And yes, just as I mentioned in an earlier gear post back in January, I purchased a PFD - the Stohlquist Trekker. There are several features that I really like about this PFD.
(1.) Mesh side panels with three side cinch-straps. I can "breath" easier and it allows more air flow since it is a more open design then the MTI Reflex PFD that I also tried on. No side flotation panels makes a big difference in comfort!
(2.) Two zippered bellows pockets with drainage ports so I can carry my digital camera, cell phone, and energy bars. Big plus as I can now reduce the amount of gear carried around the neck! :-)
(3.) 3M reflective accents on front and back to improve visibility.
(4.) Plus, it was on sale... 25% off the regular price!
I also worked with a REI Paddlesport associate (John) who got me fitted in a correctly sized PFD for my body frame. It is very important that you not only get a properly fitted PFD, but that it is also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. A PFD is essential paddling safety gear that you should wear at all times while paddling.
I also purchased a paddle leash to keep my paddle within arms reach at all times.
There was MORE gear that I was drooling over (isn't that always the case?), but my money ran out before the gear did! I plan to circle back to REI several more times in the next few months so I'll be well prepared when warmer paddling temperatures return. Gear up!