Part foulweather jacket, part life vest, this versatile product looks promising, but what about the harness?
Synergistic efforts carry strong potential, and that's essentially how Float-Tech—which is both a company and a product—got it's start. When now-CEO Cecilia Domingos and her partners Michael Lobsinger and Jeffrey Betz were MBA candidates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, several years ago, they pooled their talents to develop this life-saving device as a class project, and it grew from there.
Float-tech is essentially an auto-inflatable PFD built into a nylon foulweather jacket. The jacket is ruggedly constructed from 70-denier, rip-stop (PS had a seamstress with 25 years of experience examine it). It has a stow-in-the-collar hood, adjustable cuffs, reflecting strips, and the usual foulweather gear features, but it also has zip-out sleeves so that it can be worn as a vest (see photo). It's available in yellow-navy, and red-navy combinations.
The lifevest is built from heavier 210-denier Solarmax™ and is zipped into the jacket so that either garment can be worn separately. It contains three urethane-coated nylon bladders that inflate via a standard CO2cartridge or back-up oral inflation tube.
The Float-Tech PFD, which is offered in seven sizes, provides 27 lbs. of buoyancy, and its makers say that it's designed to turn an unconscious person face-up. The vest inflates either by pulling the deployment cord or automatically when immersed in water. It uses a Halkey-Roberts manual and auto-inflation device. Recently approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Float-Tech performs as a Type III device.
PS tested the Float-Tech in a nearby waterway. It's comfortable to wear, but you have to have the vest cinched tightly or it will ride up uncomfortably when inflated. Though he wasn't unconscious, the product did roll our tester face up. But we wondered why there's no safety harness incorporated into this system. Domingos explained that adding a harness would make the product uncomfortably heavy. You can use a harness, but it must be worn underneath the coat.
At $300, the Float-Tech isn't inexpensive, but a good foul-weather jacket can easily cost $150 or more, and a good auto-inflatable PFD (the Crewfit Crewsaver won our Oct. 1, '04 test) costs over $160. Add those up and the Float-Tech is in the ballpark. We're just not sure we can get used to wearing our harness underneath it.
Contact - Float-Tech, 518/266-0964, www.floattech.com.