Author: Zack Holmes


Fritz Water Vest Offers Solution to Water Access in Developing Countries

The Fritz Water Vest helps free up hands

Creative ideas can sometimes grow out of the need to solve a problem. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention. For Fritz Yambrach, professor and director of packaging at San Jose State University in California, decades of experience in the packaging industry and concern for access to water in impoverished or disaster areas led to an idea for a simple, yet life-changing solution: the Fritz Water Vest.

The vest is a pouch-like water-carrying device that fits over the head and rests on the shoulders, chest and back of the wearer, helping to reduce early health risks in children – both male and female – who carry large volumes of water over long distances. The simple design distributes weight evenly, which helps with overall posture, freeing up the hands and allowing the wearer to carry other necessary items.

“You see pictures of people in these desperate areas just schlepping water in dirty 5 gallon containers on their heads and reusing oil jugs, and it’s just this incredibly bush-leagued way to move materials around,” says Yambrach, who came up with the idea for the vest roughly 10 years ago. “I thought we in the packaging industry can improve on that.”

The vest design is what Yambrach likes to call “appropriate technology,” a term he heard from Virginia Tech’s Dr. Joe Marcy, the head of the university’s department of food science and technology.

“You don’t want to give these people cutting edge because they don’t need that,” Yambrach says. “What they need is something that’s appropriate for them that they can take and they can modify.”

Packaging Partners

For the vest to make a big impact, Yambrach needed to assemble a leadership team of packaging professionals.

In 2007, Yambrach started working on the vest design with Russell Smith from Heritage Packaging, a Victor, New York-based specialty converter of flexible and rigid packaging that is currently manufacturing the vest.

“Our ballpark cost is around $5 for a vest and that’s influx depending on material cost and things like that,” Yambrach says.

Along with Heritage Packaging, Yambrach tapped Sal Pellingra, a colleague and friend of his and vice president of innovation and technology at ProAmpac.

“It was a great project for me because when the hurricanes hit Haiti, I went down there three years in a row and saw how some of the locals there had to carry water around,” says Pellingra.

ProAmpac contributed the reusable material for the vest as well as some ideas regarding its design. The material, which Yambrach describes as “an incredibly robust, multi-layer nylon structure,” enables the vest to hold anything that flows – grains, legumes, etc. – thanks in part to the anti-microbial additive on the inside of the vest that inhibits odors and mildew.

The material also allows the vest to be reused and folded without tearing. And to further test its tear resistance and robustness, Yambrach says he’s even frozen them and thrown them around his lab.

“The idea is that they are going to be …




The first time I went boating it was a small group of family friends in Muskoka, Ontario and we were having the perfect getaway weekend. We enjoyed sun-drenched weather all week and the views of the water from the boat made for the ultimate Instagram shots! Deciding to take a leap into the lake from the boat to cool off, we double-checked our lifejackets were secure and hopped into the water.

Unfortunately, I did not bring my own safety equipment and was at the mercy of whatever the host had available. As a result, what I ended up with was an old, ratty-looking lifejacket that could easily have been worn by my great-grandfather. When I jumped into the water, the PFD (personal floatation device) proved to be much too big, engulfing me as soon as I hit the water. Luckily, the weather was good and the water was relatively shallow, so the only issue was the embarrassing (albeit hilarious) photograph my friends took of me being swallowed by my personal floatation device. But, in an emergency situation, this would have been dangerous, and could have proved disastrous!


Lifejackets are an essential part of boater safety, and it is your responsibility as a captain to provide well-fitting lifejackets to all passengers in your boat; even if it’s man-powered. Going for a slow row in your canoe with a friend? You’ll need two life jackets. Taking a tour around the harbor with your family? Make sure that each passenger has a PFD that fits them properly and strap yourselves in. Going fishing alone? Wear your lifejacket!

An important part of your Personal Safety Equipment is a boater’s life jacket or PFD. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about one of the most important pieces of safety equipment a boater can own while enjoying recreational boating.


The Official NASBLA and Transport Canada Boating Course, Test & License.



 Life jackets can be found in both ‘Standard’ and ‘Small Vessel’ styles and are available in both youth and adult sizes. They are red, orange, or yellow in color, feature a ‘keyhole’ or ‘vest’ design, and are typically bulkier and more uncomfortable than PFDs. Manufactured with increased flotation in the front of the jacket, life jackets are designed to turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. There are a few different types of life jackets:

SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Life jackets: These offer the best performance and will turn an unconscious person face-up and out of the water in seconds.
Standard Life jackets: These feature a high degree of buoyancy and will turn an unconscious person face-up and out of the water but are typically uncomfortable.
Small Vessel Life jackets: These are also designed to turn an unconscious person face-up, but are not as buoyant and have less turning ability.

Life jackets should fit slightly loose in order to allow


About Fritz Water Vest

People in developing areas stress their bodies transporting water on a daily basis. By carrying heavy buckets of water on their heads, they risk injuring their neck and back. Thanks to modern-day packaging technology, there’s a new way to transport water that’ll help ease the strain. We’re a proud supporter of the Fritz™ Water Vest and are dedicated to improving the lives of people with limited access to water. When you shop with The Packaging Company, you’re helping provide Fritz™ Water Vests to those who need them most.