Wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) when you are paddling is like using a seat belt in a car. You hope it’s never going to be put to the test, and there’s a good chance it won’t be needed, but when the unexpected happens it may well save your life. Unlike seat belts which are always compulsory, the requirement to wear a PFD varies by legal jurisdiction, type of watercraft, and expected conditions. It can all be very confusing, but you can paddle anywhere in Australia with a Level 50 (previously known as Type 2) PFD, so the simplest and safest approach is to always wear one of those whenever you are on the water.
When choosing a Level 50 PFD, I look for low profile designs that provide maximum buoyancy over a small area. There should be ample arm room to execute paddle strokes without rubbing, and the body should be short enough to avoid getting caught on spraydecks and backrests. Shoulder and waist adjustments are essential for a good fit, as is soft flexible foam to help contour the jacket to the shape of my body. A few pockets and attachment points for lanyards and knives are helpful as well. The Ultra Trek is my PFD of choice because it meets all of these requirements. I have met many other Australian paddlers who feel the same way.
The features of the Ultra Trek are the result of many years of evolution in design. Its maker Performance Flotation Developments (PFD) Australia is never content to rest on its laurels and is always looking to make improvements on what it proudly calls “the most advanced paddling vest on the market today”. The current edition of the Trek features:
Easy to use side entry design – slip over head, clip two buckles, and zip.
Stable buoyancy with over 6kg of upward thrust – to make sure you float.
Reinforced & bartacked stress points – ensuring that your PFD will always be in good working order when you need it.
500 denier ripstop fabric – for greater durability.
Heavy duty 38mm webbing on shoulder and side adjustment straps – made strong for greater durability and wide for extra comfort.
Neoprene comfort zones – strategically placed between the webbing straps and your body to ensure that the jacket is supremely wearable.
Flexible PVC foam buoyancy – for a snug fit.
Safety gold colour – for visibility.
- Reflective tape on front and rear – for visibility.
- Expandable insulated hydration pocket – takes a 3 litre bladder with ease and helps keep drinking water cool.
- EPIRB/GPS/mobile phone pocket – makes it possible for important safety equipment to be kept close at hand.
- Expanding cargo pockets – great for snacks, sunscreen, medicine, camera lens covers etc.
- Mesh drainage – allows water to escape from the front and back of the PFD, ensuring that you aren’t carrying any excess weight when you get back on board after a swim.
- 3 lanyard attachment points – to tie essential items to the PFD e.g. camera, phone, compass etc.
- Knife attachment point.
Price is obviously another important consideration, and with a recommended retail price of just $159.00 the Ultra Trek is a winner on that front too. A full list of Ultra PFD Dealers can be found on the Ultra PFD website.
The Ultra Trek PFD is one of the fantastic prizes you could win if you purchase ‘The Paddler’s Guide to New South Wales 2nd Edition – Pre-order/Crowd Funding Bundle’ from the Global Paddler online store before the 31st of July 2015.