Updated May 2018 – see bottom of page
Back in 2015 the Packrafting Store in Germany sold us a couple of pre-production Anfibio inflatable packrafting vests to try out. These came without the big mesh pockets, unlike the current production item, left.
Called a Buoy Boy, an ‘inflatable jacket’ or buoyancy aid is all they claim to be, not a PFD, 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 sedate packraft touring.
You clip the waist clip and hook the strap under the crotch to stop it riding up, as can happen with a regular PFD, then zip up the front. Our prototypes had two ‘push and blow’ valve tubes inflating the 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 mid-winter 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 mid-winter gloom. We even inflated them while walking in freezing conditions to act as extra insulation, while at other times the Buoy Boy will be less hot than a regular PFD; another problem I’ve found when foam PFDs and paddling in 25°C+.
Weight is from 340g to 400g for a Med/Large. My ‘M/L’ 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.
I used my orange BBoy proto just about all the time as most of my paddling is flatwater and it’s great not to feel cluttered. I bought myself a larger L/XL with horizontal valve straps and very handy large frontal mesh pouches just what was needed. Unfortunately it was black – I prefer brighter colours for safety and photos.
Now in 2018 colours are blue (S), yellow (M/L) and black or yellow (L/XL) – hooray! A roomy Large on me weighs 450g with crotch strap. Price is €99. More details and photos here.