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Reviews > Water Craft > Equipment > Extrasport HiFloat B27 PFD > Owner Review by Marjorie Woodruff

Extrasport HiFloat B27 Personal Flotation Device

Owner Review by Slim Woodruff

Tester bio
Name: Slim Woodruff
Age: 60
Gender: Female
Height: 6'  (1.83 m)
Weight: 160 pounds  (73kg)
Email address: canyongoddess1948@yahooDOTcom
City, State, Country: Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
Date: August 20, 2009

Backpacking background: I have been backpacking for 42 years, a little in every western state. I have worked in outdoor education/recreation for over 30 years, including 14 years as a professional guide. I hike mostly in the desert, and I like as light a pack as possible while still being prepared for emergencies.  I think a 30-pound (14 kg)  pack is heavy.  I do quite a lot of day hikes (three miles (4.8 km) to 15 miles (24 km)).  Overnights are usually four to six days long and cover 8 to 10 miles per day (12.8 km to 16 km). 

Product information:
Manufacturer: Extrasport

Current MSRP $150 US
Year of manufacture: 2007
URL of
Listed weight: 2.3 pounds (1.05 Kg)
Measured weight 2.6 lbs (1.2 Kg)
Days used: 21

Field Information:
Locations: Grand Canyon, Colorado
Description of location: Desert river
Weather conditions: Hot and dry (90 to 120 degrees F, 32-49 C).

Product description:

Personal Flotation Device
Type III
flotation: 27 pounds
Size: M (40-43 Chest). Also available in S (36-38) L(45-48) XL (48-52)
M (101 cm- 109 cm) S (91 cm - 96 cm) L (114 cm - 121 cm) XL (121 cm - 32 cm)
Fabric 500 X 500 denier Cordura
Full length front zipper
Adjustable cinch straps

In 2001, I obtained a permit for a private river trip through the Grand Canyon. I wore a rented type III personal flotation device (PFD) rated for whitewater rivers. I was thrown out of the raft in Bedrock Rapid and was pulled under water several times: not an enviable experience.

When we got another permit in 2007, I wanted a PFD with the highest flotation rating possible. In fact, if I fell out of the boat, I wanted to float like Commander Data in the movie "Insurrection". According to the US Coast Guard, most adults need an extra seven to twelve pounds of buoyancy to keep their heads out of the water. The more buoyancy, the higher the person will be held out of water.

I purchased a HiFloat B27 on the advice of several amateur river runners. I wore this PFD during a week-long river skills class on the Colorado River near Grand Junction, Colorado and on an 18-day private river trip through the Grand Canyon. It is rated for 27 pounds of flotation. The next closest I could find was 22 pounds, and some kayak/canoe models are only 16.

I was very impressed with my PFD. It has an adjustable waist strap and adjustable side cinch straps. This made it easy to tighten. It has a full-length zipper up the front. The foam extends over the shoulders (some kayaking PFDs lack this feature). It has a webbed pocket with a hook-and-loop flap for small items such as lip ice, and an accessory tab designed to attach a river knife. The Coast Guard warns us that carrying items in the pocket or fastened to the PFD can adversely affect flotation. There is elastic around the bottom hem.

There are loops sewn inside the PFD at the small of the back and under each arm to attach a crotch strap, which does not come with the PFD. It was easy to fashion my own with a length of webbing and a buckle. During my river skills class, I was required to swim through a rapid and then across the river. I found it difficult to swim with the PFD pushing up against my chin. The crotch strap holds the PFD in place, so in case of emergency it is easier to swim.

I got a deal on this vest because it was a discontinued color: purple. Newer models are black. In fact, my husband refused to buy one because of the purple color.

This vest does not have a collar. It is still rated for class III. On a whitewater river, type I, III or V are required for commercial trips. These are also required by the Park Service for all river trips through the Grand Canyon, private or commercial. According to the US Coast Guard, Type I's are designed for oceans and rough water, and have at least 33 pounds of buoyancy. The Coast Guard states that these are not comfortable to wear for long periods. A type V is usually intended for professionals, such as river guides. They must have at least 15.5 to 22 pounds of buoyancy.

A type III must have at least 15.5 pounds of buoyancy, and is not designed for long periods in rough water. Although a Type I is more robust, the Coast Guard believes that more people will actually wear the type III because it is more comfortable, and a PFD cannot save you if you are not wearing it. The wearer of a type III may have to "assist" to get into a face-up position. Without a collar, it is unclear if I would be held face-up were I knocked unconscious. Fortunately I did not have to test this. I cannot add a collar myself, because when I met with the River Rangers before our private trip through the Grand Canyon, they examined all PFDs to be sure they had not been "altered". I must assume that sewing anything onto the vest would compromise the flotation.

I did test the PFD during my river skills class when I had to ride several rapids as part of the class. I was able to get into "rescue" position: on my back, feet downstream, hands clasped in front, easily, and felt comfortable floating (more or less: I WAS going through a rapid without a boat). When I wore the PFD with a wetsuit, I floated quite high out of the water.

This PFD is not as comfortable as others I have tried on, such as kayaking PFDs. It is bulky and constraining to wear. However, that is the way a class III PFD fits, so there is no way around it.

Things I like:
1. Good flotation
2. Pocket and knife mounting tab
3. Able to attach crotch strap

Things I don't like:
1. Slightly uncomfortable (but aren't they all?)
2. No collar

Read more reviews of Extrasport gear
Read more gear reviews by Marjorie Woodruff

Reviews > Water Craft > Equipment > Extrasport HiFloat B27 PFD > Owner Review by Marjorie Woodruff

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