A Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is not an ornament for your deck, or a cushion to pad out that hard fibreglass seat - it may be the only thing between you and disaster if it all goes pear-shaped.
Nearly all states and territories have a regulation that it is mandatory to wear a PFD when kayaking - there are some exceptions but we recommend that regardless of those you wear a PFD at all times. For state-by-state regulations refer to the links at the bottom of the page.
We recommend a Type 2 PFD for comfort and visibility. See our page on PFDs for more information on the different PFD Types and the range of PFD’s we have available.
Your PFD should be a good fit to your body size and weight - the amount of buoyancy is determined by the size of the intended user and the relevant certification. There are PFDs made to fit children and even your dog (with grab handles for dog overboard!). Make sure you adjust the straps for a firm fit - a loosely fitted PFD will be a hindrance in the water.
Our hire fleet and programs use Ultra Trek PFDs - a good all-round PFD certified to Australian Standards. Our staff choose to use Kokatat MsFit Tour or Outfit Tour which are certified in the US to US Coast Guard standards.
Additional safety equipment we recommend you attach to your PFD to assist with communications, safety and navigation:
A whistle is your first line of communication with the pod, so it should be loud enough to hear over wind and waves. The Fox 40 whistle is the world’s loudest pea-less whistle, at 115db.
The choice of safety knife is also important. The main function of this knife is to cut yourself out of entanglements - tow ropes, leashes or fishing line hazards. The Safety knife-rope cutter is ideal for this. Having an edged or even worse, a pointy ended, blade is a recipe for disaster, trying to cut away and even re-sheathe it near your neck in choppy seas…
If you need a blade for cutting tomatoes for your lunch, spreading peanut butter or harvesting shellfish, keep a spare in your lunch pack or tool kit!
A personal locator beacon (PLB) is your last line of defence when you are in grave and imminent danger. It sends a signal to a satellite, ultimately leading to the emergency services being contacted. You must register your PLB with AMSA. The RescueME PLB1 is the smallest PLB available so fits easily in your PFD.
How much water you carry is a personal choice and may be determined by how far you intend to paddle. The Trek Ultra has a big pocket on the back that will hold a Camelbak 3 litre water bladder. Kokatat have a smaller pocket with that attaches at the back (Tributary Hydration System) and is sold separately.
A handheld compass is a useful tool for navigation and in low-visibility situations. Even if you have a deck-mounted compass it is handy to have a base plate compass such as the Silva so assist with charting your course.
We recommend you take your mobile phone with you. Have your emergency numbers stored in it (emergency services 000, water police, coast guard) so that when in distress, it is easy to call for help and as a closed communication channel the whole world is not listening to your conversation! You may only ever need your phone to call home if you are running late, but you should protect it from salt water with a waterproof case such as the Aquapac, then you can take or make a call from anywhere.
Another good on-water form of verbal communication is provided by a VHF (very high frequency) Marine Radio, such as the ICOM 35. This is a 5W, floatable unit and fits inside purpose-built the pocket in both the Ultra Trek and Kokatat MsFit Tour PFD, allowing for one-handed operation. This is useful for pod management, receiving weather forecasts and communication with other water users. Be aware that this is an open channel of communication - other radio users can hear what you are saying! We recommend you undertake a marine radio operators course to get the most out of your radio.
You should also take along some snacks, sunscreen and lip balm and a watch to keep track of the time. Add a camera to record your adventure and by now you have quite a bit of gear in your pockets and attached to your PFD! Aside from the safety knife which threads through the shoulder strap, you should attach your other equipment to your PFD with a lanyard (cord) - these can be looped around the shoulder strap or in the case of Kokatat PFDs there are handy plastic attachments inside the front pockets.
For the full PFD fit out check out our YouTube:
We recommend you undertake instruction from a fully qualified Australian Canoeing instructor.
For more information on state regulations: