Life Jackets & Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

The U. S. Coast Guard requires boats and vessels to have a wearable life jacket for each person aboard. These life jackets must be:

  • U. S. Coast Guard approved.
  • The proper size for the intended wearer.
  • In good and serviceable condition.
  • Properly stowed (readily accessible).

View Your State's PFD Requirements

 

 

Off-Shore Life Jacket

Off-Shore Life Jacket

Type I Off-Shore Life Jacket

Designed for extended survival in rough, open water. It usually will turn an unconscious person faceup, and has more than 22 pounds of buoyancy. This is the best PFD to keep you afloat in remote regions where rescue may be slow in coming. Although it’s permitted, a Type I life jacket may be too bulky to allow you to paddle.

Where to Use:

  • Open, rough or remote water, where rescue may be slow in coming.

 

Near-Shore Buoyant Vest

Near-Shore Buoyant Vest

Type II Near-Shore Buoyant Vest

Comes in several sizes for adults and children and is for calm, inland water where there is a chance of fast rescue. It is less bulky and less expensive than a Type I, it has 15.5 pounds of buoyancy and many will turn an unconscious person faceup in the water.

Where to Use:

  • Good for calm, inland water, or where you have a good chance of a fast rescue.

 

Flotation Aid

Flotation Aid

Type III Flotation Aid

Generally considered the most comfortable, with styles for different boating activities and sports. They are for use in calm water where there is good chance of fast rescue because they will generally not turn an unconscious person faceup. Flotation aids come in many sizes and styles.

Where to Use:

  • Good for calm, inland water, or where you have a good chance of a fast rescue.

 

Throwable Device

Throwable Device

Type IV Throwable Device

Designed to be easily thrown and can serve as a backup to a wearable PFD. Not for non-swimmers, children or someone who is unconscious. Comes in cushions, rings or horseshoe buoy styles.

Where to Use:

  • Good for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always nearby.

 

Special-Use Device

Special-Use Device

Type V Special-Use Device

Special-use PFDs include work vests, deck suits and hybrids for restricted use. Hybrid vests contain some internal buoyancy and are inflatable for additional flotation.

Where to Use:

  • Required to be worn for special uses or conditions such as sailboarding or rafting.

 

Inflatable and Hybrid Devices

Inflatable and Hybrid Devices

Type III and V Inflatable and Hybrid Devices

These are highly visible when inflated and turn most wearers and unconscious users faceup faster than traditional PFDs. Comfortable and less bulky.

Where to Use:

  • Required to be worn to meet legal requirements and must be used only for approved activities.

Proper Fit Is Important

Simply wearing a life jacket isn’t enough; anyone putting on a jacket should make sure that it fits properly and the straps, buckles or zipper are secure.

Working in pairs, have one person (A) stand behind the other person (B) and test the life jacket for proper fit. While person B puts his arms straight overhead (similar to a football referee signaling a touchdown), person A should grasp the tops of person B’s arm openings and gently pull up. Excess room above the arm openings and the life jacket riding up over the chin and face are signs of a bad fit. A snug fit in these areas represents a good fit.

A proper fit means once it’s zippered and/or buckled, it should keep your head and upper shoulders above the water. If it fits too loose, the flotation will push the jacket up around your face. If your life jacket is too small, it won't keep your body afloat. When not using your life jacket, store it in a readily accessible place away from sunlight and chemicals. Nylon and other synthetic materials used to make your life jacket will be harmed over time by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Fabric that becomes discolored may indicate ultra-violet damage. In other words, don’t leave your PFD hanging outside all summer exposed to the sun. Also, prolonged exposure to chemicals or exhaust fumes can attack the flotation’s foam.

Keep PFDs in Good Condition

  • Do not alter the PFDs.
  • An altered PFD no longer meets legal requirements and may not save your life.
  • Do not place heavy objects on PFDs during storage.
  • Do not use PFDs as kneeling pads, boat fenders or seat cushions because they lose buoyancy when they’re crushed.
  • Let PFDs air-dry thoroughly before putting them away.
  • Always store your PFDs in a well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Never dry your PFDs by a direct heat source, such as a dryer, heater, or radiator.
  • Before wearing, check PFDs for signs of wear and age: look for rips or tears, mildew, loose or missing straps, frayed webbing, broken zippers or buckles, and hardened stuffing.

Content courtesy of the SafeBoatingCampaign.com