Local requirements differ on the subject of wearing lifejackets (PFD’s).
Some require it to be on the person, others simply require it to be in the boat with you. If you are having a boating experience with a commercial outfitter, they will always require you to properly wear your PFD.
As a former river guide, and having been a canoeing instructor for over 35 years, my advice is to always wear your PFD anytime you are on moving water, cold water, or if you are a novice boater.
Many times we see people who overestimate their skills and physical ability, and underestimate the water conditions.
One prime example came as we started a canoeing trip on the Snake River at the base of the Grand Tetons near Jackson, Wyoming. We were not on a technical part of the river and had plenty of open, flat water for instructional time as we started the trip. One individual who claimed to have canoeing and swimming skills was on the trip. He was not shy about telling us about his swimming experience on high school and college swim teams. It had been about 10 years ago but he was still “living the dream”!
We had just launched when he capsized his canoe. As he hit the water he quickly realized how fast the cold water could take his breath away and sap his strength. In addition, the current separated him from his paddle. Had he not had on his PFD, things could have quickly turned bad for him.
I quickly righted and drained the water from his canoe, using the parallel rescue technique, and helped him back into his canoe. Experience can be a harsh teacher! In this case, he was just a bit humbled and got a new respect for cold and moving water.
We have a video demonstrating the parallel rescue technique that I think you’ll enjoy. Check it out in our list of instructional videos.
Be safe out there and have fun!