December 8, 2013

Floating an idea: try SOSpenders as holiday gift

The farmers were playing hockey on the pond at Essex Farm last week and the Nordic skaters are already posting notices about ice conditions on ponds in Vermont.

Although I grew up skating on rinks I’m hooked on lake skating and counting down to good conditions.

Most skaters carry some form of safety gear in case the ice breaks but I like extra insurance. This fall I spotted a piece of equipment that looked like a good addition to my gear — an inflatable life jacket — and a friend at Coleman had one for me to try. The vest, made by Stearns, is called SOSpenders.

Inflatable life jackets are rated by the U.S. Coast Guard as Type V, but they provide buoyancy equivalent to Type III foam-filled jackets when they are inflated and used according to their design. And every personal flotation device (PFD) is designed for a specific use. SOSpenders are designed to give maximum range of motion — like when you are skating, fishing, sailing, paddling or paddleboarding.

Having a life jacket for each intended use may seem like overindulgence or unnecessary spending but there is nothing like the right gear for the job. For most activities I want light weight and freedom of motion with good security and something I can easily adjust to my clothing layers in both winter and summer.

SOSpenders inflate with a strong jerk on the cord. The inflation mechanism uses a CO2 cartridge that is activated by the ripcord. The mechanism can be set to inflate only when the cord is pulled but also can be set to inflate automatically whenever it is submerged. It can also be blown up by mouth although in an emergency I would have more trouble blowing it up than just pulling the cord. Inflation takes a few seconds as the strap-like chambers unfold and fill with air.

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