Choosing a Personal Flotation Device

By Patrick Farrell August 21, 2013

Boat Safety

Most boaters are aware that when boating there should be a personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. But some may not know that there are different kinds of life jackets that function differently and serve different purposes. Knowing the differences between each PFD will help you choose the one that best suits your boating needs.

Type I  Off-Shore Jacket
• Designed for extended survival in rough, open water
• Will normally turn an unconscious person face-up
• Has more than 22 pounds of buoyancy
• Best PFD to keep you afloat in remote regions where rescue may be slow coming

Type II  Near Shore Buoyant Vest
• Designed for calm inland water where there is chance for fast rescue
• Less bulky and less expensive than a Type I PFD
• Several sizes available for both adults and children
• Many will turn an unconscious person face-up in the water

Type III  Floatation Aid
• Considered the most comfortable with styles for different boating activities and sports
• Designed for use in calm water where there is a good chance of fast rescue
• Generally does not turn an unconscious person face-up
• Available in many sizes and styles

Type IV  Throwable Device
• Designed to be thrown to a person in the water
• Needs to be kept readily available for emergencies

Type V  Special Use Device
• Made specific activities
• Includes work vests, pullover vests and deck suits

Inflatable Life Jackets
• Rely on inflatable chambers that provide buoyancy when inflated
• Less bulky that inherently buoyant life jackets
• Available in type I-III
• Contain a backup oral inflation tube


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