Outfitters offer free PFD rentals

By Ashleigh Bartlett
Kern Valley Sun

Photo by Ashleigh Bartlett / Kern Valley Sun
Employees of Kern River Outfitters stand with enthusiastic customers modeling PFDs, which are available for rent this summer.

This season has already proven to be high temperatures, high energy, and even higher water. Taking any and all necessary safety precautions to observe lake and river safety is more important than ever. Three local whitewater rafting companies want to help boost safety in our community by providing PFD/life jacket rentals free of charge. Kern River Outfitters, Whitewater Voyages, and Mountain & River Adventures (MRA) are currently participating.

Thousands of people are injured and hundreds die in boating-related accidents each year. In 2009, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) performed a study to identify the leading causes of boating-related incidents. The same year, there were 3,358 injuries and 736 fatalities from boating accidents. Seventy percent of the accidents were the result of operator error. Of these deaths, 73 percent drowned. Of those who drowned, 90 percent were not wearing personal flotation devices.

By law, recreational vessels must carry a properly fitted, serviceable personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on board. Under California law, every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of an appropriate type and size for the conditions and the activity.

The Coast Guard classifies PFDs into five main categories, each with unique properties and intended uses. Type V, offered by the aforementioned rafting companies, are designed with commercial use in mind. Featuring a pillow for your head, they are tailored for high float capability and peak safety. The material inside the life jacket traps air to help keep the user afloat. It traps in the air when your jacket is submerged underwater, and this trapped air weighs less than the water. As a result, the water pushes up more than the jacket pushing down. This allows the life jacket to float and remain buoyant and can hold up extra weight without sinking. Additionally, PFDs are brightly colored for easier rescue.

PFDs will be available as long as supplies are available. Kern River Outfitters requires an ID, along with contact information and expected return date and time. Renters must sign a release waiver upon rental and call ahead to schedule a time for pick-up. Whitewater Voyages and MRA accept walk-ins and do not require an ID or waiver release. MRA sells new PFDs for $20.

Participating outfitters can be reached here:

Kern River Outfitters: (760) 376-3370
Mountain & River Adventures: (800) 861-6553
Whitewater Voyages: (800) 400-7238