Updated June 2015 – see bottom of page
Packraft Store in Germany sold us a couple of pre-production Anfibio inflatable packrafting jackets in December to try out.
Called a Buoy Boy, ‘inflatable jackets’ or buoyancy aids is all they claim to be, not PFDs, far less life jackets. They don’t even claim to have the rescue/harness elements suited to white water recoveries, as found on better PFDs. A warning label inside spells it all out. Instead your Buoy Boy bad boy is just a compact, unobtrusive buoyancy aid that’s well suited to packraft touring.
You zip up the front, clip the waist clip and hook the strap under the crotch to stop it riding up, as can happen with a regular PFD. Our prototypes had two ‘push and blow’ valve tubes inflate two chambers (three breaths each). These chambers don’t cover the lower back which is composed of a thick, stretchy mesh below the inflated collar (left), so avoiding that inelegant ‘pushed-up PFD’ look in your packraft. The rear collar around the neck might even float you unconscious, face up, like a proper life jacket, but that would be a happy coincidence and despite the appearance, it is not a design element.
We weren’t even planning to take our regular PFDs on this particular trip, so a compact option came in welcome, especially when a late-night boat ride required them.
Best thing: it’s unobtrusive to wear deflated, doubling up as a high-viz vest whose benefits we also appreciated when road walking in the Scottish midwinter gloom. We even inflated them while walking in freezing conditions to act as extra insulation, while at other times the Buoy Boy ought to be less hot than a regular PFD; another problem I’ve found when clad in foam PFDs and paddling in 25°C+.
Weight of my Large prototype was 400g (Meds might be 330g) and it rolls up to about a litre in volume. Blue or orange. There are no pockets and my ‘ML’ size was a snug fit once fully inflated over all my mid-winter clobber (I’m normally 42″ chest). A great bit of kit that I can see becoming my regular day-tripping BA, especially when I have to wear one due to regs rather than need to due to conditions.
Update. Since I got it I used my orange BBoy just about all the time as most of my paddling is not so hardcore and it’s great not to feel cluttered. The 2015 version (left) features horizontal valve straps and very handy large frontal mesh pouches – just what was needed. It comes in black or blue. A roomy large on me weighs 450g, the price is €89. More details and photos here.