Originally Posted by beachbum29
You buy established brands with an excellent reputation. Select the PFD that best suits your use and make sure you are comfortable with the fit and finish.
Nothing like having a rag hanging around your neck that irritates the shit out of you.
Not a bad start but sure no guarantee you are even in the same ballpark when it comes to safety gear...remember...even the "big names" have to meet a standard that is created for the lowest common denominator.
Things like straps and buckles and zippers...they are for ease of donning and durability...not necessarily what works best for you.
Look at the BOLD PRINT on many of the inflatables...it says that ANY alteration will render the USCG approval void...even if you add a crotch strap that you have tested and know it works....it doesn't matter to the bureaucracy...
In the USCG we often tested "civilian" gear when I was in polar operation...most of it was vastly superior. I was on a letter writing campaign demanding better cold water immersion flight gear. We used to fly in double wet suits and couldn't safely fly due to the restriction of movement....it took almost 10 years to catch up with goretex drysuits with fleece undergarments...civilian market no problem but getting stuff through Wash, DC is like getting stuff through Congress.
Like USCG flares...carry what is required for the safety inspection...but buy the living daylights out of SOLAS flares, lasers, strobes, etc...etc as USCG flares are all but useless....well they are OK 10% of the time maybe....