It is important to understand just how important it is for everyone on or near the water to be wearing a life jacket or PFD (Personal Floatation Device). Wearing a life jacket can make the difference between life and death during a water emergency. Even if you are a good swimmer wearing a life jacket will give you that added margin of safety should something go wrong.
Choosing the best life jacket for you or loved one can be tricky. We all want to be safe out on the water, but with so many options out there it can be hard to know which life jacket to purchase. There are a variety of types, colors and styles to choose from.
When shopping for your next life jacket or PFD the most important thing is to find a life jacket that fits you properly. Make sure to pay special attention to sizing charts and look for life jackets that will allow for easy adjustments.
Some Things to Think On
- Comfort is Key – If your life jacket doesn’t fit right you are less likely to wear it. When purchasing a life jacket you want to find one that you can wear all day without any thought of taking it off.
- Choose Colors That Pop – Brightly colored life jackets will not only make you smile, but are also more visible to other boaters and rescue teams.
- Muscle Sinks Faster – The more muscle mass you have, the more floatation you will need. Good swimmers will be safe with 16-18 lbs of floatation while non-swimmers should go for a 22-27 lb range.
- Think Function – If you need to keep key items close, look for jackets with stowing pockets or lash tabs to secure items and keep them handy.
- Test It Out – Once you have your new life jacket take it for a test drive to make sure you have everything adjusted properly. For kids you do a quick test by carefully picking the child up by the shoulders of the PDF. If all is good the child’s chin and ears should not slip through.
Knowing the Coast Guard Approval Ratings
To help use better understand and feel search in our PDF the Coast Guard had devised an approval system that all life jacket manufactures must adhere to.
Type I –
This type provides the most buoyancy. It is effective for all waters, especially open, rough or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. It is designed to turn most unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position.
Type II –
This type is intended for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. Inherent buoyant PFDs of this type will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water, but the turning is not as pronounced as a Type I. This type of inflatable turns as well as a Type I foam PFD.
Type III –
This type is good for conscious users in calm, inland water, or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. It is designed so wearers can place themselves in a face-up position in the water. The wearer may have to tilt their head back to avoid turning face-down in the water. The Type III foam vest has the same minimum buoyancy as a Type II PFD. It comes in many styles, colors, and sizes and is generally the most comfortable type for continuous wear. Float coats, fishing vests, and vests designed with features suitable for various sports activities are examples of this type PFD. This type inflatable turns as well as a Type II foam PFD.
Type IV –
This type is intended for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always present. It is designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued — It is not designed to be worn. Type IV devices include buoyant cushions, ring buoys, and horseshoe buoys. There are no inflatable Type IV devices.
Type V –
This type is intended for specific activities and may be carried instead of another PFD only if used according to the approval condition(s) on its label. A Type V PFD provides performance of either a Type I, II, or III PFD (as marked on its label). If the label says the PFD is “approved only when worn” the PFD must be worn, except for persons in enclosed spaces and used in accordance with the approval label, to meet carriage requirements. Some Type V devices provide significant hypothermia protection. Varieties include deck suits, work vests, and board sailing vests.
Type III/V –
Multi-Purpose Commercial Vests.