If you’ve ever wondered how professional flotation gear actually works, but we’re too shy to ask, read on.
In a nutshell, flotation gear floats because the material is light enough to displace sufficient volumes of water to create buoyancy.
At the risk of sounding like a high school science teacher, it’s all about density. For something to float, it needs to be less dense than the liquid in which it stands.
In other words, the ratio of air to mass needs to be higher in the object than the liquid. That’s why ships float. It’s also why foam is a great material for flotation gear.
Closed-cell foam for flotation and buoyancy
We use specially engineered closed-cell foam for our flotation gear. This foam is extremely buoyant due to its mass to density ratio.
When attached to a human being, which doesn’t have great buoyancy on its own, this foam improves the mass to density ratio of what is effectively a heavy, soggy (and probably panicking) body – making it float.
Flotation gear – design and engineering
If you’ve ever jumped into a swimming pool with armbands on your ankles (don’t do this please), you’ll know that not all flotation is good floatation.
If your legs float but your chest and head don’t, you’re going to be upside down in the water, drowning.
That’s why flotation gear is designed to elevate the top half of your body while supporting your lower half.
Stormline’s flotation gear is equipped with the above mentioned closed-cell foam, for efficient flotation without making the garments bulky or heavy while you work.
Here’s Stormline’s Regan McMillan giving a demo. Read the full field test of the Stormline 662 flotation bib.
The gear is NOT designed to keep you floating happily at sea for hours, it’s designed to keep you safe around water when you’re working alone.
If you happen to slip or fall into the water, the floatation gear can be the difference between quickly and safely getting out, and struggling and thrashing into a dangerous situation.
Safety tip – what if you don’t have flotation gear and you fall in?
Well the first thing to do is call for help. But if you do end up over-board without assistance, you can use your regular non flotation pants as an improvised life jacket to help keep you afloat until help arrives.
The first, and hardest, thing to do is to remove your pants. Obviously you’ll be in the water so this is tricky. Take your time and do it slowly.
The last thing you want to do is use up energy struggling to get your pants off. Try to kick your shoes off with your feet as you tread water.
Once you’ve slipped your pants off, grab the ends of the legs. Then swing your pants across your shoulder. Imagine you’ve got a plastic bag that won’t open and you’re trying to get air inside it to open it up. Your pant legs will fill up with air.
Then tie the bottoms of the legs together in a square knot and slip the pants over your head like a life jacket. This will not keep you afloat indefinitely, but it will help you preserve energy while treading water as you wait for help to arrive.
Here’s a demo…