What's the difference between a life jacket and a buoyancy aid? Both are PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices), but a life jacket will turn an unconscious swimmer on their back to keep their mouth and nose out of the water. The downside is that a life jacket makes it much harder for a conscious swimmer to swim on their front. A buoyancy aid will not turn the wearer face up, but its primary purpose is to support a conscious swimmer and make it easy for the wearer to swim in a normal and powerful fashion when required (like when you've really got to make that eddy!). They also provide some welcome body armour on certain trips!
We do stock a range of life jackets, which we recommend for use by people who may have trouble swimming. They are also suitable for sailing, and we have models for children and babies.
For those of you who would like to take your four legged friends out on the water, check out our range of Pet Buoyancy Aids.
All the buoyancy aids in this section are aimed towards white water river paddling, whether in Kayaks or Canoes.
Whitewater PFDs tend to be vest style, over the head entry, meaning less can go wrong in an emergency. Having said that, you can find front opening river BA's, generally designed with no zips, which can be easier to put on with rear entry drysuits.
Those designed mainly for river running will have a lot more buoyancy than the minimum required - aerated white water is less dense and you sink further. The foam will can also wrap around the torso more to give protection against hitting rocks. The BA generally have the ability to use a chest harness, either fitted or as an optional extra (you should attend a WWSR course before using one), as well as pockets to hold slings and karabiners.
The BA's designed for playing at the local playspot, or for slalom, will have some of these features removed, meaning these vests are less bulky and restricted - thats not to say the river running BA's are cramped - they are all designed and cut with high degrees of freedom of movement and flexibility.
There are several other styles of buoyancy aid on offer and they are suitable for either sea and touring, entry level recreational use, as well as the competitive disciplines. If you are looking for buoyancy aids for outdoor centre or group work we have a range of Centre Buoyancy Aids.