an 80kg person vertically in the water, and the bladders make a perfect pillow at night, and also a water storage container whenever needed. Total weight of PFD is about 300g. Although I don’t have any specific piccies of this set-up, I’d be happy to take some and email them to anyone interested - my email is

Well this certainly looks encouraging.

Now if only I had the stamina to empty 3-4 10L wine cask bladders. The way I use wine it could take me well over a decade to get the materials for my bladders. I’ve already called around and it appears that I live in a community that scorns such packaging in their libation. But I sure would like to see those pics of how you did your vest as I know it would help me to work out some solution of my own.

I live just north of packraftnewmexico and have just been notified that this season here on the upper RioGrande is going to be insane. So my type III bladder pfd along with my wader/raincoat setup is an absolute no no. Somehow in the process of learning that I need a full wetsuit spraysuit type V PFD setup I was convinced to take a full blown river guide course with attendant CPR and First Aid certification, it’s been a while I sure need to be sure of my skills on this length of water. Geez, I just wanted to learn how to paddle the easier sections of the river safely, but it turns out they’re probably going to become rather dangerous as the snow melts and hence the the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man safety suit.

So for this river this season I’m going to have to forgo lightness and packability for extra padding and safety. I think I’ve finally made a decent PFD choice even though it may not be as manuverable as some of the minimalist PFD’s out there. I decided on the Extrasport Swiftwater Fury rescue type V PFD with 22lbs floatation and will strip the rescue gear off of it until I am certified in its proper use. I went with this vest as I may be asked to help guide the river from time to time and it seemed a good compromise for floatation and manuverability. Sure hope it was a good choice as it going to become a close friend whether I like it or not. I was rather hoping on one of the PFD’s with just the upper floatation in the back so I’d be a bit more comfortable in my raft but better safe than sorry, right?

PFDs are a funny one, both for advice-offering and in legal terms. Dogman, don’t think anyone was dissing you w/ no replies of 16+ views: I think when a lot of us hear a PFD question, we think for awhile.

Something to keep in mind on home-made PFDs: there are some cool things you can do, for sure… be when we use them, we just have to be clear that we’re 100% accountable for our own choice, and we’re willfully making a choice contrary to established practice, and it’s a choice we live and die by.

For my own privacy, I’ve cooked up some home-made PFDs. Personally, I don’t suggest other boaters do this. I’ve gone so far as considering sewing a tag on them something along the lines of: “If I land in Valhala wearing this, nobody gets to sue or blame anyone. I freely chose to make and wear this. I’ll answer to Wotan & Neptune. It was all my idea.” But then, I get a kick out of stuff like that…

Fortunately in Australia our legal system is such that we generally still understand that if we do (or make) something, like a PFD, we take our own responsibility for doing it, without having to add disclaimers, although it’s starting to go your way. People do, of course, need to be protected from themselves!

Yeah, your system’s a bit more sane sometimes… Ours is actually pretty good if you clearly built it yourself & weren’t professionally advised or anything, but I think I was personally traumatized by the McDonalds hot coffee case. I guess for me it comes down to: I happily use my own home-made contraptions, but I tend to tell my friends “hey… don’t necessarily trust how I build mine: I don’t really know what I’m doing. You take my foam one, I’ll wear this thing that looks like an inflatable hamburger.”

The lightest foam PFD I’ve found is the MTI Livery at about 16 oz. No pockets. The cheap Stearns ones look light too.

I don’t want to endorse using something that isn’t coast-guard approved, but I hate to see folks going without because of the weight. I use 1/2 of an airline pfd with the CO2 fixture removed. Lighter still, and more available is the endo-PFD approach. I take a razorknife to the cheapest PFD I can find, yank out the foam pieces (or just cut your own from ensolite) and put them inside my paddling jacket or drysuit. I use small bits of duct tape to make minimal shoulder straps and to hold the pieces in place and together. When not worn, they are great to sleep on, sit on, and pad the pokey items in my backpack. For rocky rivers, I’ve also added a little tail-like the tail-bone pad in hockey pants. Be careful who you let photograph you when you’re putting this stuff on, as it looks quite dorky. That never stopped a lot of us though.

Some thoughts on a Packrafting PFD.

The starting point is the Stormy Seas EXP100-Expedition, a manual/oral tube inflatable short vest, in red.

This vest has 3 front pockets, 2 front D rings and 1 rear pocket, the air chamber is removable which makes fitting the mounting points for a knife and Mini Gear Keeper RT2 (threaded pin fitting) retainer a safe operation.

Silicone bobbins replace the zip pulls (to avoid the risk of hull puncture during re-entry) yellow hi-vis Scotchlite reflective panels and strobe mounting points aid visual signature.

Compact, light weight, good bouyancy rating with high storage capacity and compatability with the spray skirt.

Like I said, just some thoughts.

Along with the other home-made life-vest folks out there, I wouldn’t suggest anyone emulate us, but we have a solution I like.

We use a thermarest cut and resealed to include a couple arm divots, with appropriate straps added. The dual utility is really nice. Also it meshes well with a spray deck.

There’s a picture of one laid out flat here:
and worn here:

Resealing after cutting is difficult. I’m still not sure I’ve figured out the best solution.

I particularly wouldn’t suggest thermarest life-vests for situations where puncture is a potential problem. For example, if you want your vest to float after you’ve been swept into a sweeper, the thermarest is definitely not for you, they’re quite fragile. And you have to be very careful about the strap attachments so that they don’t tear, opening a big hole.