Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go outside

By Jim Travers

Note the six feet of space between this kayaker and their paddling partner.

Between squirts of hand sanitizer, maintaining a safe distance from other humans, and pondering the global supply of toilet paper, it is important to remember to take care of ourselves during these trying times – both mentally and physically. 

One way to do that is by taking a break from the hysteria of social media and cable news long enough to go outside, breathe the air, and get some exercise. Doing so is not just possible but can be therapeutic even for those hunkered down at home, regardless if that just means walking around your yard or neighborhood. The beauty of the great outdoors is that there are plenty of places within easy reach of most of us that can provide not just a change of scenery from our homes, but even some inspiration, and the opportunity to feel the sun and fresh air. 

Fish are not known carriers of COVID-19, to the ocean we go!

While it might seem somewhat self-serving for a life jacket company to suggest going out for a paddle or a hike at times like these, that is really not what this is about. The reason many of us are in the outdoor industry is not simply to make a living, it is because we are passionate about the outdoors and the many benefits getting out in nature can bring ourselves and our families. That goes double in times like these. 

Stay healthy, and stay safe.  

Questions about COVID-19 and life jackets? Check out our blog, COVID-19 Update: Information and Sanitation Methods

COVID-19 Update: Information and Sanitation Methods


We’ve updated the information in this blog per recommendations from the Life Jacket Association as we learn more about the COVID-19 virus.

We know everyone is sending out notices about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting their products, and we wanted to get in on the action. 

Here’s what we know:

The CDC says COVID-19 is primarily spread through direct contact, not contact with contaminated surfaces. However, the virus can survive for three days on fabrics or clothing and longer on porous surfaces, plastics, and metals.

If you are concerned about having been exposed to COVID-19 while in your PFD, find some rubber gloves, hand-wash your life jacket (following the recommendations below) and allow it to dry in a warm, low humidity environment for 72 hours.

If you must re-use the life jacket within 72 hours, here are some precautions you can take:

  • Clean your hardware. Clean buckles, zippers, other hardware, and hook/loop fasteners (e.g. Velcro®). This can be difficult as these components are hard to clean due to crevices and metal/plastic construction. You can use a 60 – 90% solution of alcohol to help clean these components. Using a mister or soft cloth soaked in the solution, spray or wipe down all hardware and allow to air dry.
  • Hand-wash your PFD. Do not machine launder life jackets. Life jackets should be hand-washed with gloved hands using hot water (<60C/140F) and mild detergent. Please use caution when washing, as water at those temperatures can cause burns.
  • Dry completely. Viruses thrive in moisture and can survive in cold, but are vulnerable to heat and dry environments, so ensuring your life jackets are completely dry is critical. Heated air drying is recommended (>60C/140F), but use caution as excessive heat exposure can damage life jackets.

Disinfectants and sanitizers, including bleach and medical grade sanitizers, can discolor and damage the fabric on your life jacket and should not be used or used with caution. Here is the EPA’s list of anti-viral products.

The steps listed above are not a guarantee of disinfection, but an attempt to minimize risk. Please take all possible precautions and follow your local regulations with regards to the virus.

For further information on COVID-19 and how you can help protect your family and community, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 informational website.

US Sailing announces partnership with MTI Life Jackets

BRISTOL, R.I. (February 5, 2020) – US Sailing and MTI, an industry leading lifejacket manufacturer, are working together on an exciting, new partnership. MTI is now an Official Partner of US Sailing and the Siebel Sailors Program.

The partnership also designates MTI as the Official Lifejacket of the Siebel Sailors Program, a new US Sailing youth program developed to increase diversity and opportunity in the sport of sailing by providing resources and support to youth sailors at public access sailing centers. MTI will be providing lifejackets for sailors and coaches at participating Siebel Centers around the nation.

“MTI’s innovative products encourage safe sailing practices and this new relationship will enhance our members time on the water, both from a fun and safety standpoint. We expect MTI will have a very positive impact on initiatives to grow sailing through education and safety for all.”

Jack Gierhart, CEO of US Sailing

US Sailing and MTI will be working closely with certified US Sailing Instructor Trainers and subject matter experts on the development of an instructor lifejacket. Once developed, MTI will supply all certified US Sailing Instructor Trainers with a complimentary lifejacket.

“We are excited to be working closely with MTI on safety and we are grateful for their support of sailors and instructors participating in the Siebel Sailors Program,” said Jack Gierhart, CEO of US Sailing.

“Our three kids spent their summers at sailing school […] that’s why the opportunity to support the Siebel Sailors Programs means so much to us. It’s a way to give back to the sport of sailing by promoting the expansion and meaning of sailing education.”

Lili Colby, owner and Chief PFDiva at MTI Life Jackets

MTI owners, Lili and Gordon Colby, are passionate sailors and are excited about this new partnership with US Sailing as an opportunity to promote the brand to the wider sailing community and support youth development with the Siebel Sailors Program.

“Our three kids spent their summers at sailing school here in Plymouth, Mass. None of them ended up pursing racing, but all of them now have solid sailing skills and they love being on the water as much as we do,” said Lili. “I think that’s why the opportunity to support the Siebel Sailors Programs means so much to us. It’s a way to give back to the sport of sailing by promoting the expansion and meaning of sailing education.”

US Sailing Communications: Jake Fish,

View the full press release at:

9 Things I Learned About Florida

Bike-packing setup on a couple Kokopelli pack rafts in Wekiwa State Park.
Not shown: about fifty alligators.

By Emilie Colby


It is very, very hot, and very, very flat. It’s about as different from my adopted home of Colorado as it is possible to be while still being on the same continent. When I left Denver in the wee hours on a sales trip to visit MTI dealers, it was a balmy 32F/0C and my partner wondered why I wasn’t taking a coat on the trip. (“I’m going to Florida,” I stressed. “Right, but like, what if it rains?” he reasoned. “It’s Florida, it will still be 90 degrees,” I replied confidently, despite never having been to Florida.) 

Luckily for me, and my lack of coat, Florida stayed horrifyingly toasty for my entire visit. Over the ten day trip, I gained a new appreciation for air conditioning and Douglas Adams’ advice to always know where my towel is (so I can mop the sweat off).

Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) at Nathan Benderson Park.
The facility is so gorgeous that I had to stop the car and ogle.

ONE: Air-conditioning and sunscreen are your friends. 

I don’t tolerate heat well. I never have. It’s why I try to live in places with snowy winters. -15F/-26C? No problem at all, just wear a coat. 90F/32C and 95% humidity? Let me die and ascend this human plane to one which doesn’t make me sweat so much. 

Florida, in case you were unaware, is very hot and very humid. Thankfully, it’s also very well air-conditioned. Entering any building is like climbing through the wardrobe into winter. Just don’t think about the energy use implications too much. 

View from the boardwalk at John D. MacArthur State Park.

TWO: Hungry? Go to Publix.

Nearly everyone I met said, “Have you tried the fried chicken at Publix?” I hadn’t. It wasn’t until day three of my trip that I found myself in the prepared foods section of the local chain, contemplating bone-in versus bone-out. I don’t want to suggest that grocery store fried chicken changed my life, but it definitely changed the way I feel about fried chicken. 

THREE: I can’t pronounce Kissimmee

I can’t, that’s all there is to it. Every time I tried, someone gently corrected me. No matter how many different ways I said it, none of them were right. Kih-SIM-ee? Kih-suh-MEE? Kuh-sim-ee?

Beach at John D. MacArthur State Park.
Absolutely none of these prints are from me falling over.

FOUR: West Coast, Best Coast

The eastern coast of Florida is beautiful: mangroves, miles of beach, sailboats for days. But something about the Gulf of Mexico – a body of water I had never seen – with its wide swimming beaches, calm waves, and manatees is so unlike other ocean-adjacent places I’ve visited. 

FIVE: Jurassic Park is real and it’s just outside Orlando.

Have you paddled through Wekiwa State Park? It’s a jungle in there. A jungle that seems out of time with the 21st century. Huge, ancient trees hang over the water dangling vines that might also be snakes. Alligators, black and wet, lurk on the banks and you don’t know they’re there until you hear the splash of them moving. Don’t swim in water you can’t see through. 

It sucks when your phone rings on a paddle, but could you find a better office?

SIX: Miami has a mural garden.

I don’t know what I expected to find in Miami, but a mural garden wasn’t it. My traveling partner, a Miami native, stopped us at the Wynwood Walls to kill time during rush hour traffic. As someone who likes to think of themselves as an art buff, it was a jewel in an already beautiful city. We bopped around the outdoor murals and indoor installations, me stopping to take pictures every few minutes. 10/10 would recommend. 

This sculpture is awesomely macabre, like if Nessie and Skeletor had a kid.
Sculpture by Alexis Diaz.

SEVEN: All chicharrones are not created equal.

If you, like me, thought that chicharrones were fried pig skins with the consistency of a puffed rice cake, ordering them in south Florida will knock your socks off. Traditionally, chicharrones are deep fried pork belly and while they might send you into cardiac arrest, they are worth the risk.

EIGHT: Just because there are supposed to be alligators doesn’t mean you’ll see any. 

In an effort to see as many of the quintessential parts of Florida as I could, I drove across Route 41 between Miami and Tampa. The Tamiami Trail, as Route 41 is also known, runs right through Everglades National Park. Supposedly, this part of Florida is extra full of alligators, but I only saw one, in the parking area at the Miccosukee reservation. I was deeply disappointed by the lack of gators, but not by the multitudes of “don’t feed the alligators” signs. 

NINE: Just because you can’t see the alligators doesn’t mean they aren’t there. 

Seriously. Don’t swim in murky water.

Don’t forget to bring your towel! (And your PFD.)

Emilie Colby is the daughter of MTI owner Gordon Colby, and in that role has served the company on and off for most of her life as a gopher, brand ambassador, warehouse worker, sales and customer service extraordinaire, marketing whiz, and indentured servant. Easily spotted in a crowd thanks to her six-foot frame, variously colored and considerable quantity of hair, and balcony-reaching voice to go with a demeanor best described as not shy, some of you may know Emilie from the trade show circuit. This is her first blog for MTI, to go with her first sales trip. We’re pleased to say the trip was a success, in addition to introducing her to Publix fried chicken.

Ok, Boomer. Welcome to AORE.

By Jim Travers

MTI recently attended the annual conference and extravaganza of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, held this year in Spokane, Washington. 

For the benefit of the uninitiated, AORE is an organization for students, educators and professionals either involved in or pursuing a career in outdoor activities and organizations, and who are interested in introducing others to the same while also promoting conservation and environmental stewardship. 

As MTI’s Director of Sales, I have been fortunate enough to draw the biodegradable straw and attend the AORE conference the past couple of years, and as MTI’s resident Baby Boomer, I have to say it is one of my favorite business trips of the year. There are a few of reasons for this: 

  • First and foremost is simply that people drawn to the outdoors and to careers in it tend to be a pretty nice bunch overall, and that always makes for a more enjoyable stint in a trade show booth. 
  • Diet. These people eat pretty well. For better or worse, I can’t remember the last time I saw an afternoon snack table with nothing on it but apples. 
  • I learn something. AORE is a smart bunch, and whether it’s a lecture on local history or wilderness medicine, sneaking into a seminar or two can make me feel like a smarter guy. Never mind whether that’s true or not. 
  • Finally, here comes the OK Boomer part. it’s refreshing to sit in an auditorium full of people who are more interested in hearing what the speaker and each other have to say than they are in their own phones. It’s a little thing, perhaps, and I’m as guilty as most when it comes to spending too much time staring at the small screen. But I can’t remember being anyplace recently where the audience was so involved. I don’t know why that gives me hope, but it does. 

So ok, boomer. There. I said it first. 

MTI campaigns to Save Boundary Waters

MTI in the news! Excerpts below from SGB’s website. It was nice for little MTI to be on the stage with the likes of Patagonia at the Industry Breakfast at OR!

“The Together We Are a Force is about celebrating and recognizing our industry’s unique and powerful ability to collaborate on issues large and small,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA. “Congratulations to our first Together We Are a Force Awards winners, and thank you to all who applied and made the first year of the awards a success.”

Policy winner:
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) for their Save The Boundary Waters campaign. Together with OIA member companies Piragis Northwoods Company, MTI Adventurewear and Patagonia, NMW launched and supported what became a three-part, three-year adventure advocacy campaign to bring awareness of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to a broad audience.

“The most effective way to drive positive change is to work with great partners who inspire you,” said Sam Chadwick, deputy campaign manager for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

“Working with adventurers Amy and Dave Freeman, MTI Life Jackets, Piragis Northwoods Company, Patagonia and other supporters to bring the issue to life through canoeing, paddling and biking expeditions has helped people see and feel the immediacy of the need to protect the Wilderness. We’re so proud to be able to receive this award with them.”

We were proud too!


MTI supports #SUP4WATER


Thank you again for your support of our work at GWC and specifically with helping support our #SUP4WATER Adventure fundraising project this past summer! Your PFD’s were awesome! Not one rub anywhere the entire month by anyone on the team! Go Vibe!!

Below is the video that we have submitted to the global “Reel Paddling Film Festival” showcasing our trip this summer: We are excited about this film and will use it in promoting our event in many other venues.

We are speaking at the Midwest Adventure Summit and hopefully will be speaking at Canoecopia!

Again, thank you for your partnership and we look forward to raising the $126,540 so that we can go and do more work helping humanity!

Thanks again!

Pete and the #SUP4WATER Team

10 PFD features you never knew about!

It’s true, we made a listicle. But for good reason – there are tons of features on our PFDs and we wanted to make sure you knew about some of our favorites!

Download and share

Sunglass Loops

Sunglass Loops

These clever bungee loops give you a secure place to stash your shades when the sun goes behind a cloud. Better here than in the drink with the other millions of pairs!

Found on the Java & Moxie


Vibe + SUP Leash Release Belt

The Vibe PFD was designed to work seamlessly with our new SUP Leash Release Belt. Together they are perfect for SUP river running, giving you a quick and easy way to part ways with your board.

Antenna Portal

Radio Portal

Keep your VHF radio secure in rough water by slipping the antenna through this portal on top of the PFD pocket.

Found on the Slipstream, Thunder R-Spec or Headwater R-Spec – all great guide jackets!

Carabiner Clip-In Loops

Carabiner Clip-In Loops

We wanted to give SUP river runners more options for PFDs with whitewater safety features, and we knew that many people liked the convenience of zip-front PFDs. That’s why we put webbing loops behind the mesh pockets on the Destiny and Trident, so that you could attach a quick release leash like the ReLeash from our friends at Badfish. Using these clip-in points keeps the quick release ball in the same place so you always know where to reach in an emergency. You can also use these loops to secure anything you want easy access to but don’t want to lose, like a camera, GPS, or Spot communication device.


Photo: Charlotte Jacklein

See Charlotte’s list in Canoeroots Magazine

Ditch Kit Pockets

The inside fleece-lined pockets on the Thunder R-Spec are great for warming up your hands on a chilly morning, but they also secure with a full velcro strip, making them an ideal, flush-proof place to stash some safety essentials. Here’s a list of some of our must-haves if you ever become separated from your boat:

  • Mini flashlight/Strobe
  • Duct tape
  • Parachute cord
  • Medical records/Contact information/ID
  • Hand warmer
  • Space Blanket
  • Box cutter/small knife/multi tool
  • Fire starter
  • Energy bar
  • Water treatment tabs
  • Mini first aid kit

Fitting all of these in your PFD pockets may be a tight fit, but keeping the most important ones close to your chest is never a bad thing. May you never need to use them!


Tackle Box Holder

Most fishing life jackets are designed to keep all of your essentials right at your fingertips. The Solaris F-Spec is no exception, and even has elastic on the front to hold a small tackle box. If you’re really organized, customize tackle boxes for the kind of fishing you do (saltwater/freshwater), and then you can quickly grab the one you need for a great day on the water. No need to empty pockets!

Tackle Box pictured: Plano Micro 6-Compartment StowAway® Utility Box (3.5″ x 2.25″ x 0.75)

Mesh Porthole

Mesh Porthole

Found on our performance youth PFD, the BOB, the Mesh Porthole provides ventilation for active kids. Secretly, it makes and excellent built-in grab handle when you need to haul a kid back onboard.


Whistle Holster

Stash your whistle within easy reach on our Fluid 2.0.


3D Mesh Inner Fabric

Our performance life jackets are lined with a 3D mesh fabric to keep you cool in hot weather.

Found on Cascade, PFDiva, Slipstream, Headwater R-Spec


Crotch Straps – Not just for kids!

When you’re tumbling underwater in Class V+ rapids, a lot of things can happen, including being flushed from your life jacket. Our big water jackets feature either D-rings or webbing loops so you can attach crotch straps to help keep your life jacket down. We recommend two for adults, that’s why they’re sold in pairs.

Found on Atlas, Headwater R-Spec, Thunder R-Spec, Explorer V

Cape Cod Kayak, MA


When you think of Cape Cod, you probably conjure long sandy beaches, towering dunes and beautiful seaside homes. As the ocean wanders its way into shore, it creeps into the salt marshes and ponds, creating so many beautiful places to paddle. Places that are teeming with shore birds and fish, and some of them are even still a secret. But if you visit the folks at Cape Cod Kayak in Pocasset, MA, they may just tell you how to get there.

Shhh… I think this is one of the secret ones.

What is now “THE Kayakers Candy Shop” according to owner Kim Fernandes, started 21 years ago in her backyard, with a homemade trailer and six kayaks. Two tours a week along the waterways soon turned into many more, and Cape Cod Kayak has grown into a full-service retail store with a fleet of over 60 rental kayaks.

Another happy group of customers after a tour among the protected marshes. They look pretty comfy in their MTI life jackets!


“We rent everything from entry level recreational kayaks to high end sea kayaks,” says Kim. “[We are a] small local business,” says Kim, “which means specialized personal attention for each and every client trying to choose the proper kayak the first time. A paddle weighted and sized to specific needs, and an appropriately fitting and suitable PFD for each and every purpose.” None of this is too surprising when it comes to small paddle shops, but they do throw in a free trip with every new kayak they sell. Tough to compete with million dollar views as a bonus.

Just some of the boats they carry.

Kim isn’t shy about how she feels about Cape Cod. “We have the best sunsets in the world!” she exclaims. “Plus, we have the best staff evah!” she says with that iconic New England accent that has been entertaining tourists for generations. You would be crazy to not follow in their footsteps and take a trip to Cape Cod.

This place hasn’t gone to the dogs just yet, but they do cater to them with MTI’s UnderDog life jacket.

True to their word, Cape Cod Kayaks carries everything a paddler could need. This Saturday they are doing a demo with Eddyline kayaks, known for their light weight and high performance. We can’t think of a better match up for these beautiful boats than the shores of Cape Cod. Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Come try an Eddyline!

The Kayak Centre, RI

Store Panorama
A panorama of the Kayak Centre from several years ago. The shop layout has had many incarnations over the years.

It is no surprise that many of our earliest dealers are located in New England, not far from MTI headquarters. In the beginning, Yoshi and Simon Takashina loaded up the car with life jackets and drove along the coast, stopping in at every paddling shop they could find.

The Kayak Centre, which opened in May 1995, has been a close partner of MTI for many of the 21 years they’ve been in business. Located right on the water in the small fishing village of Wickford, RI, The Kayak Centre fits in well with the community of paddlers, sailors, commercial fisherman and boat builders nearby. Water access is plentiful, and their private boat launch makes it easy for instruction and demos. Continue reading