Life Jackets really have come a long Way [Comfort]

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I always listen with amusement when I hear people complain that new life jackets or PFD’s are uncomfortable, hot and therefore better off strapped to the back deck of a kayak or thrown in the bottom of the canoe.

To help appreciate the technology advancements keeping us afloat, let’s look back at we would have had to use while on the water...

Cork Life Vests from 1980. Photo Credit: Life Magazine

This photo was taken around 1890. Back then life jackets were made from pieces of cork sewn together. Though it kept you afloat, it wasn’t very practical for anything else. Since many would have only used them in an emergency, I can imagine a good number of sailors would find them rotten, crumbling and useless when they needed them most.

Photo Credit: Sean Sexton/Getty Images

Old life vest and survival suit. Photo credit:

Here is an integrated life vest and early version of a survival suit taken by Harris & Ewing in 1916. I don’t think I would have fit in my kayak with it on.

Photo Credit:

Life Vests Made from Bicycle Inner Tubes. Photo credit:

Life vests took a big step forward in technology in 1925 but clearly a huge step back in fashion. These are made from inflated bicycle inner tubes.

When wearing this you can be guaranteed of two things, severe chafing and the fact that everybody will be staring at your crotch the whole time.

Photo Credit:

On a different note, If you are interested in cool war history stories, here is a good one where somebody found a very old German life vest from the 2nd world war and worked to try to unite it with the pilot over 60 years later.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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