-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 1:04 AM EST --
I paddle (relatively) safe small rivers, small/medium lakes and large but slow rivers here in MN. I only wear a PFD when the water is cold, conditions are rough, or there is some other risky circumstance. I try to avoid risky circumstances (paddle with a group in general) and paddle close to shore when appropriate (not too hard to do in the midwest).
As earlier posts elude, its foolish not to wear one when there are elevated risk circumstances such as fast moving water, cold water, a long distance to shore, rough conditions, or whatever else may likely contribute to an unforeseen accident. Its good habit though; I wouldnt argue that for a second and never discourage others from wearing one in any condition. I basically make the risk assessment at shore. If im 99.9999% sure I wont die, I probably wont wear one. If im 99.9998% sure I wont die, I put it on =) Ill take the 1:100000 chance that something freakishly unlikely happens. But anything is a possibility any time you're on the water...
Every spring during early season paddling, I see ignorant paddlers or fishermen in a T shirt and no PFD on within a couple weeks of iceout...I guess it pays to be lucky? In those conditions, Im cautious even with a drytop and pants, pfd, 2 changes of clothes, fire starter, paddling close to shore ect. The most dangerous ones 'dont know what they dont know'.
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